Why founders of online courses are eager to find a platform to help them scale
What the benefits are to selling online courses
What the must-haves are when determining the online course platform best suited for your business
How the best 5 online course platforms compare to one another:
The learning industry is set to surpass a trillion dollars over the next decade, and entrepreneurs across the globe are hoping to get a cut of that massive evaluation by creating and selling courses online.
While anyone can create their own website to host and sell courses online, an online course platform offers benefits you can't get anywhere else. These solutions are specifically built to not only help course creators design and sell online courses (and any other learning experiences you see fit), but often help with the operational, marketing, and administrative tasks that come along with getting a successful online community and supplemental course off the ground and into the world.
By using an online course platform, you can put the focus back on what really matters: changing the lives of members in your learning community and creating enriching learning experiences through your online courses.
Online course platforms are similar to learning management systems, but using the former rather than the latter may be better suited for people who are looking to sell online courses specifically, rather than building a robust virtual live learning experience.
We've identified the five best online course platforms for 2022, but we'll start by discussing why you should even sell online courses in the first place.
From there, we'll help you know what to look for before deciding on an online course software that's a fit for your business. The online course marketplace is growing at a rapid rate, so you want to ensure you're finding the platform that can support all the features and all the tools you need to both to create and sell courses as well as teach online courses.
Why should you sell online courses?
Untapped Potential in Course Creation and Selling Online Courses
The learning industry is already booming, and that boom is set to fully explode by 2030. Millions of dollars are being poured into alternative learning opportunities like online courses — especially those that aim to help members reskill or upskill in their careers.
Learning looks a lot different from its traditional past. You don't need a “sage on a stage” to lecture on a topic in order for it to stick. Now, anyone, anywhere, with any sort of expertise has an opportunity to share their learnings with a global audience who can access their course online.
Expanding Accessibility and Affordability
Online school and other online course platforms create accessibility and affordability that isn't typical of traditional education. Students pay for the courses they really want to take, whether to develop new technical skills, learn a new hobby or interest, or even learn how to sell online courses themselves.
Beyond unlocking new revenue — which we'll get into — creating untapped access to these online learning platforms gives course creators an opportunity to change people's lives. So many underrepresented and marginalized communities rely on people creating online courses to help them develop crucial skill sets and access the learning platforms they deserve just as much as anyone else.
The Financial Upside when you Create and Sell Online Courses
The ability to share knowledge via an online course does two things for learning entrepreneurs:
For one, it can unlock an entire revenue stream, if not fully replace your current one all in one platform. As mentioned earlier, learning is a lucrative industry, and there is a massive opportunity to generate profit if you can get your course in front of the right audience.
Second, a successful online course brings a community of people into your orbit. A bigger community creates opportunities for even more learning touchpoints, like event series and masterminds. You create more revenue from these touchpoints, and your community members get to experience even richer, deeper learning and bring new members into the fold with them.
What should you look for in an online course platform?
The ability to host both self-paced and live courses
Online courses vary greatly from community to community. Many are self-paced, or asynchronous, and can be done on a member's own time. Others are cohort-based courses, hosted live and joined by members from all over the world to learn alongside one another, or they're on a set schedule that everyone in the course follows.
Course Creation Features to Look For
Your learning community may feature synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of both styles of courses, so the best online course platforms need all the tools to host these experiences. These integrations and features include:
Video integrations with services like Zoom to host lectures and live courses
Bulk calendar invites so your community members have invites on their respective calendars in their respective time zones
Member progress reports to gauge attendance and proficiency with coursework
Course creation and duplication to leverage successful curriculum with each new cohort of synchronous or asynchronous members
Course Curriculum Creation Platform
Online courses don't — and shouldn't — feature the same types of course material again and again.
Look for an online course platform that has the ability to create course curriculum — not only lessons but also tasks, assignments, and assessments. This range of different learning styles and delivery methods will not only be more interesting for members, it will help you to gauge course proficiency.
The right online course platform offers a whole suite of integrations that are designed to help your online teaching and learning run smoothly from one place, rather than relying on multiple tools to work in tandem. This frees up your time to focus on member acquisition and enrichment.
A course builder and learning platform are key to running engaging learning experiences, but the best online course creator and platform for many founders also helps them sell courses and scale community membership.
Support with growing and sustaining your learning community
Community is crucial to not only running a successful learning brand, but to moving the entire learning industry forward.
Bringing people together with the kindred goal of learning a new skill, career path, or interest makes learning so much more impactful than when done alone.
The best online course platform for your community will have all in one features and functions designed to help your community prosper, or allow for open web development so you can curate course landing pages exactly as you want them.
Communication Tools for Your Course Website
It's important to give your members multiple outlets for conversation through discussion forums and collaboration, especially when they're able to break off into smaller groups for more intimate, impactful learning. These features include integrations with communication tools like Slack or more proprietary messaging feeds, channels, and threads. Other interactive features like polls, Q&A, and other custom content widgets let you spark the fires of conversation amongst members. Keeping people engaged and lively within your community is key to maintaining your online learning platforms long-term.
While it's great to foster a community during the duration of your online course, it's even more important to keep that community alive well after the course is completed. Your members will continue to reap the benefits of conversing and collaborating within your network, which generates additional opportunities for learning.
Features to Promote Growth and Scale
Sustaining a community is important, but so is growth. The best online course platforms have built in sales and marketing tools to help you sell courses and keep members in the fold. On some platforms, you can even create your own affiliate program for generating even more revenue, or sell space within the membership sites for your own private membership site that offers even more course content and digital downloads for members to improve their learning enrichment.
For many, opting for a learning management system over an an online course creation platform may be a better investment in the long run because the former tends to have the all in one creation software to host multiple learning experiences, host unlimited courses and unlimited students, while also offe
A customizable environment that's unique to your brand
While the top online course platforms feature their own stunning UI, you want your platform to feel as true to you as possible. The right platform will allow for deep customization with things like logos, banners, colors, subdomains, and other imagery so members know exactly whose environment they're in.
A customizable creation platform is key to brand growth and development, because it helps content resonate with members in your community that much better.
This can look different depending on the online course software of your choosing:
Some opt to give you a custom domain and a website builder to design course landing pages of your own
Others use drag and drop or modular course creation software so you can add course materials and other course content where you want it within the confines of the software
Reporting and analytics dashboards
When you know how your members are responding to your online coursework, you can iterate for future versions of that online course creator and improve the experience for current and future community members.
The right online course platform will be platforms to create reporting dashboards and in-depth analytics to show the health of your community and their progress throughout your course.
At Disco, our offer all types of data about your members, including:
Course content: What are members loving and what's not sticking
Event attendance reports for gauging when and where members are showing up
Course-wide progress reports that show the agility at which your members are completing lessons, tasks, and assignments
Feedback reports to help you continuously improve the experience for members
A good online course platform doesn't just create a blanket report for your entire community; see holistic, real-time data for each member within it.
Monetization opportunities for revenue generation
One of the biggest reasons entrepreneurs are creating, marketing, and selling online courses is because they can be revenue-generating machines — when done right. An online course platform will ensure your online course is as profitable for you as it is enjoyable for your members.
When you invest in the right online course platform, it'll pay for itself ten-fold by helping you generate new revenue.
An online course platform should first be able to process payments from members through a payment processor. You shouldn't have to manually collect payments or use a separate service to do so. This allows you to track revenue and watch your earnings compound over time.
Some platforms require transaction fees, but it's always best to find an online course platform that requires zero transaction fees for collecting or distributing payments.
Other platforms create the ability to sell multiple different courses to your community on different subject matter or areas of expertise. Others help you generate money online training courses through affiliate selling. At any rate, an online course platform should help put money back in your pocket when you consider the time, money, and effort you'll save not having to bounce between tools or pay team members to tackle the operational and administrative tasks associated with using a massive tech stack to host courses.
These five online course platforms are some of the best on the market, but each still has their own unique pros and cons that should be considered by anyone looking to invest in a platform that will help them scale business and create a lasting impression on members in the community.
The 5 best platforms for selling online courses in 2022
Disco is a comprehensive learning management system designed for community-focused founders who want to shape the future of learning. It's more than just an online course platform; it's a tool that supports the creation, operation, and scaling of learning communities around your own online course and offerings.
Disco has quickly established itself as a powerful platform for social learning, making it accessible for both founders and members of learning communities. With Disco, you have the flexibility to own the experience from end to end.
Pricing for Disco
Disco offers a free 14-day trial and a range of plans to suit your learning community's needs:
Basic: For $75 a month, Disco provides basic branding, channels & DMs, deep Slack integration, basic analytics, hosting of events, member groups, and Stripe & Zoom integration.
Organization: At $399 a month, you get everything in the Starter plan, plus full custom branding, a powerful AI assistant, advanced communication tools, the ability to sell memberships, custom profile fields, advanced integrations (e.g., Zapier, Slack), advanced analytics and reporting, and HD video streaming.
Enterprise: This plan is tailor-made for large enterprises and includes unlimited learning products, a dedicated success lead, quarterly strategy reviews, custom training, integration services and support, and product roadmap shaping. SAML SSO is coming soon.
Key features of Disco
Disco is designed for those who want to play an active role in their learning community. It supports all kinds of learning experiences, including both synchronous and asynchronous courses, live events, pre-recorded events, and masterminds. Here are some of its key features:
Advanced integrations with tools like Slack, Stripe, and Zoom
Membership profiles and progress tracking
Full monetization functionality, from collecting payments to creating discount codes
Customizable onboarding flows, member profiles, and learning products
AI-powered Co-Pilot to save time on repetitive tasks and simplify community management and member engagement
Cohort-based and self-paced courses, events & content, paid memberships, and templates for creating comprehensive learning products
Customizable member onboarding and assessments to gain insights into your members' interests, challenges, and goals
Disco empowers founders and operators to host online courses as well as events, masterminds, and other learning experiences that will enrich the lives of their learning community. Our deep integrations and easy functionality makes Disco so much more than just another popular online course platform; it becomes a central hub for your growing community — and it may wind up being the only tool you need.
Kajabi's objective is to help creators of online courses turn their knowledge into income. Generating income is a huge — and often the only — goal for entrepreneurs in the learning industry, but there's a kindred responsibility those at the top of their online course game share in moving the industry forward. When revenue is the first priority most online course platforms and generating a lasting, impactful learning experience and community to boot falls second, the betterment of the whole learning industry suffers.
Kajabi lacks making community a priority for both the users and members on their platform.
Pricing for Kajabi
Build Mode: No cost. Browse key features, build your own website, and send marketing emails to your audience before launching your course.
Basic: $149 a month. Sell three learning products, like online courses, create sales funnels, and generate landing pages to drive traffic.
Growth: $199 a month. Kajabi lets you customize your platform and generate additional revenue through affiliate selling. You get more seats for admin users and have the freedom to add more products and funnels, as well as create assessments to gauge member proficiency.
Pro: Custom. Kajabi's Pro Plan creates even more functionality for the user and adds a code editor that lets you customize your website from top to bottom.
Key features of Kajabi
Support for creating, hosting, and marketing online courses, personal coaching, and podcasts
Even more marketing features to create landing pages, drive traffic to them through email, and generate leads through sales funnels
Host free and paid learning experiences
Kajabi offers its customers a range of features to help them scale their online course business. If you want to put people before profit and find an online course platform that supports the nurturing and growing of your learning community, a platform like Disco may be the better choice.
Click here to read about five Kajabi alternatives you may want to consider.
Thinkific's platform is highly customizable and aims to be the one-stop shop for founders who want to create, market, and scale online courses, in addition to other learning experiences, and turn their expertise into revenue.
Pricing for Thinkific
Free: No cost. Use Thinkific's drag-and-drop feature to create courses, run assessments, and access their app store to add integrations to start hosting your online courses.
Start: $74 a month. Thinkific's membership capabilities kick in at the Start level, like individual member profiles to gauge competency, and payment processors to collect fees from members. You can host live, cohort-based courses at this stage rather than asynchronous self-paced courses.
Grow: $149 a month. Customize your Thinkific platform to incorporate your own branding, and start to scale your membership with additional administrators and communities. You can also conduct outreach to students through the bulk email feature.
Expand: $374 a month plan. More communities, administrator, and instructor seats lets you scale the size of your learning community and the number of courses you can offer members.
Plus - Custom. Enterprise-level customers or big communities receive dedicated customer support and more functionality to create a fully customized platform at a custom price.
Key features of Thinkific
Thinkific specializes in helping creators design, market, and sell online courses
Member profiles and community channels let members converse and collaborate, but they don't have a feature like Disco's Progress Tracker where you can get in-depth reporting on how members are faring
Thinkific is a great online course platform for hosting different types of courses, but it won't support your current and future learning experience endeavors if you want to create more options for your members like events.
No matter the types of learning content you have to offer — podcasts, coaching, digital products, and, of course, online courses — creates a user-friendly solution for getting them into the world and in front of your audience.
Podia is not, however, an online course platform specifically nor is it a learning management system. You can't support a learning community the way you can on other platforms. However, Podia lets anyone to create online courses, workshops, courses, or sessions to monetize for their community.
Pricing for Podia
Free: No cost, though Podia collects an 8% fee plus a transaction fee from Stripe (their preferred payment processor) for every sale you make.
Mover: $39 a month. No transaction fees as you start monetizing coaching and courses. You can't yet sell webinars, but you can create a Podia website and begin selling your digital products like online training courses.
Shaker: $89 a month. Podia's Shaker plan lets you start selling webinars in addition to your other offerings and generate revenue through affiliate selling.
Earthquaker: $199 a month. Priority support, onboarding calls with a dedicated team, and access to Podia's monthly masterminds with other creators and founders in the space is what you get at the platform's top price point.
Key features of Podia
Podia is super user-friendly for anyone who's in the process of selling digital learning products
Podia is not a learning management system nor an online course platform. You cannot host live courses, events, or other learning experiences, though you can host webinars
No tracking to support members through their skill development
Podia fulfills a need for anyone looking for passive income, but we (at Disco!) support the founders and operators of learning communities who want to move the industry forward by changing the lives of members within those communities.
For those launching cohort-based courses to share their expertise with a community of members, Teachfloor helps you onboard members, host live classes, support the member journey, and gather payments.
Disco, on the other hand, supports all types of learning experiences, so if you anticipate offering events, self-paced courses, or other types of learning down the line to your members, Teachfloor can't support that same suite of offerings.
Pricing for Teachfloor
Pro: $69 a month. Teachfloor doesn't offer a free plan, but the Pro plan allows unlimited courses and invites for up to four instructors.
Business: $349 a month. Teachfloor takes a big leap when moving from the Pro Plan to the Business Plan, and therefore assumes learning communities can fit into either plan. You can add up to 15 instructors and customize your own domain and platform.
Enterprise: Custom. For large learning communities or enterprise businesses, Teachfloor offers tailor-made plans for helping you scale business or create additional revenue opportunities.
Key features of Teachfloor
Comprehensive student support with peer and instructor reviews
White labeling customization of the platform
Integrations with Zapier, Zoom, and Stripe so you have what you need to host and monetize your cohort-based course
Lacks tiered pricing opportunities with only two options for non-enterprise communities
Supercharge Your Learning Community
A step-by-step guide to build and grow a thriving learning community.
In order to choose one of these five platforms or another option that best suits you, determine what both your short- and long-term goals are. Do you want passive revenue over time? Do you want to grow your learning community and eventually the offerings you can give members to enrich their learning even further?
Deciding what your goals are from the jump and which tool will support those goals will help make the investment in an online course platform a much smoother process.
Learn how YSpace is using to Disco to democratize entrepreneurship at a global scale.
Disco was built on the notion that learning and community were meant to coexist. There's no one-size-fits-all solution to learning, so the online course platform of your choosing should support any kind of learning that's best suited for your growing community.
Book a live demo with one of our rockstar teammates, or start a free so you can truly experience — not just hear — all that Disco has to offer founders of today's and tomorrow's most vibrant learning communities.
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