7 Ways To Create Stunning Online Courses
One of the ways I’ve built my business, and established my self as an authority in digital marketing and online business has been through the success of my online courses. In fact, several students, after taking my virtual training, have reached out to hire me as a consultant or web services provider. And, apart from being terrific marketing assets, creating courses can be great for automating an entire channel of passive income into your business.
So it’s no wonder that so many entrepreneurial professionals, from coaches, to consultants, niche experts, are looking to sell online courses. But the fact is, because this is a rapidly growing opportunity, finding the right platform or learning management system (LMS) for delivering your course can be a bit confusing.
In this post, I’m sharing seven of my top recommendations for online course platforms you should consider to build your virtual training empire. To be sure, there are many more options than the ones I’m covering here, but these are platforms that I know, have personally tested, and/or have used when helping clients establish their own courses.
There are many different categories of learning management systems available. They include options specific to enterprise level businesses looking to do internal training, educational institutions providing Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), as well as learning marketplaces, like Udemy or Skillshare. For the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on platforms that lend themselves to a balanced mix of content delivery along with the necessary marketing and sales capabilities to support your course.
Is Facebook an important source of business for you? If so, you might consider leveraging your Facebook Fan Page by turning it into the hub of your online training. With 22Social, you can create a membership site (for both live and pre-recorded training) right inside Facebook. Your students, login via their Facebook account, and can pay on either a subscription or one-time payment model.
22Social provides the framework for you to add videos, hosted on YouTube (where you can’t protect them from being publicly shared by your students) or Vimeo (where you can protect access with a paid plan). It’s also possible to link your course to a Facebook group, where students can interact and provide peer support.
But 22Social is far more than an LMS. You can also use it to host webinars, capture leads for your business, do one-on-one coaching, set up an e-commerce shop, and a lot more. But there is a downside here, because 22Social is tremendously versatile, the interface is built for ease-of-use. And that means that it offers a more streamline range of options when it comes to delivering a course. For example, while you can drip-feed content based on someone’s purchase date, you cannot incorporate quizzes or other interactive learning tools along the way.
That said, for simply-structured content delivery, and the ability to leverage a whole range of other integrations, 22Social is worth a look.
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Teachable was originally known as Fedora, and was started as an alternative to the very popular course marketplace, Udemy. The original intent was to give course creators more control over the entire process, including the ability to collect information about their students directly, instead of having access to that information restricted by the platform.
Today, Teachable offers course creators a simple, streamlined service that includes sales pages, payment processing, and marketing tools like tracking capabilities for online advertising. And, of course, the learning platform is also well structured. In addition to teaching via video, you can also use images, text, PDFs, and integrate content that you have hosted on storage sites like Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive. In a Teachable gives instructors the ability to incorporate quizzes, course-specific blog posts, as well as set up discussion forums for course participants.
Teachable is a clean and easy to navigate platform, offering an impressive lineup of tools as part of its basic package. Plus, if you want to get fancy, there are all kinds of add-ons and third-party integrations available, including Zapier, which can connect your course or account to over 500 different online apps and tools.
Ruzuku has a lot in common with Teachable, especially when it comes to simplicity and ease-of-use. But where it sets itself apart is that it strives to provide the team behind your course, there to support you every step of the way. In other words, they care a lot about delivering top notch customer support and guidance.
Ruzuku is best used for online courses or group programs in which many people go through a structured, step-by-step program together. It’s also commonly used by experts and companies who offer courses in the areas of art & design, crafts, health, creative business, personal development, and professional skills. They tend to attract those who want to make a positive impact on the world, and it shows in how they market themselves and communicate publicly.
But Ruzuku also falls a bit short when it comes to design and integration options. The customization options for the way your course looks on their platform are somewhat limited. And their third-party integrations are restricted to just a few key players, like MailChimp (for email) and Infusionsoft and 1ShoppingCart (for external shopping carts… which are not required).
All in all, if you need some hand-holding, and don’t care too much about design, Ruzuku may be a great option for you.
Thinkific provides a step up from Teachable and Ruzuku in terms of features, integrations, as well as complexity. That means it probably is best for someone with a bit more technical savvy and strategic marketing thinking. In addition to incorporating standard course features like hosted videos and integrated surveys and quizzes, they also give you the ability to record audio narration for your slide presentations imported from PowerPoint, Keynote, etc. Plus, you can integrate third-party tools like Articulate, Captivate, Typeform, Google Docs, and others.
Beyond the course content management, Thinkific’s biggest strength is the marketing tools it gives you, providing features like coupon management, upselling, bundling multiple courses, affiliate management (to allow other people to help promote your course for a commission), and much more.
They also provide a ton of design customization (including advanced CSS and HTML editing), security options, and the ability to use custom domains for your courses, so that nobody ever has to know you are using their platform.
LearnDash offers a lot of the same features that you’ll find on the above Saas platforms. But there’s one HUGE difference. LearnDash is a WordPress plugin. And, because you are not using a cloud-based platform, there’s a distinct price advantage to using this option. Instead of $50-$200 per month (or more) for some of these other tools, LearnDash is a one-time payment, which include a year of support. An active license key is needed in order to continue to receive updates and support, but it will cost only 50% of the original price each subsequent year.
LearnDash is a great option for WordPress devotees. One important thing to note is that, while there is a good amount of versatility in the course delivery functionality, there are virtually no fancy marketing or sales tools integrated with the plugin. That means you’ll need to create your sales pages somewhere else, and select from a limited list of 3rd party shopping cart tools, unless you want to set up a simple PayPal checkout.
SmartMember is a terrifically robust membership platform that was built for the internet marketing community. While content delivery is well structured, it doesn’t yet include the types of learning-focussed tools (like quizzes) that platforms like Teachable and Thinkific offer.
That said, SmartMember might arguably offer the largest range of marketing tools to promote your course, as well as capture leads, and build your brand online. Not only does it incorporate a full lead capture and sales page building suite, but you also can create blogs, cross-promote other courses or affiliate products in sidebar ads, incorporate email marketing, set up a help desk ticketing system, and a lot more.
SmartMember definitely requires some technical know-how as well as a creative mind when it comes to how to use all of its marketing tools, but for the right user, this is a marketer’s dream.
Rainmaker bills itself as a “complete solution for digital marketing and sales.” And that means it’s really considerably more than a learning management system. In fact, it’s a fully integrated “managed” WordPress environment that’s really designed to be an entire website and marketing ecosystem. It includes marketing tools, analytics, and, of course, the ability to include membership-based training.
Rainmaker’s learning management system gives you the ability to create unlimited free and paid courses. So you can use a free course to generate leads or build your email list, or you can use paid courses to bring in automated sales. But what’s really cool about this LMS it’s super easy to set up. Adding a member area (free or paid — or both!) for your website is a simple 5-step process. Make a few decisions about how you want the site to work, and you’re done.
So there you have it…
7 amazing ways to get your own course up and running online in the next 24 hours. Not totally convinced you can navigate these waters alone? No problem… give me a shout, and let’s see how I can help you get that course or membership site built and marketed to your ideal audience!