What's the Right Platform for my Online Course?

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The number one question I’ve been asked recently is what platform should I use to launch my online course. It’s a very valid question and the answer depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

First, let’s talk about what options are available for course creators. There are three primary ways for course creators to launch their online course. One is through a course marketplace and another is to host your course on a learning management system. The last option is to host your course on your own website with a plug-in.

You may ask, what’s a course marketplace. The good news is, you’re probably already familiar with some of them. Here are some examples below:

Course Marketplaces

  • Udemy. Udemy is one of the most popular online course marketplaces with over 65,000 online courses in a wide variety of subjects. According to their website, they have 20 million students, courses in 50 languages and over 30K instructors. It’s very easy to get started in building your Udemy course by creating your instructor account.  They have very specific guidelines for course creation which all instructors are required to abide by. They also state on their website that their course prices are more related to DVDs or non-fiction books than to live training or coaching sessions. Pay for instructors is based on a revenue share model.
A view into Udemy's course marketplace.

A view into Udemy's course marketplace.

  • Lynda.com. LinkedIn acquired Lynda.com a few years ago. On this platform, you can apply to be a LinkedIn Learning instructor here. You are required to send in a sample video so they can get a feel for your teaching style and presentation. They handle all production for your course and you will be flown to their offices to record your course. 
Lynda.com's Marketplace

Lynda.com's Marketplace

  • Skillshare. Skillshare offers around 21,000 online classes ranging from technology, business, and creative and lifestyle courses. They have a teacher handbook which outlines how to get started, planning your course, developing and recording your course, and promoting the course. They pay instructors for every minute watched by Premium students in their classes and every student they bring to Skillshare.
Skillshare's Marketplace

Skillshare's Marketplace

  • Simplilearn. Simplilearn offers certification in several areas including project management, digital marketing, SCRUM, cyber security and other topic areas. They have a revenue sharing model with their trainers who are required to have expertise in their subject area with relevant certifications.
Simplilearn's Marketplace

Simplilearn's Marketplace

  • Brit + Co. Brit + Co has a similar model to LinkedIn Learning. If you are approved as an instructor, they will fly you to San Francisco and their team handle all aspects of the production including creating the marketing materials. The courses they offer range from lettering, photography, design, branding, and starting your creative business.
Brit + Co

Brit + Co

Benefits of a Marketplace Platform

The benefits of launching your course on a marketplace platform is that, for the most part, all marketing is done by the marketplace provider. It’s also a good way to validate a course idea and to build awareness around your course.

Cons of a Marketplace Platform

The cons of launching your course on a marketplace platform include:

  1.  Little to no control over the price of the course which could dilute the value of your offering in the market and lower your profit margin.
  2. Instead of the course being associated with your brand and name, it is marketed and branded by the marketplace provider.
  3. You have no access to your customer list or emails which does not allow you to market to them in the future.
  4. Often, there are strict guidelines for course publishing.

Not thrilled by using a course marketplace? The good news is, you have other options available to you. Here are several learning management systems (LMS) for course creators.

Learning Management Systems

While I’m not going to go into the specifics of each of these platforms today, all of them are worth checking out if you plan to launch your own online course. Of course, you can also host your course on your own website with a plug-in such as Course Cats or Course Merchant.

The primary disadvantage of using one of these LMS is that you need to market your courses. That means you need to have a website or simple landing page with your lead magnet and an email service provider to collect names and email addresses. You will also be responsible for your own marketing including building your email list and audience. This can be done through a private Facebook group, social media, and content marketing such as blog posts and podcasting.  

The benefits of using a LMS far outweigh the cons especially if you plan to have a sustainable business selling your online course. Outside of your increased profit margin, you also have far more control over your course and branding.

The Bottom Line:

Use a marketplace platform if you simply want to teach and not worry about anything else. This option also works if you want to teach and share your knowledge with the world, but keep your full-time day job.

You should explore using a learning management system if you want to build a sustainable business that will provide income for years to come and allow your business to scale and grow.

Comment below with your thoughts on any of these online course options. Are there any others that you like or have had success with? Let us know!

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