Looking to start selling online courses? Debating which course platform to use?
Then you’re sure to have come across Teachable and Thinkific, two of the most popular online course platforms.
But how do you decide which one to use?
In this guide, we’re comparing the key differences between Teachable and Thinkific, so you can decide which is best for you?
What are Teachable and Thinkific?
Teachable and Thinkific are hosted platforms that let you create, market, and sell online courses. They’re also referred to as a Learning Management System (LMS). The bottom line is that if you use one of these platforms, you don’t have to worry about turning your WordPress site into an LMS using various plugins and addons.
It’s also worth noting that Teachable and Thinkific are not course marketplaces like Skillshare and Udemy, so you have complete control over the pricing and structure of your courses.
Who uses Teachable and Thinkific?
Theoretically, anyone who wants to share their knowledge, such as solopreneurs, speakers, authors, and coaches, plus mid-sized businesses, can use one of these online course platforms.
Teachable vs Thinkific: Key differences
As you’d expect, Teachable and Thinkific have a lot of things in common, so we’ll cover the similarities and then highlight the key differences.
Teachable and Thinkific have both made it easy for people to create online courses, but they both differ in terms of specific course creation features.
Uploading content and structuring your course
Both Teachable and Thinkific include unlimited hosting so you can upload a wide variety of multimedia content, including audio, video, PDFs, text, and quizzes.
Teachable has the added benefit of letting you bulk upload from OneDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox as well as your computer.
You can bulk upload your content onto the platform and then drag-and-drop it into your preferred course structure via lessons and chapters on Thinkific or sections and lectures on Teachable. The lessons can either be one piece of content or multiple pieces of related content – e.g. video, text, and PDF.
Teachable also lets you bulk select lessons and change the settings for previewing, downloading, publishing, and deleting from the curriculum page without going into individual lessons.
A nice touch from Thinkific are the proven course templates for Pre-sell, Mini-course, Flagship Course, Webinar Replay, Membership Resource Library, as well as the default Blank template, to speed up your course creation and use the best practices in curriculum and course design.
Delivering content with the Course Player
From a student’s perspective, the Course Player on each platform looks good. The sidebar shows how you’re progressing, and it’s easy to revisit a lesson if needed.
On Thinkific, students can search through the course by lesson titles, plus they can use full-screen mode to hide the sidebar and other distractions.
Content drip and locking
Both platforms allow you to drip feed your content based on the course start date or student start date. Teachable has the added benefit of being able to send drip emails to notify your students.
Both course platforms also allow you to lock content (referred to as course compliance), so students have to complete specific tasks, like lessons or quizzes, before starting the next lesson. The key difference here is that Thinkific lets you set course compliance at the lesson level while Teachable works at the course level.
Engaging and interacting with your students is an integral component of online learning, so let’s see what each platform offers.
Thinkific lets you interact with your students outside its Course Player with the Communities feature, which you attach to a specific course or bundle of courses. It’s like having a Facebook Group, except it’s hosted on your site so that you can build and control your course or membership community.
Teachable uses a commenting system that’s attached to each lecture, which means it’s very much topic-based. Thinkific also has a similar system called Discussions, which you can enable for individual lessons or the whole course.
Quizzes and assignments
When it comes to quizzes and assignments, Thinkific is far more advanced. Quizzes can include multimedia, allow multiple tracked attempts, include explanations of the correct answers, be graded, and be drawn from a randomized question bank.
Thinkific also lets you create surveys and polls, so you can conduct student assessments, collect instructor feedback, and track goals.
And Thinkific’s Assignment lessons allow you to create, request, and review student submissions. Plus, it also integrates with a third-party exam provider, Brillium.
Certificates of completion
You can create and send certificates to your students when they complete a course. Teachable lets you create completion certificates on its platform by choosing from one of three templates. In comparison, Thinkific integrates with a third-party certificate service called Accredible.
Course reporting and analytics
Both platforms let you track student engagement in your courses, including:
- Enrollments and completion rate
- Lessons completed vs lessons viewed
- Views by content type
- Quiz attempts
- Number of course reviews
- Average course rating
You can also view orders – e.g. new versus returning students, coupons, product type, and more – and track revenue – e.g. new versus returning students, payment provider, and affiliate.
Website design and customization
Moving away from course delivery, you’ll also want to market and sell your course. You can do this on your own website if you wish. But both of these platforms allow you to build a website on their platform.
If you take that option, then you get free hosting with an SSL certificate, plus their team takes care of security, backups, and maintenance updates. You’ll also get a free subdomain for your site – e.g. bloggingwizard.teachable.com or bloggingwizard.thinkific.com. Or, if you prefer, you can use a custom domain – e.g. bloggingwizardcourses.com.
Both Thinkific and Teachable include drag-and-drop landing page design, custom pages, and the option to customize your checkout and thank-you pages with things like social proof or upsells.
But let’s look at the differences.
Thinkific’s theme library has 3 themes, each with 4 different styles where you can adjust color palettes.
Teachable has one default template that all websites use. You can upload your logo, choose the font family, and select a color palette or build your own.
Teachable’s page builder is limited to adding Banner, Text, and Image with Text blocks. On the other hand, Thinkific’s Site Builder is far more customizable with 20+ section types, including a ‘Hero’ section, testimonials, pricing, FAQs, CTAs, countdown timers, text with images, and more. (Just like you’d expect to see in Thrive Architect or Elementor).
Teachable includes a minimal blog, and Thinkific doesn’t have one at all. Neither platform focus on this functionality, and we’d recommend sticking with your WordPress blog.
Both platforms allow you to remove their branding by using a custom domain. However, it’s worth noting that the signup, login, and checkout pages still use a sub-domain in Teachable:
Sales and marketing tools
As well as creating your course, you need to market and sell it. And both Teachable and Thinkific come equipped with the tools to do just that.
For example, they both offer the ability to:
- Sell lifetime courses
- Create subscriptions
- Generate coupon codes
- Bundle courses
- Add 1-click upsells
- Conduct email marketing campaigns
- Launch affiliate marketing programs
- Use Google analytics and course tracking
But they tackle it differently, so let’s take a look.
Teachable offers a 1-step checkout where a student enters their details and makes the payment on the same page. Once the payment is successful, they’re asked to create an account.
Teachable claims that this frictionless process offers higher purchase conversion rates for their students.
But Thinkific disagrees.
They claim that without collecting an email address up-front, you have no way to contact prospective students who are “on the fence,” and so you’re likely decreasing your overall conversion rate.
Thinkific reckons that with Teachable, you end up collecting up to 20-30% fewer high-value prospective emails every single month, losing the opportunity to grow your list with valuable just-about-ready-to-purchase customers.
Thinkific has a 2-step checkout where a student first creates an account and then makes the payment on the next page.
Teachable claims this an awkward, outdated method, and a significant % of users drop in the process without making a payment.
You can see both sides of the argument. So this is one area where you’ll have to decide which checkout process works best for you.
Payment processing and payouts
The next significant difference is how the platforms process payments.
On Thinkific, payments always go to your own Stripe or PayPal account immediately – there’s never a delay in receiving your funds. From there, you have the responsibility to pay co-authors and affiliates.
With Teachable, things get a little complicated, depending on your payment gateway.
If you use a custom payment gateway, then the funds go to your own Stripe or PayPal account.
Note: You can use a custom gateway only on the Professional and Business Plans.
If you use Teachable’s payment gateway, the money is processed through Teachable’s account. And unless you’re in the US or Canada, Teachable holds your funds for 30-60 days.
Note: Payments are on the 1st of the month, following a 30-day delay for PayPal transactions. They also have a 10% rolling holdback for 45 days on Stripe payments.
One advantage of using Teachable’s gateway is that they offer a suite of services called BackOffice, which can automatically pay out to your affiliates and authors. However, these transactions are subject to a 2% admin fee, so it’s a case of weighing up whether this will pay for itself as it saves you time.
Thinkific has eliminated transaction fees, so you keep more of your money, every time.
Teachable is moving towards more processing and transaction-based fees:
EU VAT handling
Teachable handles EU VAT, but Thinkific doesn’t.
With Teachable, you can charge EU VAT on top of your course price. It automatically adds the correct VAT rate based on the location of the students and sends them an invoice with the VAT details.
You also have the option to display the VAT on your course sales page. And if you use Teachable’s payment gateway, they’ll pay the tax to the proper authorities for you. (But there’s a 2% transaction fee).
Thinkific does not collect EU VAT, but it does integrate with Quaderno so you can track and manage your sales tax, VAT, and GST. Alternatively, you could use a specialized shopping cart, like ThriveCart.
Affiliate marketing capabilities
One way to boost course sales is through affiliates.
Both Teachable and Thinkific let you add affiliates, set a custom commission rate, and select which courses you want them to promote. But you can’t set a custom affiliate rate for a specific course.
With Thinkific, you can manage and track affiliate commissions in the dashboard, but you’ll have to pay them outside the system. Whereas with Teachable, you can use their BackOffice (with a 2% transaction fee) to manage and pay your affiliates.
Both platforms integrate with thousands of third-party marketing tools either directly or via Zapier, including:
- Analytics and tracking tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel.
- Email marketing tools like ConvertKit, MailChimp, Aweber, ActiveCampaign, Constant Contact, and Infusionsoft.
- Ecommerce tools like Shopify, SamCart, PayPal, Stripe, and Stunning.
Support and training
Both Teachable and Thinkific offer a comprehensive knowledge base and private Facebook community.
Thinkific training courses are included at no extra charge on any plan, and TeachableU is available on any paid Teachable plan.
Thinkific offers email and telephone support 7 days a week. (Note: Based on my interactions, they’re quick to respond). Teachable operates Monday to Friday but also includes live chat support on its Professional Plan and above.
Before we get onto pricing, let’s cover a few backend site admin topics.
Both platforms include SSL certificates and secure cloud hosting. Plus, they also let you:
- Enroll an unlimited number of students.
- Manage and export your student data.
- Segment and email your students.
- Provide comprehensive progress tracking, reporting, and analytics.
Performance and uptime
The last thing you need is for your course to be unavailable to your students. Thankfully, both platforms provide 24/7 monitoring and Thinkific has a 99.9% uptime. You can check their uptime status here:
Users and groups
Both platforms have various user roles, like owner, site admin, course admin, student, etc. But Thinkific has an additional feature called “Groups” that lets you organize, sell, and track users in groups. It’s ideal if you sell your courses to organizations as you can create custom reporting and time-based cohorts.
Teachable vs Thinkific: Pricing
On the face of it, Teachable and Thinkific have similar pricing plans, but when you dig a little deeper, you can spot some differences.
Teachable has 3 pricing plans that come with unlimited students and unlimited courses:
- Basic: $39 per month or $29 per month (billed annually)
- Professional: $119 per month or $99 per month (billed annually)
- Business: $299 per month or $249 per month (billed annually)
Teachable also offers a 14-day free trial of their Professional Plan. (Credit card not required). And charges 5% transaction fees on the Basic Plan.
Thinkific has 3 paid pricing plans that come with unlimited students and unlimited courses:
- Free: One course
- Basic: $36/month (billed annualy) or $49/month
- Start: $74/month (billed annually) or $99/month
- Grow: $149/month (billed annually) or $199/month
Thinkific offers a 100% free plan where you can start creating and selling your courses. Plus, there are no transaction fees on any plan.
Teachable vs Thinkific: Highlights (Pros and Cons)
Here’s a quick recap of each platforms’ pros and cons.
- Ability to bulk upload content from One Drive, Google Drive, or Dropbox, as well as your computer.
- Ability to bulk select lessons and change the settings.
- Option to send drip email reminders on content drip courses.
- Provides better course reporting and analytics tools.
- Includes a 1-step checkout process.
- Manages EU Digital Goods VAT tax.
- BackOffice includes services like automated affiliate and author payouts.
- Offers live chat support.
- Create private communities for your students.
- Adds transaction fees on payments.
- Delays payouts.
- Community builder not included in free plan.
- Proven course templates for creating different types of courses.
- Features distraction-free, full-screen mode in Course Player.
- Supports advanced quiz features like question bank and bulk import.
- Built-in support for assignments and surveys.
- Better course compliance (content locking) at the lesson level.
- Ability to create a standalone community area.
- Powerful site and page builder with a choice of themes.
- Organize, sell, and track users in groups and manage students in a cohort.
- More flexible pricing options for subscriptions.
- Zero transaction fees.
- Free plan to get started.
- Communities feature offered on all paid plans, including their free plan.
- Doesn’t handle EU VAT tax.
- Doesn’t handle affiliate payouts.
Teachable vs Thinkific: Which is best?
Both Teachable and Thinkific are excellent online course platforms that will serve you well.
While many features are the same, there are a few key differences. And ultimately, it’s these differences that will influence your decision as to which platform to use.
We’d recommend preparing some course content and then signing up for each platform and test the water for a couple of weeks to see which is best for you.
When writing comparison posts, I always try to take a neutral stance and share the facts. But to put this article into context, I think it’s only fair to add that researching this guide was as much for my benefit as the Blogging Wizard readers.
So, here are a few personal thoughts that may or may not help you.
The overall experience of signing up and testing Thinkific was more pleasant than Teachable. Here’s why:
#1. Thinkific’s website is more helpful
For starters, the Thinkific website has a lot more useful content than Teachable. (Or at least, the information is more accessible. Teachable may have it hidden away?)
#2. Thinkific’s support was spot on
As I mentioned in the article, Thinkific answered a support question promptly. The information was useful and included a GIF to illustrate their point. So top marks for that.
#3. Thinkific’s marketing emails are helpful
Aside from support, I’ve received several marketing emails.
The first email invited me to a webinar:
- See examples of Thinkific websites and courses.
- What successful course creators have in common.
- How to create, price, and design your course in under an hour.
- Your questions about Thinkific LIVE.
The second email highlighted 3 benefits of upgrading to a premium plan:
- Custom student experiences
- Branded online courses
- Advanced marketing and selling
The third email came as a result of me changing the initial setup domain to something more memorable – e.g. from david-s-school-13b2.thinkific.com/ to azaharmedia.thinkific.com/.
Thinkific highlighted the benefits of using a custom domain – e.g. courses.azaharmedia.co.uk/.
For instance, a custom domain:
- Makes your students take your business seriously.
- Sets yourself apart from all other course creators on Thinkific.
- Integrates all of your other digital properties into one seamless experience.
There’s a couple of ways of looking at the emails.
- You could be miffed that Thinkific is badgering you to upgrade after 2 days.
- You could feel positive that they’re taking an interest, even though these are automated emails.
I’m going with the second option.
And just to put things into perspective, I’ve had no communication from Teachable so far.
#4. Thinkific’s free plan
I think the Thinkific free plan is a great starter option even though (understandably) it doesn’t have all the features. Creating an online course takes time. (Believe me, I’m in the middle of creating one!) A free starter plan gives you time to grow and experiment without the pressure of a time-limited trial.
In short, I’m underwhelmed with the Teachable experience. And I don’t like the fact that they appear to be charging transaction fees for every little thing you do. That said, their platform and model will suit other people.
Good luck with creating and selling your online courses!
Overall, the experience with Teachable wasn’t the best. They’ve continued to roll out new features to remain competitive with Thinkific and other online course platforms, but Thinkific still clinches it for me.
The only limitation to both of these platforms is that their focus is on online courses. If you want to sell other types of digital products, they’re not a good fit.
Teachable has added functionality that facilitates the sale of other types of digital products. That said, it’s still not their focus.
So that’s something to consider when making your decision.
If you do want to sell digital products like ebooks, VOD content, audio, etc. I’d recommend checking out Sellfy.
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