15 Platforms to Publish and Sell Online Courses (and Counting)

Looking to sell online courses, but confused by all of the platform choices? In this post I draw on my two decades of eLearning industry experience to highlight the top online course platforms and help you narrow your list. While you are here, be sure to grab the free platform selection guide to help you make the right choice faster and smarter. (And, if you are ready to create online courses and other online education content, be sure to check out the free Learning Revolutionary's Toolbox!)

Image of hand holding credit card, other typing on computer keyboard

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 the digital video camera in your phone, an Internet connection, and one of the platforms listed here.

Here’s a concise look at some of the best of what’s out there for helping you create, market, and sell online courses on the Web.

Online Course Platforms

Listed here are more than 15 online course platforms specifically designed to help you market and sell online courses. These have been organized into categories to make it easier to determine which type of online course software may be best for your purposes. These include:

Keep in mind that number of online course platforms is growing fast. There is no way I can keep up with or know about every one of them. Be sure to check out the comments for additional choices and opinions. And if you have had experience with any of the online course software covered here, please share anything constructive you can about the experience – i.e., what was good or bad about it and WHY. (You can comment on this post, or contact me directly.)

Also, keep in mind that I think all of these are strong choices. I have my preferences, but depending on your specific needs, any of these could be a good fit. If a company offers an affiliate program, I will usually participate – that doesn’t cost you anything, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t get at least a little benefit from sending some business to a company. That said, within each category below companies are listed alphabetically, not ranked. I have vetted them at a high level to make sure they seem like a good fit for subject matter entrepreneurs and smaller education and training businesses that want to sell online courses. Again, I encourage you to comment and share any experiences you have had with these platforms – good or bad.


Finally: If you are serious about making the right online course platform choice, you really should get my free guide and selection worksheet

As noted above, all of the platforms listed here are strong choices, but I do also understand that the range of choices can be confusing and it can be helpful for an expert to just say “look at this one, it’s a top choice” if you want to sell online courses. So, here’s my all around top choice: Thinkific. Check it out. You can create a free course right away and they are very upfront about their pricing and about how the different plans compare. Most importantly, I hear consistently from readers that that they have had a good experience with Thinkific. – Jeff

P.S. – Don’t just take it from me. Here is what Thinkific reviews currently look like on ReviewMyLMS (as of July 2018):

Standalone Platforms to Sell Online Courses

These are platforms geared toward individual subject matter entrepreneurs or small businesses that want a turnkey way to create their own branded site to sell online courses. (Also, unlike Udemy, which is discussed below in a different category, they allow you full control over your user data.) While the feature sets are relatively similar, they can be very different in their “look and feel” as well as in how focused they are on helping course entrepreneurs succeed – e.g., by providing good resources, educational content, strong support. Be sure to check out the free trial options, where available, so that you have a chance to kick the tires before committing.

Click4Course

One of the newer additions to this list of online course platforms, Click4Course compares well with well-established platforms like Teachable and Thinkific and seems strong in its testing, survey, and certificate capabilities. It also offers the interesting feature of being able to configure whether a site is displayed for internal training – in which case a login screen is presented – or selling courses – in which case a catalog is presented. There’s a 30-day free trial (no credit card required) and the month fee is $79 ($65, if paid annually), for unlimited learners plus a 10% processing fee per course sold.

Link: http://www.click4course.com/

Digital Chalk

Digital Chalk offers a variety of plans for getting courses online. Also worth noting is the fact that the platform supports the Shareable Content Object Reference Model, or SCORM, meaning you can create standards-compliant online courses outside of the platform and import them. (Note: As far as I can tell, Digital Chalk  is the only only platforms listed in this section that offers true off-the-shelf support for SCORM. This may ore may not be an important consideration in your plans to sell online courses. Learn more here.) The company’s lowest price plan starts at $15 per month ($10, if paid annually) plus $8 per registration.

Link: http://www.digitalchalk.com

LearnWorlds

LearnWorlds positions itself as a “premium” option that provides for high interactivity, social learning tools to complement standard course content, and white labeling. The company also puts a lot of emphasis on its tools for building sales pages for courses – and these do indeed look impressive. You can even test them out without signing up through a simulator that LearnWorlds provides. You can try it free for 30 days (no credit card required), then pricing starts at $29 per month ($24, if billed annually), but the company also charges $5 per sale. So, be sure to do the math – it could add to a good bit more than any other online course platform listed here here.  Still, looks like a very good option, deserving of the “premium” label.

Link: https://www.learnworlds.com/

Pathwright

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 has used the Pathwright platform with great success. The starter plan – which allows for 1000 active learners and unlimited courses – is $99 a month ($89, if paid annually), and Pathwright does not charge any e-commerce fees (though your gateway – e.g., Stripe – still does, as usual).

Link: http://www.pathwright.com/

Ruzuku

One of the things I really like about Ruzuku is that they put a LOT of effort into helping subject matter entrepreneurs use their platform successfully to sell online courses – including everything from designing a great course, getting it online, and marketing it effectively. Their “Up and Comer Plus” plan also includes unlimited Webinars.  Their Bootstrapper plan is $99 per month ($74.75, if billed annually) and includes unlimited students and courses. If you are looking for an easy-to -use platform combined with a soup-to-nuts  approach to helping you be successful with it, this is a great option. I recommend you sign up for their free trial today to give you an idea of what the platform can do.

Link: http://ruzuku.com/

Teachable

Teachable 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 Teachable team has created a platform that enables you to offer online 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.  (You’ll need to click on the Compare Plans link on their pricing page to see this option.) Or, you can choose to pay a monthly fee, which eliminates the $1 per transaction fees and also reduces the percentage paid to Teachable based on what level of monthly fee you choose. The basic plan is $39 per month ($33.25, if paid annually + a 5% transaction fee).

Link: https://teachable.com/

Thinkific

Thinkific provides a truly full-featured software solution to help you create, deliver, and market and sell online courses – including a $0 starter plan (based on taking a 10% commission on your sales). A big vote of confidence for this platform is that my friend Dorie Clark – a bestselling author multiple-times over, guest on the Learning Revolution podcast, and generally very smart and business savvy person – is using it for the online course she is currently developing. Similar to Teachable above, you can use Thinkific completely free and then pay a 10% fee on all transactions. Or, you can pay for a monthly plan and get your transaction fees all the way down to zero. Their Essentials plan starts at $49 per month ($39, if paid annually). Definitely worth checking out.

If you want to give your course business a turbo boost, be sure to check out Thinkific’s guide YOUR FIRST $100K. A Proven Path to Reaching $100,000 in Online Course Sales. It’s free, and it walks you through all the key steps you need to take to turn online courses into serious business.

Link: https://www.thinkific.com/

Zippy Courses

Originally developed as WordPress plug-in, Zippy Courses is now a standalone platform. The person behind it is Derek Halpern, who is a well-known and respected marketer who certainly knows a thing or two himself about how to create and sell online courses. I’ve participated in a couple of courses that use Zippy Course (one was Derek’s own course, another was by a well-known course development coach who pitches Teachable in the program, but is actually using Zippy Courses to deliver it!). All in all, a very solid platform that will get you up and running – and, of course, selling online courses – quickly. Pricing starts at $99 per month with no transaction fees.

Linkhttps://zippycourses.com

If you are ready to sell online courses and just want to get started fast (or already have, but are looking for new technology), be sure to check out the free Teachable Quickstart Webinar (offered weekly on Thursdays).

All-In-One Platforms

This category of online course software provides everything you need not just to create and sell online courses, but also to manage your full Web presence. They combine elements of a Web content management system (CMS) with marketing and customer relationship management tools (CRM). I plan to do a round-up post on this type of platform soon, but for the time being, I can say that choice I would most seriously consider in this category is:

Kajabi

Kajabi describes itself as “the one system you need to market, sell, and deliver your knowledge online.” As it happens, selling online courses is a big part of the equation. Along with courses, you’re able to sell memberships, training portals, file downloads, and pretty much any other digital product you can come up with. For many people who just want to sell an online course – and who are already set with a Web site and marketing tools – this may be overkill. Then again, if you don’t have those things or simply want to get everything under one roof, Kajabi may be just the ticket. There’s a free 14-day trial (credit card required), and pricing starts at $129 a month ($103 if paid annually).

Linkhttps://newkajabi.com/ (This link will also give you a 15% sign-up discount)

Marketplace Online Course Platforms

These are online course platforms that, in addition to providing ways to author/assemble courses, also provide an existing marketplace in which to sell online courses. I’ve only included what I consider to be the top contenders here. For more extensive list of options in this category, see Looking for an Alternative to Udemy?

OpenSesame

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,OpenSesame 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.

Link: https://www.opensesame.com/sell-online-elearning-training-courses

Skillshare

Skillshare provides instructors with tools to create courses composed of video lessons and a “class project.” (All classes are have these two elements.) Classes are normally 10-25 minutes long, broken down into short videos, and they are all pre-recorded and self-paced. Once you have enrolled more than 25 learners in a class, you become eligible for participation in Skillshare’s Partner Program and can earn money through the royalty pool managed by the company – usually $1-2 per enrollment, according to the company. (Unlike Udemy – discussed below – Skillshare sells subscriptions to all of its content rather than to individual courses.) Once you are a partner, you’ll also get compensated for new Premium Members ($10 per) you bring to Skillshare through your Teacher Referral link. The Skillshare site reports that “Top teachers make up to $40,000 a year.”

Link: https://www.skillshare.com/teach

Udemy

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 at it. 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 by keeping 50% if it sells your course. If you make the sale, you keep 97% (Udemy takes a 3% transaction fee). Keep in mind that your are currently required to price your courses in $5 increments between $20 and $200 on Udemy (source) – quite restrictive, in my opinion. Even so, ThinkTraffic reports that some some instructors have been having quite a bit of success.

Link: http://www.udemy.com/teach

(Again, see my post Looking for an Alternative to Udemy? for other options in this category.)

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Small Business – Extended Enterprise Platforms

Most of the online course platforms listed on this page are geared towards solopreneurs or small, start-up businesses. While they can work for larger businesses, I’ve found over time that more established training and education companies may want to jump up to a different level to get a system that really meets their needs.

On my short list in this category are platforms like LearningCart and TalentLMS. For a full range of options, check out Learning Management System for Small Business.

(Note: The online course platforms listed on that page are not out of the question for solo entrepreneurs, but they are probably a better fit, in most instances, for small-to-mid-sized businesses that are doing/planning a relatively high-volume of course sales (or big businesses, but those aren’t really a target for this site).

Also, if you happen to represent a trade or professional association, the best list for you is the association LMS list at Tagoras.

Word Press Plug-Ins /Themes to Sell Online Courses

There are plenty of WordPress plug-ins and themes available to enable you to sell online courses.  These can be a particularly good option if you want to sell online courses from your own website. The following three are my current top choices.

Course Cats

David Siteman Garland, the guy behind Course Cats, definitely knows what he is talking about when it comes to online courses. He has created quite a few successful ones himself and has taught many others how to do it. Course Cats was born out of his own frustration with trying to make WordPress – which is great for so many things – into an easy-to-use platform for hosting online courses. Now you get to benefit from his efforts. As the Garland puts it, Course Cats gives you “everything you need to create your own amazing course Web site without needing a web developer, a graphic designer, a psychiatrist and a team of 1,000 nerds!” A subscription is $59 per month or $497 a year. If you use, or plan to use WordPress, definitely take the free trial for a spin.

Link: http://coursecats.com

Course Cats turns your WordPress site into a powerful online course platform. Take the free trial for a spin today!

LearnDash

If you already use WordPress to manage your home base, them you may want to seriously consider a WordPress LMS plug-in to create and sell online courses from your own Web site. LearnDash is a very feature rich LMS plug-in that was clearly developed by people serious about e-learning (and the founder, Justin Ferriman, does have a long background in e-learning). Pricing starts at $159 for the basic version and tops out at $329 for the Pro version. To continue getting updates and support, there is an annual renewal fee that is half of the initial license fee.

Once you’ve got a license, LearnDash offers a range of integrations and add-ons –WooCommerce, bbPress, Stripe, and Zapier, among many others – for free. And there are also a number of premium add-ons – including a connection to the GrassBlade LRS (for you e-learning geeks out there) – that look quite useful. Overall, this is serious e-learning at a very reasonable price.

Link: http://www.learndash.com/

LifterLMS

LifterLMS has the very strong selling point of being free for the base version: you can search for and install it using the usual plug-in screen in WordPress. This means you can easily try out the system within your WordPress site before deciding whether it is right for you.You pay only if you decide to use any of the various add-ons available for the system. These range from e-commerce to various marketing tools and integrations.  These are $99 each, or you can purchase a Universal Bundle for $299 that includes all of the standard add-ons. (You can actually try out the Universal Bundle for a month for $1.)

It’s also worth noting that Lifter has some very nice “Done For You” service options that can really jump start your efforts to get up and running with online courses.

Link: https://lifterlms.com/

Moodle Plug-Ins /Add-ons to Sell Online Courses

CourseMerchant

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 and sell online courses through affiliate marketers.

Link: http://www.coursemerchant.com/
Link: http://www.courseindex.com

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If you have used/had success with any of these online course platforms, or have others you would like to see on the list, please comment and share. Also, if you found this page useful, please consider sharing it with others by using the social buttons below.

Jeff

P.S. – If you haven’t already, definitely grab the free selection guide for online course platforms. It costs noting, and it will help you make the right choice faster and smarter.

Also, if you liked this post, you may also like:

Comments

  1. Hey Jeff.
    Amazing post, and pretty useful list for online course creators. Also appreciate the time and effort you put into making people’s lives easier and answering everyone’s comments around here.

    Passing by, I wanted to drop here another platform that fits the all-in-one category. It’s https://kyvio.com and it’s the perfect match for people with a low budget and high expectations. I would highly appreciate it if you could review and maybe add it to your list.

    Cheers

  2. Liam Dalriada says:

    Several of these tout the ‘marketing’ background of the founder of the website. But then the platform requires YOU (the teacher) to do the marketing of your course. It seems what they are ‘marketing’ is the platform, which is absolutely worthless to me: I’m a teacher, not a salesman. I don’t have a “web presence”; I don’t have a ‘following’; I have content knowledge and an ability to teach. It would seem that the best venue for someone like me would be one that relieved me of the responsibility and need to do something I can’t do (market/sell).

    • Liam – These are technology platforms, plain and simple. If you want something that is going to help (at least some) with marketing, then go with Udemy or a similar platform. See https://www.learningrevolution.net/alternative-to-udemy/. Even on those platforms, though, you are going to have to put some effort into marketing if you expect to make any real money. Basically, you have two choices: hire or contract with someone to do marketing for you or learn to do it yourself. If you aren’t willing to do one or the other, then you either need to go to work for someone who is, or just accept that being in the course business is not for you. – Jeff

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