Best online course platforms for creating & selling online courses in 2021 — a straight-forward review

best online course platforms

Best online course platforms for creating & selling online courses in 2021 — a straight-forward review

Don’t have time to read? Our top pick for the all-around best course platforms is Thinkific. It’s extremely customizable, has reasonable pricing, and just rocks. Teachable and LearnWorlds are the top runner ups.

Already know the basics about digital course creation and learning platforms? 

Skip right to the review.

#1 — Thinkific

#2 — Teachable

#3 — LearnWorlds

* Disclosure: This post has affiliate links, which means I might get a commission if you click and purchase from a link — at no extra cost to you. In fact, you might even get an exclusive discount.

A complete guide — The 3 best online course platforms & online learning systems

So you’re looking for the best online course platforms to create and share courses that scale your business’ and students’ success.

You’re in the right place!

With the eLearning sector rising to new heights (thanks to the pandemic), online courses are an awesome way to get your knowledge out there – and to make money while doing so.

Sounds like a nice 2-in-1 deal to me.

Ready to start? We’ll get right into a quick definition of online course platforms, what makes up a good platform, and finally, the reviews of our top picks for the best digital course creation tools.

Skip right to the best online course platforms and solutions.

What exactly are online course platforms?

This is how Litmos describes it: An online learning platform is an integrated set of interactive online services that provide trainers, learners, and others involved in education with information, tools and resources to support and enhance education delivery and management.

Let’s break that down a bit.

Online course platforms are essentially online workspaces that enable instructors (teachers, bosses, entrepreneurs, whatnot) to create and customize online courses.

Whether these courses are meant for distribution in a workplace, classroom, or even through an email list of subscribers, they all have the same goal – educate your audience.

That’s why we’ve come up with this straight forward guide to help you choose the best online course platform for your needs.

What should the best online course creation platforms have?

For the sake of targeting businesses and entrepreneurs, we’ll leave LMS (learning management systems) out of this review since those are geared toward school settings.

We’ll focus on the ingredients of the optimal online course platform for entrepreneurs, influencers, and businesses looking to earn money from course sales.

Another thing I’d like to note is that we’re not reviewing online course market places like Udemy, Skillshare, Coursera, etc. (at least for now).

We’re looking closely at online course creation platforms that let you create and customize courses from templates and host them on your own website.

For the sake of providing as much info as I can, online course marketplaces are pretty much catalogs where your online course will be placed.

While you can still customize your online course’s landing page and looks, there’s really not that much freedom. The only thing that gives online course marketplaces a boost is their ability to host your course for free and their existing student base.

So marketplaces are a good place to start before tackling an online course platform.

But if you’re looking to scale right away, read on and we’ll talk about the best online course platforms for this year.

Here are some questions to consider before choosing your optimal online course creation platform:

  • Are you known for your online courses?
  • Do you like to work hand in hand with your students?
  • Do you already have an existing audience?
  • How well versed are you with advanced course creation features?
  • How much do you suppose you’ll want to earn from selling online courses?
  • And a whole lot more.

Course creation software offers nearly limitless customization options from branded landing pages to eye-catching content formats to awesome tools and features that allow you to go from course creation to marketing to sales.

Most of these online course creation solutions charge monthly or yearly fees, but there are some that charge as you earn.

While every platform is unique, like we’ve already said, here are some important factors that all of the online course solutions we recommend have:

  • Video, audio, PDFs, and images are all supported in our course creation software
  • Real-time interaction with students is included in each online course solution
  • There’s the option to make scheduled or self-paced courses
  • You don’t need to worry about online course hosting, backups, domains, or the like
  • The payment process and systems as well as a good portion of marketing automation is taken care of by these online course platforms

Most online course platforms have a few overlapping features, but there’s always something that makes each one special in its own way.

What are the best online course platforms for creating and selling online courses?

  • Thinkific is the best option if you want full customization of your online course (suitable for all levels)
  • Teachable would be the top pick if you’re looking implement marketing strategies
  • LearnWorlds will work perfectly if you’d like an interactive community of students

#1 — Thinkific

Most customizable online course platform

thinkific best online course platforms

If you’re looking for an easy and smooth way to sell online courses on your own branded website, Thinkific is the best online course software solution for you.

With awesome up-to-date and eye-catching designs, Thinkific is also extremely customizable. Their unique drag and drop course creation tool makes it really easy to get your online course set up and running.

If you’re more tech savvy and know a thing or two about code, you have the option to simply add a widget with your custom code!

Thinkific courses can include multiple file types, like quizzes, surveys, PDFs, audio files, text, video and more, and you can easily import all of your content files in bulk through the content importer.

Like we’ve promised, this online course platform allows the inclusion of a myriad of file types including, but certainly not limited to:

  • Quizzes
  • PDFs
  • Surveys
  • Audio files
  • Video
  • And much, much more

Thinkific’s software suite is also filled with all the tools you need to go from marketing to sales.

That means you’ve got marketing automation, payment systems, and tracking widgets right at your fingertips.

To explain that a bit more, that marketing automation we just mentioned is smoothly integrated with email marketing software (like ConstantContact), growth tools, payment tools, analytics software, and a whole lot more.

If you’re just starting out, the Basic Plan should be sufficient, and you can scale up to the more expensive plans as you grow your business.

Need a cherry to top the shake? Thinkific doesn’t charge transactional fees on any of their plans.

The only fees you’ll need to pay are the ones charged by your payment processor and system e.g. PayPal.

Thinkific is the perfect online course platform for everyone whether you’re just starting out or if you’re a veteran.

Their pricing plans and options are optimized for just that.

Thinkific plans and pricing

thinkific pricing online learning platforms online course platforms

Thinkific has 4 price plans: Free, $49, $99, and $499 a month (for monthly payments).

  • Free Plan – $0/month
  • Basic Plan – $49/month
  • Pro + Growth Plan – $99/month
  • Premier Plan – $499/month

The free plan is a great starter option for new course instructors that have 3 courses or less. The premium plans offer unlimited courses and additional flexibility to customize your course.

If you’re dead set on wanting to create an awesome online course, I’d go with a yearly plan. You get 20% off all the plans.

So it’d be Free, $39, $79, or $399 per month. Looks like an awesome deal to me.

  • Free Plan – $0/month (billed annually)
  • Basic Plan – $39/month (billed annually)
  • Pro + Growth Plan – $79/month (billed annually)
  • Premier Plan – $399/month (billed annaully)

My recommended plan is Thinkific’s Pro Plan for $99/month. The Pro Plan comes with advanced pricing like payment plans and subscriptions, afiiliate options to sell your online course, and comes with reputable completion certificates.

There’s nothing to lose since you can try Thinkific with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee – or all your money back.

#2 — Teachable

Best marketable online course platform

teachable course platform homepage

For the second best online course software solution, we have Teachable.

Teachable allows to you create extremely responsive content, courses, quizzes, and mobile-friendly landing pages that really up your online course game.

One unique feature about Teachable that’s not found in a whole lot of online course platforms is the availability of course completion certificates.

This not only gives your students the psychological effect of feeling proud of themselves for accomplishing something but also sort of makes your course look more legitimate.

The only problem I see with this is fake “gurus” trying to scam aspiring entrepreneurs by promoting “the only course you need” to get an “XX certificate.”

But yeah, all in all, the availability of customizable course completion certificates is definitely a plus for Teachable’s course creation platform.

What’s more is that you can set up certain rules and regulations to help your students actually put the effort into your course instead of just rushing through to get a reward (whatever that might be).

Teachable offers a wide variety of compliance tools to do just that. Whether you’re setting up enforced completion of a video or assignment, or setting up “barriers” like minimum scores on the previous assignment in order to advance.

Now comes the part that Teachable excels in: their suite of marketing software.

What’s better than having the right tools for getting the online course you put a lot of time and effort into right at your finger tips? Not much.

Teachable’s platform includes a lot of marketing tools to help you set up email campaigns, promotional campaigns, limited time coupons, advanced pricing options, customized landing pages (for higher conversions), and the implementation of your own affiliate program.

Note: If you ask me, the affiliate program option included by Teachable is the one that I’d say makes this online course platform worthwhile. Affiliates generally turn into more sales and revenue for you.

This online course software solution offers awesome customization options in addition to some eye-catching templates so it’s friendly for teachers and influencers of all levels.

In addition to these wonderful design options, Teachable offers a Power Editor if you’ve decided you’re tech savvy and want to mess with the platform’s code a bit for further customization.

Last, but certainly not least, Teachable offers integrations with live chat and customer support tools like Olark, Zendesk, and intercom.

If you haven’t set up a website to host your online course on (just send Teachable a message and they’ll take you through the steps), you can simply set up a “” domain name – for free.

Teachable plans and pricing

teachable online course platforms online learning pricing

Teachable has 3 price plans (Basic, Pro, and Business): $39, $119, and $299 (if you pay monthly). 

  • Basic plan starts at $39/month (5% transaction fees)
  • Professional plan starts at $119/month (zero transaction fees)
  • Business plan starts at $299/month (zero transaction fees)

If you decide to invest in an annual plan, the prices would be $29, $99, and $249, respectively.

  • Basic plan starts at $29/month (5% transaction fees & billed annually)
  • Professional plan starts at $99/month (zero transaction fees & billed annually)
  • Business plan starts at $249/month (zero transaction fees & billed annually)

It’s nice to note that the Basic Plan ($39/mo.) charges a 5% transaction fee each time you make a sale. That fee could very likely add up to become higher than the cost of simply purchasing Teachable Pro.

That’s why my top pick for this online course solution is is the Pro plan for $99/month.  This is the first Teachable plan with no transaction fees. 

The Pro plan is really the only option you’ll need if you want to gain traction and scale your online course sales.

I’d strongly advise against the Basic plan since, with almost all Basic plans on any sort of software, it’s more of a demo and trial rather than the “real product.”

Here are some features that come with all the Teachable plans though (they may vary in quantity or quality depending on the tier you purchase).

#3 — LearnWorlds

Best interactive online course & learning platform

learnworlds online course platforms

LearnWorlds has been one of the fastest growing premium online course platforms recently.

Like the other online course platforms we’ve mentioned, this online course solution includes customizable templates, landing pages, analytics, tracking tools, and a whole bunch of integrations with other marketing software.

Here’s a quick image of some of the features LearnWorlds offers (with ALL of their plans and pricing options).

learnworlds features online learning platforms

The thing that makes LearnWorlds stand out from the other online learning platforms is that it has an unusually high level of interactivity available in courses.

Whether you want interactive videos, interactive ebooks, online tests, downloadable files and attachments, LearnWorlds has it all. Talk about student engagement.

LearnWorlds‘ online course solution is simply awesome and flexible. You’re also able to drip feed your lessons and courses to your students by scheduling releases.

Or, if you’d like for your students to have more freedom, you can allow them to navigate through your course or program’s chapters however they’d like.

And to add on to that interactivity we discussed earlier, students are literally able to highlight and add their own notes whenever and wherever.

LearnWorlds plans and pricing

learnworlds online course platforms online learning platforms pricing
  • Starter $24/month billed annually
  • Pro Trainer $79/month billed annually
  • Learning Center $249/month billed annually

While the starter plan is nice for those who really haven’t had experience with online course platforms, but sooner rather than later, it’ll become quite limiting in options and features.

The Pro option is one that’s definitely fit for just about everyone and is my most recommended plan.

You can create with LearnWorlds risk free for 30 days with any of the plans.

Best online course platforms — Executive summary

If you’re looking to grow an online audience and/or make money by creating and selling online courses, then online course platforms are just for you.

Try Thinkific if you’re not sure about where you are on the spectrum. Can’t go wrong with it since it’s extremely customizable and flexible.

If you’re looking for online course platforms that hold your hand as you market your course and maximize sales, Teachable is the way to go.

Lastly, if interactive online learning platforms are on your agenda, LearnWorlds is a hard one to beat.

* Disclosure: This post has affiliate links, which means I might get a commission if you click and purchase from a link — at no extra cost to you. In fact, you might even get an exclusive discount.

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