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Types of Online Courses: Training, Coaching, Communities and More

Online courses have become increasingly popular in recent years as more and more people seek opportunities to learn and grow from the comfort of their own homes. Whether you’re looking to gain new skills, enhance your knowledge, or connect with like-minded individuals, there are various types of online courses available to cater to your needs. In this article, we will explore the different types of online courses, the benefits they offer, and how they have evolved over time. 

Online courses open up incredible opportunities to share knowledge through on-demand digital education. But course formats span far beyond just prerecorded video lessons.

This guide will explore the wide range of online course types from on-demand training to live coaching sessions, community learning and more. We’ll compare structures, benefits, use cases and tools for effectively delivering each format.

By understanding these course models, you can determine the best approach aligned with your goals, audience and subject matter strengths. Let’s dive in!

Why Course Format Matters

Before detailing formats, let’s discuss why structure impacts success:

  • Aligns with audience preferences and consumption habits
  • Matches modalities optimal for teaching certain subject matter
  • Provides learning experiences whether synchronous, asynchronous, or blended
  • Enables different relationship depths from self-paced to intimate coaching
  • Allows varied time investments from quick lessons to multi-month mentorships
  • Supports diverse monetization from one-time fees to recurring subscriptions
  • Maximizes discoverability on platforms catering to specific course types

You can always diversify later. But selecting formats matched to your initial offerings and audience sets your courses up for satisfaction and growth. Now let’s explore formats.

On-Demand Video Courses

Prerecorded video lessons make up one of the most popular online course formats:


Students access and progress through prerecorded video lessons on-demand supplemented with notes, downloads and assessments.


  • Self-paced flexibility fitting student schedules
  • Passive income generation from repeat purchases
  • Ability to repurpose content into other formats
  • Videos establish stronger authority and engagement

Use Cases

Technical skills training, software tutorials, industry overviews, career development


  • Course platforms: Teachable, Podia, Thinkific
  • Video hosting: Wistia, Vimeo, YouTube
  • Live chat: Drift, Zendesk
  • Email services: Mailchimp, ConvertKit

On-demand video provides flexible access to engaging education when learners need it.

Live Online Courses

Courses delivered through interactive real-time video conferencing:


Instructor leads the class through live video at scheduled times with active participation through chat, breakouts, Q&As and other engagement.


  • Closer connections and camaraderie through real-time interaction
  • Direct feedback, guidance and motivation from the instructor
  • Provides accountability with collective pacing and deadlines

Use Cases

Language learning, professional development, cohort-based certificate programs


  • Video conferencing: Zoom, Google Meet, GoToMeeting
  • LMS: Teachable, Thinkific, Canvas LMS
  • Collaboration: Slack, Microsoft Teams
  • Payment: PayPal, Stripe, member management

Live learning combines community with instructor access in scheduled interactive sessions.

Cohort-Based Courses

Programs focused on progressing through lessons as a consistent group:


Learners journey through on-demand or live content on a defined schedule with a stable cohort for peer learning and accountability.


  • Peer support and collaboration opportunities
  • Shared pacing prevents stagnation or distraction
  • Develops deeper relationships and connections
  • Cohort bonding and camaraderie enhances experience

Use Cases

Certifications, professional programs, facilitator training, masterminds


  • Community: Slack, Circle, Discord, private Facebook groups
  • Scheduling: Calendly
  • Video: Zoom, Loom, Vimeo
  • Payments: membership management, recurring billing

Cohort models blend flexibility with structure, peer bonds, and expert access.

Facilitated Online Courses

Programs guided actively by an expert facilitator:


An expert facilitator guides learners through on-demand content while motivating progress, answering questions, and nurturing development through ongoing interaction.


  • Facilitator guidance maximizes results
  • Develops mentor-like bonds between facilitator and learners
  • Ongoing access to expert practitioner far beyond course duration
  • Customized support adapting to unique learner needs

Use Cases

High-touch professional programs, transformative personal growth journeys


  • Video conferencing: Zoom, Skype, Whereby
  • Community: private forums, Facebook groups
  • Scheduling: Calendly
  • Payments: membership management

Personal guidance from seasoned facilitators provides motivation, insight, and customization.

Membership Sites

Platforms offering ongoing education through subscription access:


Learners pay a recurring fee to access membership site resources like courses, Q&As, member forums, events, and downloadable assets.


  • Recurring revenue through ongoing renewals
  • Builds student loyalty and retention over time
  • Freedom to expand and diversify resources continually
  • New materials reward students and encourage renewals

Use Cases

Ongoing professional development, industry insights, coaching programs


  • Membership platforms: MemberSpace, Circle, Mighty Networks
  • Courses: Teachable, Podia, LearnWorlds
  • Community: Slack, private Facebook groups, forums
  • Payments: Stripe, member management

Memberships allow predictable recurring income while continually expanding your library’s value.

Online Classes and Workshops

Brief virtual sessions focused on targeted topics:


Instructor shares tactical skills, lessons or techniques in condensed live or on-demand workshops from 60-90 minutes to 1-2 days.


  • Quicker learning spurts vs. lengthy programs
  • Students access focused training on targeted interests
  • Broadens discoverability by niche topics vs. lengthy courses
  • Additional income stream alongside core curriculum

Use Cases

Workshops teaching specialized skills, delivering strategic frameworks, providing key insights


  • Webinar software: Zoom, Demio, GoToWebinar
  • Payments: PayPal, Stripe, Buy Me a Coffee
  • Community: Slack, Discord, private Facebook groups
  • Sales: course platforms, landing pages, email services

Condensed virtual sessions allow bite-sized learning and niche topics while diversifying income.

Coaching and Mentorship

Personal guidance through 1:1 teaching relationships:


Learners are paired into a personalized coaching relationship with experts who provide tailored guidance, accountability, motivation and insight.


  • Personalized attention adapts to exact learner needs
  • Close bonds build an intimate experience and community
  • Coaches provide motivation, insight and sounding boards
  • Ongoing beyond a defined “course” duration as needed

Use Cases

Leadership development, career growth, mindset shifts, habit formation


  • Video chat: Zoom, Skype, Google Meet
  • Communication: Email, SMS/text
  • Scheduling: Calendly
  • Payments: Stripe, PayPal, recurring billing

1:1 personalized coaching fosters deep transformation through custom support.

Online Academies

Platforms encompassing courses, coaching, and community:


Combination model offering membership access to courses, coaching, instructor Q&As, live sessions, private peer forums, and premium training.


  • All-in-one student experience and ecosystem
  • Holistic guidance across learning modalities
  • Ability to diversify revenue from varied offerings
  • Community builds loyalty and retention

Use Cases

Thorough professional certification, comprehensive personal development, transformative results requiring motivation and accountability.


  • Courses: Teachable, Podia
  • Coaching and community: Discord, Slack, private Facebook groups
  • Live sessions: Zoom, Demio, Teams
  • Payments: MemberSpace, circle.so, Stripe

Online academies provide immersive learning ecosystems blending many formats.

DIY and Self-Guided Courses

Independent learners work through materials on their own:


Students receive course materials like workbooks, recordings, slides and reading lists to work through independently with limited instructor interaction.


  • Highly self-motivated learners direct their own journey
  • Low resource requirements for course creators
  • Income generated from distribute-and-forget workbooks

Use Cases

Technical process training, reference guides, niche hobbyist interests


  • Sales page builders: Teachable, Podia, Kajabi
  • Payments: PayPal, Stripe, Gumroad
  • File delivery: Google Drive, Dropbox

Self-guided courses provide the ultimate learner flexibility and independence for highly motivated students.

What is an online course?

An online course is a virtual learning program that allows individuals to acquire knowledge and skills through the internet. Unlike traditional face-to-face classes, online courses can be accessed anytime and anywhere, making them highly flexible and convenient for learners. Online courses can encompass a wide range of subjects, from academic disciplines to professional skills and personal development.

Different Types of Online Courses

Training Courses

Training courses are designed to equip learners with specific skills and knowledge required for a particular field or industry. These courses provide structured content and materials to guide learners through the learning process. Whether you’re looking to enhance your technical skills or gain expertise in a specific area, training courses can offer targeted and practical learning experiences.

When choosing the best training courses, it’s important to consider factors such as the course content, instructor expertise, and industry recognition. The year 2023 is expected to bring forth many new and exciting training courses in various industries. Some of the top training courses to look out for include marketing strategies, data analytics, web development, and project management.

Coaching Courses

Coaching courses focus on personal and professional development, providing individuals with guidance, feedback, and support to achieve their goals. These courses are typically led by experienced coaches who have expertise in specific areas, such as career coaching, life coaching, or leadership development.

Online coaching platforms are a great way to connect with experienced coaches and receive personalized coaching sessions. These platforms provide various features, such as one-on-one coaching, group coaching, and feedback mechanisms like quizzes and assessments. Some of the best online coaching platforms in 2023 include Coach.me, BetterUp, and Noomii.

Community-based Courses

Community-based courses are centered around creating a supportive online environment where learners can connect and collaborate with fellow participants. These courses often incorporate discussion forums, live webinars, and peer-to-peer interactions to foster engagement and facilitate knowledge sharing.

Joining an online community offers several benefits, including access to a network of like-minded individuals, opportunities for collaboration and feedback, and additional resources and insights from experts in the field. Platforms such as Mighty Networks, Facebook Groups, and LinkedIn Groups are popular choices for hosting online communities.

Course Creation and Platforms

Creating an online course involves several key steps, starting from defining your course objectives and target audience to designing course content and assessments. Once the course content is ready, it can be hosted on various online platforms, providing a user-friendly interface for learners to navigate and access the course materials.

When choosing an online course platform, it’s important to consider factors such as ease of use, customization options, pricing, and customer support. Some of the best platforms for online course creation in 2023 include Teachable, Thinkific, and Kajabi. These platforms offer a range of features to enhance the learning experience, such as course analytics, automated email marketing, and integrated payment gateways.

Building an Online Coaching Business

Starting an Online Coaching Program

If you’re a coach looking to build an online coaching business, a well-designed coaching program is essential. This program typically includes modules or sessions that cover specific topics or skills, allowing you to guide your clients through a structured learning journey.

To start an online coaching business, it’s important to identify your target audience, define your coaching niche, and create a landing page to promote your services. Offering free resources or introductory sessions can also help attract potential clients and showcase your expertise.

Group Coaching vs. One-on-One Coaching

Group coaching and one-on-one coaching are both effective ways to provide support and guidance to your clients. Group coaching allows for collective learning and group dynamics, where participants can learn from one another and share their experiences. One-on-one coaching, on the other hand, offers personalized attention and tailored feedback to address individual coaching needs.

There are pros and cons to both group coaching and one-on-one coaching. Group coaching is more cost-effective and fosters a sense of community, while one-on-one coaching offers a deeper level of personalized support. Ultimately, the choice between group coaching and one-on-one coaching depends on your coaching style and the needs of your clients.

Generating Passive Income with Online Courses

One of the key benefits of online courses is the potential to generate passive income. By creating and selling online courses, you can earn income while reaching a wider audience beyond your one-on-one coaching sessions. Passive income refers to the income that continues to be generated even when you’re not actively delivering the course content or providing coaching support.

To maximize passive income with online courses, it’s important to create valuable and high-quality course content that resonates with your target audience. Implementing marketing strategies such as email campaigns, social media promotion, and collaborations with other course creators can also help increase course sales. Examples of successful online course creators include Marie Forleo, Amy Porterfield, and Brendon Burchard.

Key Takeaways

Online courses come in diverse formats – each with unique benefits aligned to goals, topics, audiences and monetization models.

From prerecorded videos to live classes to 1:1 coaching journeys, structure your offerings to provide the experience that best fuels transformation.

Assess your strengths as an educator and match formats accordingly. Select technology platforms catering specifically to delivering and marketing your chosen course types.

Diversify over time, but begin with models optimized for effectively sharing your expertise while satisfying learner preferences.

Combining the right course formats, tools and delivery creates engaging online learning experiences that meaningfully impact student success.


In conclusion, online courses offer a flexible and accessible way to acquire new knowledge and skills. From training courses to coaching programs and community-based courses, there are various options available to cater to different learning needs. Finding the right online course for your needs is crucial, and considering factors such as course content, instructor expertise, and platform features can help you make an informed decision.

In the year 2023, online courses are set to continue evolving and expanding, providing even more opportunities for individuals to learn and grow. Whether you’re looking to enhance your professional skills, embark on a new career path, or pursue personal development, online courses can be a valuable resource for your journey. Embrace the power of online learning and unlock your full potential!

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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