Choosing online course platforms is no fun. So, instead of thinking about Podia Vs WordPress Vs Webflow Vs Shopify, think about how you can make use of the best of what each platform does for you.
Teaching an online course is an incredibly exciting business model. Choosing online course platforms? It’s a sad job.
According to TJ McCue of Forbes, the market research firm Global Industry Analysts projected that the e-learning market would reach $107 Billion in 2015 and it did. Now, Research and Markets forecasts show triple the revenue of 2015 – e-learning will grow to $325 Billion by 2025.
Let that sink in for a while. It’s $325 billion.
Here’s what you’ll actually need to succeed with online courses, memberships, or digital downloads:
- A platform to host your online courses, membership sites, and to sell digital downloads (including ways for your students or delegates to gain access to courses, make payments, actually consume the lessons, and more).
- Ways to engage with your customers — potential and existing customers — such as email marketing, Live Chat, a way for you to receive feedback or comments on your digital products, and an internal, subscribers-only blog with exclusive content for your members.
- Ability to do marketing easily (and for the platform to connect with the marketing tools you’ll end up using). You can’t have a platform that’s closed off in a forced eco-system or with proprietary tools (that may or may not work). For instance, Wix is almost closed off and only works with its own email marketing software, appointment booking widgets, and other apps. Squarespace and Weebly offer proprietary marketing software (and I can’t vouch for that). Wix still has ways for you to sell online courses (just that it’s not the same experience you’d expect).
- Look for platforms that provide excellent, genuine, and all-round support. You don’t need companies that tell you that your support is “email only”. Or you don’t want companies that don’t take a genuine interest in the success of your business.
Here’s a detailed rundown of standalone and primary online course platform options and it looks like when it comes to creating online courses. This could be a good starting point for you to decide better when it comes to choosing online platforms:
Building Online Courses With WordPress + LMS: Expensive: an UnGodly Mess
WordPress is extremely popular. It’s the default when creators go on to choosing online platforms, and there’s a good reason for that.
However, most people stop thinking about just how expensive, messy, and all-consuming WordPress can get when it comes to managing sites. That’s just the regular sites.
Bring in anything complicated like eCommerce with WordPress or selling online courses, membership sites, and digital downloads with WordPress and it gets even more complicated.
Want to sell digital downloads, online courses, or memberships using WordPress? It’s a tough call for those who aren’t into the tech side of things. Thought about using WordPress along with LMS or membership plugins or something like EDD (Easy Digital Downloads)?
It’s not the complete story though.
WordPress is a good option but that’s assuming you can handle it. It’s a nightmare to stitch 17 different tools, plugins, and other things like hosting together to make it work for you.
If you thought WordPress was easy, see what a mess using WordPress can be (and this is for a regular site).
Here’s a complete list of plugins that Raymmar points out:
While WordPress the most popular option at the moment, you’ll first need high-speed and secure managed WordPress hosting (your cheap hosting won’t do).
Then, you’ll need a relevant WordPress theme, and an LMS subscription and/or a membership plugin. You might also need special plugins to build better checkout flows, for email marketing, for LiveChat, and more.
Creating Online Courses With Podia: Online Education, Made Possible for Everyone
Podia was built from the ground up for online courses (the platform also allows you to create membership sites and make digital downloads available for sale).
Podia is, by far, the most cost-effective, clean, and the simplest way to start your online courses when compared with any other options you might have available at the moment.
You just create courses, memberships, and digital downloads. Connect with PayPal or Stripe and you then upload your content to Podia and you are good to go.
You get the following with Podia (and as you can see, it’s all created with a few clicks):
- Podia comes with LMS. The LMS itself is Podia. There’s no need for subscribing to some other LMS and then dig your head deep in the sand trying to make it work. Just work on creating courses, upload your content, and you are ready to sell online courses.
- A proper store-front for your online courses, memberships, and digital downloads. You have the ability to edit your storefront and to design it based on your brand and how you’d like it to be.
- Individual landing pages for each product (online courses, memberships, or digital downloads). Plus, each of these landing pages can be edited for design, layout, colors, etc., as well.
- Even before you launch your online courses, you can create pre-launch landing pages to start building up traction (without having to wait for your launch day).
- Built-in email marketing system. Use email marketing to send out well-timed broadcast messages to keep your potential students engaged, send out drip emails, or send out automated sequences to bring in the money.
- Built-in LiveChat: Make the power of high-impact selling work for your business. A LiveChat widget comes with your podia account so that you can engage with visitors and make sales (do some things that don’t scale).
- Once you start getting your own raving fans as customers, use the built-in affiliate Marketing tool to launch your own affiliate program to multiply your profits, scale-up revenue, and grow your business.
Podia is also ready for you to start marketing the right way. Podia provides you with opt-in widgets or cards for each of your online courses (or products). You can embed these cards or widgets right in the middle of your blog posts or under the blog posts.
Tracking and analytics is enabled on all podia storefronts, landing pages, and pre-launch landing pages.
You can integrate with Google Analytics (or use Google Tag Manager). You can add your important tracking pixels such as Facebook Pixel, the Quora Pixel, and more.
Creating Online Courses With Webflow: Control & Slick Interface But Lacking In Options
Webflow is at the head of the #nocode movement. It’s possible to build really fast-loading, beautiful, and absolutely fantastic websites with Webflow. I mean, you could build a simple website. Or you could build a website with a blog. Or perhaps launch an online magazine. How about a portfolio website?
Webflow can do a lot. However, it’s still a little bit of work trying to build online courses with Webflow. It’s not a straight path.
It’s not to say you cannot build online courses with Webflow, because you can. It’s just that selling online courses, memberships, and digital downloads is a bit too much of an ask from Webflow at the moment.
If all that you want to sell are digital downloads such as videos that you can package and sell, design elements, icons, themes, eBooks, art, etc., you can absolutely kill it with Webflow, Webflow CMS, and Webflow eCommerce.
You can also create online courses by taking advantage of Webflow CMS and design.
Take a look at this template made available by Mackenzie Child for Webflow
You’ll be able to design courses in a way that you have a way for people to subscribe and log in on the front end and then build the course pages individually before uploading content (such as videos) to YouTube, Wistia, or Vimeo to make this work.
Still not a straightforward use case and you’ll have quite a bit of a learning curve, even though anyone can use Webflow.
For memberships using Webflow, just integrate with MemberStack. As for the courses, you’ll need to figure out how to deliver your courses (and that’s where it gets messy with Webflow at the moment).
Creating Online Courses With Shopify: Possible, but It’s a Stitch Job + Customization Needed
Just as you can sell products with a Shopify store, you can also build a Shopify store to sell digital products such as digital downloads or online courses (I just don’t see a way to sell memberships yet).
If you just want to use Shopify to host online courses and deliver, you can simply do that by using Shopify along with Easy Digital Downloads or FetchApp or maybe just email. But that’s a crappy experience.
You can create and sell online courses on Shopify with TalentLMS — and there are direct integrations available with Shopify if you want to deliver a complete online learning experience (with a way for your students to log in, take courses, take quizzes, and more).
There are few more apps that can help with a few aspects of hosting, launching, and building online courses with Shopify.
For instance, Locksmith for the Affiliate locked pages allows you to lock pages and content on your store so that only the customer/affiliate with the credentials to see that page will have access to it.
- Refersion: Affiliate Tracking: can be used for launching an affiliate program for your online courses.
- Digital Downloads can be used to help with any downloadable content that you offer to customers, they can make the purchase on your store and will then get a link to access that download.
- Recurring Membership. This could also be an option as you can offer member access for tiered pricing and courses.
What the Online Course Trends Tell You?
Apart from the basics of online course creation, there are challenges that course creators face, and that doesn’t even include the eCommerce platforms to choose, there’s also the question of picking up an online platform with some non-negotiable features.
If you get past all of the above, what separates the most successful creators in the knowledge economy from the rest? How has the pandemic changed online learning?
And is it too late to put out a course on how to make your own sourdough starter?
The answers are here: Check out the 2022 Online Learning Trends
The team at Thinkific analyzed metadata from the top 20% of creators to discover what exactly it is they’re doing differently to make them so successful.
Now, you can see which trends set the trailblazers apart — and how you can use their tactics to bring in more business and better engage students in 2022.
Take a look to see for yourself…
- How do the top creators keep students engaged for longer?
- What is their secret to growing their business?
- Where do top creators focus their time?
- What takeaways can someone just starting out learn from them?
The report is chock-full of insights you can put into action today. Because if you’re still creating courses the same way you were two years ago — you might be missing out on some huge opportunities.
If you are wondering about how to choose online course platforms, I’ll make it simple for you. Sign up for Podia (they have a free trial) and see the difference.