It takes time and effort to create an online course, and a big part of that is choosing the right LMS platform. Ideally, you’ll want a platform that makes it easy to set up a course and allows you to have full control over your branding, content, and pricing.
In this article, we’ll compare the advantages and disadvantages of using WordPress and an LMS plugin vs a third-party online course platform. We’ll look at the best online course platforms in all categories, and compare their features to help you choose the right one based on your needs.
Types of online course platforms
If you are an educator, teacher, or content creator, you can create online courses using two methods;
- Setting up paid or free courses on your own website using WordPress and an LMS plugin.
- Relying on third-party closed platforms such as Teachable and Udemy, that host your course for you.
To decide on the type of online learning platform to use, you’ll need to consider several factors, such as the type of courses you plan to offer and the target audience. Therefore, take time to understand your needs first before settling on one.
WordPress is a highly customizable platform: you can build your website from scratch and make it look and function exactly the way you want it to. With WordPress, you’ll own all your course content, and won’t have to pay any fees on your sales (apart from fees owed to payment gateways).
You’ll need to choose an LMS plugin to start creating courses. All plugins have their own features for setting up lesson and course content, as well as managing the learning experience and selling courses.
Here are the pros and cons of using WordPress:
- Reduced learning curves if you already have some experience with WordPress.
- Although setting up on WordPress is time-consuming, it comes with benefits such as customization and controls which allow you to choose how things work on your site.
- If the creator already has a following on social media or other platforms, it will be easier to redirect people to their WordPress.
- LMS plugins are compatible with most WordPress themes, so it’s easier to create a site that matches the aesthetic of your brand.
- If your primary objective is to earn revenue, WordPress is more cost-effective in the long term. This is because you don’t have to give a commission on each course sale or pay a monthly subscription or transaction fee.
- With WordPress, you are responsible for most core functions, including customer support, sales, and marketing.
- It’s more time-consuming because you have to set up and customize the website. Additionally, you also have to pay for hosting services with a service like Pressable.
Marketplace online course platforms
The other alternative is marketplaces like Udemy and Teachable. Course creators use these hosted platforms to publish and promote the content. They also come with your own sales page. The pages are already set up and ready; you only need to upload your courses and start selling these digital products to potential students.
These marketplace online course platforms also have their benefits and downsides.
- A hosted platform takes work off your plate because the site handles the marketing and distribution by providing your course to its learners.
- Hosted online learning platforms are much easier to use. You just have to create course content and upload it to the site.
- These hosted platforms come with limited themes and designs; you’ll have fewer customizability options.
- Since you don’t fully own your content, you have less control.
- The sites expect you to pay monthly transaction fees and, at times, commissions on each course you sell.
Top 11 online course platforms
Now that you know what to look for when choosing an online course platform, here are the top 11 options to consider and their features.
1. Sensei LMS
If you are looking for online learning platforms with all the necessary features to sell online courses, Sensei LMS is the best option. This WordPress learning management plugin enables you to create courses, and handle student groups. In addition, Sensei is ideal if you are already experienced in using WordPress because you build your courses with the familiar Gutenberg block editor as your interface.
Sensei comes with tons of features that will benefit you as well as your learners. For instance, it supports different types of media and a course progress bar that students can use to track their current position in the course. Additionally, students can use the Learning Mode to stay focused during the course. This feature is compatible with all themes and ensures that the students have a distraction-free environment.
Furthermore, this plugin allows you to create branded certificates for your students after they have completed the course. This acts as motivation for the students still taking your course and encourages them to complete it.
Sensei also allows educators to use Sensei Blocks to add interactive elements to the quizzes and lessons, such as image hotspots, flashcards, and videos. This feature is important because it helps expand the concepts in the course and student assessments, making the course more engaging and effective. Additionally, you can add some downloadable media attachments for the students to have additional learning materials and offer extra resources.
This all-in-one platform also has a blog-post-to-course feature that you can use to convert your content into an online training module. This is quite convenient because it reduces the time it takes to develop a course from scratch. You can also develop a content drip that has a customizable start date for learners that register for your course.
To sell your courses, you’ll need the Sensei Pro plan, which integrates with WooCommerce. This way, you can set up your courses as products and sell them with whatever payment gateways you’ve added to your store using WooCommerce Payments. Some of these methods could include Amazon Pay, PayPal, and buy now, pay later installments.
Therefore, if you are wondering how to sell your online course, Sensei has you covered. The transactions are safe and efficient, which can help potential customers feel more confident when buying a course.
Another learning management system (LMS) plugin for WordPress is LearnDash. When you use this online course platform, it allows you to create and publish courses directly on your website.
Some of the key features of LearnDash include the ability to create multimedia courses and provide feedback and progress on students’ performance. In addition, it has features like focus mode, advanced quizzing, a drag-and-drop course builder, and badges and certificates.
Although users tend to love LearnDash, keep in mind that the platform is more expensive than Sensei and has fewer features overall.
Thinkific is an online course platform that you can use to host your content and sales page. Through this all-in-one site, you can create and sell online courses. In addition, you can provide certificate templates, marketing tools, and a landing page. Compared to most online course platforms, Thinkific allows you to set up live lessons.
Thinkific is a pay-per-month hosted course platform. It also comes with different themes to allow you to customize your website. Furthermore, your students have access to communities if they need to connect online and discuss the course.
The downside of Thinkific is that the platform has a learning curve; therefore, it’s not user-friendly. In addition, it doesn’t have features to integrate with social media networks. Additionally, it will be more costly to sell courses on Thinkific than create one on WordPress or using a plugin. Should you ever need to export your content and data from Thinkific, it will be near impossible. On the other hand, you could easily do this using Sensei and WordPress.
Alt Text – Udemy Homepage Text
As a marketplace, they take care of hosting your course and marketing it to their users. This, of course, comes at a cost of several percentage cuts, including one for revenue share, another for students who find your course through SEO, and one for those who found it through paid search.
Unfortunately, you won’t have much control over the design of your course page.
While having millions of Udemy visitors as your potential audience is tempting, understand that you’re also competing with hundreds of thousands of other courses.
Skillshare is commonly used by craft and art course creators. However, you can also get courses in business, writing, and more. Unlike Udemy, Skillshare has a membership model, so your course doesn’t compete with others on the platform for purchases but rather for the minutes watched.
While Skillshare is good for beginner educators and has a user-friendly platform, it owns your courses and gives you royalties based on the watch time. You also make money from referral earnings on this membership site.
TalentLMS is a platform mainly used by businesses to create online courses to train their employees and onboard their clients. Apart from creating courses, you can also host live sessions with this tool.
This all-in-one platform allows you to have your own brand colors and logo as well as the ability to create and manage all accounts from one dashboard, separating your staff into teams and departments.
You can choose to either upload your content or use the ready-made courses on the platform if you prefer automation to train your employees in marketing, project management, or leadership. If your team is small, you can use the free plan, which allows you to create 10 courses for a maximum of five users.
7. Mighty Networks
You can also host your online course on Mighty Networks. This platform allows users to create memberships to their content. This platform works best if you already have a following on social media and want to turn your skills into courses.
The features on Mighty Networks allow you to upload videos and live streams to reach your learners via a mobile app on Android and iOS. In addition, you can customize your course to look how you want. The platform has a pay-per-month structure with several price points.
If you don’t have any experience working with WordPress or creating your own website, you can also use Podia for course creation. It also offers sales, memberships, and downloads. Podia will host your website for you and allow you to customize it. However, it doesn’t have a user base like Udemy.
As a creator, you have the option to create different types of courses, including drip courses, and offer them via pre-sells and bundles. Although the platform is marketed as an “own your own website” model, it comes with some limitations. If you get a free account, you don’t get unlimited courses, onboarding calls, and affiliate marketing are only available for monthly plans, and they pay you for your courses instead of the other way around.
Podia is ideal for course creators with a small following. If you are not worried about the monthly cost, you can use it to build your brand slowly as you develop your own website.
LearnWorlds is a pay-per-month service for selling courses online. It comes with basic online course functionalities and two monthly packages. Although it appears like you own and host the content, it’s actually owned by the platform.
An advantage of LearnWorlds is that apart from being a website, you can rely on them to create an iOS mobile app for your online courses. In addition, it comes with social media integrations and features to create coupons and discounts. However, compared to a using WordPress site with Sensei, it’s not customizable because you don’t have control over the design.
If you have little to no experience creating your own website or working with WordPress, you can choose Teachable, an all-in-one platform for your online courses. This online eLearning platform provides a page on the marketplace for educators and content creators to host their online courses.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have a steep learning curve because they provide templates to simplify designs. However, the options are limited. In addition, the Teachable domain can easily connect with your own, or you can decide to use what’s provided.
To boost engagement with your students, you can use live lessons or run webinars from your account. This allows you to communicate better and improves messaging between educators and learners.
When it comes to payment, the pricing is based on the number of transactions, or an unlimited transaction plan if your course has a lot of students. The downside of this platform is that the Teachable course tools are pretty basic. They offer little to no learner engagement tools like customizable quizzes and timers.
LearnPress is a plugin used for online course creation. This platform allows users to import and export courses. The pay-per-feature model comes with add-ons like quizzes, certificates, content drip, and more.
Additionally, LearnPress has a visual course builder with drag-and-drop functionality. From the platform, you can also see analytics from your most active students, instructors, and popular courses. You can use this information to gauge how your course is performing. It also comes with a variety of payment options, such as PayPal.
Why Sensei is the best online course platform
Online course platforms are now in high demand. While there’s a wide variety of platforms to choose from, WordPress is the most cost-effective and flexible platform for educators and content creators.
Once you choose WordPress, you should use the Sensei LMS plugin. This plugin is the most user-friendly to WordPress users as it uses the Gutenberg block editor as its interface and is compatible with most themes and plugins. Take advantage of all the features such as Sensei Blocks, WooCommerce integrations, advanced quiz features, and personalized feedback to manage the learner’s experience and create interactive lessons.
If you want to set up your own website and sell your courses to students, we recommend using Sensei Pro because it integrates with WooCommerce and its extensions. This integration is important because it automates processes and makes it easy to accept payments from multiple platforms after selling your courses.
To get started, sign up for Sensei Pro!