People all over the world are embracing the freedom that online teaching and learning provide them. In fact, the online teaching market is projected to grow almost 10% a year to $239 billion by 2027. And for those looking to join the teaching revolution, there are endless online teaching platforms to choose from.
The problem is that with so many options available, it becomes harder to figure out what the best platform for teaching online is.
In this article, we'll talk through what features to look for and how to compare the best online teaching platforms.
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What is an online teaching platform?
An online teaching platform is a software service that allows creators to build, deliver, and teach online courses in one place. Online teaching platforms bring together course creation features with user management tools to facilitate educational content.
What to look for in online teaching platforms
Each online teaching platform comes with a different set of tools, yet there are a lot of things you'll see again and again. Here are some of the common features of online teaching platforms:
- Content management: For building courses and delivering to match learning styles, content tools for sharing video, audio, text, PDFs, and other types of content is vital.
- Member management: When you have students taking a course, member management is important too; think of tools like member profiles, sorting members by plan, communication tools, and even ways for members to engage with each other.
- Engagement tools: The best course platforms let you engage your members. They have things like livestreaming, discussion forums, communities, virtual events, chat & messaging, and more.
- Branding options: Some platforms let you build under your own brand, adding in your own logo, colors, and style, or building under your URL. Some even have the option for an app under your own brand.
- Access options: Can members use your course on any platform they like? Will it be hard to access? Online teaching platforms should have different ways for members to learn, including an app.
Other important considerations
When choosing your online teaching platform, these are some other considerations that are worth figuring out.
Hosted vs marketplace
A hosted online teaching platform will provide you with all the tools you need to build, teach, and monetize your online course. The platform will handle all of the backend maintenance to keep your course up and running so you can focus on your members and content. A hosted platform won’t do the marketing for you, so you’ll have to spend time working on getting your name out there.
On the flip side, a marketplace platform offers a similar experience in that you can build, deliver, and monetize your online course with the service. But your course exists in a library of other courses.
There are pros and cons to each of these, but here are some quick ones.
Pros of a hosted platform:
- Own your space and your brand.
- Deliver the course in the way you want.
- You're building YOUR member base (not someone else's).
- You keep all the money you earn.
Pros of a marketplace platform
- It can be less work to set up.
- You can get course members you wouldn't have had otherwise because of the existing member base (e.g. people searching the database).
- The marketplace platform takes care of everything--usually it's a light lift for the people teaching courses online.
Different ways to teach
The original online course platforms were mostly for pre-recorded courses. Asynchronous learning was made possible because you could upload course text, or even a course video, and members could watch at their leisure.
But now, there are different ways to teach courses. Here are a two of the most common:
- Cohort courses: Cohort learning brings live learning to a course, usually using a livestreaming feature on a course platform. It's fun, engaging, and your course members get to learn live alongside other passionate people. And teaching live can be a competitive edge for you as an instructor.
- Integrating community: Integrating courses and communities mean you can boost engagement--even if you use an asynchronous teaching model. Traditionaly, asynchronous courses meant the students struggled to stay committed. But adding on community features can create the important feeling of encouragement and accountability as your course progresses.
Online teaching platforms should give you the option to create different kinds of courses, or should at least reflect the kind of course you want to teach.
If you want to figure out whether asynchronous or synchronous is right for you, here's a quick chart to consult:
Course business tools
If you're running a full course business, you need the tools to make it successful. That means your online teaching platform should come with member management tools, sales and landing pages, point of sale, currency options, the ability to create bundles, and useful analytics.
You'll need to decide which are the important tools for your online teaching business.
What does your Ideal Member need?
When building courses and community, we talk about Ideal Members. This is the person who most needs your course.
Before setting out to build any course, we love to do the work to figure out WHO it's for. Who would most benefit from it?
Try interviewing 15 or 20 people who are your Ideal Members to find out their pain points and what their goals would be taking an online course.
But then, make sure your course platform aligns with how you want to teach and--most importantly--how your Ideal Member likes to learn.
For example, if you find out most of your Ideal Members are busy professionals trying to take your course on the train to work, you need an app. If your Ideal Member struggles to stay committed, maybe a community would help.
Try to align your platform with Ideal Member goals.
Apps and access
This is quickly becoming a way to judge the best online teaching platforms: are they investing in apps? A lot of legacy platforms haven't made apps a priority, and it's hurting their reputation.
The best course platforms should give your members the ability to access a course from anywhere on any device.
11 Best online teaching platforms
1. Mighty Networks
Mighty is the best course platform because it lets you teach any kind of course you want, seamlessly mixing courses, community, content, and commerce. And flexible Spaces let you add things like live events, livestreaming, discussion forums, messaging and chat, member profiles, and more! It's a powerful tool for any creator.
That means you can teach:
- An asynchronous course with an awesome LMS
- A live course with native live streaming
- A course that mixes either of these with a thriving community
The flexibility is incredible. When you can mix a course with G2's top-rated community platform, you've got a lot to work with.
Better still, the Mighty Network you create for your online course will have your personal branding across everything and will be available on web, iOS, and Android apps.
As you continue to offer courses, you’ll want to have clear analytics that points you in the right direction of where to take your content next. We provide detailed member data, analytics, and direct channels of communication between you and your members.
You can monetize your course in 135 different currencies or even with token-gating. And you can bundle your course with anything, from live events to programs to private coaching to communities, and more. Finally, Mighty's ConvertKit integration means you can connect your online teaching to one of the best email platforms on the market.
When you build an online course on a Mighty Network you get a platform that can do pretty much anything you can imagine, without needing to mix in other software.
Mighty Networks Features
- Awesome course platform to teach asynchronous or synchronous
- Integrated with G2's top-rated community platform
- A full set of member-management tools
- Beautiful native apps for every device
- Built-in ConvertKit integration
2. Mighty Pro
What if you want an online teaching platform that lets you have your course on a branded mobile app?
That's Mighty Pro!
You get the flexible course and community features of a Mighty Network, all on your own white-label mobile app. This means your app under your brand icon with branded push notifications, branded livestreaming, events, and more.
When you build with Mighty Pro, you'll work with our team of Account Executives and Community Strategists who have scaled 7-figure creator brands and 8+-figure subcription businesses.
We've built apps for Adriene Mishler, Drew Binsky, TED, Cambridge University, Fortune, and more. Schedule a call today and we'll show you what we could build together!
Mighty Pro Pros
- Branded course app
- Mighty's top-rated community features
- Includes building and proactive updates, splash screens, and App Store & Play Store submissions
- Work with the Mighty Pro team
Mighty Pro Cons
- It's for established brands and teachers. If you're just starting out, try Mighty Networks first (you can always upgrade later).
Kajabi is one of the best online teaching platforms for pre-recorded courses and marketing automations. Kajabi comes with a solid course builder for delivering material. Course creators can add videos, assignments, or drip content--making it possible to deliver pre-set packages (e.g. online coaching).
And Kajabi is probably best known for its extensive marketing features for selling a course. Kajabi gives you marketing automations and funnels, with different blueprints to choose from. Build opt-ins, landing and sales pages, and even run your email.
Kajabi also gives you some different customization features and course templates to get a look that you like.
Without a doubt, Kajabi is one of the best online teaching platforms for traditional, pre-recorded courses.
However, for live, cohort courses or community courses, it struggles a bit. Kajabi traditionally had a basic forum function for building course "communities" that was notoriously bad.
But they recently acquired the company Vibely to help fill out some of their online community and engagement offerings.
- The good news is that this brings more robust community features to Kajabi: video meetings, livestreaming, newsfeeds, and challenges.
- The downside is that Kajabi added their branding to a different platform--rather than building community into their existing platform.
Here's what this means if you want to teach a live course. Your audience would have:
- Two separate logons
- And no integration between live and pre-recorded content
The Kajabi course and community features even require two different apps.
Kajabi is one of the most expensive online teaching platforms on the market too, so it's a the top of most course creators' budget.
However, Kajabi's solid asynchronous platform with awesome marketing tools earns it a spot near the top of this list.
- Excellent course platform for pre-recorded courses
- Solid marketing, funnel, and sales features built in
- Integrate email
- Good mobile apps
- Livestreaming and community features are a separate platform (bad for UX)
- Users need different apps for courses and engagement features
Thinkific is a good online teaching platform that specializes in prerecorded courses with a strong set of course presentation features. It comes with a drag-and-drop course editor, multimedia lesson options, and a good set of assessment features: quizzes, assignments, exams, and certificates.
Thinkific also has a lot of integrations in its "app store" to mix your online teaching with a bunch of other features.
Thinkific comes with website-building tools and marketing options, giving you the tools to sell your courses.
And it's adding some community and engagement features, making live courses and community possible. However, the community feature is basically a forum; it's missing custom activity feeds, native livestreaming, and other essential community features.
Thinkific also recently added mobile apps, but with an average rating of 2.1 stars (App Store) and 2.6 (Google Play), there could be some bugs to work out here still.
- Good course platform with drag-and-drop course editor & assessment features
- Best for pre-recorded courses
- Some marketing tools built in
- Not as good for live courses
- Basic community features
- Users report problems with the apps
Udemy is a course marketplace, and its the best of the online teaching platforms to sell your courses alongside others. As we said above, marketplaces host thousands of courses that they either sell on a subscription model or by individual payment-per-course.
Udemy is the latter, making it a better value proposition for course instructors. With 210,000+ courses, Udemy gives you a solid course engine for building your course and has the basic engagement features you need. Udemy also has great apps that can even connect to a Chromecast or Apple TV.
All marketplace platforms have ways of paying course creators; some are okay and some are terrible. You NEVER make as much on a marketplace platform as you'd make on your own.
But, for those determined to build on a marketplace platform, Udemy is a good option.
- For students you bring to the platform through your links, you will keep 97% of the revenue.
- For students who find your course via Udemy's search engine, you'll keep 37% of the revenue.
This is a LOT of revenue to give up. But theoretically these could be students you wouldn't have otherwise. So you'll have to figure out if you're willing to make the tradeoff.
For creators with existing followings and marketing savvy, Udemy probably isn't the right choice. For course instructors looking for an online teaching platform with a "set it and forget it" approach, it could be an option.
- Udemy has almost no personalization options. Your course needs to match their platform.
- You don't own the relationship with students. These are Udemy's customers, not yours.
- Good course platform
- Course library where you can get seen
- One of the better rev share models (for a course marketplace)
- No real personalization
- You don't own your relationship with members
- Fighting with competition in Udemy's marketplace
- Many creators earn less on marketplaces than on their own platform
Maven is an online teaching platform that specializes in cohort courses: courses with live instruction. For approved teachers, you get your course listed in their course directory of hand-picked, expert courses.
Maven's course platform gives instructors templates to build from, and comes with different training opportunities and a community of practice. And the platform includes landing pages for your courses and some marketing tools.
Maven's group of teachers is cultivated and hand-picked, so not just anyone can teach. There's an application on their website for would-be teachers to express their interest.
It's a cool concept and company, but it's important to remember that Maven is like any other course marketplace. By listing on Maven, you're building their brand.
- Excellent cohort course platform & brand
- Lots of support if you get accepted
- Need to apply and be accepted.
- You're building Maven's brand (not yours)
Skillshare is an online teaching platform for creatives looking for exposure via a marketplace. Although it's much smaller than Udemy, with 35,000 courses, it has a reputation for being strong on a certain type of course; it's best-known for art, design, and other creative skills.
Skillshare has a good course-building platform that gives you the tools to build a video course with assignments. And students can rate the courses and leave comments. Skillshare doesn't have much in terms of interactive tools, but it does have a neat feature where students can upload projects they're working on for each course.
Skillshare is probably one of the best online teaching marketplaces for students, who pay a flat fee and get access to everything. But it's not as good for teachers. The revenue share model means that Skillshare divides up the revenue each month between creators based on watch time. The result is an extremely-low revenue for most online teachers. And since you have no control over where your course shows up in Skillshare's library, there aren't many ways to get more eyes on your course. (Other than to do your own marketing, but then you might as well just teach on your own plafrorm--you'll make more).
There are reasons to be on Skillshare--mostly for the exposure for creatives. But it's poor payout structure moves it down this list.
- Good course marketplace for creatives
- Easy to build courses
- Potentially find new members via the course library
- Good apps
- Bad revenue-share model for teachers
- No customization
- You don't own the relationship with your members.
Teachable is a legacy online course builder that does one thing well: pre-recorded courses. It has a good course builder with a "power editor" for building and editing multimedia content, as well as a drag-and-drop site builder for courses.
Teachable has some marketing features too, up- and down-sells, discounts, multi-currency checkout, and even an affiliate marketing program builder.
With Teachable, you can customize the course to have a look and feel that matches your brand, and you can customize landing and sales pages too. It also has a basic email tool built in.
Teachable is not the right online teaching platform for a live or community course. It has no livestreaming, and is missing features a lot of other teaching platforms have: virtual events, community engagement, chat and messaging, etc.
Rather than build community features into Teachable, some of the founders went and started a separate community platform -- but it requires a separate purchase.
Teachable also DOES NOT have a native Android app, which means 70% of your students can't access your course on mobile. And finally, Teachable has a lot of complaints on review platforms about bad customer service.
- Good course platform for asynchronous courses
- Some decent marketing tools & an affiliate program
- Customize the course and landing pages
- No real engagement features
- No Android app
- Many customer service complaints on review platforms
For people who have WordPress sites who want to keep building on WordPress, LearnDash is one of the best online teaching platforms that works with it. LearnDash basically gives you a course editor that feels a lot like the Gutenberg editor, but with the option to create course content. It's also got a higher-level editor for adjusting course structure and different preferences.
LearnDash is functional, but a bit complicated. As with most WordPress plugins, it can require developer work to get your course to look the way you want it to. And the features are really simple; you're just getting a basic course.
It's missing community options, memberships, livestreaming, and the many, many other tools that make for a great online teaching platform.
AND you'll need to mix it with another plugin for checkouts and sales--more on the below.
All in all, if you're dedicated to turning your WordPress site into an online teaching platform, LearnDash is a decent choice. But most creators would be better served by choosing one of the all-in-one platforms above.
- Turns WordPress into an LMS
- Easy to build courses and customize the flow & features
- Needs customization to look and feel right
- Needs more plugins to get a full feature set (e.g. payments, memberships, etc.)
- It's really basic compared to the other online teaching platforms on this list
For integrating an LMS like LearnDash to your WordPress site, you'll probably need a tool like Memberful. Memberful creates paywalls around content to help gate different parts of a WordPress site.
With Memberful, you can add membership and forum features to a WordPress site, getting it closer to the full feature set of one of the online teaching platforms above.
- Integrates with LearnDash to create ways to sell your WordPress course
- Can create memberships, profiles, and forums
- Very basic compared to a proper online teaching platform
Podia is an online teaching platform that feels a bit like a Kajabi lite. It has an online course-builder, built-in email and marketing tools, and presets to create different types of products. It was built for coaches, so it also has an appointment calendar feature for setting up on-on-one coaching.
Podia can be used to sell courses, or to productize learning with things like webinars, audiobooks, digital downlowds, or PDFs. You can also build marketing pages for your products.
Unfortunately, Podia has no mobile apps and the design is clean, but really basic. This bumps it to the bottom of this list of the best online teaching platforms.
- Functioning course platform
- Integrated marketing and email tools
- Good features for coaches
- Basic design
- No mobile apps
Ready to start?
If you're ready to get started with online teaching, come build with Mighty. You can teach any kind of course you want, bringing content, community, commerce, and courses together.
Your brand is available anywhere across web, iOS, and Android apps. And you have more ways to monetize your content than anywhere else.
You can try it free for 14 days. No credit card required.