What Platform Should You Use to Host Your Online Course?

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2018 is a great time to be creating online courses—there are LOTS of tools out there that can help you create and deliver online courses. The problem with having so many choices is… well, that there are so many choices! With the number of options that are out there, it can be a huge task just to decide on just one platform.

People can get really hung up on this choice. But the fact of the matter is, that the CONTENT and ENGAGEMENT are the most important parts of your course. The platform, or where your course lives, is secondary.

That said, depending on your situation, a course platform can really help you not only organize and host your course, but also sell it.

There is No One-Size-Fits-All Platform

When I say that the course platform you should use depends on your situation, I mean it. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to online learning experiences. There are platforms that are GENERALLY great for a large number of people (my recommendation on that below). But every situation is different and if you really need something that a pre-built course system doesn’t offer, explore other solutions.

OK, let’s break down your options a little here: I divide these options into 4 categories. They’re listed here in order of easiest to hardest in terms of setup and maintenance.

4 Categories of Course Platforms

1. Email

You can create a simple ecourse just with a series of emails. All you need is an email marketing platform — these courses, of course, are primarily text-based, but you can include images and videos in these, in addition to assessments and quizzes. Most email marketing platforms offer everything you need to drip content at regular intervals. If you don’t have one already, I recommend Active Campaign

2. Course Authoring 

A course authoring platform is designed for non-academic course creation—Teachable, the platform I use for Learning in Bloom programs, is a course authoring platform. Other platforms include Thinkific and Kajabi (I use Kajabi for some of my own projects). Some authoring platforms are also marketplaces, such as Udemy. What’s nice about course authoring platforms is that usually there is at least some tracking of students and even some marketing baked in to the platform. They are usually pretty easy to use in comparison to other products. This is the category of platform that I recommend to anyone trying to create their first course. 

3. Learning Management System (LMS)

An LMS is usually used in a school or business setting and it has a lot more functionality than a course authoring platform. It’s used to track outcomes and progress, and those outcomes are shared in the organization. You may want to use an LMS if you are creating a course to sell to HR departments of organizations, for example, so they can track completion. Example LMSs are TalentLMS, Canvas, and Blackboard.

4. Content Management System (CMS).

A CMS organizes the content of a website. Popular CMSs include WordPress, Joomla, and Google Sites. A CMS accommodates online learning experiences with plug-ins (e.g., LearnDash, MemberMouse, Wishlist Member) or coding. This is the DIY version that I recommend to people who have a LOT of time and other resources to invest in creating their course. 

There you have it! The four major categories of platforms that you can choose from to host and deliver your course.

So, What Platform Should You Use to Host Your Online Course?

At this point you’ve probably narrowed down your options at least to one category of platforms. If you’re still having trouble deciding, enter your information in the assessment below and I’ll get back to you with my personal recommendation for your specific situation. Want even more guidance? Enroll in the Online Course Kitchen, where I walk you through this decision as well as all the others you need to make during the process of creating your online course!

The 4 types of platforms you can use to host your online course, and who should use them