Best Online Course Platform: Teachable vs Thinkific vs Kajabi vs WordPress vs Udemy - Online Course How

Best Online Course Platform: Teachable vs Thinkific vs Kajabi vs WordPress vs Udemy

​updated ​October 2018

Are you struggling to decide between a host of different online course platforms?

In this article we're going to take a look at 5 of the best online course platforms (Teachable vs Thinkific vs Kajabi vs WordPress vs Udemy) and compare some of the most important features between them.

You'll learn how to choose which platform is the best option for you in terms of price, features and ease of use.

Top 5 Best Online Course Platforms: ​At ​A ​Glance

The Best Online Course Platform For:

Online Course Platform ​​Finder

​Short of time? Skip the article and take our simple 3 question quiz​ to find the ideal platform for you:

Different Types Of Online Course Platform

Part of the confusion in working out which online course platform is best for you, is the fact there are different types of platform with different degrees of control, features and ease of use.

1: Third Party Hosted Platforms

Your course is hosted on a 3rd party platfrom, which aims to bring a mix of easy course creation & marketing features all under one roof. Designed to make the whole process much simpler than doing it all yourself on your own website.

2: Self-Hosted Platforms

Your course is based on your own website and you use a membership or online course plugin to design and brand your school exactly as you wish, with lots of flexibility to add additional features if you need them.

3: Online Course Marketplaces

Your course is for sale in an ecommerce-style marketplace, alongside lots of other courses. The platform handles a lot of the process and promotes your course to it's users, but in return it takes a large cut and often sets some limiting terms & conditions.


How to Choose The ​Best Online Course Platform For You

There's no such thing as the best online course platform.

The best course platform is completely dependent on you and what you want.

To choose the right option for you, it's worth taking a minute to consider some of these important aspects:

1) Your Budget

If you're just starting out and on a limited budget, you'll probably want to choose a course platform you can afford with low monthly costs - at least until you start to see sales coming in.

Udemy (course marketplace), Teachable & Thinkific (both 3rd party platforms) all have options that involve no upfront or ongoing monthly cost - just a proportion of your sales.

I'd advise against building your online course business on Udemy as you have no control over your branding or relationship with your students (plus they take a big 50% cut!).

However, both Teachable and Thinkific are solid platforms with lots of flexibility which can get you started cheaply (Teachable has slightly better features for designing the look of your school).

On the other hand, if you have more budget - you can buy extra flexibility, design & marketing features, and higher potential profits.

Kajabi (3rd party platform) and WP Courseware (self hosted WordPress plugin) both offer additional features beyond Teachable or Thinkific.

Kajabi has a library of themes, landing pages and website designs to choose from, enabling you to customise the look and feel of your courses more extensively.

It also includes better marketing features such as integrated email marketing and a wide choice of landing pages.

Creating a course on WordPress with WP Courseware enables almost complete flexibility; with the option to use better and more complete marketing software and other WordPress plugins alongside it to get what you want.

It will also cost you much less in ongoing fees once set up (around $200-$500/year vs $1300 cheapest with Kajabi).

However, you'll need to either be technically able or have the budget to pay a developer to help you get set up and on hand for support.

2) Your Tech/Skill Level

Put simply; unless you are already competent installing and configuring WordPress plugins (or have the budget to pay a developer to do it for you), then you are best off using a 3rd party platform like Teachable, Thinkific or Kajabi.

These platforms have been built precisely to reduce the tech headache of setting everything up on your own website - leaving you the time and space to focus on creating your online course, and marketing & promoting it.

In my opinion, these activities are what will make or break the success of your course, so why spend time on anything else? Just pick your platform and get to work on the stuff that matters.

If you do happen to be a WordPress whizz kid or want the flexibility it can offer, then you are probably best using a course/membership plugin like WP Courseware, which can create you a very powerful online course platform with endless features and increased profits in the long run.

3) Do You Have An Existing Audience?

Having an existing audience will make creating and selling your course a lot easier. You can ask them what they want to learn, you can build interest before launching, and you can start to make sales much quicker and at higher levels.

If you're in this situation, then count yourself lucky and get to work making your course asap!

It makes sense to throw whatever resources you have at it and get that course built and out there making you an income.

Choose the quickest or most complete option you can afford and get to it (Kajabi have a feature called Kajabi Pipelines which are pre-made marketing funnels that can speed up the proces alot).

If you don't have much of a following yet, then choose ​Teachable or Thinkific on their basic plans and spend more time building an audience alongside the making of your online course.

You could use a marketplace like Udemy to gain exposure with a free mini course, but you should look to build your online course business on either a 3rd Party platform or your own website if you want to create your own brand, build a following of your own, and charge higher prices.

Mini Reviews Of the Top 5 Best Online Course Platforms

Below is a short review for each of the 5 best online course platforms featured in this comparison, as well as a link​ to a more in-depth review​ for each:

​​1) Kajabi Review

Kajabi Logo

Kajabi offer a premium ​option with more features than Teachable or Thinkific.

There's built in email marketing and a library of slick looking course, landing page and website templates; giving you a complete set of resources to promote and sell your course. 

The look and feel of Kajabi-based courses is very high quality & customisable, and very easy to do without tech knowledge.

I personally use Kajabi after testing all the options and believe it is the best online course platform out there if you can afford $100/month+.

​The design of the student course area is ​better than all other options, giving your students a great user experience (important if you're charging premium prices for your courses).

The large range of marketing features mean you can run everything from Kajabi without the need for 3rd party tools​ (or you can easily integrate with ​other software if you wish for full flexibility).

Finally Kajabi support is top notch. You can access support straight away via chat - it's quick, professional and ​thorough.

​Click here for a full in-depth Kajabi Review.

Pros

  • High quality platform
  • ​Easy to use
  • Great marketing & branding features
  • Great looking design, course themes​ & sale pages ​
  • ​Fast & helpful support

Cons

  • More expensive monthly fees
  • Need 3rd party to handle EU VA​T

Kajabi Pricing: from $103/month

​2) Teachable Review

Teachable Logo

Teachable is probably the most used & well know online course platform on the market.

​​It's packed full of features which giv​e you everything you need to create & sell an online course​. It's also really easy to use & offers low entry level pricing - making it a natural choice for anyone just getting started.

​​In particular it offers some great marketing features like customisable checkouts & one click upsell pages, as well as the ability to offer your own customisable affilate program & handle your EU Vat payments.

Teachable also really helps support your success through regular webinars and blogs on useful subjects​ too do with course creation, marketing & selling.

Highly recommended for anyone making their first online course on a budget.

​Click here for a full in-depth ​Teachable Review.

Pros

  • Free & low cost options
  • Simple to get started with
  • Good mix of features
  • Active blog & community with useful tips & advice
  • Handles EU Vat payments

Cons

  • Page design options could be more extensive
  • No built-in email marketing feature

Teachable Pricing: 10% of sales or from $39/month

​​3) Thinkific Review

thinkific logo

Thinkific is a high quality online course platform with a g​reat set of features enabling you to create & sell online courses and i​s very easy​ to get started with. ​

​It is very similar to Teachable and to be honest it's ​difficult to say that one is better than the other, as they both offer​ very similar features for similar prices. ​

They're both very user friendly & offer all you need to create & sell online courses (​i.e. I ​highly recommend them both so don't spend too long deciding - ​focus on creating & selling your course!).​

Thinkific vs Teachable

​The question often comes up, so here's the lowdown:

Thinkific offers ​better design with a drag & drop course​ page builder & ​is well known for having ​great support & easy set up guide.

​The most common complaints against it​ are the ​lack of customisation for ​checkout & thank you/upsell pages, and the fact that you need to ​use a 3rd party integration to handle EU VAT (​important if you're selling digital products in the EU).

Teachable has some more advanced marketing & sales features like slick customisable checkout pages & one click upsells, as well as the ability to run you​r own affiliate program with ease ​+ collect EU VAT payments.

The main downside with Teachable at the moment is the lack of ability to change the look and design of your courses area & sales pages (though they are apparently working on this​).

​Click here for a full in-depth ​Thinkific Review.

Pros

  • Great design & page builder
  • Free & low cost options
  • Simple to get started with
  • Good mix of features
  • Great support

Cons

  • ​No built in email marketing feature
  • ​Checkout & thankyou/upsell pages very basic
  • ​Need 3rd party to handle EU VAT

Thinkific Pricing: 10% of sales or from $​49/month

4) WP Courseware Review

Kajabi Logo

Creating your online course on your own WordPress website with WP Courseware ​can be a great option if you've got the skills or budget.

It may be a little more fiddly & time consuming to set up, but it gives you complete freedom & control to create what you want.

WP Coursware is the one of the easiest and cheapest of the WordPress course/membership plugins, and has a powerful set of features too.

For other options, ​check out my ​​​​Best WordPress LMS P​lugins​​​​​ review.

​Click here for a full in-depth ​WPCourseware Review.

Pros

  • Large set of features
  • Complete flexibility over branding & design
  • Lower ongoing costs
  • Integrates easily with other plugins & services

Cons

  • Usually more expensive to set up
  • May need other services & plugins alongside
  • You're in charge of tech issues & updates going forward

WP Courseware Pricing: $99/year

5) Udemy Review

udemy logo

With 20,000 instructors and 12 million students, Udemy is by far the biggest of all the online course platforms.

It's a marketplace filled with 42,000 courses on everything from app development to guitar lessons, dating tips and raising your productivity at work.

Udemy will show and promote your course to their large audience, but your course is there alongside all the others, and there is a general focus on discounting and selling low cost courses.

Not the best way to build a long-term online course business, but it can be good for exposure if you use it to offer free or low cost mini courses.

Pros

  • Free to host your course
  • Simple to get started
  • Large audience of course buyers
  • Marketing & promotion done for you
  • Can use it to build exposure with free/low cost mini courses

Cons

  • Limited pricing options
  • Don't own relationship with students
  • No control over branding & design
  • Terms & conditions can be changed

Udemy Pricing: 50% of sales

Conclusion

There are now lots of different platforms out there to create and sell an online course, which can make the whole process of choosing one a real headache.

However, I firmly believe that it's a mistake to waste more than a few hours deciding.

It's so much more important to focus your time and energy on actually creating your course, promoting & selling it, and engaging & building your audience.

As we've seen there's really no such thing as the best online course platform - it's more a case of which is best for you.

Think through the key points that we've discussed above and which elements matter to you most, pick a platform and get started.

Overall, from my personal experience, I would highly recommend Kajabi, but if you are on a tighter budget, both Teachable & Thinkific are top quality online course platforms as w​ell.

Don't waste any more time deciding.

Choose one based on what you've read in this article and get on with creating your course!

The Best Online Course Platform For:

Any questions?

Still not sure? Leave a comment below and I'll do my best to help you out.

  • Gill says:

    Hi, is there any point, having no experience in course building, liking teachable and going with their Black Friday onboarding deal…or rather just getting familiar as a free user over the next few weeks?
    Thanks

    • Hi Gill, I think it depends how committed you are to making an online course. If you are definitely wanting to do it, then Teachable’s black Friday deal could be a great way to go as it comes with a whole load of free courses which walk you through how to create your course, get it all set up and how to launch and market it. This can really help in giving you the momentum and support to kick things off and ensure it doesn’t stay as just an idea. On the other hand, if you’re not committed to making a course just yet, you may not want to jump in just because of the offer..I think this is how I would go about deciding on it anyway. Best of luck if you do go for it!

      • Gill says:

        Thanks Adam, I appreciate your guidance. Its the investement that could make the difference between finding a job and not having to; getting a job and not having the time to make the investment pay. I’m in transition!

        • Adam Sayner says:

          Hi Gill, I totally understand that 🙂 Making a course alongside existing work definitely has it’s challenges and in some ways it’s a catch 22 situation! Best of luck with making your course, however you get it done 🙂

  • Tom Vilord says:

    Great article Adam. It really helped me decide on the one I want to use. I have one question though. Does it make any sense to list my coourse on all of them? Am I leaving money opportunities on the table if I limit myself to just one platform?

    Thanks!

    Tom Vilord

    • Glad it helped you decide – which did you go for out of interest?

      There’s no real advantage to listing your site on all the different platforms as all (except for Udemy) reply on you doing your own marketing to bring potential customers to your course…so you would just choose one and then send people there from your website or emails.

      It can be worthwhile to have a mini or lite version of your course(s) on Udemy as their marketplace can bring you students and then you can (to some degree) promote your full courses from there.

      • Tom Vilord says:

        Thanks for your reply Adam, I really appreciate it. I have a tech guy helping me out, so we are going to use WP Courseware and we are also going to put a free course on Udemy to promote the main course. Thanks for your help!!

        Have a great week.

        Tom

  • Thanks for the detailed review. I choose Thinkific

  • Mary says:

    Hi Adam,
    Thanks for the great article. I wondered what your thoughts on this
    I am a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and emdr therapist and practicing for 27 years
    There are quite a few things I want to coach about- I have always been more of a guide/coach to help my clients personally grow.
    I am wanting to do more online courses and webinars-I have a website for my practice under my name marybondi.com(have not updated bc of this transition) its wordpress theme.
    Question- your thoughts whether it would be better to create an ecommerce page with plugins on existing or use a format like teachable.
    Also interested in any consulting you may offer in this area
    Please advise,
    All the best
    Cheers
    Mary

    • Hi Mary, ecommerce plugins aren’t really built with online courses in mind and usually lack the ability to keep lessons/pages/videos protected. You could use a membership or online course plugin like WpCourseware if you are familiar with setting up and configuring your site like this (or have someone to do it for you). If not, then I’d recommend using something like Teachable to host your courses. You can then use your WordPress site to share free content, build your audience and then send them to your courses on Teachable if you like.

  • Dani says:

    I am stuck between teachable or memberpress. I don’t like the idea of the fees with teachable however the member press seems like a lot work to get started with can you help with the comparison of these two

    • hi Dani, I think you’ve pretty much nailed the main benefits and drawbacks on the head there…using a platform like Teachable is so much easier and quicker, but it costs more, and using a Worpress plugin like Memberpress is cheaper but it requires alot more time and input to set up and to maintain if you ever encounter tech problems on your own site. I personally think that unless you have the time & expertise to do it yourself or the budget to pay a developer that it makes more sense to go with a platform like Teachable. The monthly fee is quite small in comparison to the potential income from selling online courses and you have ongoing support for any issues. I’ve done it both ways and am much happier using a platform these days.

  • Denise says:

    Hi Adam:

    Great content. The 1st online course I am offering is free to build my contacts and email list. The rest of the courses will cost a fee. Should I do the first on Udemy or just do them all on Teachable? Do you think it would be beneficial to use Udemy for the 1st one?

    I loved the eBook!

    • Hi Denise, nice idea -this is a great strategy to build your audience before releasing a paid course 🙂 I think you could consider offering the free course on both platforms…it’s not much work once you’ve created the lessons to upload to both. You could use the free lessons on Teachable to offer to anyone who comes to your own site (no need to send them to Udemy & potentially divert them elsewhere), but in addition you will pick up extra leads and traffic by also having it on Udemy.

  • Wendy says:

    This is the best article I have read about finding the best course platform. I wish I had found it first!
    You have taken the time to explain the difference between an online platform, a promotional platform – like Udemy and a WP plugin.
    I will opt for the WP Courseware plugin, as I have a bit of tech knowledge and like the idea of keeping everything central. It’s also a saving which is a bonus.
    I am currently taking a course based on Kajabi. I don’t like it at all from the point of view of a student. I like to be able to proceed to the next lesson when I’m ready, not when Kajabi thinks I should 🙂
    Anyway, thanks for the article Adam!

    • Thanks a lot Wendy for your kind feedback! I’m glad this article has helped you make the right decision for you. Just as a sidenote, the feature you describe in the course you’re currently taking in Kajabi is a ‘Drip’ option which the course creator has chosen to use. It’s totally optional and most people don’t use it because it can be really frsutrating for the course user – as you’ve found! Best of luck with your online course 🙂

  • Dawn says:

    Hi Adam, Thanks so much for all of this research and information that you’ve assembled. I was wondering your thoughts on Simplero vs Teachable and the other platforms. Thanks for your thoughts! Dawn

    • You’re very welome Dawn! I haven’t had time to look at Simplero in much depth but it looks like a decent platform as far as I an tell. It has a very similar set of features as Kajabi or Teachable, so perhaps the best thing would be just to sign up for a free trial of the 2 you’re most interested in and see how you like them 🙂

  • Stephanie says:

    Hi Adam,

    Thanks so much for this great content! So very helpful when evaluating what to go with.

    I am leaning towards WP Courseware and then read your ‘5 Key Steps to Creating An Online Course’ which mentions Zippy Courses (no mention of Courseware).

    Is there a reason you don’t mention Zippy Courses above? It seems less costly ($4/mth) than WP Courseware but not sure of the other differences/similarities and then pro/con of each.

    Also, I’m in Canada – does this affect any advice provided?

    Thanks in advance for your insight.

    Stephanie

    • Hi Stephanie, Zippy courses is also a quality WordPress option. No particular reason that I didn’t mention it in the article – there are just so many options out there and I decided to boil it down to the most popular platforms that consistently get good feedback from their users, and I just haven’t heard from many people using Zippy. I think their pricing is $199/year for the WordPress plugin, and they also have a hosted for you platform (similar to Teachable/Thinkific/Kajabi) which costs $99/month, so similar pricing to other options.
      With regards to being based in Canada – I don’t think that will make any difference to which platform to use, or with how to approach your online course in general (unless you are aiming at customers purely in Canada for some reason, which would just change how you market the course more than anything else). Best of luck with it – let us know how you get on 🙂

  • Hi Adam
    This is a well researched analysis.
    The course I have developed will imply tests and an examination to allow the student to be certified as having followed the course and pass the examination to join a Professional Association.
    My search is to identify 1)the best to assist me to develop and market the courses and 2) the best for hosting a professional course. Or do you think I should go for a “white labelling”?
    Kind regards
    Ayoob

    • Hi Ayoob,

      I would say that the best option for hosting a professional course is probably Kajabi. The user interface is very professional looking and well designed. They have a built in quiz/assessments feature or if you’re looking for something more advanced you could embed something like https://www.classmarker.com/ into a Kajabi page.

      best wishes, Adam

  • Ben says:

    Hi Adam,
    Thank you for listing WP Courseware in your round up. We are honored to be mentioned among other highly respected platforms. Please let us know if you or your audience has any questions.

  • Ashley says:

    This article is exactly what I was looking for! Great information and written to include exactly what I’d care about when developing my online courses. Thanks so much!

  • Wambui says:

    Hi Adam, very useful article. How difficult is it to switch from service providers? If you start with Teachable for example and move to Kajabi, does it require starting all over again?

    • Hi there 🙂 Yes it can be a pain to switch at a later date as you need to set everything back up again on a new platform. It’s not impossible, but it would involve a fair amount of extra work. You’d need to do things like upload lesson content again, rename lessons and modules (and generally set up your course structure), and the biggest hassle of all – moving existing course members over to the new platform and making sure they’re aware of the new login area. I think it’s best to start on the platform you imagine being on in the longer run if possible.

      • Peter says:

        Fantastic article, and this last piece of advice is the deal clincher for me. I don’t want to deal with the tech, I have the money for Kajabi, and I see myself using all of what Kajabi has to offer in the long run. The great news is that Kajabi has changed for the better since you wrote this article. With the low end offering ($103/month), you can now send 25,000 emails per month to up to 1,000 active members.

        • Hi Peter,

          yes I think Kajabi has a fantastic set of features, is easy to setup, and the look and feel of any course hosted on it is top notch – so well worth if it if you can afford.

          Thanks for the heads up with the increase in email allowance – I’ve updated the article now to reflect this. Best of luck with your course!

  • Bob says:

    Big help, Adam. Just what I was looking for as I reconsider Udemy. Looks like to go from a cold start, Teachable and Thinkific are the services to explore further. You saved me a lot of time with good info and advice. Many thanks.

    • You’re welcome Bob, yes I think both Teachable and Thinkific are great if you’re just starting out or don’t already have a big email list. Best of luck with your course!

  • Liana says:

    Great job Adam. Thanks a lot for all this help. As I have my web already I am going teachable.

    Hopefully we connect, I’ll love to add value to you too.

  • Saffron says:

    Brilliant article, thank you so much! I’m struggling to decide between Kajabi and Teachable and wondered if you could say a bit more about the built in email marketing feature since that feels like the deciding factor. Currently I’m using mailchimp for my mailing list, what would be the benefits of having it integrated with Kajabi? Thanks

    • Hi Saffron, I think it probably depends on how many contacts you have (or hope to have in the near future) as well as your budget. The email marketing feature in Kajabi means that you can bring that part of your business under the same platform as your courses which makes it more convenient to have all in one place.

      You can send up to 25,000 emails/month on their lowest fee plan ($103/month), and it’s possible to integrate the process of capturing email leads into your landing pages really easily.

      The only downside really is that there won’t be as much flexibility to segment your email list and tag people based on their behaviour as there would if you used an email service like ConvertKit.

      However you can also use 3rd party email services with Kajabi too if you want this kind of additional marketing ability.

      Ultimately the built in email service with Kajabi makes it super simple and easy to run your whole online course business without having to go between different services.

      If you’re after complete ease this may be useful for you, however it’s not difficult to integrate something like ConvertKit with Teachable or Kajabi and doing so does give you more powerful features.

      • Saffron says:

        Thanks Adam, That’s incredibly helpful, I think I will go with Teachable. Currently I have my email list with mailchimp, would that integrate with teachable or would it be best to switch to convertkit? My list is only small for now but I plan to grow it once I’ve figured out what I’m doing. I also haven’t looked into whether mailchimp can do what I want it to in terms of automation so I may need to change anyway. Thanks again for your help, you’ve made it far less confusing! Saffron

  • Richard says:

    Very helpful!

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