Some of the best online learning platforms include Coursera, Skillshare, Udemy, Codecademy, Edx, Pluralsight, Future Learn, and Moodle.
Apart from online learning platforms, we also have online course platforms like LearnWorlds, Teachable, Thinkific, Kajabi, and Podia.
Those, are leading a fast-growing elearning industry, especially after Covid-19. An unbreakable piece of evidence is the increasing number of people becoming interested in online learning for both learning and teaching purposes–either to learn a new skill or to teach online.
Luckily there are many online learning and course platforms that offer the opportunity to learn or create, and sell online courses.
For online instructors, trainers, and aspiring edupreneurs this is great news. But the struggle of choosing the best online learning platform out of the many options out there is real.
To help make this process easier, we came up with a list of the top online learning platforms analyzed by type and category that you can use to offer high-quality learning experiences.
And, to make it easier for you to choose the right platform for your needs, we broke them down into distinct categories.
What is an Online Learning Platform?
An online learning platform is an information system that provides a safe learning environment where students can take online courses.
These online learning platforms are often called ‘online course marketplaces’ because they give learners the opportunity to search for and pay for online courses directly.
While some of these course marketplaces are used to feature online courses that you can create, the majority are more educational-based and strictly offer university-level education.
What is an Online Course Platform in Relation to a Learning Management System?
An online course platform is a type of learning management system (LMS) that online instructors can use to create, host, deliver and sell online courses.
An LMS is the higher category usually used by enterprises for employee training and onboarding or by academic institutions to support teaching. However, the whole category can sometimes include course platforms or even WordPress plugins being used by SMEs to create & sell online courses.
Unlike online learning platforms, online course platforms are cloud-hosted software that allows instructors to create online classes or individual lessons uploading education material that they have created using text, image, video, PDF files, and audio.
In essence, individuals or SMEs can use a course platform to create their own course marketplace instead of offering their courses in a popular course marketplace like Udemy, Edx, MagnetBrains, or SKillshare. This way, they can keep all the revenue and user data that otherwise will have no control over.
Online Learning Platforms VS Online Course Platforms
An online learning platform emphasizes and presents the learner’s perspective whereas an online course platform takes the perspective of the online instructor/ teacher.
The two titles are often used interchangeably, and the real differences come from the person using the definition and the context of the conversation. From a students’ perspective, a learning platform is a place to find educational content, search and buy courses, or whole educational programs. While, from an educator’s perspective, it is the place to deliver knowledge.
Online learning platforms are often used to identify marketplaces for courses or education like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning – formerly known as Lynda, while course platforms usually refer to the software used to create a learning environment such as LearnWorlds, Thinkific or Teachable.
Using an online learning platform takes off a lot of the hard work of building an audience, marketing, and sales, but you may not have control over pricing, user data, and branding.
With an online course platform, you have greater flexibility and freedom in managing your learning resources. Also, you get to have a say in the design and look of the entire website that hosts your online courses and the course itself how it is presented and promoted.
What you are going to choose essentially comes down to your business’s needs.
Our Choice of the Top Course Platform: LearnWorlds
If you choose to go with a standalone course platform, you will need to look into more specific requirements found in a learning management system. This is because there are many types of LMSs and each one specializes in a certain category or serves a specific purpose better than others.
For entrepreneurs, course creators, training organizations, and SMEs, a course platform offer an all-in-one solution that fits your requirements.
LearnWorlds comes with eCommerce features, course authoring, and website building capabilities right out of the box. And, it’s the platform our team has been developing and nurturing for the past 8 years, with thousands of customers in 80+ countries around the world trusting it to deliver online learning!
Best Online Learning Platforms
As we go over each learning platform, we analyze its advantages and disadvantages to help you decide whether it fits your requirements or not.
As we mentioned before, learning platforms are more suitable for learners looking for a subject to study. They have a huge library of courses and learning paths.
Some of them accept individual instructors to teach with varied conditions to approve the content. If you don’t want to launch a course under your own website, this is the second-best way to do it. Each has its own requirements for instructors to upload their material and how they monetize the content.
We have however included pros, cons, and information for both students and instructors looking into these platforms.
Platform #1: LinkedIn Learning (Lynda)
LinkedIn Learning which was formerly Lynda.com is an educational platform that offers professional courses in business, technology-related and creative fields in the format of video lessons. The platform comes as a premium service for LinkedIn users and offers over 16,000 courses in 7 languages and focuses on helping individuals invest in their professional development.
- Highly recognizable and valued in the B2B community
- Comes with a one-month free trial
- Provides personalized course recommendations for users
- Offers certification upon course completion
- Allows you to assess your progress using quizzes
- Has offline learning access to learn on the go
- Grants you access to other premium career features
- The quality of the courses it offers is ambiguous and you need to conduct some research into them before enrolling
- Joining as an instructor may be challenging
Who is it for?
Students: It is mostly suited for professionals and businesses looking to train their employees.
Instructors: Apart from individual learners, business teams, universities, and government organizations can use the platform for educational and training purposes.
As a course creator, you can also apply to become a LinkedIn Learning instructor here.
LinkedIn Learning comes with two subscription plans for students:
- Monthly: 1-month free trial then €39.33/month
- Annually: 1-month free trial then €29,49/month
*Pricing information retrieved from LinkedIn Learning on the 17th January 2022.
Platform #2: Udemy
Udemy is one of the most popular online course marketplaces on the web. This educational platform has over 40 million students and 50 thousand instructors and subject matter experts creating online courses.
Udemy makes course creation possible for everyone with the possibility of acquiring new skills. In doing so, it offers a range of online learning materials including PDF documents, PowerPoint, text, and video content among many others.
Instructors can join Udemy and start teaching online, but it takes a huge piece of the pie from the revenue and has control over pricing and discounting the course.
- No setup cost (for instructors)
- Geared towards self-paced learning and video courses
- No need for highly technical knowledge
- A Udemy app available for iOS and Android
- Very limited interaction with students (both for students and instructors)
- High competition between course creators (for instructors)
- No personal branding option (for instructors)
- Control over prices and often sells courses for incredibly low prices (for instructors)
- No data ownership or control over branding – It keeps emails, user data, and does not share this information with their instructors (for instructors)
- Visibility depends on your own marketing, the platform only promotes courses that are already popular (for instructors)
Who is it for?
Students: Udemy has a course for almost every discipline, but always read the reviews before buying one. Quality is not consistent.
Instructors: It’s great for teachers, instructors, educators, and freelancers who are just starting out.
Pricing / Revenue (for instructors):
- No starting fee but very high commissions on sales of up to 75%.
- 50% per course sale when students come through organic search on Udemy or search engines.
- 75% when students come through their paid user acquisition channel.
- 97% on course sales when you sell through your own links. Udemy keeps a 3% administration fee.
*Pricing adjusted on a global price tier matrix developed by Udemy.
*Pricing information retrieved from Udemy Support on 17th January 2022.
Platform #3: Coursera
Coursera is an online education platform with 23 million users, that is dedicated to offering high-quality online training courses worldwide. While partnering with world-class universities and businesses, it provides students the opportunity to receive certifications from renowned institutions upon joining their paid courses.
Coursera offers individual courses, specialized courses, and degree programs that support on-demand video lectures, homework exercises, peer-reviewed assignments, and community discussion forums.
- Offers a variety of learning options and activities
- Awards students with different types of certificates and degrees
- Offers high-quality educational tools and instructor interactions (for instructors)
- Limited to educators in partner institutions. (for instructors)
- Less flexible course creation options compared to other platforms (for instructors)
Who is it for?
Students: Anyone who wants to learn from prestigious institutions, whether they are looking for a one-off course, certification, or an online degree.
Instructors: It is aimed at professors who are based at a HE partner institution or business.
Coursera offers free courses, subscriptions, and one-off payments depending on the course or program.
Platform #4: Skillshare
Skillshare is another popular course marketplace that has more than 4 million students and up to 24,000 lessons in various disciplines. Course lessons last from 20 to 60 minutes and are made out of a series of small videos, class projects, and a student community that encourages interaction through discussion forums.
Classes are divided into 4 categories:
Creative arts: from graphic design to fine art, cooking, and music production.
Technology: including data science, web design, and e-commerce.
Business: finance, accounting, and project management.
Lifestyle: teaching, languages, gaming, and wellness.
Offers a supportive discussion forum where students exchange feedback
Provides the ability to take many courses for the same price
Class content limited to only four categories
No certificate of completion or any other formal recognition
Who is it for?
Students: It is suitable for students interested in the creative arts, technology, business, and lifestyle classes as mentioned above.
Instructors: It’s great for instructors who are in the creative field and want to make a side income. Instructors can make money through Skillshare’s royalty system and referral program.
Students: After a 14-day free trial, the pricing is $32 per month or $168 per year for access to all the courses.
Instructors: Free to join, but it comes with specific class guidelines you need to follow.
Skillshare pays instructors based on minutes watched from their course and premium referrals.
*Pricing information retrieved from Business Insider on 17th January 2022.
Platform #5: edX & Open edX
EdX.org (course marketplace) and Open-edX are two sides of the same coin. EdX is the learning platform where students find online courses from various universities and Open-edX is an open-source content management system.
Both were created by a team of scientists from Harvard University and MIT with the goal of providing online university-level education across the globe.
EdX.org has powered over 8,000 online courses from 100 prestigious universities and businesses that are currently offering higher education in many disciplines. They mainly specialize in the sciences–engineering, computer science, data science, math, humanities, business, and management.
- Free and open-source. (for instructors)
- App available on iOS and Android
- Interactive online classes, allowing students to chip in
- Discussion forums seem to be outdated and difficult to navigate
- Requires technical knowledge or hiring a developer/web designer to implement (for instructors)
- Comes with the additional costs of a self-hosted server and its maintenance (for instructors)
Who is it for?
Students (EdX): it has a very diverse library of courses suitable for most ages looking to learn a subject or new skills.
Instructors (Open-edX): It’s great for businesses who can afford a team or outsource the development and maintenance of the platform in their own servers.
Pricing for Instructors:
Free to join, but there may be additional costs of procuring a server and system support and in getting expert help from Open-edX’s service providers or freelancers whose pricing varies according to your project’s requirements and budget.
For more information on Open-edX course creation expenses check out this guide.