Before students can take your courses, you have to upload your course to an online professional development platform (aka “training platform”). As with most things online, you have quite a few options to choose from.
The key is figuring out which type of platform works best not only for you, but for your students. In general, you have three choices – self-hosted, hosted and marketplace. Each has its own pros and cons.
Take your time and compare each option fully before deciding where your course’s online home will be. Of course, you can always change your mind later if you want to.
The Main Things To Consider
Currently, the e-learning market size is valued at over $165 billion, with projected growth to be $240 billion by 2023. This means there is plenty of demand, but you just have to make sure you choose a training platform that will make it as easy as possible to get your course in front of students.
Overall, you have three things to think about:
- Time involved in setting up and managing
- Options for yourself and students
While one platform might be cheaper, it might limit your course management options. Another might cost more, but take half the time as other options to get started. As you can see, there’s usually a trade-off and you have to decide which platform has the right balance for your needs.
Self-Hosted Training Platforms
Self-hosted training platforms usually take the longest to set up, because you install the platform on your own website. WordPress is the most popular option since there are numerous themes and plugins dedicated to online education. Plus, the majority of web hosts make installing and customizing WordPress easy, even for beginners. A few pros to self-hosted include:
- Full control over your course and website
- Customize the website and your brand at any time
- Add new features by trying new plugins – LearnDash, Zippy Courses and WP-Courseware turn your site into a learning management platform.
- Move to a new host fairly easily if necessary
On the other hand, a few cons include:
- Bigger learning curve if you’re new to WordPress
- Longer time to set up
- More management involved, such as regular website maintenance
- Costs – web host, domain, themes, plugins
- Managing integrations with other services
Overall, it’s the best choice if you want complete control.
Hosted Training Platforms
Hosted training platforms, or third-party hosted platforms, eliminate much of the setup and management tasks. However, you’ll be hosting your course with someone else. This means you’re limited to their features and tools. These platforms allow you to set up your own course site using their templates, marketing features, email service and other tools. They handle hosting and general website maintenance. Some of the best reasons to choose hosting training include:
- Quicker setup time
- All features are in one place and ready to use
- More focus on the course versus customizing
- Guided setup and management process
You might want to avoid this option if:
- You need more control over the look and feel of your site
- Don’t want subscription service fees (can be just for hosting and/or per transaction)
- You want to easily move your course in the future
The final option for you is a marketplace solution. Think of them as massive e-commerce sites that sell online courses. These marketplaces are perfect for getting setup as quickly as possible and reaching students easily. A few great reasons to choose a marketplace include:
- Put your course on an established course marketplace
- Less marketing to worry with
- No website management
- Better search engine ranking
- Little to no upfront costs (usually transaction fees only)
Of course, marketplaces do have a few downsides, such as:
- Very little customization options, including design and even pricing structure
- Commission structure and policies can change with little to no notice
- Less interaction with students outside of the course (the marketplace owns the student data, not you)
Marketplaces are the easiest to get started with. They require the least amount of work to start getting students.
There isn’t a right or wrong answer to which online professional development platform you should choose. In fact, online educators see success with all three, so it’s a matter of deciding how much you want to pay to start, how much you want to earn and how much control you want over the course. Many educators start with a marketplace solution to test course popularity and then move on to their own self-hosted site, while others prefer the balance of hosted solutions.