Online Course Platforms Reviewed: Your Best Options for 2022

Team Disco
15 min read

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • 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:
  • ~Disco
  • ~Kajabi
  • ~Thinkific
  • ~Podia
  • ~Teachfloor

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 all in one platform that can support all the features and all the tools you need to both create and sell as well as teach online courses.

Quote from On Deck's Sr. Learning Experience Designer, Ben Plummer, highlighting the time saved building their curriculum on Disco

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. 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.

Screenshot of Disco curriculum builder
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 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 online 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 all in one learning platform are key to running engaging learning experiences, but the best online course 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.

screenshot of Disco lms platform messaging
Communication Tools for Your Course Website

It's important to give your members multiple outlets for conversation 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 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 online course 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 course and improve the experience for current and future community members.

The right online course platform will 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.

screenshot of Disco custom branding features

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 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

For community-minded founders of online courses, provides comprehensive support for building, operating, and scaling a community around your online course offerings.

While Disco is more a learning management system than an online course platform, it's user-friendly enough for anyone just starting out in getting their self-paced or cohort-based course off the ground, but powerful enough for when you're ready to scale and create more learning offerings and a community to rally around them.

Disco learning community platform

Pricing for Disco

Disco Pro: $75 a month. Disco allows you 1 admin and 3 instructors for your online course, but you can create unlimited learning experiences and communicate with your members through proprietary messaging or an integration with Slack.

Disco Organization: $399 a month. With 5 admin accounts and 10 instructor slots to host your online courses, you'll also have the chance to customize your platform with true-to-you branding like logos, colors, and iconography. Learner progress reporting will help you understand how people taking your course are performing.

Disco Enterprise: Custom pricing. When you're ready to scale your course and create a full-fledged business out of it, you may want Disco's Enterprise package with customized onboarding and dedicated success management to start achieving large revenue goals and building out your team.

Key features of Disco

Disco is a learning community platform. We've created a solution that, first and foremost, supports the learning, operations and monetization needs of the learning community you are building. Beyond hosting your online course and earning income, we put you in the driver's seat to enrich the lives of current and prospective members by:

  • Giving you the tools you need to host synchronous or asynchronous courses on the platform
  • Integrating the solutions you need or already use
  • Tracking your learners' journeys as the progress through your course
  • Unlocking multiple monetization opportunities to grow your learning community

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 online course platform; it becomes a central hub for your growing community — and it may wind up being the only tool you need.

Kajabi

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 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.

screenshot of Kajabi homepage

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

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.

screenshot of Thinkific homepage

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.

Podia

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 create online workshops, courses, or sessions to monetize for their community.

screenshot of Podia platform

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 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.

Teachfloor

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.

screenshot of Teachfloor platform

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

Find the best online course platform for you

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.

Published
October 27, 2022
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