**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you**

Choosing the right online course platform is a pretty big deal. It’s almost as big as choosing your website platform, seriously it is!

You’ll want to make sure that your chosen software is easy to use, has the right features and gives you the best bang for your buck. Want to know how you can easily do that?

With a test drive!

Fortunately most external course platforms will allow you to sign up for a free trial. So sign up and give each platform a whirl by creating a test course. That’s exactly what I did before writing this post. So five test courses later, here are my findings.

external-online-teaching-platforms
I must mention that I’ve focused only on the (cheaper) affordable teaching platforms of $50 or less per month as many of my readers are newbies with limited budgets.

What exactly is a teaching platform?

Teaching platforms are external websites which allow you to build and sell online courses. Your online course content will be hosted by the website but you get to keep ownership over the materials. Generally, they are easy to use and can save you loads of time and money as opposed to self hosting your courses on a WordPress site. 

They’re perfect for entrepreneurs, coaches, bloggers or experts who want to easily create and sell online courses. 

external-online-teaching-platforms

What to look for when choosing an external online course platform

The perfect teaching platform doesn’t exist but I’d suggest you aim for the following features:

  • Allows you to create and set up courses easily
  • Is responsive meaning it looks and works well on laptops, mobiles and tablets
  • Has a good looking user and student interface
  • Supports a range of course multimedia and files
  • Accepts payments via PayPal or Stripe
  • Allows design customisation of your course
  • Ability to integrate with popular autoresponders such as Mailchimp or with marketing tools such as Leadpages
  • Has top notch security
  • Offers 24/7 support

#1 Thinkific

An all round great teaching platform built by course creators for course creators! This platform is super intuitive and customer support is outstanding! If you’re serious about building an online empire, then this platform will serve you well.

thinkific-teaching-platform

Pricing:

Paid plans start from $39 – $219 per month with transaction fees payable. Fees decrease the higher your monthly premium.


thinkific-online-course-platform

Pro’s:

  • Hosts and supports all course media files (so no need for external hosting)
  • Built-in voice over tool for recording narrations
  • Integrates with Stripe and PayPal (essentials plan and above)
  • Integrates with autoresponders but also has built in emails
  • Drip feed content
  • Assessments and quiz builder
  • Affiliate program
  • Custom domains
  • Landing pages
  • Tracking and reporting
  • Fully responsive
  • Design customisation
  • Buil in course discussions

Con’s:

  • Commission and fees payable on courses sold but not on the pricier plans

#2 Teachable

Teachable is very similar to Thinkific but priced slightly higher (so it’s a bit of a no brainer!). I literally created a course and uploaded content within minutes. It was very easy to use! 

Word of caution, I did experience a few glitches when I tried to upload and save a few background images! 

teachable-online-teaching-platform

Personally, I find the design of the student interface (the screen the student sees) a bit boring but that’s only because of my instructional design background. My advice would be to create as much visual content as possible to teach your students and to have minimal on-screen text. 

Pricing:

Monthly plans start from $49 – $300 a month with commissions of 5-10% being charged on each course sold, plus card fees. Fees reduce with higher monthly subscriptions. Free plans are available but with limited features!

teachable-platform-review
Pro’s:

  • Easy to use course editor
  • Customisable logo, background image and colour palette
  • Supports all multimedia files
  • Custom domains
  • International payments and integration with Stripe & PayPal
  • Custom landing and sales pages 
  • Easy to set-up affiliate program
  • Course content hosting, security and support
  • Tracking and analytics

Con’s:

  • Commission fees and card charges payable on each course sold but not on pricier plans
  • Unable to create modules or lessons; courses are broken up into sections and lectures
  • Comments are via Disqus so needs Disqus integration 
  • Free account requires Zapier integration for sign ups

#3 Teachery

I really like the design and look of this platform. Creating my first online course was super duper easy. I loved the extremely easy to use front end editor. But despite the plans being reasonably cheap, and the ultra cool design, there are a few disadvantages.

teachery-teaching-platform

Pricing:

There’re 3 pricing options:

  • a monthly plan for $49
  • an annual plan of $470
  • or a crazy lifetime plan for $900.

And remember NO TRANSACTION FEES! 

teachery-platform-review

Pro’s:

  • No ongoing transaction fees
  • Easy course set-up and an automatic save feature
  • Customisation of buttons, background colours and sub-lesson colours in courses, lessons and sales pages.
  • Integrates with Stripe
  • Sales, landing and email opt-in pages
  • Integration with Mailchimp & Convertkit
  • Custom domain names
  • Tracking and analytics
  • Drip feed content
  • Customer support

Con’s:

  • Doesn’t host your course content but allows you to embed content (meaning you’ll need to use external sites such as Youtube, Dropbox etc. to host your media files so extra cash required)
  • Comments supported by Disqus
  • Doesn’t integrate with PayPal (shock horror!)
  • Paid payment/checkout pages 
  • No affiliate program

#4 TalentLMS

Recommended by a reader, this all round learning management system is used by over 30,000 small businesses and colleges. Signing up for the free account lets you create and sell up to 10 courses but the number of users are limited. Paid monthly plans don’t include additional transaction fees or charges but you’ll need to weigh this up against the capped user limit.


talentlms-teaching-platform

Pricing:

Monthly plans start from $39 to $349, with no additional card or transaction fees but standard plans have user limits. 

talentlms-platform-review

Pro’s:

  • Requires a learning curve to get acquainted with the user interface
  • Integrates with your WordPress site
  • Integrates with PayPal and Stripe (subscriptions available)
  • Hosts all content files and multimedia
  • Offers assessment and quiz functionality
  • Course certificates
  • Personal messaging and forums
  • Tracking and reporting
  • Top notch security
  • Can be customised using CSS
  • Homepage builder
  • Multiple languages

Con’s:

  • Limits on number of active users (you won’t be able to offer lifetime memberships)
  • Not very pretty so knowledge of CSS would help to customise the design and match your branding

#5 Pathwright

This platform has the least features and integrations of all the platforms in my review but is still an affordable well designed option.

pathwright-teaching-platform

Pricing:

Two pricing plans are available:

  • Monthly pay as you go plans start at $7 per course registration with an additional 4% commission payable if you sell your course through their catalogue.
  • Monthly plans are perfect for short courses and are based on the number of active members. Plans start from $19 – $299 per month.


pathwright-online-teaching-platform

Pro’s:

  • Easy to use user interface
  • Fully responsive
  • Course comments
  • Assessments and quizzes
  • Custom domains
  • Design customisation
  • Integrates with Stripe and PayPal
  • Integrates with Google Analytics
  • Tracking and reporting
  • Multiple languages

Con’s:

  • Course video’s require external hosting (argh again more moola needed)
  • No custom page builder but you can integrate with landing pages
  • Integration with autoresponders via Zapier (internal emails and messaging is available)
  • No affiliate program

So over to you! Which online course platform do you use and love? Tell me more in the comments as I’d love to hear from ya.

Leave a Reply

10 thoughts on “THE BEST AFFORDABLE ONLINE COURSE PLATFORMS

  1. Hey Tracey, thanks heaps for this extensive review! This is awesome content! Just wondering, which platform do you prefer or use currently? Cheers!

    Posted on June 11, 2016 at 8:26 pm
    1. Hi Tina,
      Thanks for dropping by and so glad you found the post helpful! I currently use a self hosted WordPress LMS theme as I didn’t want to have to pay ongoing commissions. At the moment I’ve only got a free course which I’m launching soon but will eventually need a membership plugin. My recommendation would be Thinkific as it seems to be comparable to Teachable in terms of features but a bit cheaper.

      Posted on June 11, 2016 at 8:57 pm
  2. Great info! As a newbie in the blogging world it is overwhelming the amount of options out there, this was a great review full of helpful information.

    Posted on June 11, 2016 at 11:03 pm
    1. Thanks for stopping by Emma. And I’m thrilled I could help! Btw, I know exactly what you mean, there are so many blogging tech tools, programs, plugins, apps etc. that it drives me crazy too. I’ve been blogging since 2009 so feel free to drop me a line if you need any more help!

      Posted on June 11, 2016 at 11:52 pm
  3. Wow you are dedicated! Thank you so much for doing all this testing so we can reap the benefits. 😉

    I’ve spent so many months researching and comparing, and have finally decided on Teachery, as it fits my needs and budget. One con you didn’t mention is that if you use Aweber {or something else that’s not Convertkit or Mailchimp} for your emails, you’ll have to export students via a csv file. Not the end of the world, but a little clunky and time consuming. I decided I could cope with that against all the pros! Plus the customer service is superb; I discovered they don’t advertise or have a team, so Jason gets back to you himself with any questions, and very quickly.

    Posted on June 12, 2016 at 7:51 pm
    1. You’re so welcome Tara. I like playing around with course technology so I actually enjoyed this little project.
      Teachery seems to be a good option in terms of pricing. I do like the way they run their company and I agree support is really good. I found the interface so easy to use and really love the design. Design is very important in online learning as students can easily become discouraged. I’d love to hear how your courses go? Have you started selling any yet?

      Posted on June 12, 2016 at 8:44 pm
      1. It is incredibly easy to use! I created a test course in Teachable too and although in some ways it’s more streamlined, I found Teachery a bit more intuitive. I think it’s because they’re dedicated to keeping it simple, and leaving out extra bells and whistles which can look good but aren’t really necessary. I haven’t opened my course yet, but I’m starting to build things in the back end so it’s all ready when the course opens!

        Posted on June 13, 2016 at 12:48 am
        1. I agree with you, I too found Teachery user friendly and easier to use than Teachable! Good luck with it all!

          Posted on June 13, 2016 at 10:03 am
  4. Tracey,
    Great name! Loved your evaluation of the different platforms available. I currently have a call out to Thinkific about a technical question and then am ready to start building my course! So exciting! Thanks for doing the leg work. You saved me a ton of time!
    -Tracey

    Posted on June 17, 2016 at 12:32 am
    1. Hey Tracey, love your name by the way ;O)
      I love the guys over at Thinkific, they have great support so they’ll definitely be able to help you! It’s a great platform and considering the features, the one I’d recommend! How exciting that you’re launching a course, what’s your topic?

      Posted on June 17, 2016 at 8:17 am