Udemy is the leading marketplace for online courses with over 100,000 courses and more than 24 million students.
Whether you’re just starting to explore the option to create your own online courses or are looking to level up your course sales, Udemy is certainly a proven way to create and sell an online course.
Increasingly, though, there are more compelling Udemy alternatives available. Specifically, alternatives to Udemy that let a course instructor build a brand and keep more of your course revenue than what’s offered in a marketplace model like Udemy’s.
In this article, we’ll explore three different approaches to launching and growing an online course business and share our analysis of the best Udemy alternatives in each category.
3 ways to deliver online courses
There are three primary ways to deliver online courses:
The marketplace approach
Udemy, like Amazon, is a marketplace. In the marketplace approach, a course instructor like you creates and packages your course and posts it for sale on a site that acts as a warehouse for all kinds of courses by all kinds of creators.
Prospective students discover new courses by going to the marketplace to search for and explore options. The value of the marketplace to the student is providing an easy way to find a course. To the course instructor, the marketplace is a source of students and therefore revenue.
The downside of a marketplace is that you as the instructor don’t “own” the relationship with your students and also pay the marketplace–such as Udemy–a high fee for every sale made on its website.
The course website approach
With the course website approach, a course creator like you runs their online courses on their own hosted website under their own brand. This is similar to a Shopify ecommerce store but for online courses.
When you choose a course website, you get hosted software that offers you step-by-step instructions for organizing your content into different variations of an online course. While a course website does not have the same traffic or discovery features of a marketplace, it also offers an Udemy alternative that is a fraction of the cost of a marketplace. Typically, a hosted course website is sold for a monthly fee plus a small percentage (2-3%) is taken for every course sold.
The course website “plus” approach
The last model that offers an alternative to Udemy for running online courses is the course website “plus” approach. In this model, online courses are one of multiple ways of offering digital products and services for sale all in one place, under your brand, and instantly available on every platform–mobile and desktop web, iPhone, iPad, and Android.
The “plus” stands for the option to bring online courses, a community, individual course groups, events, membership tiers, and more together to mix and match a wider range of digital products.
In 2020, the course website “plus” model is rapidly becoming the standard for running successful online courses. Why? Because by combining online courses with so much more, students are more likely to:
- Complete an online course.
- See results from an online course.
- Spread positive word-of-mouth and offer amazing testimonials after completing an online course.
- Buy more online courses from the same instructor.
- Pay a premium for an online course that’s offered as part of a membership fee.
These benefits are quickly outweighing the strengths of Udemy and the marketplace approach because they mean that a course instructor can grow quickly while keeping more of their revenue than if they were selling a course in a marketplace.
With all of this as context, let’s shift to understanding where Udemy shines and falls short. Then, what Udemy alternatives are the best across each of these different approaches.
Where Udemy shines
Udemy’s primary strength is in its size and reach.
As the oldest and best-known online course marketplace, people will definitely see your online course when you offer it on Udemy. Plus, Udemy supports its course instructors with its own marketing and promotions, featuring courses that are well-reviewed or are a good match for its targeted ads and emails.
They are also great at offering instruction in how to build an online course for a new course instructor. Udemy’s format guidelines, trainings, and, well, courses in how to build an online course are rich and comprehensive.
Where Udemy falls short
Udemy has three big challenges, making the search for Udemy alternatives all the more relevant.
First, with Udemy, you’re competing in a marketplace at a high fee for your online course students. If Udemy funnels people your way, you pay a high percentage of every sale to Udemy. And those students who you do get? They are not yours. They are Udemy’s. You’re not building your own email list or following, making it difficult for you to leave Udemy later. Which is the point.
Second, Udemy delivers course content, not a holistic course content and community. Without a course community, it’s less likely that your students will complete your course, see results from your course, offer positive testimonials for your course (that you can use later to grow faster), or pay a premium for your course.
In fact, on Udemy, it’s difficult to get your courses to stand out from the sea of other Udemy courses in a way that builds loyalty, brand differentiation, and the best possible results.
And these challenges are before we even get to the revenue split. On Udemy, you share 50% of your course sales with them when a registered user buys your course.
This may sound like something you can stomach, until you realize that often people will buy the course because it’s been heavily discounted by Udemy “on your behalf.”
The only way to keep a high percentage of your course sale is when you do the heavy marketing lifting yourself. Udemy takes a 3% fee only when you sell your course to a newly registered user with your own personal coupon code.
When you start to do the math, looking for alternatives to Udemy makes a lot of sense.
The best alternatives to Udemy
Udemy alternative #1: Mighty Networks: The best course website “plus”
Once you recognize that creating online courses means marketing online courses, the course website “plus” approach starts to look very compelling. And the leader in the course website plus model is Mighty Networks.
Mighty Networks is a new player into the world of online courses and just recently expanded its online course offering pretty dramatically. It started as a world-class community platform (like a Facebook Group on steroids), then added paid online courses and memberships in the past few years.
As a result, a Mighty Network stands out among the Udemy alternatives for its flexibility of offering a website, courses, community, and sales pages in a few different flavors. Delivered just like a Shopify ecommerce store or Wix website (only with native mobile apps as well), a Mighty Network is offered under your brand, and is instantly available on every platform–mobile and desktop web, iPhone, iPad, and Android.
The course creation and delivery options in a Mighty Network are some of the most flexible in the industry. Why? Because they prioritize student completion rates and results over content alone.
On a Mighty Network, you can create three different kinds of online courses:
- A content-only online course. This option funnels students into a single community in the main Mighty Network and offers online courses as a benefit of membership. It’s the equivalent of the courses found on Udemy, Skillshare, Kajabi, or Teachable, only offered in the context of a community.
- An online course with a dedicated course community. In this configuration, there is a separate community only visible to the members of a particular online course.
- A course delivered “live.” The last option is the most interesting one, especially for instructors creating their first online course. With this approach, the dedicated course community is front and center, with course content being created and added as you go.
But the best part of a Mighty Network as a platform is the native mobile apps for content creators. Over 65% of Mighty’s rapidly growing engagement happens on its native mobile apps. And when you’re ready, you can upgrade to offer your entire package of courses, community, and memberships on your own native mobile apps available directly in the Apple App and Google Play Stores.
The one downside of a Mighty Network as an alternative to Udemy is that you’ll need to bring your own traffic and marketing. However, with the kind of results you’ll generate for students in your courses on a Mighty Network, you can actually charge a premium for your courses and memberships, making passive income easier than you think.
Udemy alternative #2 Skillshare: The next best course marketplace
If you choose to stick with the marketplace approach, but still want an Udemy alternative instead of it, your next best course marketplace is Skillshare.
After Udemy, Skillshare is the next largest online course marketplace. However, it is much more niche. Skillshare boasts 25,000 courses and 8 million students–or what is a fraction of the size of Udemy–and also leans towards creative and artistic skills.
Skillshare supports a pretty unique structure of its online courses with required projects and the ability to add gated, downloadable resources to a course.
Lessons are short (over 30 mins is discouraged), digestible, and viewable offline in an app. Like Udemy, but unlike Mighty Networks, there is no community feature, forcing course instructors to set up separate external communities, primarily on Facebook groups.
Skillshare offers your online courses via a monthly or annual subscription fee paid to them. Then, as an instructor, you earn your income based on an algorithm that divides revenue between those who had their videos watched that month. If you can get traction on Skillshare, this subscription model may be more favorable for you than Udemy’s.
On the downside, Skillshare is a marketplace. You don’t own your audience, you’re pitted against competition, your income is highly variable, and if your content doesn’t align well with the creative niche, Skillshare is not the place for you.
Udemy alternative #3: Kajabi: The best course website
Known for its top-of-the-line tools for the business and marketing side of courses, Kajabi is a stable, savvy platform for running online courses on your own website. Instructor success is not subject to platform pricing or marketplace forces, and, on Kajabi, some instructors are making millions of dollars each year.
When Kajabi talks about being “all-in-one”, they’re referring to their marketing and business solutions. They don’t offer a community feature, which means most Kajabi instructors still use a Facebook group. They also don’t offer any kind of deep native mobile app, limiting student engagement and demonstrating again why a course website “plus” alternative to Udemy is so popular today.
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.
The winner: Mighty Networks
When you put a marketplace approach up next to the newer, fresher course website “plus” alternative with its higher completion rates, better results, stronger and more powerful testimonials and word-of-mouth marketing, then a course website “plus” alternative like a Mighty Network is the right place to invest in 2021.
Plus, with a Mighty Network, you’re choosing a much more cost effective platform than Udemy, Skillshare, or Kajabi, that gets more valuable to everyone in your course with each new person who joins and contributes. Compared to swapping out Udemy for Skillshare or Kajabi, the decision to use a Mighty Network is a clear one.