The other day, I received the below question from a newsletter reader.
“This will be my first time facilitating a course for my business and was wondering what platform/software you recommend. Any thoughts about that?”
When people ask me this question, I always know that they want me to suggest that ONE magic bullet platform.
Life would be easy peasy, wouldn’t it?
However, I always have a problem answering that question because my response always is…
And, I know that’s not what most people want to hear.
But, let’s think about this for a bit….
Let’s pretend it’s Friday and your friend, partner, or family member asks you where you want to eat. Your response usually depends. It depends on your mood, whether or not you have the energy to go somewhere or to even cook, as well as your taste. Depending on these factors – one Friday it may be Italian, the next you may choose to stay at home and order pizza, and still the next Friday it may be out to a fancy steakhouse.
The same goes for a course platform. It all depends on several factors.
But, with that said. I thought I’d tackle this question in a blog post for you to help shed some light on the different options available.
So, let’s dive in shall we?!
First Up: The Most Important Thing to Consider When Creating A Course
Now, before we dive into the platforms, I really need to make this point.
The MOST IMPORTANT thing to consider BEFORE you even think about your platform is your course content.
If you do not have meaningful and actionable content that will help your students reach a specific goal then you shouldn’t even worry about a course platform right now. Content first, platform second.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: There are TONS of different options for course platforms. There’s no lack for that.
But, what there is lack of is impactful content that will help people out. So, promise me that before you think about selecting a platform, make sure your content is on the up and up.
Another note to keep in mind is that the reader mentioned that this was the very first time running an online course. In my opinion, when you’re running your first course, it’s a great idea to think about the very minimum technology needed to run your course. Usually the first run through of your course, you’re working out the bugs in your content, collecting feedback, and tweaking your course. So, you’ll want to pay close attention to the “Simple Delivery” options below. Again, it’s all about getting that content just right before you put it into its final form.
What to Consider When Selecting a Platform
I’ve had a lot of experience hosting my own courses and of course taking other people’s courses. Here are the 6 things to consider when selecting a platform:
- What are your goals for your course? It’s super duper important to think about your course, the content, and how this course fits into your business. Is this the first run of your course and you’re testing the content? Or, are you trying to set up the final “home” of your course so that you can make passive income? Many of your goals (and where you are in the process) will dictate the platform.
- How much tech do you want to touch? I knew that tech was going to be a big part of my business, so I spent some time learning how to build my website and use the tools that I currently have. In terms of tech, you have the option of selecting a done-for-you platform or hosting your course on your own website. Really think about how much tech you’re comfortable handling before selecting a platform.
- Your budget. This is another big point to consider. No matter what, at some point you’re going to have to spend money. Either you’re spending money to purchase a tool to run your course AND/OR the program you use will take a commission for using their service. But, I’d definitely sit down and determine how much money you want to pay up front (if any) and what you would be comfortable with paying.
- Type of content. Obviously, the type of content you create also determines the platform you use. If you have a robust course with videos, PDFS, audio, and images you will need a more robust option. However, if your course is a simple text course, then perhaps an email course is perfect for you!
- Support. I always look at support available for the specific platform I’m considering. I always want to know if I can contact support, their level of support, or if there are any video tutorials available to help me learn.
- Learners. How tech savvy are your learners? Are they accustomed to online learning? Do they lead busy lives? Understanding who your learners are and their circumstances will help you also select a specific platform.
- Integration. There are a few all-in-one options available for yoru course. But, much of the time you’ll want to integrate eithr with your email provider, PayPal (or other payment option), etc. So you’ll need to know what you want to integrate and which options provide that link.
Wowser!! That’s a lot of info…what it really boils down to is making list of all of the things you need out of a platform and then find one that fits your exact needs.
So, let’s dive into the different platforms…..what I’m sure you’ve been waiting for…
What Platform should I use for my course??
After you’ve created some amazing content and considered the above information, let’s dive into the different platform options:
- Host on someone else’s website
- Host on your own website
- Live delivery
- Simple delivery
Host on someone else’s website. Hosting on a third party’s platform allows you to take the content that you’ve already created and deliver it on a separate website. This means you won’t have to touch too much tech (it’s still not tech free), you’ll have a “course” looking design, and the platform will provide a structure for your content. When it comes to hosting on a third party’s platform, you’ll either have to pay upfront to host there and/or they will take a commission on your sales. Please check that before going to these options.
Below, are some options that I’ve either used myself OR taken classes on:
- Ruzuku – Ruzuku is an all-in-one platform to help you sell and deliver your course content. I’ve really enjoyed the classes that I’ve taken on this platform. I love that they allow your students to track their progress and interact with other students.
- Thinkific – I haven’t used this myself, but I have seen several courses on this platform. The set up is easy peasy and they provide a straightforward platform to host all of your video and PDF content. And, I’ve interacted with a few of the employees — nice people (which is a huge plus in my book)!
- Teachable – I’ve taken many different classes on Teachable and they’ve been pretty easy to navigate. I signed up just to test this option out and it seemed relatively easy to set up your course.
Host on your own website. When it comes to hosting on your own website, you’ll obviously have to touch more of the technology (or hire someone to do it for you). I generally have created a subdomain (ex: domain.teachgoodstuff.com) and then used a plugin (either a membership or a course plugin) to protect and deliver the content. Obviously, plugins have an upfront cost and then there will be a fee associated with processing the payment. When I run my more robust courses, I opt for this option because I rather have full control over most things.
Below, are plugins that you can use on your website to protect your content. A few of the options also set up a “course” style page on your website.
- WishList Member (membership plugin) – protects the content of your program so that only people who register have access. You’ll still need to set up your website so that it holds your content. The WLM plugin acts as a bodyguard to protect my content.
- Zippy Courses (course plugin) – protects your content AND creates a “course” look on your website. Pretty easy peasy to use. They have great tutorials to help you learn. This is a newish plugin, but I believe most of the kinks are out. I gave this plugin a test-run and it was pretty simple.
- LearnDash (course plugin) – protects your content AND creates a “course” look on your website. They’ve been around for awhile. The creator is an e-learning expert and has that perspective when adding new features to the plugin, which I like. I haven’t used this plugin in a long time, and it took a wee bit of time to learn.
- Protected Page on Your Website – This option can also be added to the ‘Simple Delivery’ section below as well. I do this with several of my programs including the Workshop on Worksheets and the Kick-Butt freebies training. But, you can also use a password to protect your content and provide only people who have purchased that content access to the program. It’s an easy process to use a software like Gumroad to process payment. I love this is a simple set up, and I share step-by-step how to create your first digital product with this method.
Live Delivery. You can deliver your course live meaning that there is a specific date and time that you and the students have to show up online for the course. Generally, you can use any software or platform that you’d use to deliver a webinar. You can make your program either a workshop or even a longer retreat style course. This is also a great option for your first run of your course!!
I’m a fan of hosting my course live and then recording it and selling it on my website via Gumroad and a password protected page, which I share step-by-step how to do. Easy Peasy! If you’re looking to host a live program, here are some great options:
- Zoom – I love zoom. I’ve used it often for delivering workshops and “office hours” for my programs. It’s a great option for small groups because people can show up on video and audio. You’ll need to record your video and then upload it to a video hosting site such as YouTube or Vimeo if you want to give access to the recording later. Of course, Zoom is a paid option.
- Google Hangouts on Air/YouTube Live – With GHOA, you can embed a video on your website and then just give viewers access to that page. It makes it easy peasy to then sell a program with PayPal and then just provide the link to people with the video embedded. I typically use this for my free workshops, but it’s also feasible for paid.
- Crowdcast – I have not used this option yet, but I have been on an attendee on quite a few CrowdCast classes. I love their set up! I’m excited to use it myself!
Simple Delivery. I love this option because these are easy peasy compared to the above. These are a great option for less robust courses and trainings.
- For me, my favorite is always using Gumroad because it handles payment and delivery. I use this for delivery of all of my digital products including the Workshop on Worksheets and How to Create Kick-Butt Freebies Training.
- You can also use YouTube or Vimeo to host videos. I believe Vimeo also allows you to sell your videos!
- Delivery of text or PDF (or even) video via email. You can set up a payment option such as Gumroad, connect it to your email, and then provide an automated email course!
Reader Submitted. These are suggestions that readers have emailed me about. Great options to check out a well!
Wow! That was a whole lotta information about platforms!
See what I mean when I say I have a difficult time selecting just one when people ask me. It depends on a lot of circumstances.
If you’re looking for something easy peasy consider the Simple Delivery, Hosting on Someone else’s website, or Live Delivery options.
If you’re creating a more robust course, consider creating your own site and then using one of the membership or course plugins, or even hosting on someone else’s website.
Again, it comes down to your goals and your preference for your course. So, spend time first outlining what you want for your course!
Let me know in the comments below, what’s the most important factor for you when deciding on a specific tech tool!
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