You have knowledge to share, and you want to create an online course. But there are so many online course platforms out there.
If you are trying to create an online course but don’t know where to start, you likely have one question on your mind: Which is the right platform for you?
In this review I’ll take a look at Thinkific, one of the most popular online course platforms.
We’ll look at the main features it offers and how it stacks up compared to other options for creating and selling your online course. Of course, the course you choose will depend largely on your own needs and preferences. So before evaluating your alternatives, try to outline what you want from an e-learning platform, and read on to see whether Thinkific is the right choice for your business.
What Is Thinkific?
Thinkific was founded by a Vancouver teacher, Greg Smith, who was looking for a way to reach a larger number of students.
Nowadays, there are 70+ employees at Thinkific. The company is growing so rapidly that it actually doubles every year.
Thinkific can be used in many ways and serve several different purposes.
You can use it to create all sorts of online courses – and there are thousands of course creators who are making money by selling their courses through Thinkific.
You can see some of these online course examples here.
It can also be used by companies to carry out internal training for their staff.
Thinkific is even being used by schools and universities to help them teach online courses. Thinkific is thus a very versatile learning platform, and its growth will have you secure that its list of features and its functionality will continue to expand.
How Does Thinkific Work?
Creating an online course in Thinkific is a very simple process.
There’s no messing about with codes or design software. Thinkific comes loaded with many options for customisation. There is a very low learning curve for using Thinkific, and it was clearly designed with ease-of-use being of paramount importance.
The management of students is easy. The marketing and promotion of your courses relies largely on well-thought-out and automated processes. Thinkific will provide you with the tools you need to create and grow your course from within its platform.
Keep reading to find out more about Thinkific’s most important features.
Let’s start from the very beginning. The first step involves signing up with Thinkific.
You will get an invitation by email to watch a live webinar where you can ask any questions and get to know the platform.
The next step involves logging in.
Once in, you’ll find informational videos and useful tips that will help you navigate your way through Thinkific much faster. This helps to lower the learning curve and ensure that you can get your business up and running much faster.
I’d suggest starting off with a free plan before moving on to the more advanced plans.
When you come across something on the site which isn’t free, you will be greeted by a detailed explanation of what it is and what you are supposed to pay for.
A clever and intuitive interface for the building and designing of your courses is a must for a platform like this, and in this regard Thinkific delivers.
Thinkific allows you a lot of control over the designing process.
Also, you don’t need a website of your own, so you don’t have to worry about hosting either.
As I mentioned above, Thinkific has an easy and intuitive tool for designing your courses.
The interface is based on the simple drag and drop.
The editor allows you to stack all the content you want to include and then simply rearrange however you choose.
You don’t have to deal with any CSS or HTML codes.
Another great thing about the course designer is that it supports most media types, so there are almost no limitations to what you can include in your courses.
This means you can include pictures, quizzes, surveys, different types of audio files, PDFs, and so many more.
Any files or content you include in your courses are hosted on Thinkific’s own servers, so you don’t have to worry about hosting or having enough space.
No matter the file size, they are pulled from very fast servers, so they are always accessible.
All the elements that you want to include in the courses, such as logos, color schemes, and banners, can be easily edited without ever reverting to CSS or HTML codes.
Still, if you’re experienced with coding, you can go wild and customise your site and courses as much as you want.
Thinkific provides a very easy tool for designing your course to your exact needs. It ensures that, even if you don’t have experience with coding or web design, you can develop the course you want to teach, and deliver it to students.
Check some real-life Thinkific course examples created by ordinary people just like you.
Here we have yet another area in which Thinkific excels.
The management of all your students can be easily handled with a very user-friendly and visual tool.
It includes names, pictures, and contact info for all your students. Also, it shows in great detail how far each student is doing in any given course.
You can communicate with entire communities, or you can choose to send personalised emails to any of your students.
Also, you can share report cards and completion certificates with any student.
The platform offers optimisation for mobile devices, and you can also incorporate language controls and offer your students unlimited number of replays for any materials included in the courses.
Engaging with students is one of the most important areas of running an online course. With these handy organization tools, you can be sure to keep detailed records of students to maintain a healthy level of interaction and encouragement.
Not only does this improve the student experience significantly, it helps to ensure that students are satisfied and will hopefully work with your courses again.
Another great aspect of Thinkific is the inclusion of several promotional and marketing tools, in spite of the fact that most of them rely on automated processes.
This is very handy for when you want to drip any of your content to some or all of your students, or when building up anticipation for the launch of your online course.
You can create schedules to send out automated emails that can be further targeted to just the right audience. Email marketing is one of the most effective tools in digital marketing, and Thinkific gives you the tools to run a successful campaign.
You can also use these tools to handle the pricing and all the payment options for your students.
If you need to promote your courses outside the confines of your own website, you can offer a modest affiliate marketing program to bloggers and all those people who recommend your stuff.
Another option is to include coupons in ads that are proven to attract newcomers.
The dashboard gives you the ability to track all of the aforementioned options, and that’s the place which also provides you with an option of linking Facebook, Adwords, Google Analytics and other types of social media account and analytics tools.
By doing so, you will be able to determine which channel attract the most students.
Marketing and selling your course is one of the most imperative factors in the course’s success. The aforementioned features allow you to grow your course with several marketing techniques, and monitor your success in a conveniently accessible space.
Thinkific offers no live chat or phone support, but you can contact them via email.
They are also very active on their own public Facebook group.
Other than this, you can also rely on their Help Centre section of their website, which contains many resources that can help you solve issues or learn how to do something the proper way.
Thinkific offers a free plan, as well as different paid plans. The different options are as follows:
One of the best things about Thinkific is that it comes with a free plan, and even that free plan has a good twist to it.
In most cases, free plans are just trial versions which are quite limited, so you can’t really experience and explore all the possibilities of the platform.
But not for the Thinkific free plan. This plan allows you to build a student base and launch an online store where you will be able to sell your courses, and all of this comes at no charge.
If you want to try out any of the more advanced options, you can get a free trial for that, as well.
This is something no other learning management system or platform will offer you, but let’s check out the paid pricing plans and what comes with each of them.
The free plan gives you all the essential Thinkific features at no charge.
With this plan you can create an unlimited amount of courses, you also get content hosting, and it will give you access to all the funds and provide you with basic types of integrations.
It is a great opportunity for all those who can’t afford monthly fees yet and are waiting to start seeing some income from their courses. So give this plan a try if you are unsure. It will help you get the hang of things, and you can always upgrade plans if you see the added benefits as being worth it for your business.
Basic Pricing Plan
The next step up is the Basic plan, which will cost you $49 per month.
For this you get quite a hefty upgrade which includes:
- drip content
- course bundles
- coupons and promotions
- basic Zapier integrations
- affiliate reporting
- a custom domain
- additional course prices
- monthly subscriptions
- intermediate integrations,
- bulk student emailing tool
If you think you’ll be selling a lot of courses online, you will appreciate the fact that this pricing plan drops the transaction fee to 5 percent. If you sell enough courses, this plan could justify the cost based on this fee reduction alone.
Pro Pricing Plan
The Pro plan will cost you $99 per month, and the plan includes all the features from the previous two, plus a whole lot more.
- direct Infusionsoft integration
- payment plans
- onboarding calls
- instructor payout reports
- priority support
- advanced options for CSS and HTML editing
- three course admin accounts
- intermediate Zapier integrations
- host storyline
- white labeling for your site
- hidden and private courses
- completion certificates
Also, the company doesn’t charge you any transaction fees in this pricing plan.
Premier Pricing Plan
As the name suggests, this is the most advanced pricing plan, and it is quite expensive compared to the previous three, at $499 per month.
On top of all the features from the previous plans you also get:
- advanced Zapier
- advanced integration options
- a public API
- onboarding package
- an onboarding specialist
- 10 course admin accounts
- three site admin accounts
- A single sign on.
It goes without saying that this plan doesn’t involve any transaction fees.
Also, paying upfront for an entire year can also save you considerable amounts of cash.
If you do so, the Basic plan will set you back $39 per month, the Pro plan comes down to $79, while the price of the Advanced plan drops to $399.
In essence, you get about 20% off if you pay in advance.
There are several options and ultimately it will come down to your individual needs and how many courses you expect to sell. You always have the option of trying the free plain first and upgrading to one of the paid plans as your needs adjust.
Pros and Cons
- Creation tool for all sorts of courses
- Great for marketing and selling online courses
- Intuitive and easy to use
- Automated marketing processes
- Four different pricing plans, including a free one
- Not as many limitations in the free plan
- Excellent customer support
- Transaction fees for the free plan and the Essentials plan
- Limited customisation of “Thank you” page
- Poor quality checkout may lose you some sales
Frequesntly Asked Questions
Is Thinkific better than Teachable?
To be honest, this is quite a tricky question to answer, which is why we dedicated a whole other article into answering it, which can be accessed on this link.
Both of these platforms really do have a lot to offer, but if we had to choose one over the other, we would plump for Teachable. Mainly because of its very comprehensive sales and marketing features.
And, more importantly, you can generally expect better conversion rates with Teachable than you would if you chose to go with Thinkific.
But, who knows? As the rivalry between Thinkific and Teachable lives on, perhaps we can expect to see some considerable improvement on both course platforms.
Is Thinkific really free?
In case you missed it earlier, Thinkific does offer a free pricing plan amongst its paid pricing plans.
The free plan is quite impressive, it allows you to build a student base and sell your courses on your very own online store, at no charge.
You also get content hosting included, and an unlimited amount of courses you can upload. And you get several basic types of integrations thrown in too. It’s really good as far as free services go.
There’s absolutely no harm in giving it a try. You can always upgrade to a paid plan at a later stage if you feel the need to.
But, please do not confuse the free trial as a free plan. If you were to sign up for the free trial rather than the free plan, you could end up getting charged once the free trial has expired.
How much is Thinkific monthly?
The monthly cost of Thinkific depends entirely on which of their plans you decide to go for.
There’s a free plan which is really good, and you may well decide that the free plan is all you really need. It allows you to build a student base and sell your courses on your very own online store, at no charge.
You also get content hosting included, and an unlimited amount of courses you can upload. And you get several basic types of integrations thrown in too.
The next step up is the Basic plan, which will cost you $49 per month. And it’s quite a hefty upgrade.
With this Basic plan, you get a lot more integrations built in, and this includes many intermediate integrations, and the much coveted basic Zapier integrations too.
You also get a custom domain, which can be very valuable in itself, and you get to release drip content, which can really help you to keep your place in the Google search results pages.
You can also offer coupons and promotions, which is great for marketing, generating interest and turning those who get to the website into paying customers. And better yet, the transaction fee drops to a mere 5%.
Then there’s the Pro pricing plan, which costs about twice as much the basic plan at $99 per month. It includes all the features of the cheaper plans and more besides.
There are far more integrations to take advantage of, there’s more control over the presentation of the site, thanks to the advanced options for HTML and CSS editing, priority customer support, which can come in very handy, student payment plans, membership only courses, course completion certificates, and much more.
Better yet, though, is that there are no transaction fees under this plan.
Then there’s the Premier plan, which is way more expensive, coming in at a whopping $499 per month.
It has all the features offered by the other plans, charges no transaction fees, offers an onboarding specialist to see you through, offers advanced integration options, and gives you up to 10 course admin accounts.
How long is the Thinkific free trial?
The Thinkific free trial is 30 days long…
We would argue that 30 days should be long enough to see if the platform is right for your business needs. But if you feel that 30 days is not really long enough and you don’t have a particularly large budget, you could sign up for the free plan…
The free plan does not have a time limit attached to it, and you can utilize the free plan for as long as you want to.
Is Thinkific mobile friendly?
We’re pleased to report that Thinkific courses are fully mobile responsive, which means that they can render well on devices of any size, regardless of whether it’s a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
However, one of the clear drawbacks to Thinkific, especially when compared against Teachable, is that there is no dedicated smartphone currently on offer. And whether that’s something that will change in the future, that’s very hard to say.
Can you sell products on Thinkific?
Ok, so this is a bit technical, but bear with me…
Thinkific does not actually support the selling of physical products through it’s checkout system. However, you can sell physical products alongside your course as part of a bundle, or as an upsell…
There are two ways to do this. You can create a course named “How to receive your [product name]” and then set the pricing as usual. Then, within this course, you can include a form for collecting the customer’s shipping address.
The other way is to use a third party storefront, by installing Thinkific’s Shopify App.
Moreover, Thinkific also does not support the selling of digital products either such as ebooks or audiobooks to go along with your course…
But, there is a way around this. You can sell ebooks with the Groundhogg Thinkific extension from WooNinja, all without any third party software. But, this is not a free to use extension,
Is Thinkific cloud based?
We can confirm that Thikific is indeed a cloud based learning management system. And we would argue that that’s a good thing. You would struggle to cope with holding all the information on a hard disk drive, or even solid state drive for that matter.
I think Thinkific is worth checking out for anyone who wants to make money selling online courses. The interface is very intuitive and you don’t have to bother with having your own website and the hosting, plugin set, onging maintenance and more.
Thinkific is a great all-around tool. It provides you with the tools for creating and selling your course, and allows you to monitor your progress and identify areas that could use more attention.
If you are unsure whether this is the program for you, consider a free trial first, and then upgrade your service if you can justify it through your sales. The transaction fee drops as you advance plans, which could help justify the cost on its own.
Thinkific has a free version which includes all the core features. This is quite rare for an online platform of this type, and allows you to experience the program without the large monetary investment. This makes it easy for you to give it a go and decide for yourself whether Thinkific works for you.
We think Thinkific is a great online teaching platform. But ultimately it comes down to what you are looking for. Take a while and carefully identify what you need out of an online course platform, and then use this article to see whether this is the platform for you.
- You may also want to see how Thinkific compares to their major competitor Teachable.
- For an overview of the best online course platforms read this.
- Read my comparison Learnworlds vs. Thinkific, or Podia vs. Thinkific articles.
- If you’re wanting to see more options check these 7 Best Thinkific Alternatives