Okay – Courses.
Let’s talk about courses – everyone is talking about courses.
And one of the first questions that comes up around courses is: How do I deliver it?
This is really, really important to be asking yourself, because there are different kinds of platforms and tools you can use, and they do different things.
None is necessarily better than any of the others – but you’ll want to choose one that accomplishes what you actually want done.
So, there are three main TYPES of platform that you can use to put your courses or other content behind a paywall.
Let’s talk about each of them
The three TYPES of platform you can use are:
- Membership Site Softwares
- Learning Management Plugins
- Teaching Environments
Let’s go through each of these one at a time.
(Note – there are no affiliate links in this post and I do not particularly endorse one or another of them. Your mileage may vary with ANY platform. If you are interested, I am currently USING Teachable, and experimenting with MemberMouse.)
Membership Site Softwares
These are tools like Wishlist Member, MemberMouse Memberpress and WP Member and tons more.
Membership software is going to be installed on your WordPress blog and work with your existing content and design. The way these work is by creating ‘protected’ areas of your site – these can be pages, posts, PARTS of pages or posts, certain categories – that kind of thing. When people join your membership site, they select one or more ‘Membership Levels’ that they want to purchase, and each membership level will allow them to view or access different content.
Pricing: Most membership software is paid as a monthly subscription, but there are also some one-time plugin options.
Difficulty Level: Intermediate / Difficult
- Fits perfectly into your existing branding and site structure
- Huge flexibility around what content is available to what people
- Can easily have many tiers of membership
- Always accommodates subscription style pricing
- Generally a monthly fee for use of the software
- Can be complicated to set up and integrate
- You host all your own content
- Not specifically designed for online learning – no courses/curriculum templates
When is a membership software the best tool to use?
When you want total control over the look and feel of your course or protected content, and when there are different levels of access you want people to have.
For example, one membership level might be just your course, and another, more expensive one might be your course and some exclusive articles you have written.
Unlike the other two platform types, these can be pretty easily configured in a membership software, and do NOT require duplicate versions of your content. You just “grant access” to protected pages or posts to people who purchase a certain membership.
Got it? Good.
Now, let’s talk about Courseware Plugins.
Learning Management Plugins
These are WordPress plugins like Learndash, WP Courseware, CoursePress, and all the many other ones that are available.
These are designed specifically for course content delivery and are generally easy to use. Features are going to differ a little bit from plugin to plugin, but as a rule, you’ll be able to upload your curriculum into their framework, and it will be presented as complete courses with lessons, activities and interaction options.
They have advanced student tracking and can integrate with other tools like gamification and community systems, that let you dramatically expand the functionality.
They aren’t often super customizable from a design standpoint, and integrations with your existing system can be challenging, but they tend to be easy to use, and a good experience for your end users. Usually these are one time payments for the plugin, but a couple of the options are pay monthly.
Price: Usually a one-time fee between $50 – $200, occasionally a subscription.
Difficulty level: Intermediate
- Designed for online learning
- Easy to input your content
- Student tracking and metrics
- Highly expandable functionality with plugins and add-ons
- Not really customizable from a design standpoint (some are better than others)
- Can have steep learning curves
- Often poor integration with email auto-responders
- Host your own videos / content – difficult if you have TONS of it
When is a Learning Management Plugin best to use?
These are best when you have one or more standalone, or a series of courses that you want to sell, and you want a lot of interactivity with your students. Also, for when you want to keep people on your site, and you’re comfortable with getting your hands dirty with setup!
Because they offer payment setup as well, if you don’t already have an existing funnel or products, it can be simple to put everything course related under one ‘roof’ with these systems.
Finally, Learning Environments.
Teaching Environment Systems
These are frameworks like Thinkific, Teachable and Ruzuku, and they are 100% dedicated to selling and delivering your content. They exist OUTSIDE of your own blog, so the look is probably never going to be exactly like the rest of your site, but you can add your own branding and connect them to your web presence.
These are robust systems that are created specifically for education, the host the videos for you, which can be a great benefit when you have tons of content, and they look and work very efficiently, as they tend to be designed around the students user experience and updated AROUND that experience frequently.
What you lose in customization, in my opinion, you make up for in ease of use, and good user experience. Most of the environment-based platforms have a monthly fee plus a commission structure where they receive a portion of your sales, and some charge per student enrollment. This is the trade-off for things being easy, which many consider worth it. 😉
Price: Per month + commission or per enrollment fee
Ease of Use: Beginner
- Built in community functionality
- Good user experiences
- Many payment/promotion options
- They host the content, saving you bandwidth/fees on hosting
- More expensive
- Not perfectly aligned with design or branding (unless you can code it up)
- Not really ‘expandable’ what is included is what you get.
When should you use a learning environment?
These are ideal for when you don’t already have a website already, or when you’re not on WordPress, are weak on technology, and want advanced course-specific payment and promotion options like bundles and couponing. (NOT to say the others don’t have this functionality – sometimes they do – but it tends to be better with the environments, in my experience) have LOTS of courses or want to work with multiple instructors.
Some of these, like Udemy, are also discovery networks, which can help you promote more easily, but not all of them are!
At the end of the day, none of these is better or worse than any of the others – but depending on where you are in your business and what your goals for your content are – one will be better for YOU.
Still not sure which one is best for your particular situation? Come on over to the Facebook Group and ask!
You can also book a quick call with me to discuss, and I have packages of technology support hours that you could purchase to have me do your setup for you (while teaching you how it works, of course!)