4 Course Platforms Compared With a Fine Tooth Comb

Lately these days everyone and their mother is trying to start a new course platform. Ever since I published my first few courses on Udemy I have been receiving emails from all these “Schools” and “Online Course” platforms. It’s become pretty overwhelming to the point I had just started ignoring most of them.

As of the past few months I started exploring the idea of moving my courses outside of Udemy. There are literally endless possibilities, I could even take an existing course and re-name it to something else just to sell it elsewhere if I wanted.

In this post I wanted to really go in-depth and literally “fine tooth comb” through some of the platforms I have spent a significant amount of time with. I’m going to give you the layout, pros and cons of what you should be looking for when building your course. Depending on your goals some of these platforms might totally suck for you, in other cases you might want to put up your course in multiple platforms. I even made a walk through video showing as much as I could for each platform. In this post I’m going to cover it all.

I even took the time to put together a comparison chart at the end of this post and wrapped it all up with my final thoughts.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Udemy

If you have done any research into building an online course and you have not heard of Udemy you might as well be living under a rock at this point. There are literally dedicated sub-forums on the Best Blackhat Forum dedicated to sharing these courses all over the damn place.

I didn’t originally start building my first course with Udemy but this is eventually where I “settled” before diving into some of these other platforms.

What attracted me to this platform was that they run their own internal ad promotions for your courses using coupons. I actually had so many sales from one small $10 coupon promotion last November that I made almost $1000 in one month. This has been my #1 biggest reason for using Udemy.

Pros:

  • Easy to use interface for uploading content of all different kinds – PDF’s, Audio, Video, etc.
  • All content is self hosted with no limits, no need to sign up for Wistia or use YouTube for video hosting
  • Tons of help via community, support desk for getting started with your course
  • Tons of free promotion via ad platform they run for you. This can also be disabled if you choose not to do this.
  • Easy to create coupon codes and offer discounts
  • Tons of websites where you can promote your course via coupons
  • Android & Apple App for mobile tablets and phones encourages more students to check out courses and consume content
  • Easy integration with Google Analytics for tracking visitors
  • Free course images designed by Udemy design team
  • Easy to communicate with students via course discussions, messages and course announcements
  • Ability to add other instructors to your course and split revenue very easily among instructors. This is a really awesome feature.
  • No cost to get started right from the start

Cons:

  • Really strict guidelines for course content, can be a major pain in the ass
  • Most of the course MUST be video content (Not really a con for me, but it might be for others)
  • Really strict about using external links such as using affiliate links
  • Very saturated in some communities, people shy away of coupon spam on some forums and websites. People don’t take the platform as seriously these days I feel like.
  • Interface can sometimes be slow in the backend
  • You don’t own your students – HUGE Issue. You can only email students through Udemy and you can’t see their personal email addresses for self promotion.
  • They take 50% of the revenue from course sales, this can be countered by their own self promotion though when you get tons of sales it does not really matter.
  • Payouts can take some time, you will need to wait to receive commissions from prior months sales and they are not instant.

Checkout My Udemy Review and Walkthrough Video Below

Fedora

This platform is more of a solution to creating your own self hosted course. Where as Udemy has a “marketplace” Fedora is supposed to help you avoid the hassles of setting up a WordPress plugin and building an entire WordPress site to host your course.

Overall I am really impressed with the platform, the biggest downfall for me is the fact that you need to pay at least $29/month for the capability to use a custom domain name (the standard free sub-domain one just looks shitty) and that they don’t offer any sort of promotion on your behalf.

Pros:

  • Easy to use interface for uploading content of all different kinds – PDF’s, Audio, Video, etc.
  • Automatically has Wistia video built into the platform (This normally costs $25/month if you plan to really do anything with Wistia)
  • Different membership levels based on your needs, you can even get personalized support
  • Founders are very active looking for feedback via their mailing list, blogs and forums
  • Fully whitelabeled with pro membership
  • Vast integration with email and Zapier support
  • No need to setup a wordpress site to pay for extra hosting costs
  • Affiliate support
  • Advanced student analytics for tracking and reporting
  • Really slick and professional interface for students, probably the best of all the platforms in my opinion
  • Disqus Integration
  • Support for co-owning courses
  • Multi Course support
  • You own your students emails and data

Cons:

  • No assistance with course promotion beyond blog content teaching you how to get new students
  • Custom domain is only available with paid membership
  • No Jvzoo integration
  • Transaction fees

You can sign up with Fedora for free but you will be paying a fee on any sales your course makes. The basic plan starts out at 10% + $1 per transaction! As you go higher into the $29 and $99 plans the transaction fee will reduce to as much as just 5%.

UseFedora might be a good starting point for you. If you don’t have an audience this might be tough to get going with, I’d recommend the basic option so you can use a custom domain. This way you avoid Website hosting costs vs. using a self hosted WordPress option.

Keep in mind they never plan to become a “marketplace” similar to SkillFeed or Udemy so there intent is to provide course creators that easy to use platform, not so much offer a big place for you to promote yourself. That is entirely up to you so you will have to decide what is right for your situation.

Checkout the video I made walking you through the Fedora platform (sound sucks – turn it way up):

SkillFeed

Skillfeed is a marketplace that works a bit different from a lot of the traditional course platform marketplaces such as Udemy. New users can sign up for a membership and they will get unlimited access to every course on the platform. Considering the cost of membership is only $19/month this is a bargain.

They now claim to have over 83,000 tutorials and over 9700 hours of learning material. I have never purchased a membership with the platform but you can sign up to teach for free.

The revenue model is interesting, since all members pay for a base fee to get access to your content you get paid based on how many minutes of content the members consume each month. I have yet to see a payout yet but I’m seeing 2 of my courses are getting watched as of this past month.

What I like about this platform is I was easily able to move my existing courses into the platform and keep everything essentially the same.

The biggest downfall was the lack of being able to add specific files or links to each video lesson. You add all of those files to one place for the entire course. What I ended up doing was making a word document just laying out the resources and links to other documents all within this one word document.

Pros:

  • Very easy to upload content, you can even upload it from Dropbox
  • Videos and hosting are all provided to you
  • Simply upload your content and let members consume the content to make money, you don’t need to do any promotion.
  • They offer an affiliate program both for enrolling students and enrolling teachers. Enroll as a teacher here (Yes, that is an affiliate link)
  • No reason NOT to use this platform – Use it as a means to make more money from your existing courses

Cons:

  • Up to 10 days waiting for your course to get reviewed
  • For the first course submission you must wait for it to get approved before adding more courses
  • I had some trouble with the “course summary” section when submitting my course, might have been a copy and paste issue but it was preventing me from submitting the course for review
  • No way to promote the course outside of existing paying members – The platform is really better suited as a way to expand on your existing courses to make some extra income

Checkout the video I made walking you through the SkillFeed platform (sound sucks – turn it way up):

ZippyCourses

ZIppy-courses

ZippyCourses was created by Derek Halpern of SocialTriggers.com I have been following Derek now since 2012, he generally promotes a lot of blog based courses and content so it seemed he created this WordPress plugin as way to offer others a platform for building there own courses with WordPress.

In some ways this platform differs from the others mentioned in this post because it relies on using WordPress. It has most of the features most would need in a course platform but does not offer a marketplace like Udemy or SkillFeed does. The biggest competitor here would be a platform like Fedora because they are really both “Self-Hosted” systems. The biggest downfalls with ZippyCourses over Fedora are the need for more initial costs to get going with your course. You will not take transaction hits with ZippyCourses but you are going to pay a lot more to get started with it.

The plugin itself is $200 (Or $300 if you go with premium) and then you will need a domain ($1-10 depending on where you go) and web hosting (Usually $4-7 a month but sold on a lot of hosts as a package for an annual yearly fee) If you already have hosting this shouldn’t be an issue so long as you have a shared hosting provider. Some hosts will have you pay more money to upgrade to shared hosting in order to register and host on multiple domains.

This is one area where ZippyCourses falls short, I cannot install ZippyCourses on the No Shame Income domain and provide a course here due to the plugin requiring a specific theme. It’s really designed to be on a whole different domain, this is not always a bad thing though.

Pros:

  • No transaction fees for course purchases
  • Support responds quickly to requests
  • Custom Domain with full control
  • Completely whitelabeled platform – Optional to support ZippyCourses with a link
  • You own all of your student data
  • Student tracking for sales, and course consumption
  • Lots of email integration support for well known platforms
  • Supports multiple courses
  • Can Integrate Google Analytics with WordPress
  • Quiz Support
  • “Tier” support for allowing members to get access to specific tiers within a course allowing access to specific content

Cons:

  • Initial upfront costs are more compared to other platforms – $200 for standard and $300 for premium version
  • Will take more effort to get started with registering a domain, setup hosting, install the plugin, do licensing etc vs. all other platforms in this post.
  • No “Personal” support with getting your course going. Fedora and Udemy have teams dedicated to this.
  • No assistance with selling your course, no marketplace of any kind
  • No Professional Video Hosting included – Fedora includes Wistia video out of the box
  • You can’t really make coupon codes, you can just make a discounted ‘buy’ page which might suffice but it’s not really a coupon code.
  • No affiliate support for promoting your course – HUGE Issue, but I’m told it will be added in the future
  • No affiliate support for promoting the plugin – I saw Pat Flynn was offering an affiliate link but I could not find anywhere that allowed me to sign up as an affiliate of ZippyCourses
  • No direct Jvzoo Integration – Would be nice if the plugin integrated with their API for affiliates.
  • No course review or feedback on your course – Udemy offers this
  • No real student feedback system built in – Although students can leave comments on lectures or you might be able to use Quizzes for this
  • No support for co-owning courses – This was a HUGE problem in my eyes, if you want to co-launch a course and easily split revenue this is not possible using the native payment platform with ZippyCourses
  • No sales page – The premium ‘landing page’ is just an opt-in form template that is not designed for a sales page. Sort of deceiving as a sales point, the documentation was also lacking for this out of the box and I had to email support about it. I wouldn’t use it and I’d suggest using the Thrive Landing Pages plugin for creating a sales page.
  • Must be on it’s own domain with a ZippyCourses “Theme” cannot be installed on a primary blog, this could also be good in some cases though?

I just wanted to add, I had a brief discussion with Derek about the Udemy platform and he was not a fan of putting a course on their platform because it degrades your course credibility when they promote it all over the place, especially at a discounted cost. This in a lot of ways I agree with, the problem is that when I created my very first course I figured out everything BUT promotion which in my opinion is the absolute most difficult part of creating an online course.. MAKING SALES!

With Udemy you could technically simply tell Udemy that you do not want them promoting your course (It’s literally a check box during course setup). This means you could sell a Udemy course for $200 and it will never sell under that unless you make coupons. I believe they will still take a large commission of sales so it may not be the best option to do this unless your course is priced pretty high. I’d highly recommend letting them promote for you.

If you don’t have an existing email list or audience than you are going to be left with learning how to properly run Facebook ads or use other techniques to actually drive sales to your course. This is a whole other topic in of itself, especially with all the changes Facebook keeps making in regards to running your ads, learning PowerEditor etc.

You will also need to most likely hire a copywriter if you want to make a kick-ass landing page. With Udemy the landing page is a pretty standard “fill in the blanks” more or less.

When I launched my very first product I sold it for only a mere $7 but I spent $150 on the copywriting and landing page graphics which by the way is very cheap for this type of service, I think I got it for a “first time buyer” discount ordeal.

Basically going this route is going to cost you a lot more upfront. Derek suggests making a ‘mini-course’ to gauge interest from your audience before you actually go and put tons of work into the ‘full course’. Not a terrible idea, but if you have no list or no audience you are going to most likely need to spend some money to get new students.

Checkout the video I made walking you through the ZippyCourses plugin:

Want To Easily Compare All The Platforms? Share This Post

I spent a lot of time to put together an awesome comparison table showing you all of the features I could think of and compared each of these 4 platforms in this table.

Share this post below and you will be able to view it!

Conclusion

Obviously all of these platforms are completely different, depending on your needs and your current situation here is what I would recommend:

No List, No Audience and Just Starting Out:

Start with Udemy because it’s 100% free and you have nothing to lose. Sure you won’t own your student data but it’s a great first place to start out as you literally don’t need to invest anything except your time. If you organize your original video files you could always re-name your Udemy course and launch a ZippyCourses or Fedora based version later on based on it’s success.

You could use Fedora free but you won’t have a custom domain, you won’t get any free promotion, you will take larger transaction hits and you will miss out on some of the other advanced features, this is all up to you.

You could give away 1000 free coupons in a Udemy “mini course” perhaps, get feedback on it and then make the “full” product in one of the self hosted platforms later so you can square away handling costs, hosting, domain, landing page creation etc.

Have an Audience, an Email List and You Have Experience With Creating Courses or Content:

I’d say ZippyCourses Or Fedora, the main choice here will be determined by taking transaction fee hits or not. If you go with the Fedora $99/month plan you also pay 5% in transaction fees but they literally give you EVERYTHING you could need to get going.

With ZippyCourses you need to pay potentially for hosting, Wistia, the plugin itself for $200 and most likely will need to have a custom landing page made which could also mean buying a tool like Thrive Themes at $59 for the single site license. Compare the pros and cons to see what fits your needs, if your promoting a course with the intention of bringing on affiliates right now ZippyCourses is not a good choice at all.

No Budget:

Start with Udemy due to it being free.

Depending on how you feel about course exposure you could also put all of your courses on SkillFeed, I see no reason not to as it’s only available to those members and seems less likely to become pirated and shared all over the place.

Here is an example of what one might do with an existing course:

Let’s say I have a course about teaching others how to blog. I’d put the original course on Udemy, share the free coupons and let Udemy drive extra sales. Take the same course content and publish it to SkillFeed and then “re-name” the course with the same content and give it some snazzy name. Launch it in either Fedora or with ZippyCourses and then drive sales via Facebooks ads and list building.

Other Course Platforms:

I did want to mention I may also eventually include some other courses in this post. I have also used Wishlist member but didn’t have a live site up to run the comparison at the moment (I actually shut it down and moved it to Udemy over a year ago). There is also another platform on the horizon I’m looking at and may eventually add to this post.

I hope you enjoyed this article and hopefully it was helpful for picking your online course platform.

 

John Shea
 

I'm John, I'm brutally honest, I have no shame and speak my mind without hesitation. I'm an entrepreneur here to speak the truth about internet marketing.

  • Really appreciate you writing up your views John and interesting to hear your perspective coming in from Udemy.

    To be clear, Fedora is actually totally free to use. We’re confident in the product, so we make it available to anyone taking the bet that we think you’ll keep using us once you’re growing eventually move to one of our paid plans (our highest plan has no transaction fee).

    We’re definitely doing what we can to help on the promotion side! I know a lot of instructors cross promote and from what I know, we have the largest independent Facebook group for independent course creators who you could certainly partner with.

    For now on the promotion side, here are three resources regardless of what platform you use:
    1. Before you’re first course goes live: http://profitablecourseidea.com
    2. To get your first 1,000 students: http://academy.usefedora.com/courses/playbook?product_id=17157&coupon_code=JOHN
    3. New weekly research on creating great content, and growing your own audience online: http://blog.usefedora.com

    • Hey Conrad, thanks for stopping by. I also see you provided links to your marketing courses for free so thanks for that.

      I’m actually going to run a case study of sorts, I’m working on one project with a partner where we plan to use ZippyCourses with WordPress.

      I’ve got another course in the works and I’m going to use Fedora for that to try it out.

      Have you guys ever considering offering a lifetime package for a high price with low fees and all the features? I’d honestly rather pay $500 than $99/month and get unlimited lifetime access to all of your tools, even if it mean’t taking a minor transaction fee hit. Just something to think about.

      I also could see a lot of benefit in Jvzoo API integration, there are a lot of marketers doing big launches over there and most people are familiar with the platform, I think that could open up a whole new world for course promotion. Wishlist member integrates with it but I didn’t cover that in this post.

      • The challenge with charging once for lifetime, is with technology you’re rarely paying for lifetime. Later, you’ll notice a one-time provider will probably have to launch a new upgraded system, templates etc. that you then have to spend time figuring out how to mash together (and might have to pay for) instead of it all happening seamlessly.

        With Fedora, we think a lot about being open and taking the technology challenge off your plate so you can focus on your content and growing your own audience. This is really the benefit of a SaaS model for customers – instead of paying money up front and not knowing what you get in terms of features (definitely looking at integrations with folks like JVzoo) as well as customer support. And we don’t charge until you’re successful and when we can grow with you. This is an investment, but we just think it’s a better way to grow a great long-term brand and company.

        • Makes sense, I’m actually in the process of working on 2 different large courses. I’m building an SEO course with Fedora and used the free promo code just provided on the webinar Ankur did with Noah. I spent a lot of time yesterday getting content ready, when I’m done I plan to go through the marketing playbook and I’ll keep you guys posted on my results with the platform, sales etc.

  • Excellent Review indeed. I use Fedora Platform and it’s ok for me,, Thank you

    • Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • This was really thorough and awesome. I’m using Udemy and Wishlist. I’m trying to sell all of my courses (about 300 hours) for $19/month on Wishlist. It doesn’t seem to work very well. But I keep experimenting with that pricing. I might try a flat rate for a lifetime membership.
    Udemy works ok. But I HATE that I can’t cross promote my other classes and services. So even though I get better traction over there I’ve been avoiding putting more classes there.

    Thanks for all your work!

    • I’d also put them on Skillshare. Not sure what you mean on cross promotion with Udemy, I can send the promotional emails to multiple courses, although I can’t see my customers emails is the bigger issue. Either way doing one blast this month with discount codes earned me close to $200~