How to Pick the Online Course Platform That’s Right For You

Choosing the right online course platform depends on your business strategy Click To Tweet

If you are creating an online course you may be asking yourself, ‘What hosting platform do I use?'

You are not alone. I get this question ALL. THE. TIME.

The answer?

It depends.

That might seem like a bit of a cop-out but it’s true.

You see, there's more than one right answer. Where you host your course depends on you and your overall business strategy.

What is the purpose of your course and how does it fit in your business? The answer to this question will help you decide which platform will work best for you. As you can imagine there are advantages and disadvantage for each so it really depends on your focus.

Here are 3 different types of platforms where you can host your course. Consider the pros and cons for each and find the solution that works best for you.

Course Marketplace (e.g. udemy.com, lynda.com, coursera.com, etc)
What is it?
A course marketplace is like a big store that sells online courses (think Walmart). Customers can visit the course marketplace, shop around and buy the courses that they're interested in. The content, as well as the relationship, is with the marketplace and your course is just one of many available for sale.

Advantages
Lots of eyeballs - udemy.com alone has over 14 million customers. That’s a lot of customers that could potentially see your course (and you didn’t have to lift a finger to do the marketing).
Tech hand off. Let the course marketplace look after all of that pesky administration associated with hosting an online course.

Disadvantages
The clients aren’t yours. The course marketplace owns the relationship with the clients, including their email address. If you want to develop a relationship with your students, it’s a bit trickier to do so.
Loss of control. The marketplace is in the driver's seat when it comes to pricing your course (and all the other details).

This approach may work for you if:
You're not interested in marketing or promoting your course (which is probably one of the biggest tasks when you create an online course).
You want to offer a mini ‘taster’ course to get exposure. If you leave your customers wanting more you can offer premium courses elsewhere.

2. Online Course Platform (e.g. Thinkific, Teachable, Kajabi, etc)
What is it?
An online course platform provides you with the infrastructure you need to deliver your… Click To Tweet

Your course will be hosted on their site, but you have full control over the content and the relationship with your clients. It’s like how WordPress provides a platform for a website. WordPress provides the framework but you still manage the content.

Advantages
The back end is already built for you. You don’t need to worry about the technical side of setting up the online course.
You have the relationship with your clients and more control over your course. You can charge what you want and add additional features to personalize it to your preferences.

Disadvantages
Your course is on their platform and therefore you're at the mercy of their decisions. Ever been frustrated when a platform changed their policies? Hmm, Facebook maybe?
For the privilege of using their platform, there is an ongoing fee of using their service.
The marketing is all up to you.

This approach may work for you if:
You want to create a course that you have control over but don’t want to worry about the tech side of hosting the course. You want something that will plug-and-play because you have enough things to worry about, right?
You’re just starting out and you have enough things to think about when it comes to creating a course. You’ll figure out the tech stuff later.
Your course is pretty straightforward and you aren’t looking for a lot of customization.

3. Self-hosting (e.g. WP Courseware, LifterLMS, LearnDash)
What is it?
If you have a website you can download a plugin and run your course on your own platform.

Advantages
It’s all yours baby! You have complete control over the functionality of the course and how it is delivered.
You own the relationship with the client. They visit your website to access the course and they stay there.

Disadvantages
It's all yours baby! And with it comes any tech issues that may come up. You are responsible for the end-to-end experience for the client and as a result, some tech savvy and time may be required to support it (including the marketing)
You may encounter hidden fees that you didn't anticipate. While you take 100% of the sale you also need to take into consideration any ongoing expenses associated with it (e.g. video hosting, payment processing, landing pages, etc)

This approach may work for you if:
The course that you offer requires some additional customization.
You want complete control and ownership of your course (and your clients).

When it comes to choosing the right platform for your course, there are a lot of different… Click To Tweet

Just like music, everyone has their own preferences. Consider how your course fits into your business to help you make your decision.

The thing to remember is, no decision is etched in stone (nor does it mean that you only have to choose one). It may be worth exploring each of the options so that ultimately you can land on the choice that works best for you and your business. That’s the beauty of the internet, you can always make adjustments.

So tell me, what’s your favorite platform and why?

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