Do you know how to choose an online course platform?

By Tosha Johnson | Content Marketing

Passive income. It’s something that everyone wants, but it’s a feat that many aren’t necessarily sure how to achieve. The first suggestion that people offer is to start a blog and join affiliate networks. There’s nothing wrong with this idea, but what if I don’t have aspirations of becoming a blogger? Does this mean that I’m doomed? Absolutely not!

One of the best passive income avenues that you should consider pursuing is creating a course. Now I’m sure you’re probably thinking either “I don’t know enough to create a course” or “Everyone and their mother have probably already created a course about (insert topic).” Before we go any further, I’m going to need you to change the channel on this negative mindset because I guarantee that there is a course buried deep inside of you.

My background is in marketing and communication and I’ve spent the majority of my career training and supporting other company’s  endeavors. I truly love helping people which is why I’m passionate about teaching (in my spare time, I am an online English tutor).

However, last year, if someone would have said to me, “Tosha, you’re going to create 6 online courses,” I would have laughed and immediately assumed that they were a couple fries short of a happy meal! So imagine my surprise that by the end of this year, this is exactly what I will achieve.

Creating an online course has been an amazing journey. It’s definitely one that I don’t want you to miss, so here are six things that you should consider when you’re looking for an online course platform to host your courses.

Your Online Course Options

I chose the following course companies based on the ones that I felt would be relevant to most people:

Third Party Sites

Thinkific

Teachable

Udemy

Self-hosted platforms

Memberhouse

WP Courseware

LearnDash

Security

This should go without saying, but you don’t want to go through the hassle of creating an awesome course only to have it hosted on a shady website. You need to make sure that your course platform has an SSL certificate applied to the site in order to ensure that you secure your data. If you don’t feel safe uploading your courses to the course platform, you can only imagine how your student will feel trying to pay for them…

User-friendly

I’m a patient person. Yet, for some reason, all of that seems to fade away when it comes to navigating a website. If you can’t stand slow loading websites, broken links, etc. then don’t place your future student in this situation. Whatever course platform you choose to host your course on should be easy for both you and the student to use. Here’s how to accomplish this feat from both perspectives:

Student perspective

  1. Is the online course platform secure? It should have an SSL certificate applied to the platform. If it does the url will start with https:// indicating that the link is secure.
  2. Is the online course platform cloud-based?
  3. What is the speed of the course landing page (does it load quickly)?
  4. Can I easily see the terms of service on the website?
  5. How do I communicate with the instructor if I have questions?
  6. What options do I have to pay for the course?
  7. How easy is it to go through the payment process?
  8. How quickly can I access the course (immediately or drip feed)?
  9. Can I easily track my progress throughout the course?
  10. Can I download the course material without running into issues?
  11. How great is the audio?
  12. Is there a forum where I can go to ask questions?
  13. Is it difficult to take quizzes?
  14. Do I have an opportunity to provide feedback for the course?

Instructor’s perspective

As an instructor, I share the same concerns as my students, so the below questions are in addition to the aforementioned. Self-hosted course platforms will allow you a lot more freedom, but with that freedom comes A LOT more responsibility. You will need to decide how much responsibility you are willing to bear.

  1. Can I figure out how to use the majority of the course platform WITHOUT reading the online course platform manual? I know this sounds crazy, but if I have to go searching through layers and layers of instructions on your site to figure out how to use the site, you are essentially telling me that you don’t want me to use your course platform.
  2. Does the site own my course content and can I export my information?
  3. How responsive is the course platform’s support team?
  4. Can I offer free trials to my students?
  5. Can I bundle my courses?
  6. Can I communicate DIRECTLY with my students?
  7. Do I have COMPLETE control over my terms and service policy?
  8. Do I have the ability to customize the course platform with my brand?
  9. Can you charge your students on a monthly basis (i.e. subscription service model)?
  10. Can I set up an affiliate program for my courses?
  11. Do I have the option to provide the students instant access to my material or drip feed the content?

When you keep all of these questions top of mind, you’re going to save yourself and your students the hassle of having an unpleasant online learning experience. Course Creation Game Plan

Support

At some point in time, regardless of how good you are at technology, you will need to speak to tech support. Before I invest my time and energy into a product I always make sure that I contact support (especially if it’s a big ticket item). The amount of time and how you respond to my questions is a good indicator of the level of support I can expect to receive after I purchase the product.

As a course creator, you definitely want to make sure that you get your questions answered in a timely manner. I’m all about anticipation. I really don’t want to have to learn on the spot.  I always try to make sure that I have the answers to any questions that my students may ask before they ask them.

Terms of Service

It is extremely important that you read through the course platform’s terms of service for a variety of reasons. Many of questions we already addressed above, but the main one is to ensure that you retain the rights to your content.

However, one that many people don’t think about until it is too late is the ability to create their own refund policies. Digital products can be delivered and used immediately after they are purchased, so you may want to consider having an ‘All Sales are Final’ type of refund policy. You worked hard on your course, so it should be up to you to determine what type of refund policy you decide to offer.  

Methods of Payment

Once I have determined that a website is secure, I want to make sure that my payment option is available. You need to be sure that the payment gateway is one that my students are accustomed to using (i.e. Stripe, PayPal, etc.). If applicable, your course platform should offer the ability to make one time payments, monthly subscriptions and offer a payment plan.

Affiliate programs

If you plan on using affiliates to help promote your course, then your course platform should be able to easily generate affiliate links. You will also need to make sure that you have access to user-friendly financial reports so you can keep track of your affiliate sales and payouts.

Course Creation Game Plan

 

My recommendation

So you’re probably wondering, “Ok, what course platform should I use?” I thoroughly research everything that I buy, sometimes to the point where I come down with a case of analysis paralysis.

I definitely knew I was NOT going to self-host my course. That is an awful lot of responsibility that I’m not willing to take. I just want to create my courses. I don’t want to worry about fixing security issues, setting up payment gateways, hosting my videos,  etc. Ain’t nobody got time for that…Needless to say, I went the third party route.

My decision on which course platform I should choose was an extremely easy one. I already knew that I was not going to go the Udemy route. This site is not truly looking out for the course creators best interest. Udemy runs numerous promotions which provide students with deep discounts. If you decide not to participate in these promotions, your courses will often time be subject to further scrutiny for not participating in their promotions.

Imagine working on your course for almost half a year. It’s jam-packed with value providing your students with a shortcut to help them gain a skill that otherwise would have taken them years to learn. How dare you not participate in Udemy’s promotion and sell your $197 course for $10! Shame on you! I truly hope you can sense my sarcasm because quite frankly this is the type of atmosphere you will most likely encounter the majority of your time on Udemy.

Students are conditioned to wait for the deep discount sales so they don’t have to pay full price. To add further insult to injury, they determine the frequency in which you are able to promote to your students. This along with reading all the other negative reviews from other course creators that used Udemy, was enough to immediately cross them off of my list.

So my remaining course platform options are Teachable and Thinkific. Both platforms have a free starter plan, but Thinkific offers a lot more features than Teachable.  I decided to create my courses with Thinkific and can honestly say it was one of the best decisions that I have made.

When I was doing my homework, the deciding factors that prompted me to choose Thinkific were the following situations:

1.I already knew that Teachable was not an option for me once I found out that they did not offer telephone support. I’m not saying that if I needed support that I would call versus email, but I at least want to have the option. If I can’t get anywhere by email, then I want to be able to speak to someone about my situation.

The situation that alerted me to the fact that Teachable does not offer phone support was when I had a simple question that I needed to have answered before making my final decision on which course platform I would use.

I emailed Thinkific and Teachable literally on the same day. Thinkific responded to me the very next day. I went searching for a phone number for Teachable. I discovered that they didn’t have one. I was at the mercy of waiting for Teachable to respond, but this also allowed me to test their response time. I had given up on Teachable after not hearing back from them after three days. Teachable eventually responded to my question almost two weeks later, but obviously, I had already moved on to Thinkific.

 

Course Creation Game Plan

2. The other reason why I decided to go with Thinkific is that their course creators receive immediate payment for their course. Teachable pays their course creators 30 days later. Why wouldn’t I get paid right away? What possible excuse could you have for unnecessarily holding my money?



This has never made sense to me. The only other reason I believe Teachable does this is because if you use their platform to accept payments you must agree to
Teachable’s terms of service. Therefore, offering an All Sales are Final type of policy is not possible with Teachable. I did not want to give up the right to create my own terms of service, so that pretty much sealed the deal for me and I went with Thinkific.

If you’re looking for an online course platform, now is a great time to check out ThinkificI really like Thinkific’s drag and drop course builder because it’s easy to use. You have the flexibility to brand your course player, create your own landing pages, set the terms of service, etc.

They generally care about their customers and support typically responds in a timely manner. I never thought in a million years, that I would be creating courses.  I’m literally in the process of creating my fifth course using Thinkific. I’m super grateful that the Thinkific platform has enabled me to share my message. Take advantage of the opportunity to share your talent with us.

Be sure to download your Course Creation Game plan by clicking right here.

Course Creation Game Plan

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase with the link, I may receive a commission from it. Please note that I would never advocate a product that I don't love. I'm all about making sure that the products I recommend will benefit my audience. You can learn more here. 🙂

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About the Author

Hey, I’m Tosha! I’m a digital marketing strategist who creates empowering courses and workshops to help you to soar to new heights online. If you have any questions, please feel free to book a 15-minute appointment with me right here. Are we connected? If not, let’s fix that right now!

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