Thinkific describes itself as offering “everything you need to run your education business under one roof.”
It’s a software platform that allows creators and brands to create online courses, and sell those courses to their audience under their own brand. It gives people the option to either run a self-hosted course or else to use the WordPress plugin to integrate it with an existing WordPress site.
Thinkific has a lot going for it, but at this point, there are a lot of other options on the market that will provide you with more complex solutions for creating and delivering your online course. So whether you are just starting to explore how you might launch your first online course or you’ve been a long-time Thinkific instructor ready to look at alternatives, the Thinkific alternatives available today have never been clearer or better.
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What is Thinkific?
What Thinkific does well
When Thinkific first got started in 2012, the “state-of-the-art” online course platform focused solely on content. Online courses were a way to make money from sharing what you know.
At that time, the main features of an online course were:
- Adding and hosting course content
- Sales and checkout options
- Landing pages and a course "website"
The standard was pre-recorded (asynchronous) courses, and this is still what Thinkific does best. Here are some of the highlights of the platform:
- Drag-and-drop course builder
- Import tools & dripped content
- Quizzes, tests, credits, and certificates
- Course homepages and landing pages
- Marketing and analytics
Thinkific offers a basic free plan too, which can be good for creators testing out their first course.
Where Thinkific falls short
If you're already on Thinkific and struggling, you can probably skip this section. But here are some of the main barriers people bump up against trying to build on Thinkific.
Limited engagement features
We're now at least a decade into course platforms being popular, and one thing is really clear, asynchronous learning is missing what was essential to classrooms: accountability and support. After all, we hope that your teacher never just handed you the textbook and told you to read it.
And that's basically what an asynchronous online course does.
The solution to low uptake and finishing rates is to create options for engagement, in real-time. And this is where Thinkific hasn’t really adapted its model well.
If you want to add:
- live events
- course communities
...Thinkific is really limited. It is starting to include some of these features, but they're pretty basic.
Let's talk course community, because it's something that can transform the way you teach an online course AND the results your students get.
A great course community should have robust activity and discussion features, a ton of ways to create and organize content, and opportunities for members to find people like them.
A real unified member platform is an engine that puts your growth on autopilot because members dive in and do a ton of the content creation themselves.
Weak live options
Thinkific is missing the power of live teaching. It doesn't have native livestreaming which means no native live teaching--to teach a cohort course you'd have to embed a video link from another livestreaming platform like YouTube.
And with apps that are notorious for crashing and not working for hosted video--much less livestreams--live instruction is unlikely to be a viable option.
Thinkific was late to the game with their online course apps, only releasing them in 2021. With a 2.6 star review in the Google Play Store and a 2.2 in the App Store, the app experience is leaving a lot of customers frustrated.
Thinkific's app users frequently complain about:
- the app not pulling content properly
- glitching and crashing
- unintuitive UX
- inability to save progress in a course
Most of the comments in both stores point to the app being difficult to use if not unusable.
If a course app isn't functional, it has a serious impact on the success of your students and it reflects poorly on your business.
No branded apps
Thinkific doesn't do a branded app--that's the option to have YOUR brand and logo in the App Store and Google Play Store.
For established brands and creators, a course app under your own brand is a game-changer, adding branded notifications, livestreaming, and more.
With Thinkific, this isn't a possibility.
What to look for in a Thinkific alternative
- More teaching options: More ways to deliver and charge for course content, including more flexible options for livestreaming (natively) and cohort courses.
- More community and membership options: Powerful community features to let you tap into member-led growth and the joy of a learning community is a MUST for a Thinkific alternative.
- More engagement options: Look for an alternative that gives you more ways to engage members, think virtual events, the options to build programs, masterminds, group coaching, etc.
- Better apps: With Thinkific's low-rated apps, ideally an alternative would have better apps for your students (not every option on this list does--we've marked them).
- Branded apps: If you want to release your course under your own app in the App Store and Google Play Store, the right alternative to Thinkific could do that for you.
- Easier management: Look for options that simplify course-building, sales, community, etc. Some of these platforms are using AI to make courses easier, or automations to let you focus on the stuff that matters.
Alternatives to Thinkific
1. Mighty Networks
Best Thinkific alternative for courses and community
Mighty Networks is a cultural software platform that brings together courses, community, content, and commerce, with a powerhouse set of features that makes it the best Thinkific alternative.
Mighty's course tools give you a lot of options in creating a course. This includes an intuitive course platform; you can build out a traditional pre-recorded course, adding in lessons and modules, video, and text like Thinkific.
But Mighty isn't just for pre-recorded courses. It's also got great live-teaching capabilities with livestreaming and events features. So you've got three options to deliver your course:
- A content-only online course. Build a pre-recorded course Space that feels like a traditional online course.
- An online course with a dedicated course community. Connect a pre-recorded course with a ton of community and engagement features to bring your course to life.
- A course delivered “live.” The last option is the most interesting one, especially for instructors creating their first online course. A live course lets you build deep connections with members, pivoting and growing as you teach, AND testing the waters with a pre-sale.
Here's where Mighty beats Thinkific:
- Versatile course Spaces: Customize the features of ANY course Space to link your course with events, discussions, assignments, chat, or a dedicated course community Space. You have total control over the features you include with your course.
G2's top-ranked community platform: Other course platforms are rushing to add community features, but community has never been an afterthought for Mighty. Community permeates everything we build, giving you engagement like nothing else. Activity feeds, elevated discussion forums, chat & messaging, live events, live streaming, Q&As, polls & questions, and even a built-in community assistant (Mighty Co-Host™).
Member-led growth: REAL community power opens up member-led growth. Imagine a course business that builds itself as members encourage each other, create content, join discussions, and make friends they'll keep.
A better business platform: Beyond course options, Mighty lets you build your business selling courses, memberships, and/or live events. Or, add things like group coaching and masterminds. Bundle any or all of these, sell in 135 different currencies, or monetize with token-gating.
Awesome apps: Mighty's apps are well-rated on all devices, (average 4.8 stars in the app stores). Members can not only access your course and build a community, but also watch your livestreams, join events, and more.
Human-focused automation: Mighty Co-Host™ uses AI to create people magic--it boosts human connection; it doesn't replace it. You can automate admin functions: building landing pages, creating profiles, new member welcome sequences, even course outlines, giving you the time to spend on engaging.
ConvertKit integration: On top of notifications in Mighty's course apps, you can also use the ConvertKit integration to easily connect your course and community to your email list--build automations, sequences, tag members by interest, and get all the power of ConvertKit's awesome platform!
Branded apps: Finally, if you work with Mighty Pro, you can get YOUR course under YOUR brand in the App Store and Google Play Store. We'll talk about that next.
Basically, the word for Mighty Networks is engagement, since you’ve got a ton of options to build long-term value for your members, not to mention offering them new products, events, and subgroups if you choose.
You can try Mighty free for 14 days (no credit card required) to see if it's the right fit!
2. Mighty Pro
Best Thinkific alternative for branded course apps
If you want a Thinkific alternative to launch your course on your own branded app, then Mighty Pro is for you. It takes Mighty's top-ranked course and community platform and deploys it under your brand in the App Store and Google Play Store.
With Mighty Pro, we work with you and take care of the app-building process. But we're also your partners in strategy--each Pro plan is supported by the Mighty Pro team: Account Executives and Community Strategists who have scaled 7-figure creator brands and 8+-figure subscription businesses.
Building with Mighty Pro also means:
- Your branded apps, complete with push notifications and splash screens.
- Proactive updates and Google Play and App Store submissions.
- Membership in the Mighty Pro community.
We've built apps for brands and creators like Jim Kwik, Fortune, TED, Cambridge University, Adriene Mishler, Mindbody, Ashley Fox, and Zach Bush MD.
Listen to Cristy "Code Red" Nickel talk about how Mighty Pro changed her business.
If you want to see what we could build together, book a call and we'll show you more!
Best marketing funnels
The third Thinkific alternative is Kajabi. Kajabi is known for its top-of-the-line tools for the business and marketing side of courses and content. It’s a stable, savvy platform for running paid memberships and online courses.
In addition to the ability to host and run online courses with different delivery methods (drip, self-paced, etc) and engaging quizzes and polls, with Kajabi, you get sophisticated marketing tools for email campaigns, welcome flows, weekly updates, and more.
There are optimized marketing landing pages and a feature for creating waitlists or “windows” for purchase. Checkout and payments are clean, easy, and support multiple currencies around the world.
Kajabi is definitely one of the best course platforms for pre-recorded courses. But there are a few downsides to Kajabi for those who want a live course or community. The good news is that Kajabi recently added a community function: Community 2.0, replacing its old, basic forum feature. It adds a few more community options like meeting rooms and livestreaming--however the log-on is separate from the course platform, which makes the UX tricky.
The other downside to Kajabi as a Thinkific alternative is the price. Platform fees start at $119/month and go up from there. Add in all the costs you'll accrue through your various integrations and you can easily spend over $300 a month to keep everything running.
For all its business, branding, and customization features, instructors don’t have the option to offer courses on their own private-label, branded mobile apps. Kajabi creators who want this need to move elsewhere.
Another option that’s an alternative to Thinkific is Teachable.
Teachable has all the features you need to create courses, enroll students, and collect payments. It lets instructors add videos, create quizzes, and even has an affiliate feature you can use to recruit others to sell your course for you–a great way to incentivize your course growth.
Teachable is good for an asynchronous course that's web-based. But:
- It only has an Apple app, which is a strike against it.
- Unlike Mighty Networks, it has no real community options.
- And unlike Kajabi, it has no strong marketing features.
But Teachable is similar to Thinkific in the features it offers, making it a viable alternative.
Best marketplace option
Another Thinkific alternative we’ll talk about here is Udemy. Udemy is a totally different business model from Thinkific; instead of being a course platform alone, it’s a course marketplace. This can be a blessing or curse depending on what you’re trying to accomplish with your course.
The course platform for Udemy is solid enough--giving you most of the tools to create versatile courses and evaluation options. Udemy has a decent course-building platform, and it lets you offer certificates. You can charge anywhere from $0 - $199 for your Udemy course.
The marketplace means that your course will live alongside thousands of other courses.
- It must compete for attention, and you’re limited to their design options.
- BUT you have an existing audience to sell to, which can be a plus.
It just depends on your course goals and whether you already have some idea of how to market it to people.
A plus? The Udemy app is awesome, works for every device--and can even stream courses onto Chromecast or Apple TV.
Here are some of the things you should know to assess if Udemy is the right Thinkific alternative for you:
- You pay Udemy for customers: Udemy works on a revenue share agreement. If you bring someone to your course through an invite link on one of your channels, Udemy will let you keep 97% of the revenue. If someone finds your course on Udemy and buys it, you’ll keep 37% of the course price.
- You don't own your students' info: On Udemy, you don't actually get to build relationships with students. You're building Udemy's brand, these are Udemy students--not yours.
- No customization: Udemy courses have to fit their standardized look and feel, so you get next to no customization options.
Podia is a course platform that was initially launched for coaches, and it feels a bit like Kajabi.
Like Kajabi, Podia's model is based on mixing together marketing features with courses and forums; which can be a useful set of tools.
Podia isn't nearly as strong as Kajabi though. When it comes to delivering a course on Podia, it has a fairly simple course-creation software. And the "community" is really just a basic forum.
But at a slightly lower price point than Kajabi, Podia is basically a Kajabi light. And it does have good options for building different offers together: things like coaching sessions, bundles, digital downloads, and webinars.
For those diehard WordPress fans, LearnDash is a plugin that can be used to add a course to a WordPress site.
Any course-builder on WordPress essentially works by building a paywall around a section of your WordPress site. You end up gating some of your content.
LearnDash is a lesson-builder, integrating with the typical Gutenburg WordPress editor and giving you a course editor instead. As far as WordPress solutions, it's fairly intuitive to use. And it can result in a course that merges with your existing website.
Here are a few things you should know when considering LearnDash as a Thinkific alternative:
- No monetization: LearnDash needs to be integrated with a monetization tool to actually sell your course.
- Difficult customization: Ask anyone who has built on WordPress, and they'll tell you that adding complicated plugins almost always messes something up--and it takes a developer to get the look and feel you want.
- No other features: LearnDash is just a course feature, it doesn't bring in the many other benefits for engagement and community that the other options on this list give you.
Alternative marketplace option
You've probably heard about Skillshare by now. It's a popular course marketplace platform, like Udemy. It has a better reputation than Udemy for certain subjects--especially for creative and design skills. You get a typical-looking course engine, and subscribers can add reviews to courses.
Skillshare gives you a reasonably good course platform to build on if you're looking for exposure.
Skillshare has very little in terms of engagement features, but it does have a cool project feature so that members can upload things they're working on for instructors or class members to see.
But here are a few downsides to Skillshare:
- Worst revenue model: Skillshare pays its creators a portion of its revenue, dividing it up by the average course-viewing time you have. Very few creators earn enough to even pay for the work they put into their course.
- No control: You've got no control of the engine or getting yourself seen (even the "Staff Picks" are politicized). The result is a marketplace that leaves you clamoring to get seen--and you probably won't.
- Not rewarded for bringing your own members: At least if you bring your own students on Udemy, you keep most of the revenue. On Skillshare you still get the same small rev share.
- No ownership As with Udemy, a marketplace means you don't really own your relationship to your members; the platform does.
Wiz IQ is an LMS tool with flexible course-building options: the ability to launch live or pre-recorded courses. It comes with useful course-delivery options, adding assignments and tests.
WizIQ has a lot of customization tools, and it can be deployed on white label apps for many different verticals.
Maven is a course company that takes the total opposite approach to Thinkific. Instead of pre-recorded, asynchronous courses, Maven focuses on cohort courses.
Maven also has a different approach to finding instructors than most other course platforms.
- First, they handpick instructors, so you need to apply on their website to be a teacher.
- If you're approved, they give you access to a course template library, train you, and give you access to a community of instructors.
If approved to teach a course, you get marketing features like landing pages. And with the power of a cohort course, you teach live to a live audience.
Maven has a directory of courses that members can search through and choose what's interesting to them--so you get help with marketing too.
And Maven often gives you better margins on your courses, you can charge more for live instruction AND the members get better results.
The downside of Maven? It's the same as any other course marketplace. You don't own your relationship with your students--Maven does. So even if you get approved, it doesn't mean you'll control your own course business.
Like Mighty Networks, Circle is another community platform with course capability. Circle gives you a set of community-building features, things like discussions, content options, and livestreaming with their premium plans. It also comes with different ways to sell courses and create bundles; and it does best with cohort courses.
There are a few downsides to Circle's courses. First, Circle requires you to choose what type of Space you want to build--course spaces are one of the options.
Unlike Mighty Networks, you can't mix events, courses, discussions, etc. together. Circle's Spaces are standalone and any extra features exist in different places. This can hurt the UX.
The other downside to Circle is that there are a lot of extra costs. As your membership grows, you need to pay extra for seats, admins, extra Spaces, etc., while these features are all unlimited on a Mighty Network.
For a WordPress plugin that can merge with LearnDash and make your existing blog or website even more course functional, Memberful is an option.
It comes with the functionality to create membership features for a WordPress site--mixed with LearnDash it can give you complete membership and course functionality. It adds content gating, sales, and membership features to a WordPress site.
On this list, Memberful is NOT a course platform. It's an alternative to Thinkific in that it gives you different ways to sell and gate various digital products.
The downsides to Memberful? It basically requires multiple platforms and integrations to do what a lot of the options on this list do natively. Mighty, Kajabi, and Thinkific don't require multiple integrations to sell courses--and that's why Memberful is only for a certain type of user: someone who's determined to use a certain platform without membership features (e.g. LearnDash) and monetize it.
13. LinkedIn Learning
For a professional with a personal brand and a course, LinkedIn Learning could be a Thinkific alternative. We say could, because there's a similar process to Maven. You need to be approved to teach a course. But if you are, you'll get lots of useful course-building tools to work with.
LinkedIn will pay a flat fee upfront to teach the course, and it can be a decent payment. Then they give out royalties based on watch time.
The benefits to LinkedIn Learning are the same as any other marketplace: lots of users finding your course, working with a trustworthy brand, etc. But there's an added bonus that LinkedIn is a professional platform, so there's also the possibility of spinning your LinkedIn course into things like consulting or speaking.
Unfortunately, the actual revenue still could be quite low from LinkedIn. And like other marketplace platforms, you get no control of your brand AND LinkedIn owns the students.
All these factors mean that--if you can get into LinkedIn--it's got some interesting potential. BUT if you have a strong enough personal brand to get approved to teach on LinkedIn, there's a good chance you could earn more on a self-hosted platform.
Let's round out the list with YouTube. It's a final possible alternative to Thinkific. With 122 million users every day, there are instructors choosing to build their course there.
The advantages to YouTube?
- Free and everyone knows it
- Large, pre-existing audience
- Powerful SEO potential (people can find your videos through search for years after)
Okay, but you probably know there are some disadvantages too.
Here are some of the main disadvantages to YouTube as a Thinkific alternative:
- Monetization is hard. There's no real way to sell memberships or course admission. You're giving your stuff away. Which can have some benefits, but it also means your best options for earning natively are through display ads (which are REALLY unprofitable) or affiliates in the posts. Otherwise, you need to build a YouTube monetization strategy that relies on another platform.
- Competition is fierce. There are lots of creators on YouTube and the algorithm is fickle. There's no way to know that your stuff will get seen.
- Subscribers are not members. It's nice to have people follow your channel, but it's not the same as using a membership platform to build deep, meaningful, relationships with your followers. The best YouTube gives you is the comments. And YouTube comments are not community.
Ready to start?
We hope this list has helped you to think through some Thinkific alternatives. We've talked about a lot of different types of course platforms, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. There's something here for everyone.
If you're ready to build a course powered by community, come build with Mighty! Mighty gives you awesome course features that combine with G2's top-rated community platform. And it has way more options for delivering online courses, and building your teaching into bundles. Teach live, pre-record, or mix in course communities and events.
And if you’d like to experience Mighty Networks in action, you can try it free for 14 days! No credit card required.