In this article, you’ll learn:
- How community platforms foster connection, conversation, and inspiration that is critical for personal and professional development
- How community plays a role in making learning more impactful
- What makes a community platform worth your money
- Six community platforms we’ve identified that are worth considering if you’re a founder, operator, or creator looking to host your online community
The learning industry is thriving and will continue to do so because of the ONLINE communities cropping up all around the world THAT PROMOTE TRANSFORMATIVE LEARNING.
These communities are built to inspire, teach, upskill, reskill, and connect. They give members a sense of hope and founders a sense of purpose. Community is integral to learning, and studies show, even from childhood, that enabling people to learn alongside one another yields better results, faster.
The future of learning is communal, so equipping founders & operators of learning communities with the perfect community platform software to host online learning experiences, online courses, event series, and other important functions improves the overall learning impact and experience for members.
Moreover, the best online community platforms allow founders and operators of these communities to focus on helping members develop personally and professionally, by designing life-changing experiences and fostering customer loyalty.
There's a lot to consider before landing on the perfect solution for you. The best community platform isn't always the cheapest community platform or the one that will grow your online course business the fastest.
Above all else, the right online community platform for you is the one that will help you build, manage, operate, and scale a flourishing community rooted in learning.
Let's break down the considerations you should be making in the hopes of helping you land on the perfect tool, but we'll first examine why community is so fundamental to better learning and teaching.
Why is community so important?
When people understand people, they are better managers, colleagues, friends, and members of society. Connection is core to human design.
Communal learning unlocks access to new kinds of people — different backgrounds, different demographics, different beliefs and morals — and encourages an exchange of new ideas and solutions to create a more informed, engaged community.
It's also critical to bring people together in a learning setting so they can learn from one another's successes and failures. Your strengths are not another member's strengths, and vice versa. Aligning on the same goals and metrics as your fellow members allows you to understand where you shine and where you can improve in order to better set expectations in the future.
Finally, community is critical for learning because it breeds interaction. Learning becomes far more practical and hands-on as opposed to being theory-heavy – the way we've been taught in traditional classrooms. In online learning communities, members are encouraged and often required to work with different kinds of people and complete projects, case studies, expand their professional networks, or find other practical use cases in the curriculum they're learning.
So how does a community platform enable this kind of learning? Tick these boxes as you're weighing your options to ensure you wind up purchasing the perfect platform for your community.
What should you look for in a community platform?
Community platforms boast a lot of different advanced features, but these four can (and should be) non-negotiables for whatever tool you land on.
Friendly, simple user experience
Above all else, a user-friendly experience and clean interface is top priority for inviting members onto the platform and keeping them there.
But other features make the user experience just as nice to use:
- Single sign on
- iPhone and Android apps for creators or users and, with that, the ability to make in app purchases
- Easy drag and drop or modular course creation for synchronous courses, asynchronous courses, and live events, or
- The ability to create your own website or community site that's unique to you and your online community
If a community platform is hard for members to navigate and use, imagine how difficult it is for those creating the platform on the back end. You should be able to seamlessly add learning experiences, curriculum, and other important content in a place where members can quickly find it.
Robust learning functionality
Communities can serve all kinds of purposes (and, as such, need the right platform to support that purpose), but learning communities in particular need online community software that supports all kinds of learning experiences.
In order to bring these experiences to life, the best online community platform for you will help you host unlimited members and create different types experiences; from asynchronous courses to cohort-based learning and member-exclusive event series, there are countless ways to engage community members and provide opportunities for learning enrichment.
Not all community platforms are created equal, however, and they don't all offer the functionality you may need now or for future learning experiences. If you want to eventually scale your business and offer a mix of online courses, events, and group or independent learning series, you may want to find a learning-specific community platform that can marry the learning and community aspects of your business.
Comprehensive member engagement
Members on community platforms engage in all kinds of ways — via direct chats, group chats, threads, community posts, within different channels, with emojis, with GIFs — and it's important that your community platform of choice supports all the ways in which members converse and collaborate, whether through a proprietary communication tool or an integration with a tool like Slack.
Community engagement can happen in all different spaces. Whether you create dedicated groups or more private spaces, community-wide activity feed, or a discussion forum for specific topics, it's important to support community by fostering engagement within it.
In-depth community analytics
Continue to grow and nurture your online community by rooting business and community decisions in data.
A good community platform provides analytics into the health of your greater membership as well as progress reports for individual members. This data can help inform what parts of your learning experience members are loving, not loving, and struggling to complete or understand.
With these must-have features in mind, let's break down six popular online community platforms you should consider for hosting your community and supplemental learning courses:
The 6 best platforms for selling online courses in 2022
Disco brings community to the forefront of learning on a single, easy-to-use platform.
Our comprehensive support gives founders and operators everything they need to build, operate, monetize, and scale a successful learning community without forcing members to navigate between a community platform and separate LMS designed just for learning.
Every feature your members need can easily be found on your unique community homepage, and our intuitive online community platform gives everyone – from small businesses to massive organizations — the monetization tools and the marketing tools and everything in between to foster meaningful customer relationships.
Disco is great for both beginner founders wanting to get their online course or other learning experience off the ground and larger learning businesses looking to expand their offerings and bring more members into the fold.
Key features of Disco
Learning and community become one on the Disco platform. We give founders and operators of learning communities and creators of synchronous or asynchronous courses the reins and powerful tools to cultivate a community and generate revenue.
This is made possible through deep integration and specific features, like:
- Comprehensive community management, including admissions, registrations, capacity to certain events and courses
- Grouping capabilities to split members up for more intimate, impactful learning
- Bulk inviting made easy, so you can invite new members into the fold
- A top-down members directory, where members can create their own unique profiles and connect with others
- Community channels, threads, feeds, and posts to offer multiple means of communication
Pricing for Disco
Disco Pro: $75 a month for 1 admin and 3 instructors for your self-paced or cohort-based courses. Create unlimited learning experiences for members, who can communicate with you and one another through proprietary communication channels or integrated ones, like Slack.
Disco Organization: $399 a month for 5 admin accounts and 10 instructor slots to host your online courses. Customize your platform with branded logos, colors, and iconography. Finally, you'll unlock learner progress reporting to provide more color into the member experience.
Disco Enterprise: Custom pricing for when you're ready to scale your course, your learning offerings, and your business. Disco's Enterprise package offers customized onboarding and dedicated success management to begin hiring a full-time team and achieving large revenue goals.
Disco is a community platform that becomes so much more than that when you integrate enriching learning experiences onto the platform for your members to enjoy. It becomes the nucleus for your community. Disco is designed to help you cut down on your tech stack by offering everything you need for your thriving business.
Circle totes the all-in-one community tool for creators and brands, and it's a great solution if you are just that — a creator or a brand. However, founders of learning communities will find Circle lacks the power many community platforms provide in helping communities scale and monetize their offerings.
Key features of Circle
Circle offers many use cases for their product, including brands, creators of online courses, customer communities, coaching communities, plus clubs and organizations. For whatever the purpose may be, Circle offers communities:
- Different communal spaces, including public forums and private chats
- Member directory to track and connect community members
- Paid membership, the ability to gate content for upsell, and coupons and discount offerings for members
- Advanced analytics for understanding community and business trends
Pricing for Circle
Basic: At Circle's base price of $39 a month, you're able to create unlimited events, invite members on to create their individual profiles, unlock access to the iOS app and create both group chats and private messaging. You also get a custom domain through Circle.
Professional: $99 lets you start live streaming and creating course offerings for your community. You can also fully white label your community at this price point to create a branded experience.
Enterprise: For $399 a month, larger communities and corporate partners can enjoy a handheld experience with concierge onboarding and dedicated customer success to work through issues.
Circle's seemingly best asset — its many use cases for all kinds of founders, creators, business, and brands — may actually be its biggest downfall. To specialize in nothing means to excel in nothing, and community platforms like Disco excel in helping founders specifically of learning communities start, grow, and scale. If growing a learning community and offering your members a powerful learning experience is top of your priority list, Circle may not be the platform for you.
Those who have been around the learning industry for some time will undoubtedly recognize Mighty Networks. They're one of the more established community platforms, allowing founders to sync not only courses but blogs, podcasts, and other types of content.
Key features of Mighty Networks
Mighty Networks offers strong community capabilities while offering founders additional functionality to scale their business, by:
- Creating multiple spaces like feeds, channels, groups, and even shops where members can collaborate
- Allowing live streaming options for founders, team members, or staff who want to discuss content on-demand
- Bundling content or learning experience purchases in one transaction
Pricing for Mighty Networks
Community Plan: For $33 a month, Mighty Networks Community Plan members get access to their environment that allows uploads of native video plus live streaming capabilities, and creates chat functionality or integration with Zoom to host events and other experiences.
Business Plan: $99 a month lets you start to host online cohort-based and self-paced courses. You'll also get deeper analytics for tracking member progress.
Branded Apps: Custom pricing, specifically for existing apps that want to leverage their functionality to host more community-based and learning-based experiences without having to move platforms. The app will be also available on all major app stores.
Mighty Networks has the luxury of name recognition and widespread brand awareness, but it ultimately doesn't bring learning and community together in the way Disco does. Instead, the creator or founder gets the spotlight on Mighty Networks, and community comes at a distant second, with learning experiences feeling like an afterthought.
Tribe is a customizable community platform, built more with corporate clients in mind. The platform lets you customize with blocks, branding, colors, logos, and integrations with apps to connect users.
Key features of Tribe
Tribe is a strong choice for a community platform, but it doesn't compete with Disco or other platforms that have the capability to host learning experiences, content, and other features beyond community channels.
- No-code environment yet still very customizable to member and community needs
- Ability to connect creator resources like links to events and to content, but you'll need a separate platform to host those experiences
Pricing for Tribe
Advanced: Starts at $599 a month, but smaller communities, startups, and other businesses needing a community function may not have the affordability of Tribe's “least expensive” pricing tier, which offers nearly full customization of your platform.
Enterprise: Custom pricing for larger businesses hosting big communities that need deep integrations and more corporate functionality, like legal review.
If adding learning experiences into your offerings, now or in the future, is a priority for business and revenue generation, Tribe is not the platform for you. It offers zero functionality for creating, hosting, or scaling online courses, events, and other learning experiences. Those looking to bridge between learning and community in one environment wouldn't find the functionality necessary on a platform like Tribe.
Fans of gaming, pop culture, and other interests or hobbies have likely heard of Discord, if not used it themselves. Discord is relied on heavily in industries like programming and software engineering, too, for sharing code and tips and tricks. But at its core, Discord was designed to bring people together for whatever affinities they share.
Key features of Discord
Discord boasts millions of daily users, so it has stellar brand recognition for personal and professional use. While many online communities and even founders or operators of online courses and other learning experiences use Discord to host their content and communicate with members, the functionality ends there.
- 300M+ registered users that navigate the site easily with clean UI and UX
- Has native desktop and mobile apps available for download, as well as browser use
Pricing for Discord
Discord is a free tool for community founders. Anyone, anywhere can create a Discord channel and invite members onboard.
Discord's Nitro plans allow for larger file uploads and profile personalization, should those be relevant to your community, and are billed based on your location. Typically, the cost is under $10 a month.
While Discord is a great tool, the platform doesn't support the building, hosting, and scaling of a learning community and supplemental experiences. While founders can upload content and links to drive revenue, you can't process payment or track member progress like you can with Disco.
Chances are, you've used Slack or know someone who has in a corporate or educational setting. It's one of the most robust community platforms on the market — in fact, we even allow integration with Slack onto the Disco platform because it's that good. Slack on its own, however, isn't comprehensive enough to host courses, events, and manage the member experience from top to bottom.
Key features of Slack
Within your individual Slack community, there are multiple means of communication and ways to group members together, like:
- Audio and video call options
- Emoji responses to messages, plus the ability to add custom branded emojis
- Channels, threads, and groups for different means of collaboration
Pricing for Slack
Free: $0 a month. You can create a Slack channel for yourself and members at no cost. The channel won't archive messages past 90 days.
Pro: $7.25 a month to see your channel's entire messaging history. You can integrate tools like Zoom and Google Drive, among others, which can allow you to share content.
Business: For $12.50 a month, you can enjoy 24/7 assistance from Slack's team with more dedicated customer experience.
Slack has the market cornered on collaboration and communication, but it fails to stack up against Disco and other community platforms that want to integrate learning into their experience. You'd have to use several other tools to generate the functionality of a single tool.
Put your community first on the perfect platform for your business
To create a scalable business plan, you have to consider all possible channels of revenue generation. The learning industry is set to hit $1 trillion by 2030, and there is a lot of money to be made by offering courses that help people change careers, build skills, or find new hobbies.
Choosing the right community platform today will ensure you can create those revenue-generating experiences for your members down the line. You'll save time, money, and resources not needing to migrate members and content to a new tool when you choose the comprehensive tool from the start.
Try Disco free for 14 days!
Our ethos at Disco is that learning and community were meant to coexist. The perfect community platform brings together every feature, integration, and small detail you need to support your community and offer them life-changing experiences.
Disco does just that.