Whether you have already published a course online or you’re exploring your options, knowing all your options is essential. Yes, even if you already have a course out there it’s never too late to understand your options going forward.
There are several ways you can publish your course content online and everyone is trying to sell you on their way. Of course, they have a vested interest in you using their platform.
How else would they get paid?
Unfortunately nobody is going to approach your options from a financially removed point of view. Even I have an interest at least somewhat. That is even though I’m not selling a specific platform but rather a method that removes the locked in platform.
So, before we start with the benefits of owning your course platform instead of “renting” it an explanation is in order. What the heck do I mean by renting your course platform?
First this needs to start with what options you have for publishing your course content and sharing your knowledge in an organized way.
Three Ways To Put Your Courses Online
There are three main ways you can go about putting your courses online. Understanding these three methods first are essential to determine if you want to rent or if you want to own.
- Course marketplace (examples: Udemy, Skillshare, etc.)
- Proprietary hosted/rented course platform (example: Teachable, Thinkific, Kajabi, etc.)
- Self-hosted open-source owned course platform (example: WordPress with LearnDash, WP Courseware, LearnPress, etc.)
Each of these methods has their benefits and drawbacks. The first two are what I refer to as rented course platforms because you don’t own the platform, the host it’s on, the code, or anything else relating to it.
You’re essentially renting some space on someone else’s platform that they own and control. Once you subscribe then they allow you to use their system but essentially they still own everything (including your course content in some cases!)
Let me explain these three methods of putting your course content online a bit more and covers some benefits and drawbacks.
A course marketplace is a great option when you’re first starting out and have absolutely no students. You have to start somewhere and since a course marketplace already has a built-in audience, you can tap into that.
Udemy Is the #1 Course Marketplace Online
Unfortunately there are also a lot of downsides to course marketplaces. Those downsides start to crop up as you get more students and want to grow. You essentially become dependent on the marketplace, and they definitely charge you for it.
Once you’ve invested a lot into a course marketplace they can also be hard to escape. So, if you want to tap into the built-in students to take advantage of, make sure you also have a plan to draw that audience into a marketing channel that you have control of.
So, course marketplace = built-in student population IF you can stand out but lack of ownership of marketing to students and how your students see your content.
The interest of the course marketplace is to build their platform, not your course. That means they are going to try to keep their students on their platform whether it’s your course content or someone else’s.
The next place to take your content is a proprietary course platform which is rented also.
Proprietary Hosted/Rented Course Platform
These proprietary course platforms are systems built entirely for you to build a course on. You don’t own and likely can’t customize the course platform except in ways that they have built in.
Teachable Is A Hosted/Rented Course Platform
They sometimes have other marketing features such as the ability to create a website, email marketing, and things like that.
If you build your course on a proprietary hosted/rented course platform you’re either going to get someone else’s branding or you’ll pay a lot. You essentially pay per course, teachers, or some other method that can get expensive fast.
You’ll also find that you’re at the mercy of the platform for the features of it. If the platform doesn’t do something you need then you’re out of luck.
They have hundreds of thousands of teachers on their platform, and they all use the same platform. You are not their priority because they have to develop their platform for the majority of their customers.
With all these drawbacks, what are the benefits you ask?
You don’t have to do anything to maintain the platform and it has a lower barrier of entry than building your own platform. Depending on the plan you’re on there’s also little to no branding which means you can create your student’s experience.
That means you get to take ownership of your course content from the student’s perspective, the platform is made just for learning, and you also get control of your marketing for the most part.
Yes there are some limitations but there are for developing website with Wix and Squarespace but people still use them. They have a lower barrier of entry and can be easier to use than some alternatives.
If you want to move to the next level of course and student experience ownership then a course platform you own and built may be your best option.
Owned Course Platform
This type of course platform is somewhat similar to the proprietary “rented” version but you have a lot more control. These are built on a platform such as WordPress or with a dedicated LMS such as Moodle.
I don’t recommend messing around with Moodle because it’s definitely overkill for most users. WordPress is perfect for a course platform, though, because your course content and website content should integrate seamlessly which WordPress does.
With a good course plugin you can get all the most important features that a hosted course platform has plus you will own the entire platform and your content. There’s no fine print that you could give up your content, there’s no being locked in, a course plugin on WordPress is wide open to features and functionality.
You’re in complete control of what type of customizations you can make and you have at your disposal the entire WordPress plugin ecosystem which is insanely huge. That’s also a drawback. Because the ecosystem is insanely huge also means there are a lot of bad plugins and poorly maintained plugins, WordPress’s weakest point.
The only thing you’re not going to get with an owned course platform is video hosting too. Many dedicated course platforms have integrated video hosting within their ecosystem. While I don’t believe this is the best route for anyone (dedicated hosting platforms are superior) they are more convenient.
WordPress and similar platforms simply aren’t built for hosting videos and a lot of special servers and systems are needed to properly serve videos well. I can throw a video up on a web server and it will likely work for many users but it’s not a good idea. You’ll likely run into many issues also.
Now that you have a good understanding of the three methods of putting your course content online it’s time to look at the benefits of a course platform that you own and control.
The Benefits Of Your Own Course Platform
There are some very clear drawbacks and benefits to course marketplaces and rented course platforms. The rest of this post is going to focus strictly the benefits of the third option, owning your own course platform.
Owning your course platform opens up some incredible benefits that nothing else can come close to offering. Using a platform like WordPress has lots of haters but the benefits are clearly plentiful. Just having access to the sheer endlessness of the plugin ecosystem is enough to make it worth it.
There are lot more benefits to owning your platform than just being on an open platform that you own, though. That’s why we’ve dedicated our business to putting course builders like you in charge of your knowledge by building you a course platform that you own outright.
Nobody can tell you what you can and can’t do with it, your access to the platform and your content can never be revoked, and you remain in control of the entire student experience.
That alone is more than you could say about any marketplace or rented course platform.
In case that’s not enough, it’s time to review more benefits of owning your own course platform.
Let’s get to it…
9 Benefits Of Owning Your Course Platform
There are nine primary benefits that I came up with of owning your course platform rather than relying on a course marketplace or hosted/rented solution. I’ll break down each benefit with more context and information.
- Own your content completely.
- Control how your students experience your course.
- Customize your course platform more.
- Control your course marketing.
- Do more with your course platform than just courses.
- Completely white label.
- The best tools to optimize public content for search engines.
- Unique offering that stands out.
- Charge how much and how you want.
Own Your Content Completely
Is your content that you post and create on Facebook really yours? If they decide you’re breaking the rules and want to cancel your account and remove all your content do they need permission? Do they even have to tell you why they’re doing it?
No, they don’t. That also goes for course marketplaces and rented course platforms. They’re giving you the right to use their platform and put your content on it. If they find for whatever reason they please to remove your content then they can and will.
Not only that but you have no recourse which means your content is not really your at that point. You’re relying on someone else to make it available and you’re trusting someone else with your content.
The question is, do you even own your content at that point? Since you signed away your life’s knowledge to them when you agreed to their terms of service it could also mean you no longer own your content. The content then becomes shared. Many platform will have sections of their terms of service that gives them ownership of your content and the ability to use it however they like.
A platform that you commissioned and have full ownership is completely opposite. You own it, the content is yours, the platform is yours, everything is yours. Nobody else can take ownership of your content on a course platform that you own.
So, the #1 benefit of something you own is that you don’t rely on anyone else to make your content available. Nor do you rely on someone else to not shut your content down and remove it from their platform. It’s your platform on your host that you own so nobody can remove it or use it but you.
You retain full ownership of your knowledge and you don’t have to agree to any terms of service that says anybody else can use it or that they own it.
Your course content, website, and everything you do on your platform is yours and will always remain that way.
Control Your Student’s Experience
When you’re putting your course on a course marketplace or hosted course platform you’re also losing branding ability for your content. Course marketplaces are the worst. The course marketplace’s only allegiance is to themselves. When they market your content they are also trying to get your students elsewhere on their marketplace.
Not only are they trying to market different content to their students, they have no vested interest in helping you over their students. You’re a second thought to course marketplaces only in that you’re a means to their end.
For hosted course solutions they don’t have an allegiance to any specific student but you’re limited in how your students experience your content. You can’t always choose how they pay, how the checkout process works, or even how they experience your course once they’re enrolled.
With a course platform that you own you’re also completely in charge of how your students experience your content. You can customize every aspect of your course platform and website that goes with it. That means you will stand out with a custom course experience for your students.
You get to choose if your students get a preview of some content, if they pay in installments, or have to subscribe. You will get to choose exactly how your students experience your content with virtually no limitations.
Customize Your Course Platform More
With a course platform that you own you’re also able to customize it to almost no end. Sure some customizations could be quite costly because they may be custom developments but the point is that it’s possible.
If your course platform is built on WordPress then you have the entire plugin ecosystem at your disposal. The number of plugins available on the official repository is astounding. According to the WordPress.org website at the time of this writing there are over 58,000 plugins.
Of course that doesn’t mean there are 58,000 useful or good plugins. A huge chunk of those are poor quality but even if you remove 57,000 plugins there are still more options than a course marketplace or hosted/rented course platform.
If you’re on a course marketplace then you have the option to customize your course in exactly one way. You can fill in the blanks that they provide, upload the content in a way they allow you to, and maybe if you’re lucky change a color or two.
On a rented/hosted course platform you have a few more options, but they are all at the mercy of the course platform. Any add-on/plugin has to be developed by the company and it can only be used in the way they tell you to.
With WordPress, you can have a blog, landing pages, your entire website, appointment scheduling, an eCommerce store, and more (more on that later). Of course then there are the customizations available for the actual course portion on your own platform.
There’s no end to how you can customize your course platform that you own since the only person you have to develop for is you. Your platform will be entirely yours so that means you can customize it to fit exactly your needs.
Control Your Course Marketing
You get full control of your course marketing even more than both course marketplaces and hosted/rented platforms. It’s easy to contact all your students for whatever reason either individually or send a mass email.
With a course marketplace your marketing abilities are extremely limited. You have to use their platform to contact your students and even then you’re limited. Your messages likely don’t hit your students email but rather go into a collective inbox on the course marketplace. That’s not good for you and limits your ability to market further promotions to your own students.
Marketing future content to your students is possible when you own your course platform because… you own it! Nobody can tell you what to do aside from SPAM laws which apply to everybody anyway.
Do More Than Just Courses
A custom course platform that you own is so much more than just a course platform. WordPress has some amazing course plugins that make it just as good as (or better) than any hosted/rented platform and way better than a course marketplace.
But because you own the platform and can customize it to your heart’s content that also means it can go well beyond your course content. If you want to sell merch related to your courses then you can have an eCommerce store too!
We’ve implemented a lot of great features on our website that also hosts our course content (coming soon). We have an extremely powerful form builder, so we can collect information and initiate lead flows. After that you can schedule an appointment because we’ve implemented an appointment scheduling plugin.
What else can you do with the appointment plugin? You can sell classes with the ability for your students to register for paid (or free) classes or even one-on-one session. Your imagination is the only limitation to how a custom course platform can fit into your business needs.
Every custom course platform we build for our clients are also built for building an amazing website too. You can’t get students without some great content that sells your courses. That’s why we develop your website with an extremely powerful and easy to use builder to help build amazing pages that you can then maintain and create new content if you’d like.
A good platform doesn’t lock you into needing a developer for every little change you want. That’s exactly how we build your platform. So, not only is it more customizable and powerful than any hosted/rented course platform but it’s also easier to do more with.
Completely White Label
When you own your own course platform there’s no one else’s branding attached to it. It’s yours and only yours with no other distractions and nobody else trying to make their name off your content.
If you put your course content on a course marketplace then you’re building the course marketplace’s brand. They may drive some students to your courses but it comes at a cost. They’re using you to boost their brand and ultimate drive more students to other course content too.
A course platform that you own builds your brand, creates brand recognition for your students, and is all around better for your long term growth.
Some hosted/rented course platforms don’t give you a white label course solution on some of their plans. It may be that you’re required to spend a lot of money monthly to get a white label platform and even then it’s not always completely white label.
For the expensive plans on Teachable you don’t get a fully white label solution. Here’s a quote from their pricing page:
Please note that secure URLs (e.g. login and checkout pages) and myTeachable (including the mobile app) are exceptions where there will be some indications that Teachable is powering the site.Teachabel Pricing Page
So you have to spend a lot of money a month, can’t customize it the way you like, and also have another companie’s branding on your website and payment pages.
Best Search Engine Optimization Tools
There are tons of choices for creating your website and course content. They are not all the same, though, and you can’t just look at the features.
One of the most essential features for every business is the ability to optimize your content for search engines. That means your website pages, blog pages, and course content that’s public facing.
No other platform allows you to optimize for search engines like WordPress does. That makes WordPress the best option for owning both your website and course platform.
Even website-only platform like Wix and Squarespace can’t compare to WordPress for search optimization. That’s the most important function of every website!
So, you’re limited on the most important features for any website and course. With an owned platform you have the capability of using any plugin you’d like for search engine optimization (SEO).
The best part is that there are tons of amazing WordPress plugins that offer all the best SEO tools. Every custom course platform we build for our clients comes with the professional level of a top SEO plugin for WordPress.
Without great SEO for your course platform you’re not going to ever reach the audience you’re hoping to. Unfortunately there are almost no SEO features for course marketplaces and for hosted/rented course platforms they are extremely limited compared to WordPress.
Unique Student Offerings
With a course platform that you own your options are nearly unlimited for how you can offer your content to students.
Not done building your course yet but getting close? You can still launch!
With the custom course platforms we build you can drip content to your students. That way your content isn’t made available all at once so you have time to finish your content. Even if you are finished, a drip format is sometimes better.
There are so many unique offerings you can do for your students. You can even offer free one on one consulting for students who are subscribers. Or, you can offer free classes that are scheduled right on your website.
There are unlimited ways you can make unique offerings for your course content that you can’t do on course marketplaces and even some hosted/rented course platforms.
Charge How You Want
You’re able to offer your content to students in many payment formats.
- Make your course free.
- Make some content free but the rest charge.
- Charge a single fee for all course content.
- Enable installments for your content.
- Charge a subscription fee for a course or all your content.
The many options for having your students pay means you’re able to make your content offerings exactly how you want to fit how you share your knowledge.
Your choice will depend on many factors. You can choose a course marketplace, a hosted/rented course platform, or to own your course platform. Each option has benefits and drawbacks. Your progress in building your student audience will determine a lot.
If you’re just starting out then you likely will have no audience to market to and no students. In that case a course marketplace may be best.
If you’re a bit further along then you likely have more options. Either you have an audience and want to add on courses to your offering or you have courses on a hosted/rented platform.
In either of those situations you’re likely going to benefit a lot more by owning your course platform and controlling how you share your knowledge. In the end there is no better way to control how you grow your business than to own your course platform and website platform rather than using a hosted/rented platform.
Sign up to receive helpful information to improve your courses online.