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Are you trying to decide which online course platform to go with? Podia or Thinkific? Which one is more suitable for you?
In this blog post, I am going to give you all the information you need to decide which online course platform is better for you and your e-learning business.
What Is Online Course Platform (And Why You Need It)
An online course platform is also an e-learning platform that allows you to create, host, sell, and deliver your online courses or training programs to your students.
Even before Covid-19, the e-learning industry has seen steady growth over the years and is already a $200 billion dollar industry as of 2020.
Now, after Covid-19, it is only going to see tremendous growth in the near future.
So, it has never been a better time to ride and capitalize on this growing trend.
If you have something that you want to teach the world, you have the following options to make it happen:
- You can self-host via online course platform (e.g. Podia, Thinkific, etc)
- You can host it with online learning platforms (e.g. Udemy)
Online course platform is an easy, quick, and simple way for you to set everything up from creating, marketing, selling, delivering to tracking and reporting.
You retain a lot of control over your own online course business.
On the other hand, you can also choose to host your online courses on online learning platforms such as Udemy.
Here are the advantages of using online learning platforms:
- It’s free to upload and sell your online courses there
- Leverage Udemy’s traffic
However, there are quite a number of drawbacks:
- You lose a lot of control over your own online course business such as pricing and format of your courses
- The course delivery is limited to mostly video training
- You don’t have access to the list of your customers and their contact information
- They take a huge cut of all the organic course sales (i.e. sales that you didn’t bring by yourself)
- The pricing of all Udemy courses is ridiculously low, so it’s definitely not a good option for you if you want to launch a premium online course.
So, if you are serious about starting your online course business, then self-hosting your online courses is a better option for you.
Now, let’s talk about what you should look for when you are choosing the right online course platform.
What To Look For In An Online Course Platform
Before you decide on which online course platform is right for you, you should first find out exactly what you need from an online course platform.
Choosing the right online course platform is basically picking the one that can meet all your online course business needs and objectives.
To help you find out what you really need from an online course platform, you can ask yourself these questions:
- How many courses are you going to create and sell?
- Are you the only instructor or are you planning to have multiple instructors?
- What kind of online course are you planning to create? In what kind of format? (e.g. live classes, video training, PDF Downloads, Audios, etc)
- How are you planning to deliver your courses? (e.g. do you want to drip feed? Or do you need your students to fulfill certain lessons before they are allowed to move on to the next one?)
- Are you planning to include assignments or exams in your online courses? (if yes, you will need the tools to do that)
- Are you going to offer certification to your students?
- Are you planning to create and sell membership sites?
- How are you planning to promote and market your online courses? (e.g if affiliate marketing is going to be a major part of your marketing plan, then you want to find out if the online course platform offers that. Or if you are going to use email marketing, you want to know if you can do that with the online course platform.)
- Where are your potential clients located? Are they international? (e.g. you will need the appropriate payment options to accept payment)
- What language are you planning to launch your online courses in?
With that said, let’s examine both Thinkific and Podia closely and compare them to see which one better suits your business needs.
Podia has everything you need in one place to sell online courses, digital downloads, and memberships.
So, what is so special about Podia as an online course platform?
First of all, its platform is extremely intuitive and easy to use.
With its incredibly helpful customer support available to you 24/7, you can be sure that they will be there to help you throughout the entire setup process if you are new to selling online.
In fact, they will help you migrate your existing content for you, wherever it’s hosted or saved, for FREE.
For your online course website, you can get set up in minutes using its drag-and-drop website builder.
Podia allows you to control how you want everything to look and where you want it to appear, and easily customize your website with rich text, images, videos, and testimonials.
Also, your online course website will look great on all devices such as desktops, tablets, and mobile phones
Let’s not forget that you can have your custom URL for your own website.
This is very important for branding purposes.
Next, let’s look at how you can add your online courses, digital downloads and memberships on Podia.
With Podia, you always have unlimited bandwidth, products, & customers.
So, that means you don’t have to worry about how many courses you are going to create, how many digital downloads you can have, how much content you are going to put in your membership program, and how many students you are going to have.
Now, let’s take a look at how you can use Podia to create and sell not only your online courses but also digital downloads, membership and webinars.
Online Courses: Create a series of lessons with videos, audios, text & PDFs, posts, and quizzes which you can choose to either drip feed (i.e. deliver it section-by-section over time) or grant instant access to your entire course
Digital Downloads: Offer a file or collection of files for download (e.g. video, audio, software, ebooks and etc)
Membership: Sell a collection of other products for a recurring fee (e.g. bundle your products)
Webinars: Sell access to a Zoom or YouTube webinar (e.g. you can integrate your Zoom account with Podia)
When it comes to marketing and promoting your products, Podia has its own email marketing tools that you can use without having to purchase any third-party email marketing software ((which can cost at least $15/month).
But if you already have a third-party email marketing software, you can integrate with Podia easily.
Before we go on, I must say that email marketing is a very effective marketing strategy to sell online courses, digital downloads and membership.
Customers don’t buy your products the first time they saw it.
They need to first trust you and like you before they even start considering buying from you.
For them to buy from you, you can use emails to build trust and establish authority in your niche and finally convince them you have the solution to their problem.
So, how does Podia help you do that?
Podia allows you to collect email addresses of your potential clients on your website.
Once they are on your email list, you can create an email campaign which is a series of emails to promote and sell your products.
The best part is that everything is FULLY AUTOMATED from collecting their emails to sending emails to product sales and product delivery.
What that means is that your email subscribers will go through the email sequence automatically and then buy your products while you might be sleeping or having your dinner with your family.
Once they have bought your product, they will be automatically sent with their login information to their online courses or membership or the link to their digital downloads.
So, you don’t have to worry about any stage of the sales cycle because it’s all being taken care of.
On top of that, Podia is the ONLY product platform with integrated live chat, which gives you a way for both your potentil clients and you to talk to each other about your products and therefore increase your chances to get more sales.
- Pre-sell your online courses before it’s ready
- Pre-launch your online courses to gauge interest before you build
- Cross-sell products ( i.e. pitch other products to your existing customers on your email list)
- Discount coupon ( i.e. offer coupons that can be customized with time or usage limits)
- Create & manage your affiliate program (i.e. recruits affiliates to help promote and sell your online courses)
- Embed “Buy” button anywhere on your website
- Schedule and sell your webinar in advance or give it away for free to collect leads
- Earn passive income from webinar replays (i.e. after your webinar ends, it will automatically store the recording. Customers who paid for it will be able to access recordings, and you can choose to allow new customers to purchase the replay)
Now, what about pricing options?
Podia offers a lot of flexible pricing options to help you attract a wider audience:
- Free trials
- Payment plans
- Offer unlimited membership plans with different perks, content and pricing
- 1-Click Upsell (i.e. offering relevant upsells to anyone who downloads or purchases your products)
When it comes to getting paid, Podia helps you get paid in 22 currencies through credit card by connecting your PayPal or Stripe account.
It also helps make tax collection and reporting easy for you.
For example, Podia has tools to help you automactically calculate the amount of VAT due from each customer, automatically add the VAT to the customer’s bill, collect that money to your Stripe or Paypal account, and store all the tax data you need to make an accurate VAT return.
So, if you are from Europe or you have clients from Europe, you don’t have to worry about collecting VAT.
Now, let’s talk about how much Podia costs.
Podia’s pricing plan is very straight forward.
It has two plans – “Mover ” & “Shaker”.
So, what’s the difference and which is right for you?
“Mover” is $39/month (or $32.5/month if billed annually), while “Shaker” is $79/month (or $65.8/month if billed annually).
For “Mover” plan, you will get zero transaction fees, Unlimited everything and 24/7 & 7-days-a-week client support.
On top of that, you will also get all the essential tools to start and launch your online course business:
- Your own storefront (i.e. your custom website, sales page, checkout page, online course login page, and etc)
- Online courses (i.e. course creation, course hosting, course player, course delivery, course management, etc)
- Digital downloads
- Webinars (i.e. live webinars and webinar replays by connecting to YouTube Live)
- Email marketing (i.e. it helps you grow your email list and promote and sell your products)
- Live Chat Messaging
- Discount Coupons
- Free migrations
“Mover” is right for you if you’ve been thinking about creating an online course or digital download, and you’re ready to get started.
It’s a very affordable option because it includes EVERYTHING you need, so you don’t have to pay for any third-party tools or software.
And the best part?
You won’t be doing this on your own.
Podia loves to help creators like you get their business off the ground, and whenever you have questions, whether they’re about using Podia, building products, marketing strategies or anything else… they’ve got your back.
If you have already started your online course business and you are ready to grow and scale your business, then “Shaker” plan is more suitable for you.
“Shaker” plan offers you everything that is included in the “Mover” plan plus much more.
With “Shaker” plan, you will be able to do things:
- Sell (or give away) Zoom meetings and webinar (e.g. selling live coaching sessions, presentations, one-on-one consultations, and more)
- Offer a monthly or yearly membership subscription or a free Membership to generate leads
- Embed buy buttons anywhere on the internet, so people can buy your products without ever leaving the page.
- Start & manage your own affiliate marketing program where you can recruit affiliates to promote your products and you can choose how much you want to pay them per sale
- Install third-party code snippets like Facebook Pixel, Sumo, Olark and more
- Start a blog and publish articles online that can be seen by everyone and get free targeted organic leads from Google
So, who is “Shaker” plan right for?
If you are looking to grow your online course business with a more affordable, simplified and “everything in one place for you” platform, “Shaker” plan is perfect for you.
Try out Podia For FREE (no credit card required)
Now, let’s talk about Thinkific.
Thinkific has been around for almost a decade, helping online course creators start, build and grow their online business.
Just like Podia, Thinkific allows you to have your custom domain and build your own custom website using their drag-and-drop website builder.
If you don’t want to build the website yourself, you can also choose over a wide range of website themes that are specifically designed for selling education, and all the website themes include pre-built instructor, curriculum, key learnings, and course review sections.
In terms of website design and setup, Thinkific gives you more choices than Podia.
Also, Thinkific knows exactly what you need to build and design a website to effectively sell your courses, after helping its course creators sell over $200 million in courses.
Next, let’s take a look at Thinkifc’s course builder.
Thinkific has a drag-and-drop course builder that you can use to launch your course quickly with no coding required.
When it comes to helping you create your online course, it supports all the following rich media:
- Video (host 100% of your video content for free)
- Google Docs
Compared with Podia, Thinkific has a more powerful online course builder which gives you more tools(e.g. Survey, Captivate, Articulate, etc) to create the kind of online course you want.
Next, let’s look at the course player.
For every course creator, it’s important that you have full control over the way your course is delivered.
With Thinkific, you can customize the way your course system runs with the click of a button.
For example, if you want to set certain lessons as prerequisites before allowing students to move on to the next lessons, you can do that just by clicking the box next to “Making this lesson as a prerequisite” in the lessons settings.
Or if you want to set up a membership site and charge a monthly subscription fee for access to multiple online courses, you can do that as well with Thinkific.
Here are some other examples of how you can customize your course player:
- Private and hidden courses
- Multiple instructors
- Drip schedule content
- Evergreen and expiring content
So, in terms of course player, Thinkific offers more options to you than Podia.
Now, how does Thinkfic help you market and sell your online courses?
Thinkific provides you with all the tools you need to get more leads and sell more courses.
First of all, Thinkific allows you to create discount coupons for courses to help increase sales.
If you are planning to run affiliate programs for your courses, Thinkific allows you to create and customize your affiliate program and manage your affiliate on its platform without having to pay any third-party affiliate management apps.
By the way, affiliate marketing is probably one of the fastest and cheapest ways to sell more courses and scale your business.
If you are using email marketing to promote your courses, Thinkific does not have email marketing function like Podia, but it lets you easily connect to your third-party email marketing software provider such as GetResponse.
What if you are planning to run paid ads to get more leads for your business?
Thinkific can help you improve campaigns with advanced data tracking (e.g. Google Adwords, Facebook, and retargeting campaigns)
In terms of pricing options, Thinkific offers a wide range of flexible pricing options:
- Free trials
- Payment plans
- Custom first-month payments
The best part is that you get paid immediately.
If you sell your courses internationally, it also allows you to charge in 100+ currencies.
It accepts all credit cards and payments are 100% secure.
So, how much does Thinkific cost?
Below is Thinkific Pricing Plans.
Thinkific offers a free plan as well as three paid plans.
Its free plan allows you to access all its core features plus:
- 3 Courses
- Unlimited students
- Quizzes & surveys
- Content hosting
- Instant access to your funds
- Zero transaction fees
Here are the core features:
- Full e-Commerce
- Upsell offers
- Easy drag and drop Course Builder
- Secure cloud hosting & built-in SSL certificates
- Discussion forums
- Multiple instructor profiles
- Multiple site language
- Student notifications
- Email and phone support
Although the free plan allows you to start selling your online courses, you don’t have a custom domain under the free plan which is very bad for branding.
So, the sole purpose of the free plan is to let you test drive Thinkific and see if you feel it’s a good fit for your online course business.
When you move up the paid plans, you will get more course creation features, sales & marketing features, website design customization features, multiple administrators, and better customer support.
For example, the differences between the basic plan ($49/month or $39/month if billed annually) and the free plan are as follows:
- Unlimited courses
- Drip scheduled content
- Integration to third-party email marketing software such as Aweber
- Affiliate setup, management & reporting
- Coupon codes
- Custom domain
If you are ready to move forward and you are just launching your very first online course, the basic plan ($49/month or $39/month if billed annually) is good enough for now.
Once you are ready to grow and scale your online course business, you can always upgrade your plan to the Thinkific Pro where you will have more course play and sales & marketing features:
- Randomized quiz question bank
- Host Storyline, Captivate & more
- Course play options such as Prerequisite lessons and Require video completion
- Additional course prices (e.g. you can offer different packages)
- Offer payment plans
- Bundles & memberships
- Add-ons (e.g. you can add consulting time to your course)
- Advanced CSS/HTML editing for your website
Try out Thinkific for FREE (no credit card required)
Thinkific Vs Podia
Before we explain all the key differences between Thinkific and Podia, let’s take a look at what are the features that they both have in common.
Both Thinkific and Podia offers you the following:
- No transaction cost
- Instant payment
- Unlimited courses & unlimited students
- drag-and-drop website builder to create your online course website
- Custom domain
- Supports different types of rich media such as video, audio, quiz, PDF) when it comes to course creation
- Host live classes through Zoom webinars
- Offer membership
- Run an affiliate program for your online course business
- Get paid in different currencies through PayPal or Stripe
- Offer a wide range of pricing options such as payment plans, free trial and upsell
- Built-in security and SSL for the platform
So, what are the key differences between Thinkific and Podia?
Which online course platform is more suitable for you?
In terms of website design, Thinkific offers more options and choices for you than Podia.
Having said that, both Thinkific and Podia give you everything you need to help make your website collect more leads and sell more courses.
At the end of the day, your clients are not going to buy from you because of your pretty website design, but the results that your online courses can help them get.
In terms of course creation, Thinkific again offers more options for you.
For example, Thinkific allows you to use Storyline and Captivate to create your online courses while Podia does not offer this.
Also, Thinkific allows you to give your students Assignments and also allows students to submit assignments to you.
So, you can manage all the assignments in one place.
Of course, you can also ask your students to email their assignments to you because this “Assignment” feature is only included in Thinkific Pro plan($99/month)
Having said that, not many course creators actually use Storyline and Captivate.
But, if you do, then Thinkific would be the better option.
In terms of course player, Thinkific again does better than Podia by giving you more options such as Private and hidden courses and Evergreen and expiring content.
With Podia, you only get two ways to deliver your online course:
- Drip scheduled content
- Pre-requisite content
But, when it comes to offering membership, Podia does a much better job than Thinkific.
With Thinkific, all you can do is to bundle two or more courses together and offer it as a membership.
But, with Podia, you can do a lot more:
- Publish members-only content & posts (i.e. similar to Facebook group where you can post content to the wall)
- Add pinned posts
- Schedule content in advance
- Control which membership plans see which posts
- Encourage engagement by inviting customers to comment and engage with content
- Link to your Facebook Group or Slack Channel so only paying members can join
So, if you are planning to launch a membership, Podia will definitely be a better option to help you do that.
In terms of marketing and sales, Podia offers its own email marketing tools for you to send newsletters or email campaigns to promote your product.
It also allows you to track email opens and clicks, so you know if your email marketing needs some tweaking or not.
If you have not already purchased an email marketing software ($15/month at least ), then Podia would help you save a lot of money.
With Thinkific, you will have to buy third party email marketing software and connect it to your Thinkific account.
Also, Podia allows you to offer live chat while Thinkific does not offer it at all.
Live chat is getting more and more important because your customers can talk to you about your products directly and immediately.
It also gives you a new way to promote your product and get more sales.
If you are going to buy third-party live chat software, it’s going to cost at least $19/month.
So, Podia definitely offers more when it comes to helping you market and sell your products.
When it comes to getting paid, Podia automatically helps you calculate VAT and add it to the course price while Thinkific does not have that.
If you have a lot of students from Europe or you are based in Europe, then this is a very important tool offered by Podia to help you deal with tax collection and reporting.
Lastly, in terms of pricing, Thinkific offers a free plan while Podia does not.
But, if you are serious about your online course business, Thinkific’s free plan is not going to work for you because you don’t get a custom domain.
That means your website domain name will be in the format of “yourschoolname.thinkific.com”.
And that’s not good for branding at all.
Thinkific’s cheapest plan costs $49/month( or $39/month if billed annually) while Podia’s cheapest plan costs about $39/month (or $32/month if billed annually).
Both offer you unlimited courses and students, no transaction cost, custom domain, discount coupon, upsells, course builder, and drip scheduled content delivery.
If you are just starting out and on a tight budget, I would definitely recommend Podia‘s basic annual plan because it can save you quite a lot of money.
You don’t have to pay third-party email marketing software and also live chat software.
If you are trying to grow and scale your online course business, then you will have to look at Thinkific’s Pro plan and Podia’s Shaker plan.
Thinkific’s Pro plan costs about $99/month (or $79/month if billed annually) while Podia‘s Shaker plan costs about $79/month (or 65/month if billed annually).
Both plans will give you more pricing options such as payment plans, allow you to offer membership and run affiliate program.
So, which one is better for you?
If you don’t need all the additional options such as Storyline, Captivate and Assignments that Thinkific offers you, then I would say Podia is a much better option because it gives you more value for money with the free email marketing tools and live chat tool.
Plus, if you are going to launch a membership, then Podia will definitely be more suitable for you because it gives you a lot of useful tools to run your membership such as publish post, schedule post and pinned post.
Try out Podia For FREE (no credit card required)