The Best Software Platforms to Create and Sell Online Courses in 2021

Last Updated on August 27, 2021 by Marcelo Beilin

Online course creation platforms are one of the fastest growing segments for internet-based income generation.

They allow people to learn new information and skills at their own pace from the comfort of their own homes. 

Online courses can be delivered in full or dripped over time, creating a nice stream of recurring revenue via monthly memberships or subscriptions. 

As an online entrepreneur, the type of features you’re looking for from an online learning platform are attractive templates, email marketing integration and upselling options with built-in payment processing.

Below you'll find the best online course creation platforms available today for online solopreneurs.

Disclosure: Although I receive affiliate compensation for some of the links below at no additional cost to you that compensation in no way influences my recommendations, which are strictly informed by my years of digital marketing experience working with clients large and small. My aim is to always recommend tools that will offer you the best return on investment.

Some LMSs operate on the cloud and have their own dashboards and setup portals, while others are built as a WordPress plugin that adds all of the required LMS functionality right on your own website.

The main difference is that cloud-based systems require your continued membership in order to keep your courses alive, while WordPress plugin-based LMSs give you full control and ownership since all your content and files reside on your server.

Both have pros and cons, as you’ll learn in our recommendations below:

Best Online Course Creation Tools Overall: Teachable

In every industry there's a market leader, and in the LMS world Teachable is the one to beat.

If you’re planning to make online course delivery a central part of your monetization strategy, this platform will give everything you need to succeed:

  • A solid, reliable and well supported platform
  • Intuitive course creation tools with a clean interface
  • A well designed, highly customizable sales funnel (sales, checkout, and thank you pages)
  • Ability to brand your Online Learning Center inside Teachable to match your own website
  • A built-in payment system
  • Ability to sell your courses with multiple payment tiers (like SaaS tools), a subscription system, and even a payment plan feature (e.g. “pay in 3 installments of x dollars)
  • Ability to set up your own affiliate network to enlist affiliates to sell on your behalf and use Teachable to manage course sales and payouts

Clearly, this is a well-thought out platform that gives you all of the tools necessary to create, market and sell your online courses without having to use multiple disparate systems.

Teachable Features that Stand Out for Online Earners

  • Even though Teachable is feature-rich, it’s easy for beginners to master
  • Biggest player in its class
  • SEO friendly
  • Drip delivery option that allows you to release content over a period of time based on date of enrollment
  • Courses can contain text, images, audio files, video, quizzes, all designed through an intuitive course builder
  • Lots of monetization and upselling options through sales pages, coupons, discounts, special offers and your own affiliate channel
  • Coupons and discounts can be applied selectively to specific groups of customers
  • Checkout page can be customized with testimonials, bullets showing features and benefits and the addition of a guarantee seal or graphic
  • Advanced analytics with tracking and reporting (Professional plans only)
  • Ticket based support system complemented by a large knowledge base and self-directed online lessons

Now the Cons...

  • No live support
  • Members of its Basic plan have to pay a 5% transaction fee on all sales
Find Out More About Teachable Here.

Best Budget Online Course Creation Tools: LearnDash

This LMS decided to go the plugin route instead of hosting on the cloud.

In fact, LearnDash is the leading WordPress LMS plugin, allowing you to sell and manage online courses on a self-hosted platform where you retain full control of your content and delivery.

LearnDash has a powerful course builder with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface.

A neat feature missing from many of its competitors is the ability to reuse lessons across different courses, saving you a tremendous amount of course creation time.

It also has a really good setup for your students, where they have access to personal profile pages where, among other things, they can see what courses they’re signed up to and track their own progress.

The checkout is designed to be self-supporting allowing you to monetize natively with PayPal, but also give you the option to use a separate eCommerce or membership plugin if you so desire.

LearnDash allows you to create an unlimited number of courses and offers powerful reporting and administrative tools right out of the box.

LearnDash Features that Stand Out for Online Earners

  • Easy to use course builder
  • Ability to drip course content over time
  • Ability to reuse lessons across multiple courses
  • Advanced quiz builder
  • Easy user registration setup
  • Private or public forums for students
  • Custom certificates and badges
  • Ability to package your courses into bundles for increased profits
  • Ability to create your own course marketplace (like a personal Udemy)

Now the Cons...

  • Requires a bit of a learning curve for beginners
  • Most advanced analytics and reporting features are not available in the entry-level package
  • Some design features lack the options offered by its competitors
Find Out More About LearnDash Here.

Best Runner-up: LearnWorlds

This is another cloud-based LMS that has a strong set of features plus beautiful professional-looking templates, a modular page builder, automated certificates and advanced analytics so you can easily assess the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

LearnWorlds is designed to provide your students with a rich multimedia experience, including interactive videos and eBooks. It supports quizzes, learning paths, question banks and certificates of completion.

In terms of monetization, LearnWorlds offers robust affiliate marketing tools and it has built-in eCommerce capabilities so you can sell courses, bundles and memberships.

In addition, it integrates with a large number of third-party tools to boost your revenue.

For example, you can link LearnWorlds with popular email marketing platforms so that you can drip-market to your current customers over time to entice them to make future purchases, increasing their lifetime value.

LearnWorlds Features that Stand Out for Online Earners

  • Unlimited courses
  • Sales funnel (sales pages, checkout and thank you pages)
  • Allows digital downloads of course materials by students
  • Mobile friendly
  • Robust affiliate marketing tools
  • Blogging tool
  • Built-in community with social-networking features
  • 24/7 customer support

Now the Cons...

  • Course builder is not as flexible as those of other competitors
  • Checkout process is not optimized for conversions (e.g. inability to move call to action features to a more prominent place)
  • At first the user interface feels a little bit cluttered and messy until you get used to it
Find Out More About LearnWorlds Here.

Best Freemium Online Course Creation Tools: Thinkific

This is the only LMS with a truly usable free plan that can be taken advantage of long term without being forced into an upgrade path, provided that you create no more than three courses in total (this is a one of a kind in the LMS space).

This free plan is great if you're bootstrapping because it doesn’t impose transaction fees and it comes loaded with premium features.

I guess the goal here is to make you fall in love with their platform so that when you do need more than three courses you’ll stick with them.

Thinkific may not be as broadly used as Teachable, however it has more customization options than any other platform by a long shot. You can fully brand your storefront and your courses to match exactly your own site.

In addition, the free plan allows you to offer quizzes, surveys, student discussions, offer completion certificates, make sales right out of the platform and collect payments (have I mentioned that they don’t charge you transaction fees? This is quite unreal!).

Thinkific Features that Stand Out for Online Earners (Free Tier)

  • Best free plan in the LMS space
  • No transaction fees for any plans, including the free one!
  • Can fully customize Thinkific to look exactly like your website
  • Many payment options (e.g. plans, recurring subscriptions, etc.)
  • Courses can have rich text, images, audio and video plus downloadable files for your students
  • Supports quizzes, surveys, prerequisite lessons and student discussions
  • Only LMS that offers live phone support!

Now the Cons...

  • It lacks an integrated email marketing feature (although it allows you to integrate third-party platforms like AWeber for an additional cost)
  • No integrated sales funnel (again, you can integrate external platforms like Leadpages for an additional cost)
  • No course marketplace
Find Out More About Thinkific Here.

What to Do Next

If you'd like to give the above LMS platforms a try with no risk,Teachable offers a 14-day free trial (Professional plan only), LearnDash offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and LearnWorlds has a 30-day free trial.

About the author

Marcelo Beilin is a Digital Marketing Consultant and blogger who helps clients take their traffic and online revenue to the next level.

He also helps readers find the perfect tools to earn online income at BestTech2EarnOnline.com.

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