So you’re ready to find the best online course platform for you and your business.
Great! Let’s get started.
Because your business and your needs are unique, doing the research and actually trying out the platforms will help you figure out which one will be the best choice for you.
Below, I’ll go over the 5 most common course platforms based on what I know about each platform and the insights I’ve gathered over the years from personal use and from my clients.
Plus, I’ll tell you which one I’m currently using for my own courses. 😉
But you’ll see that all 5 platforms boast the same general functionalities and features.
So the real proof is in the pudding.
In the nitty gritty details. 😉
(And I know you’re curious, so I’ll tell you upfront: our favorite (and the one we’re currently using) is MemberVault.)
Thinkific is an all-in-one online course platform that allows you to create and sell your courses (or memberships!) right from their platform.
You can host your course or create it within their system, market your course, customize the platform to match your branding, and never have to leave their platform.
One of the cool features about course creation from within Thinkific is that you can offer live lessons via Zoom and have your students join in!
Thinkific pricing starts at $79 for their basic plan.
The great part about their pricing is that none of their plans include transaction fees, which can eat away at profits very quickly.
Thinkific offers a free, one month trial.
During that time, you can upload or create one course and enroll an unlimited number of students.
This will give you a pretty good look into the platform and will give you ample time to figure out if it’s the right fit for you.
Teachable was one of the first online course platforms in the market, and is one of the most popular.
With Teachable, you can host your courses on their platform or create your course from within the platform.
Teachable has become an all-in-one learning management solution for businesses or course creators.
This means that you can literally create, manage, and market your course (even blog!) straight from their platform.
And customize the look for a more custom branding experience.
They also offer support via Live Chat for whenever you get stuck and need a quick SOS.
Teachable pricing starts at $39/month (or $29/month if paid annually). On top of your payment processor fees, Teachable charges a 5% transaction fee on the Basic plan only.
They offer a 14-day free trial (Pro Plan only) so that you can tinker around on the platform and check if it’s a good fit for you.
Thinkific vs Teachable
Both of these platforms are extremely similar.
Kind of like Android vs iOS: always in constant competition, with very loyal fan bases.
And if you poll people, the results would probably be evenly split.
So you’ll find very similar features in both Teachable and Thinkific, making them both excellent choices to try.
Based on feedback I’ve gotten from clients and colleagues, Teachable seems to be the most user friendly of the two.
With that said, typically clients who have tried Thinkific or Teachable end up switching to MemberVault because they find it much easier to use.
More on that later.
Teachable vs Thinkific: Key Differences
If your course is designed so that students shouldn’t skip ahead, Thinkific gives you the option to set prerequisites and lock your content.
The prerequisites prevent your students from skipping ahead or missing out on content that they should know prior to moving forward.
Teachable does allow you to drip content, but only based on date or days after enrollment.
Also, Thinkific allows you to poll your students within the platform.
These polls and surveys are important because they can provide you with some valuable feedback in real-time, directly from the students taking your course.
You can take that feedback to gain insight into your ideal audience, tweak/improve your course, and further develop your marketing.
Another big difference? Pricing.
Thinkific has higher priced monthly plans. Their Basic plan is $79/month for 5 courses, but zero transaction fees.
Teachable’s lowest monthly plan is $29/month for an unlimited number of courses, but a 5% fee for each transaction.
And their free plans?
Teachable and Thinkific let you try them out under their free plans, but Thinkific’s free plan is best.
Teachable offers a 14-day free trial of the Pro Plan only.
Under the free plan, you won’t be able to launch or sell your course.
You can only host it and explore the features and options within the Teachable platform.
Then, after 14 days or when you want to launch/sell your course, you’ll have to pay to keep access (between $29-$299, depending on which plan you choose).
Thinkific offers their free plan for one month, with access to hosting one online course for an unlimited number of students.
Meaning that you can launch, sell, and host your course for free on their online course platform for a whole month.
Back when I was first searching for an online course platform, Podia was not very popular.
In fact, Podia was named “Coach” back when I was first searching!
(And if you’re a fact nerd like me and you’re wondering what the name means, “podia” is the plural form of the word “podium.”)
Since the name change in 2017, Podia has undergone a major transformation.
Like the first two, Podia is also an all-in-one course platform where you can host and sell your courses, memberships, and webinars.
And with Podia you get instant payouts from each transaction. Cha-ching!
Podia’s Mover plan (aka their starter plan) is $39/month (or $390/year).
On Podia, you also get a 14-day free trial for any plan you choose.
One of my favorite pricing features that is unique to Podia is that it provides free migrations for annual plans.
So if you decided to try out a different online course platform first, but now want to move your content AND customers over to Podia?
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Kajabi is another all-in-one online course platform that is quite popular and often compared to Kartra.
(Here at Freedom Driven Success, we’ve taken a strong stance against Kartra’s values, so we didn’t include them on this list. #sorrynotsorry)
In Kajabi, you can (you guessed it!) host and create your online course, membership, webinar, etc without needing additional integrations.
Kajabi is the most expensive option on this list.
Starting at $149/month, all of Kajabi’s plans charge zero transaction fees.
If choosing the annual option for any plan, the monthly payments average $119/month.
Podia vs Kajabi
Kajabi was the first course platform I ever used, back in 2015.
At the time, I found that it was worth the monthly investment ($120 at the time) for the ease of use, since most of the market wasn’t very user friendly for course creators.
A lot has changed over the years, including them becoming an all-in-one platform that, in my humble opinion, isn’t so “all-in-one.”
I find that many times, clients of mine still have to invest in other tools that overlap what Kajabi does (e.g. ConvertKit or ActiveCampaign for email) since their native tools aren’t as reliable and are quite limited (e.g. their shopping cart doesn’t allow for upsells).
However, clients and colleagues of mine that are currently using Podia are 100% committed to the platform.
My clients that are on Podia rave about how easy it is for them to use, and that it is an excellent value for the price.
Podia vs Kajabi: Key Differences
Podia offers free migrations to their platform. This is actually unique to Podia in comparison to Teachable, Thinkific, and Kajabi.
Also, Kajabi starts at $119/month, but only allows you to upload or create 3 products.
Podia gives you unlimited everything on their basic plan, at $39/month.
And you get 2 months free if you choose an annual plan.
So if you’re debating between Kajabi or Podia for an all-in-one that is easy-to-use, Podia is definitely the most affordable option between the two.
And my clients currently using Podia would agree.
At last…. (cue Etta James)
My favorite platform: MemberVault.
I’ve had quite the roller coaster with our course platforms.
There have been lots of trials, and I’ve switched platforms three times at this point.
And I know that MemberVault is the best choice for us.
MemberVault is another all-in-one platform with 5, very distinct features that made this choice a no-brainer for me.
1: MemberVault is easy to use, even for the non tech savvy.
I can’t tell you the number of times my clients have felt empowered instead of restricted by the tech involved on MemberVault!
2: MemberVault pricing: how does forever free sound?
I know that looking for a platform to host your online course for free seems like a dream: too good to be true.
Nothing good is free, right?
Well, MemberVault offers a forever free plan for up to 3 products and 100 students.
And NO need to keep track of how long you’ve been using the trial plan. 😉
3: MemberVault’s Customer Support is amazing.
Like the other platforms, MemberVault offers chat and email support.
However, for a quicker response, you can join their Facebook Group, the MV Collective.
Inside their Facebook group, other MemberVault users provide support, answers to questions, and community.
4: MemberVault keeps your students engaged throughout their experience.
MemberVault lets you create a “binge & buy marketplace,” sort of like a store-front where your users can see all the products you offer and can purchase directly from the platform.
And to keep engagement and incentivize your students to complete steps or take action inside their courses, MemberVault sets up a rewards system that gamifies their experience.
For a more details about MemberVault’s features (such as gamification and binge & buy marketplace), read the full review here.
5: MemberVault publicly displays their values, which align with my own.
As the CEO of Freedom Driven Success, it’s important for me to lead my business and my clients by staying in integrity with my values.
And when I reached out to MemberVault’s founders about their values, they were able to share with me where they stood on issues like anti-racism, BLM, and equality.
Choosing a platform that allowed me to vote with my dollars was important, and that made MemberVault an easy decision.
Choosing the Best Online Course Platform for You
So how can you choose which option is the right fit for your business?
Make a list of the things that the online course platform must have.
Assess where you want your business to be in a few months to determine what kind of functionalities must be available to you in the near future.
Look at things such as:
- Ease of use
- Engaging with your students within the platform
- Number of products
- Number of users
- Customer support
- Company values
Research the platforms, sign up for the trials, and give them a go.