The global online education market is expected to reach the $325 billion mark by 2025.
98% of US corporations have incorporated online learning, and 83% of the countries in the world are now using online education platforms on a regular basis.
The eLearning market is hot and everybody wants to get a piece of that pie. And today, it can be as easy as uploading a video to YouTube to start teaching.
But when you’re ready to get more serious about creating and selling an online course, the question that confuses most new eLearning entrepreneurs is – which online course builder is the best?
There are dozens of online course builders and LMS (learning management systems) out there to choose from, so how do you know which one is right for you? That depends on a lot of different factors.
So, in this article, we compare the pros and cons of six of the top online course builder platforms – AccessAlly, Udemy, Thinkific, Teachable, Skillshare, and Podia – to help you choose the best online course solution for your requirements. We’ll lay out some of the things you should consider to help you make an educated choice.
But First, What Are Online Course Builders?
An online course builder is a system that contains all the tools you need to ideate, create, and share your educational material, in a way that interests and engages students.
Typically, an online course builder, eLearning platform, or LMS offers the ability to:
- Create and conduct audio/video lectures
- Add various types of assignments, tests, and quizzes
- Organize events such as workshops or webinars
- Build a student community for course-related discussions
- Integrate gamification options to improve learner engagement and retention
Advanced learning platforms have a variety of options to create different types of courses, from simple tutorials to step-by-step guides, from video training to gamified learning experiences, and everything in between.
Benefits of Using Online Course Builders
Why not just host your trainings on YouTube and your blog? Access is a big reason; most people who are creating an online course want to be able to sell it and restrict access to the information to paying customers. You might also want to include things like assessments and quizzes, comments and chat, gamification options like points or badges, and reporting so you can see how your students are doing.
All those things are difficult to cobble together from various sources, but online course builders bring you these features and more.
Online learning platforms have many advantages over the more traditional approaches of building your own eLearning website from scratch:
- Easy course creation options that allow instructors to create meaningful and engaging content without too much technical effort.
- A single consolidated hub of support resources for instructors to help them design, develop, promote, and monetize their courses.
- Opportunity for developing content that can be used for lead generation, such as eBooks, downloadable charts and infographics, and other digital products.
- Reduced operational costs, which make it much easier and more financially viable to conduct an online course than teach in person.
- Automation of tasks and processes that can save the time and effort of instructors. For example, bulk enrollment options to save course instructors from having to register each student manually on the platform.
- Marketing and sales tools, such as email marketing integration, affiliate marketing programs, membership modules, and one-page checkout, for better business scalability and growth.
- Built-in reporting options for student performance tracking, which enable instructors to measure how well students are engaging with the course material and what steps can be taken to improve their performance.
- Seamless student-teacher communication features, like in-platform email and live chat, to help teachers resolve student queries with ease.
- Greater student engagement with gamification tools, combinations of audio/video lectures, different types of assessments and assignments, and webinar/live class functionalities.
- Freedom of location as online learning platforms allow you to teach from any corner of the world, as long as you have a laptop and a strong internet connection!
So, the next obvious question is – which online course builder should you choose?
There are dozens of eLearning platform options available, so to make your work easier, we have shortlisted six of the best, most popular learning online course building platforms to choose from.
The Two Types of Online Course Builders
As you’ll see once we dig in, there are two main types of online course builders: Online course marketplaces (Udemy, Skillshare) and online course builder software (AccessAlly, Podia, Thinkific, etc.).
The main difference between these two types of builders is where the content is hosted and how potential students find you.
Online course marketplaces are essentially central hubs or directories of many different courses by many different creators. Of course you can link to yours directly, but potential students may stumble on your course while searching or browsing the marketplace.
Online course software (usually software as a service or SaaS) is software that allows you to build your course and learning platform on your own website or as an extension of your website. Your potential students will find your courses by coming to your site specifically.
Course marketplaces often allow you to create your course for free, but take a percentage of your sales. They may drive more traffic to your courses as people browse the marketplace, but they offer fewer customization options.
Online course software generally charges a flat fee (based on number of products or number of users) rather than a percentage of sales. They offer greater customization options, but don’t come with the built-in traffic that a marketplace can offer.
Best Online Course Builders
Want a simple way to compare 24 of the top online course builders in one place?
We’ve created a super-detailed page that goes in-depth comparing 24 of the best online course builders available — whether you’re looking for an online course builder Wordpress Plugin, a Learning Management System (LMS, or a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution.
For the purpose of this guide, we have considered the following four factors for shortlisting the best online course builder platforms.
- Feature set
- Platform intuitiveness and ease-of-use
- Customer support
We haven’t considered cost as a ranking factor because all of these platforms have a variety of pricing packages; that makes it difficult to compare apples to apples, but there’s something here at a price point for every budget.
AccessAlly is a powerful online course builder that offers flexible ways to create interactive courses, manage digital memberships, effectively manage and sell online courses, coaching and memberships, on a 1:1 as well as on a group coaching basis.
Built as a WordPress plugin, AccessAlly is online course software and has all the essential eLearning features built into the platform, making it quick and convenient to offer many different types of online courses and memberships so you can scale your business.
It is designed to eliminate the need for multiple plugins that need to be constantly updated or complex integrations that make site management difficult and time-consuming.
Here is an overview of some of the key functionalities it offers:
Memberships and membership management
AccessAlly has an integrated membership module that allows you to create various membership levels for your students.
You can offer/limit access to your courses based on these membership levels and even use them to set up custom content delivery schedules.
Built-in Sales Pages
To market your courses and memberships, AccessAlly lets you create conversion-focused sales pages.
Affiliate marketing is an effective digital marketing strategy that can be used to increase the reach of your training programs, events, or memberships.
AccessAlly helps course creators tap into the potential of affiliate marketing with its integrated affiliate management system that allows platform owners to onboard influencers who promote their courses and earn commissions for every sale.
In an era of rapidly decreasing attention spans, it is essential for course instructors to figure out new and original ways to keep students engaged with the course content. AccessAlly offers a slew of gamification tools to make courses interesting and memorable.
This includes three types of quizzes, autogenerated certificates, video and audio lessons, student notes, drip-feed strategies, and much more. Plus, it features strong reporting options to help you track your students’ progress.
One of the best things about learning in a classroom is the opportunity to learn with peers.
AccessAlly brings this sense of community to your virtual classroom with its community development module, which enables you to foster healthy discussions and in-depth conversations around your course content on dedicated landing pages.
You can create global, site-wide communities, per-course or per-cohort level groups, and even topic-level discussions to facilitate meaningful discourse.
Fully Customizable Design
One main competitive advantage with AccessAlly is that it allows fully customizable design options. Everything is customizable, so your online learning portal can be fully branded and personalized to your preferences and your students’ needs.
AccessAlly is designed to be a single solution where online course creators can get everything they need to create unlimited courses, build a rich learning ecosystem and scale their business.
It has an extremely intuitive interface, is compatible with popular payment gateways like PayPal & Stripe, and also offers industry-leading 1:1 support to ensure that your website keeps working smoothly at all times.
You Might Change Your Mind About What Features You Want, so You Need a Platform That’s Flexible.
Get your own free demo sandbox account so you can experience the flexibility AccessAlly has to offer.
So, How Will You Choose the Online Course Builder For You?
OK, that’s a lot of information, and if you’re new to creating courses, you may be thinking… That’s great, but how do I decide what I need?
Different course creators have different requirements from online course builders, depending on their end goal, audience, technical capabilities, and expected revenue.
To know which of these six platforms will suit you the best, here are some questions you can ask yourself:
What kind of course content do you want to create?
While most course builders support all the different types of course content, decide if your content format is primarily video or audio.
With self-hosted platforms like AccessAlly, it is easy to have a mix of various content formats for the course material as well as quizzes, assignments, downloadable content, and more.
Who is your target audience?
Knowing your target audience enables you to choose a platform that is aligned to meet their expectations and tech-savviness.
For instance, if you have an audience looking to learn creative skills, Teachable or Skillshare can be a good place to start your online course.
If you have students of a specific subject or a more general audience, AccessAlly gives you the freedom to create courses of various different genres on the same platform.
What kind of features and functionality do you need?
Make a list of the core features that you need on your online course builder, at present and in the future, like email marketing, affiliate marketing, community management, and more.
Knowing this makes it easier to pick a course builder that is scalable and offers expansion capabilities.
What level of technical detail can you handle?
Some eLearning entrepreneurs look for an all-in-one solution that offers all features out of the box.
Others prefer having more control over customization options so they can modify the platform per their requirements.
AccessAlly offers the best of both worlds here, with a slew of in-built features that all course creators need as well as the flexibility to customize the platform according to your needs.
AccessAlly has all the functionality you need to create a variety of content types, courses for all types of target audiences, and generate a great ROI in the process.
Setting up your eLearning website with AccessAlly
The online course builder you choose becomes the cornerstone of your eLearning business.
It is more than just a tool to create and sell your courses. It is where you connect with your learners, develop an audience, and eventually build your brand.
So, it is essential to choose the right platform that meets your needs and your audience’s expectations.
Based on the parameters we have outlined above, AccessAlly is the best solution for both new and seasoned course creators.
It has a smooth, highly intuitive interface, advanced features and integrated modules for course creation, monetization, marketing, and business development, and excellent customer support.
Discover how AccessAlly can be the partner you need to build, manage, and market your online courses.