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Best Online Course Platform Pros and Cons: LMS Comparison for Teaching Online


An online course platform, also known as a learning management system (LMS), is a software application designed to facilitate the management, delivery, and tracking of online courses. It provides a platform for course creators and instructors to create, organize, and deliver educational content to learners over the internet. 


Leading Multi-Purpose LMS Platforms


These providers offer robust LMS capabilities alongside other features:


Teachable


Overview: One of the most popular and affordable end-to-end course marketing, selling, and hosting platforms.


Key Strengths



  • Simple all-in-one course creation and selling

  • Built-in marketing tools like email, affiliates, and promo codes

  • Detailed student analytics and lead tracking

  • High video storage bandwidth allowances

  • Broad website customization options

  • Community discussion capabilities


Limitations



  • Less opportunity for deep source code modification

  • Some features seem less cutting edge than newer competitors


Pricing: Plans from $29 to $249 per month. Custom enterprise options.


Thinkific


Overview: Enterprise-level LMS focused on marketing automation, analytics, and customization.


Key Strengths



  • Highly customizable platform, domains, and themes

  • Advanced student tracking and segmentation capabilities

  • Modern video streaming technologies like ABR

  • Deep suite of integrated marketing and sales tools

  • Reliably scales from SMB to enterprise

  • Extensive control over code and CSS


Limitations



  • Complex onboarding compared to simpler systems

  • Significant investment required into full customization


Pricing: Plans from $49 to $449 per month. Custom enterprise quotes.


Kajabi


Overview: Robust LMS bundled with extensive marketing, sales, and community tools.


Key Strengths



  • Automates the full student lifecycle from acquisition through retention

  • Landing pages, email marketing, affiliates, and other built-in promo tools

  • Options for memberships and online communities alongside courses

  • Video hosting with modern streaming technologies

  • Generous content and bandwidth allowances

  • Broad website customization capabilities


Limitations



  • Steep learning curve compared to streamlined LMS options

  • Vanilla course experience unless significantly customized

  • Clunkier interface than platforms focused solely on LMS


Pricing: Starting at $119 per month. Enterprise quotes available.


Leading multi-purpose platforms combine robust LMS functionality with integrated creation, marketing, and selling capabilities.


LMS-Focused Platforms


These solutions specialize specifically in LMS features and course delivery:


Canvas LMS


Overview: Cloud-based LMS built specifically for education institutions and organizations.


Key Strengths



  • Intuitive content authoring tools

  • Deep assessment creation and gradebook capabilities

  • Broad content format support

  • Granular student data and analytics

  • Native mobile app for offline course access

  • Highly customizable themes and domains


Limitations



  • Designed around formal academic courses rather than commercial

  • Less seamless ecommerce compared to LMS with built-in sales

  • Can seem dated next to newer system designs


Pricing: Free for teachers. Institutional plans from $699 to $2999 per month.


Litmos LMS


Overview: Longstanding LMS focused on extended enterprise training needs.


Key Strengths



  • Scales reliably for very large catalogs and student bases

  • Tracks training compliance requirements

  • Robust agency partner management tools

  • Extensive analytics on student segments

  • Surveys, live chat, and community engagement features

  • API supports broad integrations ecosystem


Limitations



  • Clunkier interface than more modern options

  • Not ideal for smaller course catalogs

  • Limited native course authoring capabilities


Pricing: Approximately $399 to $1500 per month based on users. Custom quotes available.


Talent LMS


Overview: Cloud LMS combining solid core features with an easy-to-use interface.


Key Strengths



  • Simple, clean interface for easy onboarding

  • Solid well-rounded LMS feature set

  • Strong reporting and dashboards

  • Native course authoring and multimedia management

  • Discussion forums and community engagement

  • Branding control and white labeling


Limitations



  • Less robust platform than extended enterprise options

  • Smaller third-party integrations ecosystem

  • Less opportunity for deep code customization


Pricing: Plans from $99 to $299 per month based on features.


Pure-play LMS solutions offer specialized course hosting capabilities tailored specifically for online learning environments.


Open Source LMS Platform Options


These open-source LMS alternatives offer flexibility and customization:


Moodle


Overview: Popular free open-source LMS used across academic institutions and businesses.


Key Strengths



  • 100% free and open source

  • Massive global user base

  • Feature-rich core LMS functionality

  • Broad third party integrations ecosystem

  • Course creation tools and multimedia management

  • Customizable designs and branding


Limitations



  • Requires technical resources for configuration, management and customization

  • Steep learning curve compared to commercial SaaS options

  • Limited native marketing tools and monetization options


Pricing: 100% free and open source. Paid support plans available.


LearnDash


Overview: WordPress LMS plugin for transforming sites into robust learning platforms.


Key Strengths



  • Leverage WordPress for content creation and management

  • All LMS features needed for selling courses and memberships

  • Integrate natively with other WordPress plugins

  • Great for individual course creators and small businesses

  • Affordable pricing and capabilities

  • Good theme customization options


Limitations



  • Requires hosting, managing, optimizing your own WordPress site

  • Limited scales compared to enterprise SaaS LMS options

  • Less extended enterprise feature sets


Pricing: Plans from $159 to $299 per year based on features.


Open solutions offer greater transparency, control, and affordability but require more technical expertise compared to managed services.


Other Notable LMS Platform Options


Beyond leaders, a wide array of contenders exists:



  • Absorb LMS: Robust extended enterprise LMS focused on compliance training.

  • Cornerstone LMS: Corporate LMS integrated across the talent management lifecycle.

  • ** Docebo LMS:** AI-driven corporate LMS with extensive analytics and enterprise scalability.

  • Edmodo: Freemium academic LMS with engagement features tailored to classrooms.

  • SAP Litmos: Extended enterprise LMS focused on training businesses and channel partners.

  • Bridge LMS: Social and mobile-first LMS focused on the learner experience and UX.

  • Ruzuku: Small business LMS supporting course creators monetizing expertise.

  • ** Skilljar:** Video-focused LMS optimized for customer training and onboarding.


Depending on your specific needs, expanded options beyond leaders may better align with niche requirements.


A learning management system (LMS) provides the critical technology foundation for creating and administering online courses. The capabilities, integrations, analytics, and reliability of your LMS directly impact teaching and learning outcomes.


With the market crowded with options, choosing the right LMS is challenging. This guide will compare leading providers across key criteria to help identify which platform best fits your courses, capabilities, and budget.


Let’s objectively break down strengths and limitations of top solutions like Teachable, Thinkific, LearnWorlds, Kajabi, and more so you can strategically select your ideal technology partner.


Key LMS Selection Criteria


When researching contenders, focus comparisons on these aspects most important for online course success:


Core LMS Features


Assess standard functionality like course authoring, multimedia management, testing tools, gradebooks, certificates etc.


Built-in Course Creation Tools


The availability and capabilities of intuitive course builders, lesson editors, and multimedia integrators.


Custom Branding and Theming


Options to apply brand styles, logos, colors and themes for a polished customized experience across learner touchpoints.


Analytics and Reporting


The quality of data on registrations, enrollments, engagement, completion rates, and learner segments to inform teaching.


Engagement and Community Features


Capabilities like discussions, messaging, and peer review to enrich learning and relationships between students.


Integrations Ecosystem


Apps and APIs to connect your LMS seamlessly with marketing, payment, communications, and productivity tools.


Content and File Management


Media libraries, permissions, storage limits, backups, and content organization tools.


Technology and Security


Backend software, infrastructure, compliance standards, stability, uptime, and recovery measures.


Let’s break down how leaders stack up across these facets.


What is an online course platform?


An online course platform is a digital platform that allows individuals or organizations to create and deliver educational courses online. It provides a centralized location for course content, assessments, and communication between instructors and learners. This platform enables instructors to create and sell online courses to a wide audience, while learners can access the courses at their own convenience.


How does an online course platform work?


An online course platform works by providing a user-friendly interface for instructors to create and manage their courses. They can organize the course content into modules or lessons, add multimedia elements such as videos or quizzes, and set up assessments to evaluate learners’ progress. Learners, on the other hand, can access the courses through a web browser or mobile app and engage with the content at their own pace.


Why should I use an online course platform?


Using an online course platform offers numerous benefits for both instructors and learners. For instructors, it provides a convenient way to create, manage, and deliver online courses without the need for advanced technical skills. It also allows instructors to reach a wider audience and generate additional income through course sales. For learners, online course platforms offer the flexibility to learn at their own pace and access a variety of courses from different subject areas.


What are the benefits of using an online course platform?


There are several benefits of using an online course platform. Firstly, it provides a centralized platform for instructors to create and organize their course content, making it easier to manage and update the materials. Secondly, online course platforms often offer built-in learning tools such as quizzes, discussion forums, and progress tracking, enhancing the learning experience for learners. Additionally, online course platforms typically provide a wealth of resources and materials that learners can access anytime, anywhere, making learning more convenient and accessible.


How to choose the best online course platform for your business?


When choosing the best online course platform for your business, there are several factors to consider. Firstly, you should look for features that align with your specific needs, such as the ability to create interactive multimedia content or integrate with other tools and platforms. Secondly, consider whether the platform supports blended learning, which combines online and in-person instruction. This can be useful if you are planning to offer both online and offline courses. Finally, it’s important to research and compare different platforms to determine their user-friendliness, customer support, and pricing options.


What features should I look for in an online course platform?


When choosing an online course platform, it’s important to consider the features that will meet your specific requirements. Some key features to look for include content creation tools, assessment capabilities, communication tools, and the ability to track learner progress. Additionally, you may want to consider features such as gamification, social learning, and integration options with other platforms or tools to enhance the learning experience.


Which platforms support blended learning?


Not all online course platforms support blended learning. However, there are platforms available that offer the flexibility to combine online and offline instruction. These platforms typically provide features for managing both online and in-person courses, such as attendance tracking, resource sharing, and scheduling tools.


What are the top online course platforms for 2023?


The online course platform market is constantly evolving, with new platforms entering the scene and existing ones improving their offerings. As of 2023, some of the top online course platforms include Udemy, Coursera, Teachable, Thinkific, and LearnWorlds. These platforms offer a range of features and pricing options to suit different needs and budgets.


What are the pros and cons of using an online course platform?


Using an online course platform has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore both sides:


What are the advantages of using an online course platform?


There are several advantages of using an online course platform. Firstly, it provides a centralized platform for instructors to manage and deliver their courses, making it easier to organize and update the course content. Secondly, online course platforms often offer built-in learning tools, such as quizzes and discussion forums, which can enhance the learning experience for students. Additionally, learners can access the courses at their own convenience, allowing for greater flexibility in their learning journey. Online course platforms also offer instructors the opportunity to reach a wider audience and monetize their expertise.


What are the disadvantages of using an online course platform?


Despite the many advantages, there are also some disadvantages to using an online course platform. Firstly, instructors may face challenges in creating engaging and interactive course content that effectively delivers the intended learning outcomes. This requires additional time and effort to design and develop the materials. Secondly, online courses may not be suitable for all subjects or topics, especially those that require hands-on practical learning. In such cases, in-person instruction may be more suitable. Finally, learners may face challenges with self-discipline and motivation, as online courses require independent learning and self-paced progress.


How does an online course platform enhance the learning experience?


An online course platform enhances the learning experience through various means. Firstly, it provides learners with access to a wide range of learning tools and resources, such as interactive videos, quizzes, and discussion forums. These tools can engage learners and facilitate active participation in the learning process. Additionally, online course platforms often offer personalized learning paths, allowing learners to progress at their own pace and focus on areas of interest or need. Progress tracking features also enable learners to monitor their own performance and identify areas for improvement.


How to create and sell online courses?


If you’re interested in creating and selling online courses, here are the steps to get started:


What are the steps to create an online course?


1. Identify your expertise and choose a topic for your course. 2. Outline your course content and create learning objectives. 3. Develop engaging and interactive learning materials, such as videos, presentations, or quizzes. 4. Choose an online course platform that suits your needs and upload your course content. 5. Set a price for your course, or decide whether to offer it for free. 6. Promote your course through marketing channels, such as social media or email campaigns. 7. Monitor the performance of your course and make necessary updates or improvements based on learner feedback.


Which platform is the best for course creation?


There are several platforms available for course creation, each with its own strengths and features. Some popular options include Teachable, Thinkific, and Udemy. These platforms provide user-friendly interfaces and a range of tools to help you create and deliver your course content effectively.


How can I effectively deliver online courses?


To effectively deliver online courses, consider the following tips: 1. Use a mix of multimedia elements to make the content engaging and interactive. 2. Provide clear instructions and navigation within the course platform. 3. Foster student engagement through discussions, quizzes, and interactive activities. 4. Set realistic deadlines and provide regular feedback to learners. 5. Encourage social learning by facilitating communication and collaboration among learners. 6. Monitor learner progress and provide support when needed. 7. Continuously evaluate and improve your course content based on learner feedback and performance.


What are the best learning management systems (LMS) for online teaching?


What are the top LMS platforms for online teaching?


When it comes to online teaching, there are several top LMS platforms to consider. Some popular options include Canvas LMS, Moodle, Blackboard, and Google Classroom. These platforms offer a range of features to support online instruction, such as course management, content creation, and communication tools.


How can a learning management system improve online instruction?


A learning management system (LMS) can improve online instruction in several ways. Firstly, it provides a centralized platform for instructors to organize and deliver their courses, making it easier to manage course content and track learner progress. Secondly, LMS platforms often offer tools for creating interactive and engaging course materials, such as multimedia elements and assessments. Lastly, an L MS can facilitate communication and collaboration between instructors and learners, allowing for real-time feedback, discussion forums, and group projects. This can enhance the overall learning experience and promote active engagement among learners. Additionally, an LMS can provide analytics and reporting features, enabling instructors to assess the effectiveness of their instruction and make data-driven decisions to improve their courses. 


Key Factors When Evaluating LMS Solutions


Beyond features, consider these critical factors during your selection process:


Scalability


The ability to reliably support growth in your course catalog, student base, and admins long term.


Ongoing Operational Costs


Pricing, plus costs for items like added storage, bandwidth, platform fees, and administrative support.


Implementation Timelines


Realistically budgeting periods for configuration, content migration, customizations, and roll out.


Technical Expertise Required


In-house or contracted skills needed for setup, integrations, modifications, maintenance and optimization.


Support and Community


Availability of documentation, training, technical assistance, discussion forums, and consulting.


Security and Compliance


Protocols, certifications, and transparency around platform protections for your data and systems.


Choosing technology matched to current and future needs ensures your LMS amplifies outcomes rather than bottlenecks growth.


Key Takeaways


Your learning management system forms the critical technology backbone enabling online course delivery, engagement, and administration. But the sea of vendors and options makes selection challenging.


Carefully evaluate strengths and limitations of providers against criteria like core capabilities, scalability, analytics, integrations, customization, content management, security, support and cost.


Leading multi-purpose platforms like Teachable, Thinkific and Kajabi couple robust LMS feature sets with integrated creation, marketing, and monetization tools. Specialized LMS providers like Canvas and Litmos offer deeper platforms optimized specifically for learning environments.


Weigh options aligned to your use cases, audiences, and resources. Prioritize quality and long-term scalability over cost alone. With the ideal technology partner empowering efficient operations and positive learning experiences, you can confidently scale online education that delivers real student and organizational value.


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By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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