Top 4 Online Community Platforms Type For Course Creators 

 Updated: December 8, 2021

online community platform

With online course progression rate declining (average of below 13%), adding an online community could make a big difference in results for your students!

And as a course creator, you may have a vision of what your future thriving community looks like and get excited!

But there are several factors to take into account when choosing a community platform to go with your online programs to make this vision come true, which we’ll explore in this article.

How To Choose An Online Community Platform?


Again here, the question isn’t necessarily “what's the best online community platform”, but which one is the best fit for your situation!

If you’re a course creator, there are going to be other tools that you need or may be already using for different parts of your business.

And how you can integrate the online community piece of it is key!

So here are a few things to consider when choosing such platforms:

  • What features do you need for your community? These could be things like live video, polls, the ability to create different threads and restrict access accordingly, a mobile app or the ability for members to chat privately.
  • Do you value a seamless integration or not? In other words do you need the community to be already built-in to the same platform you’re using for your online courses and pages or are you ok to send your members to another platform for that part of your program.
  • How much control do you need? Engagement can be a hurdle for online communities and going with platforms people are already using (Facebook group,etc.) can help. But of course that means you’re giving up some control!

Answering these questions will help navigate our below tally of the best online community platforms depending on your situation!

Platform Type #1: WordPress-based Communities


A large number of course creators have chosen to host their main site and sometimes their whole online programs on a WordPress site!

Although some popular WordPress LMS plugins can help with also creating a community, usually a separate tool will be needed.

Top Platforms

BuddyPress

bbPress

Peepso

Who Is It Best For?

This is best for people that are already using WordPress for other parts of their online course business and also like to have a lot of control on design and user experience.

Peepso Community

Peepso Community

As with anything on WordPress, almost anything is possible if you couple these popular plugins with a bit of creativity and tech skills.

These are also usually very inexpensive (or free) options!

Pros

  • Integrated to your WordPress site and courses
  • Great customization abilities and control
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • May need some tech knowledge
  • Engagement tends to be lower

Platform Type #2: Dedicated Platform

Because of the increased needs for such online communities, some dedicated platforms have emerged to fully meet the needs of course creators.

And because they’re not reliant on any other platform they’d have to integrate to, they have been able to develop great tools and features.

Top Platforms

Circle

Mighty Networks

(See Review Here)

Peerboard

Who Is It Best For?

If you already have your other course creators needs met like course hosting, page building, email marketing,etc.

AND you don’t mind sending people to another platform as long as it’s worth it, then these could be a great fit!

mighty networks home

Mighty Network App

What they’ll allow you to do are things like having a dedicated mobile app, a stable platform you don’t have to be worried about and a plethora of features thought out with online communities in mind.

Some of them even integrate via Single Sign-On (SSO) to make the transition easier for your user and remove the need to create a new set of logins.

Pros

  • Feature rich and always improving
  • Stable platform that can scale
  • Proven and already optimized

Cons

  • Another substantial cost to consider
  • Needs to integrate with your other tools

Platform Type #3: All-In-One

Knowing that their users increasingly desired a dedicated community feature to expand their online course experience, a lot of popular online course platforms have thrown their hat in the ring!

Particularly all-in-one platforms who’s main promise is to give course creators everything they need for their programs.

Top Platforms

Who Is It Best For?

If you’re already using this all-in-one platform for your online courses and want to keep everything under the same umbrella, then this is probably a good fit!

Now, keep in mind that as with most features, all-in-ones do everything well but not great. Or at least not as well dedicated platforms!

That goes for this community component too… Which are currently pretty limited in design and features

Kajabi community feature erin

Kajabi Community Feature

Expect the very basic tools of a forum-like community and not much more.

Pros

  • Natively integrated to your online programs
  • Comes at no extra cost if you’re already using these platforms

Cons

  • Limited features and design
  • Little control of analytics

Platform Type #3: Off-Platform


One of the most challenging parts of building your own online community is to actually get your members to engage with it.

Hence why a lot of time using a platform they are already on (maybe too much!) everyday helps as well as reducing a lot of friction in your user experience.

Top Platforms

Facebook Groups

Discord

Slack

Who Is It Best For?

This is best for course creators who’s community is already using these platforms and that don’t need any fancy features.

Again here the main upside is that your students are already using and spending time on these networks and therefore will be more likely to check out your latest community posts.

Kajabi Community Feature

Of course, you’re giving up on a lot of control and will have to abide by the platform rules, which can be limiting for some creators.

Pros

  • Higher engagement if your students are already using it
  • Easy to manage and maintain
  • Usually free to use

Cons

  • No ability to brand it or customize
  • You have to follow the platform rules

Final Thoughts

It’s very difficult to change online community platforms later on, so this decision is one to take carefully!

Since this is a long term decision, it’s also important to keep in mind what you envision the community to grow into and how much emphasis you want to put on it for your students.

If you manage to build a thriving community, especially when selling a membership product, this can be a big selling point and greatly help with your retention rate.

Hence why this isn’t something to cut corners for!

Fortunately, most of these platforms, if not free, allow for a free trial which could enable you to get a feel for what you would be getting.

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