But do I really need an online course platform?

Most people end up on the Learning Revolution Web site because they are looking for an online course platform. And not just any online course platform – they want to be able to sell online courses.

Image of wooden platform to suggest online course platform

That’s all well and good – and I’m happy to provide what help I can – but it’s always worth pausing to ask whether you really need a specialized online course platform.

One of the more impactful “courses” I’ve purchased in recent history, for example, made use of nothing other than e-mail and unlisted YouTube links. This was a year-long subscription series from someone well known in the consulting field. I’ll call him Bob, simply because I’m not sure whether he would want his approach broadcast along with his real name.

Bob provided information about the series on his Web site (which is built on WordPress). He took orders through a standard shopping cart (1ShoppingCart in his case, though there are plenty of other low-cost options). Then, every week, he would send out a link to a new five-minute video he had recorded – basically, him talking to a single camera to provide his view and actionable tips on a topic highly relevant to your average consultant. If you happened to sign up after the series had started, the welcome e-mail simply included links to the videos already released.

If I remember right, I paid about $500 for this, and it was more than worth every penny.

On other fronts, when we ran our first online learning platform selection bootcamp at my company, Tagoras, we did opt to use a simple course platform, but that was only because we are in the platform selection business and find it valuable to try things out. Truth is, we did not really need one.

Like Bob, above, we used our Web site (again, built on WordPress) to create a sales page for the offering. We took payment using the very simple, low cost e-Junkie shopping cart. We delivered the majority of the content through a combination of GoToMeeting and various templates we provided using Word and Excel. The only thing that made using a formal platform somewhat attractive was that we also wanted to have discussion board. But we could have easily done that with a WordPress plug-in like BBPress or even a simple list serve type program like CCtoMany.

As far as the platform went, we knew we wanted to start small – 25 learner or less – so that we could have a more “intimate” experience and gather feedback. At that level, we were able to take advantage of a free version of the platform (in that case, Educadium), and consider it “disposable” – i.e., we didn’t fret about whether we were locking ourselves into anything for the long hall.

Finally, you might want to listen in to my interview with the guys at CMEpalooza. They have built up a very popular online event using noting more than Google Hangouts and WordPress.

The point is that a lot can be achieved with relatively little technology if the value is there. So, put your time, effort, sweat, and stress into the value – not the technology.

And, even if you do decide to go with a specialized platform – e.g., a Thinkific or a Teachable or a WordPress plug-in like LifterLMSthis isn’t a life decision. Changes can be made in the future – again, let value lead the way. Do what makes sense to get started, but by all means, get started – whether that means with your first course our your next one.

That’s all. If you have come up with simple and/or creative ways to deliver your course(s) without specialized technology, drop me a line. I’d love to hear your story. Please comment and share.



  1. What do you think about teaching with Skype with sharing the screen?

    • That can work fine, depending on what your business objectives are, and assuming that Skype with screen share does the job for meeting your desired learning outcomes. Still, assuming you are selling your teaching, you are going to need something in addition to Skype to provide a marketing presence and e-commerce for course sales. – Jeff

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