As I argue in Leading the Learning Revolution, it’s a whole new world out there if you are an individual subject matter expert or a small training/education organization looking to sell online courses.
It used to be that you had to master an authoring tool, license a learning management system (LMS) – or come up with a workaround – figure out hosting and e-commerce, and then somehow deal with end user support. These days, you can get across the finish line with little more than a Web cam and an Internet connection.
In this post I take a quick look at some of the options that are out there for helping you distribute and sell online courses and instructional videos on the Web.
Sell Online Courses: The Options
I’ve recently revamped this list some (April, 2015), mostly just to put it into alphabetical order. I plan to add companies to it in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out the comments for additional choices.
Keep in mind that I don’t specifically endorse any of these platforms – that’s one of the reasons I have chosen to list them alphabetically. I have vetted them at a very high level to make sure they seem like a good fit for subject matter entrepreneurs and smaller education and training businesses. I encourage you to comment and share your experiences with them – good or bad. If you think you might be looking for something more heavy duty, I encourage you to check out the list of LMS vendors for trade and professional associations on the Tagoras site.
All of the vendors listed here offer their platform on a SaaS (Software as a Service) basis and provide an e-commerce option. Some of them also provide a “marketplace” in which you can list your courses. Beyond that, they vary pretty widely in terms of their features and strengths. Some focus more on videos, others on Webinars. Some provide course creation tools, others expect that you will rely on 3rd party tools to create the content and use their platform only for delivery. Whatever your preferences, your pretty sure to find something here that will work for you.
Academy of Mine
One of the things I have found interesting about the Academy of Mine folks is that they are doing an excellent job using many of the very tactics I encourage in Leading the Learning Revolution to grow their own learning business, including a very active blog, podcasts, and Webinars that provide value to their audience. They are also very focused on blending marketing tools with learning tools in the administrative interface for their system. I have gotten feedback from some users that the learning curve to get up and running on the system is pretty steep. That said, if you can make your way up the curve, you will have pretty powerful set of tools at your disposal. Pricing starts at $199 a month.
With Coggno, you can create courses or upload existing content – including SCORM files. You also have the option to deliver these courses privately or to distribute them through the Coggno marketplace. Coggno also provides the useful twist of enabling organizations to use a branded instance of the Coggno platform for free to offer courses to their target audience (e.g., employees, members) – thus providing yet another distribution option for your content. Organizations that use the LMS in this way pay only for the content they use. For course developers looking to sell their content, pricing starts at $24.95 per month plus 10% of sales.
If you happen to have already gone down the Moodle path (widely used open source LMS) for your course delivery needs, then you may want to check out CourseMerchant. While Moodle itself provides a very basic e-commerce option, CourseMerchant helps you take things to a much more sophisticated level – including the ability to bundle courses, offer discounts, and sell multi-seat licenses that allow for the seats to be easily allocated to learners. The CourseMerchant folks are also behind CourseIndex.com, a network that enables you to promote your courses through affiliate marketers.
Digital Chalk offers a variety of plans for getting courses online as well as production services to help you do it. If you’ve got the expertise, but don’t want to have to deal with the nuts and bolts of producing a course, this is a choice to consider. The company charges a $399 set up fee and then $4.95 per registration for a basic course. The platform appears to be chock full of great features.
With its CampusPay LMS services Educadium offers a way to add a simple e-commerce solution to its EasyCampus platform. EasyCampus is, indeed, an easy platform on which to get up and running, but is nonetheless a relatively feature-rich LMS with a range of options for adding on features and services that fit your needs. Pricing for the platform starts at $39 per month and e-commerce fees range from 6.5% to 10% of sales, depending on which subscription package you choose.
While most of the options here have some level of content authoring capabilities, EZLCMS aims to take things a step further with its Adaptive Course Authoring PowerPoint Plug-In. The company says the plug-in ‘will convert your presentation into a mobile-friendly HTML based courseware product that can be delivered on computers and mobile devices.” If you happen to be delivering serious assessments as part of your offerings, EZLCMS also offers item analysis as part of its reporting capabilities. There’s a free 15 day trial and after that pricing starts at $199 per month.
My understanding from an article in Forbes is that Fedora got started out of frustration with Udemy (listed below) – in particular, with the way in which Udemy controls information about and access to students. In response, the Fedora team has created a platform that enables you to “host courses on your website and control your branding, student data, and pricing all from one place.” I like the pricing model. they offer. You can use the platform for free and pay $1 + 10% for all transactions. Or, you can choose to pay a monthly fee, which eliminates the $1 per transaction fees and also reduces the percentage paid to Fedora based on what level of monthly fee you choose.
Inquisiq steps up the game quite a bit by offering features like multiple branded site instances (e.g., so that you can set up branded training portals for your business-to-business course sales) and a variety of discount code options for purchasers. Like Litmos, it also provides for issuing certificates to users who complete/pass courses. If you sell primarily to business (as opposed to individual) buyers, you want to be sure to check out this option. There’s a free trial available (for an unspecified period of time), then pricing starts at $200 per month.
As the name suggests, Learning Cart is all about hooking e-commerce up to your online courses. The platform can be used to sell just about any kind of online content, and I like the fact that it also has an integrated blog engine to help you with your content marketing and SEO. It also has a number of nice integration – with GoToWebinar and Google Analytics for example. All in all, it is quite sophisticated for $149 per month.
Litmos offers a relatively full-featured LMS with built-in e-commerce options for selling your content (including SCORM courses). If you don’t care about having a marketplace for your content, and are looking for good flexibility for offering both live and on-demand training as well as integrating with other platforms (like, for example, Salesforce), it’s definitely worth a look. There’s a 14-day free trial followed by monthly pricing staring at $49 per month for the Starter edition.
If video is your thing, MindBites is a great option. The site provides tools and guidance to help you create and publish how-to videos. These can be promoted in the broader MindBites marketplace, but the company also provides the option for you to set up your own customized storefront that you can link to off of your main Website or blog. A free plan is available, and paid plans start at $14 per month.
Mindflash aims to give you a simple, straightforward approach to creating and managing courses for a targeted audience (e.g., employees, members) while also having the ability to publish into their public marketplace and make some money from sales there. As might be expected, you can use PPTs, video, and various document types to put together courses, and the system also has a quiz/survey authoring tool. Plans start at $49 per month is you want to train a private audience, but if you just want to publish and sell in the public marketplace, the platform is free. The company takes 15% of your sales. (Note: See the comments section below. It appears Mindflash will close its public marketplace on December 12, 2012.)
OpenSesame is the first out of this group (as far as I can tell) that allows you to upload courses that you have created using a standards-based (SCORM, AICC) course authoring package like Articulate Presenter. If you happen to be an expert, or manage experts (e.g., if you represent a training firm or association) that is developing offerings at this level of sophistication, it might be the first place you want to check out. You can also upload video, and the company claims that courses published in its system can be accessed by any learning management system (LMS). So, for example, if you know there are businesses out there that would want your content, but are going to want it on their own LMS, this could be a very powerful option. The company takes 40% of any sales you make through its platform.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Pathwright co-founder Paul Johnson on the Learning Revolution podcast, and he also connected me with Jason Blumer, who is using the Pathwright platform with great success. There’s a free Pathwright 101 course that gives a good overview of the platform and using Pathwright is completely free up until the point you start selling. (The company makes money off of taking a percentage of sales once you do start selling.)
ProProfs give you tools to add media, quizzes, and certificates to your existing documents, videos & presentations – and then put them into a market place that the company claims reaches more than a million users. Monthly packages start at just under $75 ($60 if you commit to a year) and the company takes 9.5% off of sales through its marketplace.
The fact that Ruzuku’s home page reads like a section out of Leading the Learning Revolution and the company is (at least partially) located here in my own Carrboro, NC earns the company a high spot on this list. If you are looking for an easy-to -se platform combined with a soup-to-nuts approach to helping you be successful with it, look no further – I’d recommend signing up for their full-year plan (4 additional months free) and getting to it.
“Don’t let building courses intimidate you,” say the folks at SkyPrep. The company focuses on providing easy tools for getting a course online and delivering it globally. You can license the platform to use as you like, or you can elect to just sell your courses through the SkyPrep marketplace – in which case the company charges a $9 monthly e-commerce fee and takes a 10% commission on sales.
The folks at Udemy say “Our goal is to disrupt and democratize education by enabling anyone to learn from the world’s experts.” From what I can tell, they have been doing a pretty good job making waves lately. The Udemy platform gives subject matter experts a simple, straightforward way to assemble content like PowerPoint slides, PDF documents, and YouTube videos into a coherent course experience.You can then publish into the Udemy marketplace and use a variety of tools to promote your masterpieces. Udemy is free for instructors – the company makes it’s money through a 50/50 split whatever you sell. Apparently, as ThinkTraffic reports, some some instructors have been having quite a bit of success.
For experts who want to deliver live and on-demand Webinars, WizIQ is an old standby. The company provides a platform through which you can easily offer a live Webinar session – with slides, desktop sharing, audio, and video – that can also be recorded for on-demand access by learners. Courses can be published and sold in WizIQ’s online marketplace. There’s a free 30-day trial, and then paid plans start at $19 a month. It’s unclear from the Web site whether the company also takes a percentage of course sales.
If you have used/had success with any of these, or have others you would like to see on the list, please comment and share.
P.S. – Ready to take your efforts to sell online courses to new levels? Don’t forget to sign up to get your free copy of The Learning Revolutionary’s Toolbox. It’s chock full of tools and tips to help you create and market your online courses.