Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase. For more information, read our full affiliate disclosure here.
If you don’t already have Thinkific, try it for free! Thinkific makes it ridiculously simple to create and showcase your courses with themes specifically designed for selling education.
Founder, Blogging Guide
With well over 100 million enrollments, Thinkific has long established itself as one of the leading virtual learning platforms around. The online education solution stands out for its ease of use and commitment to helping individual creators and businesses expand their eLearning offerings.
But is Thinkific the right solution for everyone looking to launch an online course business?
The platform has helped thousands of creators earn a living, and helped millions of students upgrade their skills over the years, but Thinkific is not without its drawbacks.
That’s why it is important to know what else is available so you can compare and make the best decision for your digital education business. We went ahead and did the research and found the best Thinkific alternatives!
What is Thinkific?
Thinkific describes itself as “a technology company with a platform that allows people and businesses to create online courses from their existing knowledge and then deliver or sell those courses to their audience from their website, and under their own brand.”
If that sounds a bit long winded, a simple definition is that Thinkific is an online education solution equipped with all the necessary tools to create, manage, and distribute courses. The platform allows both individual creators and businesses to easily share their knowledge and potentially earn an income.
At the same time, Thinkific also helps instructors deliver a great experience for students by offering a diverse mix of learning aids, including course players, quizzes, tests, live classes, gamification, communities, and even course completion certificates.
Thinkific is praised for its simplicity in use. It is easy to create an account, build a course, and design your own course website. What’s more, Thinkific allows users to integrate dozens of third-party apps to help with design, student management, and marketing, among other activities. You can literally offer any kind of experience to students and build your course website in a variety of ways.
The wide range of features for online course development and delivery make Thinkific an ideal choice for educators, creators, and businesses alike. Of course, it is not all perfect. Let’s look at some of Thinkific’s top pros and cons.
- Ease of use for creating courses and building a course website
- Free plan which makes it possible to try out the core features of the platform
- Full-service eLearning platform that also includes course marketing, student management, and payment handling capabilities
- No coding skills necessary – offers a drag and drop site builder and course editor
- Comprehensive app store offering all kinds of helpful integrations
- Ability to create unlimited courses (premium packages only) and host an unlimited number of students
- Customizable to suit your brand design (full white label only available with Premier Plan)
- Custom domain possibility
- Compatible with other web platforms such as WordPress, Weebly, etc., allowing users to add courses to Thinkific from other websites
- Customer support includes email and phone, as well as an extensive knowledge base
- A variety of course delivery and payment options to suit different kinds of students and learning styles
- Supports live hosted classes, one-on-one training, group sessions, and pre-recorded webinars
- Multiple forms of learning content supported, including PDF, text, video, HTML, audio, presentations, and more
- Highly scalable – users include large education companies with dozens of courses and thousands of learners, as well as independent creators with much smaller operations
- No transaction charges on student payments for accessing learning content
- API access (Premier Plan) + the ability for those with the requisite skills to edit the underlying code
- Free plan only offers the most basic of features
- Premium plans can be expensive for those just starting their online course business
- Some users lament the lack of an in-house email marketing tool. A third-party app must be used, resulting in additional costs
- Thinkific does not offer a mobile app (although their course player is fully mobile responsive)
- Some reviews point to the site builder being too limited
Another factor to look at is cost. Thinkific is not the cheapest option among online learning platforms, but it is also not the most expensive. The cost is really dependent on the kind of education business you want to set up and the features you need. However, the cost can also be impacted by the amount of third-party integrations you decide to include, as most of them will require a fee. That being said, here is an overview of the Thinkific pricing plans.
Free Plan: Offers all the core features required to set up and launch an online course, and includes:
- One site admin account
- Unlimited students but limited courses
- Drag and drop course builder
- Full e-commerce capabilities
- Access to app store
- Website templates
- Email and telephone support
Basic Plan: Suitable for those wanting to build their first online course with more features than what is available with the free plan; covers all the free features, in addition to:
- Unlimited courses
- Custom domain
- Live chat function
- Ability to set up drip scheduling
- One-on-one email with students
- Ability to offer coupons and promotions
- Thinkific Academy basic courses
Pro Plan: Best for experienced course creators who want to expand their course business and provide more support for learners. In addition to Basic Plan features, the Pro Plan also includes:
- Two site admin accounts
- Hidden/private courses
- Priority support
- Advanced course building tools and features
- Flexible pricing options, including subscriptions
- Course completion certificates
- One community
- Thinkific Academy Pro courses
Premier Plan: For those wanting to further develop their existing course businesses at scale. Includes:
- Up to five site admin accounts
- Unlimited communities
- Ability to create groups
- Full white label and API access
- 15 group analysts
- Integration for Brillium exams
Alternatives to Thinkific
You should now have a clearer picture about what Thinkific offers in terms of launching an online education business. Clearly, the platform is valuable to people who want to create online courses and possibly earn revenue from their efforts. However, it is worth getting familiar with alternative solutions to see if there is a better choice for your specific needs.
From the list of alternatives mentioned earlier, we picked five to discuss – not necessarily based on whether they are better or worse but on how they match up with Thinkific.
Often compared to Kajabi, Podia is another all-in-one solution that can be used to create and sell a variety of digital products. Webinars, memberships, downloadable files, and courses are all welcome on Podia.
When compared to Thinkific, Podia is a much lighter solution for creating online courses. The platform is easy to set up and provides a simple, one-page site that can be customized to meet your online course needs. At the same time, Podia is integrated with a number of marketing tools that creators can use to engage students, promote their offerings, and even create analytical reports.
- Upselling tools to increase sales
- Section by section drip scheduling of course content
- Student dashboard emails, plus the ability to track open rates
- Allows content to be embedded from over 1,900 third-party apps
- Ability to offer coupons, course bundles, pre-sales, and payment plans
- Zoom and YouTube integrations making it possible to host live and pre-recorded webinars
- Robust email marketing tools to share broadcasts and create campaigns
- Lower upfront costs to get started with selling online courses + you can get started for free
- Unlimited everything to include courses, students, content, and emails
- Allows users to offer other digital products alongside courses, including downloadable files, webinars, memberships, and communities
- You can build your course with any kind of content, whether text, videos, images, PDFs, audio files, PSDs, etc.
- Ability to customize your course site with logo and brand colors
- Modern site builder with flexible layout options
- No transaction fees when using a paid plan
- Comes with community and discussion features to help boost engagement
- Lacks many of the learning management tools and advanced features required to deliver an online classroom experience
- No advanced analytical or reporting tools
- Inability to create a fully white label course website
- Free plan offers only very basic features and attracts an 8% fee per transaction
- Site builder comes with limited functionalities
One of the cheapest options in its class, Podia has three pricing tiers: Mover Plan for $33 per month, Shaker Plan for $75 per month, and Earthquaker Plan for $166 per month. Of course, there is also a free plan.
Teachable is a solution that allows creators to build and sell online courses or coaching services. The platform is similar to Thinkific in that it is built from the instructor’s perspective rather than the student’s. However, Teachable puts more focus on individual creators and trainers rather than professional educators and companies (although it can still cater to such customers).
The focus on creative individuals means Teachable is quite simple to use. In fact, the platform is among the easiest to manipulate and is devoid of many of the advanced tools available on Thinkific and other similar solutions.
You can literally launch an online course on Teachable within minutes. You only need to provide the content, as much of the technical stuff is already taken care of. To date, Teachable has generated over $1 billion in revenue for the over 100,000 creators who use the platform.
Teachable features include:
- Convenient drag and drop course builder
- Simple and intuitive user-friendly interface
- Supports various course media, including PDF, text, audio, images, video, presentations, etc.
- Commenting feature to engage with students
- Free plan available that can be used to set up a very basic online course without any costs
- Ability to create quizzes and issue course completion certificates
- Support for offering course bundles, memberships, upsells, order bumps, and coupons
- Affiliate marketing tools and student referral program
- Multiple payment settings, including subscriptions, instalments, free trials, and other flexible options
- Supports student and course migration from other platforms
- Accepts payments in over 130 currencies, as well as Apple Pay, PayPal, Google Pay, and more
- Compatible with desktop and mobile
- Multiple language support
- Support channels include email and live chat, member community, live group coaching sessions, and more
- Direct integration with popular tools such as Mailchimp, Zapier, and Google Analytics, among others
- Ideal for beginners who want to explore the world of online courses without too many bells and whistles
- Offers a course marketplace through the Spotlight app, which helps users with getting their courses discovered
- The inclusion of marketing and sales tools means users may not have to spend a lot on other third-party apps
- Easily customizable allowing some amount of branding capabilities
- No technical skills are required, much of the functionality includes drag and drop builders
- More experienced course creators may find Teachable to be unsuitable due to its lack of advanced learning and educational assessment tools
- The free plan is only useful for trying out the platform
- Can be expensive, especially for beginners who want more than the basic features available with the free plan
- No white labeling option
- More recently, Teachable has been prioritizing coaching services, which may cast some doubt on whether it will remain a viable option for course creators
Teachable offers a straightforward pricing structure, including a Basic Plan for $39 monthly, a Professional Plan for $99 monthly, and a Business Plan for $499 per month. In addition, large companies can sign up for an Enterprise Plan, which requires dialog with the Teachable sales department.
As the name suggests, Skillshare enables the sharing of knowledge through its virtual learning platform. The online education solution offers self-paced video courses (referred to as classes) that both individuals and teams can take from anywhere.
While anyone can create a course on Skillshare, many of the instructors happen to be experts in their fields. Some of the teachers on the platform include high-profile names such as Gary Vaynerchuck, Seth Godin, and Roxane Gay.
Browsing through the approximately 35,000 classes published on Skillshare reveals that, as a Thinkific alternative, the learning material is skewed towards creative and business-minded individuals. There are plenty of courses involving graphic design, animation, photography, writing, web development, and productivity, for example. There are also practical, non-traditional educational content in fields such as motivation and life hacks.
- Individual and group classes
- Video-based courses
- Short, mini lessons
- A shared learning experience
- iOS and Android mobile app, in addition to desktop access
- Easy class creation and publishing, with no application or approval process
- Learning community for teachers and students
- Student feedback
- Premium class catalog
- Referral system
- Networking channels
- Class planning tutorial to help instructors organize ideas and learning content
- Class promotion capabilities
- Students can view learning content offline (premium members only)
- Open to anyone who wants to share their expertise or learn from others
- Functional and stable cloud-based platform
- Learning community encourages sharing of information to improve educational content
- Bite-sized lessons and projects help to enhance learning experience for students
- Unlimited earning opportunities based on student memberships
- Referral program allows instructors to earn from every new student who becomes a premium member
- Includes live sessions
- Free trial available
- No robust learning management features as a Thinkific alternative
- Inability to verify quality of learning content
- No course completion certificates or accreditation
- Inability to build your own learning website
- No free classes (except for free trial), although members are often privy to ongoing discounts and promotions
- No white labeling features
- Online classes is the only offering (unlike all-inclusive options such as Gumroad or Kajabi)
Skillshare offers a 7-day free trial that you can use to access all courses on the platform. Beyond that, however, its pricing plans are not clear for individuals. For teams, Skillshare offers a Starter, Enterprise, and Revive plan. The Starter Plan is suitable for teams of 2 – 19 people and costs $159 annually per user. The Enterprise Plan covers 20 or more users and requires users to contact Skillshare sales. The same goes for the Revive Plan, which caters to teams of 51 or more users.
In addition to online courses, Gumroad is another option that makes it possible to sell a variety of digital products. Printables, e-books, software, memberships, and more are among the accepted offerings. The platform is actually an online marketplace used by thousands of creators around the world.
You can easily create your own store front on Gumroad and get access to a ready-made audience of over 200,000 monthly visitors. In addition, Gumroad allows you to sell your courses through your social media pages or existing website and makes it possible for you to collect payments via credit cards and PayPal.
Gumroad features include
- Simple but useful eCommerce tools geared towards audience building and conversions
- The ability to create custom URL links that can be shared anywhere
- Powerful payment processing to include most major credit cards and PayPal
- Flexible payment options including subscriptions, installments, one-time payments, etc.
- User-friendly interface
- Versatile page editor with options to add brand colors and more
- Embeddable power-ups including social networking and payment platforms
- Supports multiple currencies
- Import/export for email list and followers
- Simple selling model – set up storefront, upload courses, start selling
- No monthly fees, so no direct startup costs to use the platform
- Transaction fees are reduced as lifetime earnings increase
- Ability to offer additional digital products (memberships, printables, software, e-books, etc.) in tandem with your online course
- Access to all features from the get-go as there are no price tiers
- Vibrant support community
- Although it is free to sign up, users with lifetime earnings below $1000 are charged a 9% transaction fee + 30 cents on each sale
- No free trial to test out the platform
- Lacks advanced learning management capabilities
- Mobile app comes with limitations
- No significant tracking or analytical reporting features
Gumroad is free to use for creators, the platform makes money from transaction fees when there are sales.
Kajabi is an all-in-one solution geared towards the market segment referred to as “knowledge entrepreneurs.” The platform is used by skilled professionals such as educators and business owners, as well as DIY creators looking to earn from a variety of digital products. As such, the platform is used for hosting online courses, creating membership websites, offering coaching services, podcasting, and building digital communities.
As it relates to selling courses, Kajabi makes it easy to build and launch online courses with its ready-made templates. The platform equips users with a variety of tools and features in the areas of sales-based landing pages, creating marketing emails, and setting up automations.
In addition, users have access to tools designed for creating course websites, managing students, setting up quizzes and assessments, and more. Having been around since 2010, Kajabi has helped over 50,000 users generate more than $3.5 billion in revenue.
Kajabi features include
- A mobile-friendly app for both iOS and Android, in addition to desktop access
- Various tools needed to create, market, and monetize learning content
- Assists creators with building and selling other digital products such as podcasts, memberships, and coaching services
- Support for up to three custom domains/websites
- Basic discussion forum and social networking features
- Drag and drop website builder
- Extensive email marketing and automation tools to help creators increase their earnings
- Built-in SEO
- Built-in email marketing and management tools means users do not have to spend on other solutions (unlike Thinkific)
- Integrated checkout allows creators to collect payments through Stripe or PayPal
- Unlimited video hosting means you can build courses with audiovisual content at no extra cost
- Has a reputation for providing great customer support
- Easy to get set up and launch an eLearning business, as well as other digital products
- 14-day free trial allows you to try out all the features before deciding to purchase a plan
- Does not offer a free plan (although there is a free trial)
- Among the most expensive Thinkific alternatives, with the cheapest option costing more than Thinkific’s middle tier
- Does not offer a robust learning management system as Thinkific or even Teachable
- No option to create unlimited courses
- Some reviews have mentioned that the website builder is lacking certain expected features
As mentioned, Kajabi is more expensive than many of its competitors – with the Basic Plan costing $149 per month, and the second tier (Growth Plan) being $199 per month. However, the Pro Plan, which is the most expensive plan for Kajabi, appears quite competitive at $399 per month when compared with other platforms. Additionally, you can get 20% off the listed prices when billed annually.
Thinkific offers plenty as an online education platform, but it has limitations and drawbacks that make it unsuitable for many individuals and businesses. The search for competent Thinkific alternatives will reveal that the ones listed above are among the most recommended. Be sure to do a good comparison of pricing, features, and how each matches up with your long-term goal before making a final decision.