best online course platform

The Best Online Course Platforms 2023

TL;DR: choosing the best and the right online course platform for you as a creator is important. This decision is not only dependent on pricing and features, but there are also future considerations you should know so your platform can “grow” with you and your content. Online courses and digital products are some of the most profitable ways to make scalable incomes. Hence the platform decision cannot be taken lightly for to achieve the ultimate success as a content creator.

How NOT to choose an online course platform

Don’t just choose a platform based on what’s popular, what you may have seen in an ad, or what a famous blogger tells you to buy. As a practitioner and a consultant working for dozens of clients and companies, I have helped many of them navigate the excitement and muddy water of course creation and community management. There is much to learn and reflect from experience using ALL platforms listed below. This article also represents advice I’d give to my creator community, clients, friends and colleagues.

This review is unbiased and unsponsored.

Podia

Podia is hands-down the easiest platform to use for creators (including beginners). I highly recommend Podia to anyone who’s starting their online course creation journey. It is an all-in-one platform. Given its extensive features, Podia is reasonably priced and accessible by most.

Pricing: Podia has a forever-free version ($0/month), and paid versions starting at $39/month

My favorite features of Podia are:

  1. Creating course content easily by linking to existing Google Docs (including docs, spreadsheets, and slides). When you update your Google Docs, the course content inside Podia is updated automatically. This has saved me tremendous amount of time.
  2. Email marketing is built into Podia. This means that you no longer need a 3rd party email platform or additional integration with Podia. You can communicate with your students using Podia’s simple Broadcast (single emails) or Campaign features (a sequence of emails).
  3. Segmenting your students using courses, digital downloads, webinars, pre-sales pages and more.
  4. For coaches out there, you are able to sell coaching sessions directly to your students too. I like including coaching packages as part of my courses in between modules to let my students know that they can work with me one-on-one for additional support. This is a great upsell opportunity.

Types of products you can create using Podia

Screenshot 2023 01 21 at 11.34.02 PM | Feisworld

How good is Podia’s email marketing really?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to choosing Podia. When I finally decided to move all my courses to Podia, their email marketing feature was an important factor to simplify my marketing system.

Is it as powerful or intricate as something such as ConvertKit or SendFox? Not really. But it’s more than good enough for creators who are starting out, and those whose primary focus are courses.

The absolutely best and magical part of Podia’s email marketing feature is its ability to keep track of actual sales (aka conversions) as part of email analytics. It’s right there on the dashboard and you can’t miss it.

Screenshot 2023 01 21 at 11.52.34 PM | Feisworld

Why wouldn’t you use Podia’s email marketing?

If you are not only a course creator but someone who relies on more complicated sales funnels, lead pages, or have been nurturing an audience outside of your course content, Podia’s email marketing features may not be sophisticated enough for your needs. In this case, I’d recommend ConvertKit, or SendFox (if you are on a budget).

My current setup involves using Podia for all my courses at Feisworld Academy. I only use Podia to send emails specific to my courses and students. For my regular newsletters (subscribers, prospects, and clients), I use SendFox to keep things simple.

My honest review of why I think Podia is one of the best and most affordable online course platforms

Mighty Networks

Mighty Networks is best for community-driven creators and businesses that are more established, and not those who are just starting out or without an engaged community.

Pricing: no free plan. Monthly subscription starts at $33/month for beginners, and $99 for businesses.

Who is Mighty Networks designed for?

Hands down, Mighty Networks is the best community + course platform if that’s what you are going for. But it’s not a beginner’s platform. Why? It’s hard to build a community from scratch. Instead, you want to have an existing audience before leveraging a platform such as Mighty Networks.

When it comes to building a community, the effort is never once and done. Unlike online courses that can be relatively hands-off, community management is an ongoing effort that’s high touch.

I have seen creators using Mighty Networks with a small following (under 100 active members on the platform). While the engagement is ok and not great from a small crowd, it’s difficult to generate meaningful income, hence making the investment in such community platform a less sustainable choice.

Even with relatively clear structure and expectations, the common challenge of managing a community is user engagement (i.e. hot and cold, very inconsistent).

I have heard from both admins, moderators, and users on Mighty Networks, their relationship with the platform can be complicated – a bit of a love-and-hate relationship. 🙂

What do I think after being both a member and an admin on the platform? Mighty Networks has potential, for sure. It really depends on how the admin/moderator sets it up, how willing they are to learn and to pivot, and the quality of the members in the community. Members need to be engaged to do their part. A community will not survive without active member engagement, UGC (user-generated content), which then provides the needed feedback for the community to improve and grow.

In this video, I talk about how to maximize Mighty Networks for your content and business. Hint: you don’t need a complicated setup to satisfy and engage your members.

Uscreen

Uscreen is the best OTT (over-the-top) course platform for creators and businesses with catalogs of courses. It’s not for beginners or individual creators who have very few courses. By design, Uscreen is set up to provide a Netflix-like experience for members of the platform.

Pricing: Uscreen subscriptions start at $79/month

Who is Uscreen designed for?

Uscreen is great for established creators with extensive video courses that often need to be cataloged or filters based on topics. We aren’t talking about 3-5 courses, but dozens of video courses that help learners progress through different levels and develop specific skills.

Uscreen has featured fitness instructors with dozens of video courses, as well as companies that engage multiple instructors, such as Alcott Global’s Supply Chain Academy.

Screenshot 2023 01 22 at 12.15.26 AM | Feisworld

My favorite features of Uscreen

  • The ability to track instructors on the platform including watch-time based on videos and collections (of videos) based on their watch-time. This feature isn’t available on most of the other learning platforms such as Teachable and Thinkific, as of January 2023.
  • I have been using Uscreen extensively since April 2022. Soon I’ll be able to explore mobile apps from Uscreen. Yet another unique offering from Uscreen that allows creators and businesses to launch native iOS, Android, Apple TV apps and beyond for their online academy.

Teachable or Thinkific

When I launched Feisworld Academy for the first time (with only one course) in 2017, I chose Thinkific. It was a popular choice among creative entrepreneurs, and Teachable was a close second.

Both platforms have existed for a while and are favored by creators from around the world. Yet I’m listing them last because I find their features and set up to be more traditional, and less innovative.

If you are running a course that requires certification, quizzes, and scores, etc. – these platforms are both great choices.

While they are similar, “the biggest difference between the two is that Teachable’s free plan gives you unlimited courses, students, and products. Thinkific gives you unlimited students, but you can only create up to three courses with a free plan, which may limit your course experience and revenue potential.”

My favorite feature from Teachable and Thinkific:

They both have built-in affiliate management features. It means that you can onboard affiliates (people who like and refer your courses to others in exchange for an affiliate commission), and you can pay them directly from these platforms.

Affiliate marketing isn’t always a given from within the course platforms. In most cases, you have to integrate or pay a 3rd party to onboard and pay affiliates. If you ever run into this issue with your chosen course platform, I highly recommend Rewardful as an add-on for managing affiliates.

Conclusion

Choosing the best online course platform is all about choosing a platform that’s right for you and your business.

Are you able to make that decision based on this article? Please let me know in the comments below. Questions, as always, are welcome.

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