With the e-learning market set to be worth $325 billion by 2025, online courses are one of the best ways to make money through digital products.
Marketing thought leader Neil Patel mentions two friends whose first online course earned them $40,000 in its first month, and a former math teacher who earned $200,000 in one month with an online course. There are many more examples and case studies out there.
You’ve got a lot of money riding on your online course, so you want to make sure to get it right. You’re willing to invest time, effort, and money into creating a kick-ass online course in exchange for that type of a return.
That’s why picking the best online selling platform to create your online course is extremely important.
There are many platforms for selling online courses, and they’re all competing for your subscription. How are you going to choose the best option? We’re here to help.
Three Types of Online Course Platforms
There are three main types of online course platforms: course marketplaces, hosted online course platforms and self-hosted online course platforms.
A course marketplace is a platform like Udemy, Tutsplus and Skillshare, where they help promote your courses in exchange for an ongoing fee. You’ll get a lot of help with exposure, but very little control over the design or marketing of your online course.
A hosted online selling platform for courses includes options like Kajabi, Teachable, Thinkific, Ruzuku and Zippy Courses. They host and help you build your course and don’t charge you an ongoing percentage of your profits, but leave it up to you to handle your marketing.
A self-hosted platform means building your own website to create and share your online courses, through a platform like WordPress or website builder like Wix. You have to build, host and design the site, but you’ll gain total control over your courses.
What are the Key Features to Look for in an Online Course Platform?
No matter which type of online selling platform you choose for your online course, there are certain key features to look out for.
Ease of Use
Unless you’ve got some technical expertise and experience, you’ll want an online selling platform that lets you build your online course without needing to code.
If you choose an online course marketplace or a hosted online course platform, you’ll generally find a user-friendly, drag and drop interface that lets you pull different page elements into position so that you don’t need to write a drop of code.
If you’re using a self-hosted platform, like an online course plugin for WordPress, you’ll probably need to tweak the code in order to customize your online course options.
Building your online course is one thing. Getting students to pay for it is quite another.
Online course marketplaces help promote your online course to all their website visitors. But you won’t get access to your students’ email addresses or user data, so you won’t be able to target them with further marketing.
Hosted platforms leave all the marketing up to you, which is why it’s really important to choose a platform that gives you the tools to do it. Look for a full suite of marketing tools like email marketing automation, marketing analytics, built-in landing page templates, and more to make it easy to plan and execute strategic marketing funnels.
This is a detail that pushes pushes Kajabi ahead against Teachable and many other online selling platforms. Kajabi’s sophisticated but simple “pipelines” feature for automating marketing funnels alone justifies the platform’s higher subscription fees.
You’re selling your online courses in order to make money, so platform subscription rates and payment processing fees are an important consideration.
Online course marketplaces charge you a percentage of each transaction, which can leave you with a very small profit. What’s more, you don’t have full control over your pricing, so you might not be able to charge as much as your online course is worth.
The majority of hosted online course platforms charge you a monthly fee, but some also charge a percentage of your profits. Others allow you to choose your pay structure. Pick an online selling platform with flexible, transparent pricing structures and no hidden fees.
The biggest drawback to using an online course marketplace is that you have barely any design flexibility. Using a hosted online course platform or self-hosting your online course on your own website allows you to customize your courses.
The Reptro WordPress theme, for example, integrates with the LearnDash plugin to power its learning management system (LMS) and with Elementor as a custom page layout builder for maximum control over the environment your students will experience.
If you use a hosted platform, check how far you can customize your courses. Some online course platforms have more course templates, themes, and formatting options than others. You want as much design control as possible so that you can build and strengthen your brand.
Range of Content Types
If you’re just looking to deliver written lessons, you’ll likely be content with a basic online course platform.
But the best online courses are multimedia, including embedded video and audio, interactive quizzes, multiple-choice tests and “drip” courses that move the student through the curriculum interactively and automatically. You might also want to set up a blog and lead capture landing pages on your site, so don’t forget to include these content formats in your list of musts.
Look for a hosted platform or course marketplace that gives you the flexibility to present a range of media types, to support your ability to attract and nurture an audience, as well as your ability to deliver value with the courses themselves.
The right integrations let you connect your course with your existing website, blog, and/or social media networks; allow you to embed video and audio content; share surveys and forms; and interact with your students through live Q&A sessions, among other useful options.
Integrating your online course with applications like Google Analytics, Mailchimp, ZenDesk and more means that you can promote your online courses more effectively, track visitor behavior and student success rates, and provide better user support.
Many of the top course platforms offer rich native integrations with other popular services. In addition, dozens of them are integrated with Zapier, so that you can easily push data across platforms to build out your own automations.
The Best Platform Is the One That’s Right for Your Online Course
As with so many things, it’s hard to say there’s a single ‘best’ online selling platform for every single online course. You’ll need to choose the best online course platform according to your online course needs, like your budget, content types, the marketing tools and integrations you need, and how much technical assistance you’re looking for. Once you know what’s most important for your online course platform, you can pick the one that’s best suited to your needs.
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