When it is time to choose an online course platform, Thinkific is always mentioned in the discussion. It’s very popular with more than 50.000 users. And one of the top solutions for selling online training.
That is also probably why you are here, reading our Thinkific review. 😀
But how good is it really? I’d say the best way to know is to try it.
So for this review, we did what you will do after signing up for a free account. We created a course. We tested all features, pricing, and all pros & cons, so you don’t have to.
Before you sign up for a Thinkific account, take a peek at our summary so you know if this is the right platform for you.
Thinkific Review: Core features
I was impressed with how feature-rich Thinkific is. Here’s what stood out most to me:
- User-friendly Course Builder: Creating courses takes minutes, even without any course building experience.
- Drag-and-drop web page builder: Edit templates to build landing pages for your courses.
- Promotions and marketing: Built-in email and affiliate marketing, sales widgets, and coupons.
- Flexible payment options: Choose how to charge your students: A one-off fee, monthly installments, or memberships.
- Reporting: Thinkific tracks revenue, orders, and enrolments. It also analyzes student engagement to keep you on top of business performance.
- Student support and communities: Offer students an online discussion group community to learn from each other. Offer assessments and give out digital certificates.
- Tools to train the trainer: Learn all about building and selling courses online. Get up to speed quickly with free courses, a packed online knowledge base and a ‘find an expert’ feature.
- Thinkific App Store: Buy dedicated apps to take your online courses to another level. A first-of-its-kind marketplace connecting course creators with developers.
Thinkific Review: Putting It To the Test
The only way to know if a service is right for you is to try it out. Luckily, Thinkific has a free version and you can sign up for free and get instant access to the online course software.
So I signed up and put the platform through its paces. This is what I found out.
Thinkific Course Builder: Creating an Online Course
Thinkific’s Course Builder is the heart of the platform and (almost) the first place you land after you sign up.
A handy ‘Get Started’ checklist guides you through the setup process. ‘Build your course’ is the second step along.
Thinkific prompts you to customize the Course Player and then you can start building a course. It’s the view your students will see.
1. Build your first course
In the ‘Courses’ page, there is already a draft called ‘Your First Course’ waiting for you.
As soon as I opened the first course, I found the interface and layout very easy to follow. Course content is divided into Chapters and Lessons. To start creating, simply click ‘Add Lesson’ and pick a content type. You can upload your course materials in any format.
So that means you can add:
- PDF documents
- Slideshow presentations
- Live Zoom lessons and webinars
If you have a lot of course content use the Bulk Importer to add all files at once. The ‘Copy Lessons From’ button lets you add existing lessons you’ve built for other courses.
2. Pick the course type
You get a few good-looking course templates. The pre-formatted layouts help structure the course content.
Pre-made course types:
- Mini-course: A course template designed for creating short courses, tasters and freebies.
- Flagship course: A template for in-depth courses with lots of lessons. This helps to keep course progression and navigation clear for students.
- Pre-sell course: Pre-sell courses help you sell your courses. Use a pre-sell course as an introduction to your longer courses.
- Membership resource library: A template for creating an archive of resources for subscribers.
- Webinar replay: A library template specially for webinars and live lesson video recordings.
‘Your First Course’ automatically opens up a blank template. But it would be easier to start with any of the templates to help build your first online course.
3. Customize how your courses look to students
Students go through your learning resources in the Course Player. You can customize how it looks in the ‘Settings’ tab on the ‘Courses’ page. Options include changing colour schemes, fonts or adding logos. You can also edit your course description and image here.
I liked that you’ll directly preview your lessons in the Course Player. Seeing the course just like your students will help a lot. It is easy to make it as clear and user-friendly as possible.
4. Set assignments and check progress
Assignments, quizzes, and surveys are super handy. You set them from the Thinkific Lesson.
Create an assignment and students can submit their completed work directly. That way, you keep all course documents in one place. You can set assignments required for completing a course. Assignments are available from the Pro plan.
Course Builder summary
I found Thinkific’s Course Builder easy to use. The prompts to guide you through the process help a lot. The range of resources available is impressive.
The course builder is great to get your course out fast and easy. To keep it simple it doesn’t offer elaborate options for your course designs.
Build an online course website
After you are done making your course, Thinkific moves on to the Site Builder. This cool builder for your courses is similar to other landing page builders. I like this a lot because you can sell courses from your own website, or even if you don’t have a website yet.
Best of all, it makes building a website easy, even if you’re a complete novice.
1. Pick a theme
To get started, Thinkific offers three pre-built theme templates.
Each theme has three or four styles with different colour schemes, fonts and tweaked layouts. So you get 10 pre-made designs to help create the right look for your course.
2. Use site builder to customize your online course site
You can customize how your theme looks at any point. The Site Builder is packed with editing features. You can map out an entire website or dig in and craft individual pages.
Even better, the drag-and-drop tools are really easy. Using the pre-built themes, I was able to create a professional-looking web page in a few minutes.
Here are some of the best things you can do with the Site Builder.
3. Create an entire training website
Thinkific has a great selection of pre-designed pages ready to map out into a complete course site. These include:
- Home page
- Course pages (landing pages for individual courses and an ‘All Courses’ product menu page).
- Sign up pages for individual courses and memberships.
- Sign in pages for subscribers.
- Student dashboard (i.e. what you subscribers and students see when they are signed in).
- Checkout pages / payment
- ‘Coming soon’ pages for previewing new courses, offers, bundles etc.
If you want something different, click on Custom Page for building any kind of page you desire.
4. Edit individual pages
Pages in the Thinkific Site Builder are made up of sections. Each section can be easily customized and moved around. Pre-built pages come with suggested sections. To add more, click ‘Add Section’.
There are 23 pre-formatted page sections available. It’s clear that the Thinkific team are experts in course marketing. The sections help you build high-converting pages. Some examples include:
- Call to Action sections to let would-be students know how they can sign up or buy.
- ‘Smart’ Product and Category sections that automatically list summaries of available products.
- Checklists to highlight key messages in easy-to-scan bullet points.
- Frequently Asked Questions to answer visitor’s questions there and then.
- ‘Social Proof’ sections to show off client testimonials and user reviews.
- Upsell sections to promote other courses.
- Instructor profiles to tell students more about the people teaching the courses.
- Pricing Options.
- Video embedding.
Simply drag and drop page sections into position onto the page. Click on a section to edit and add content, change the layout and look, add images etc.
Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly how to style, you can change themes even after you made your whole course.
Site Builder summary
Thinkific’s Site Builder isn’t like a standalone website platform. But it does the job well. It is simple to use and offers impressive editing options. It is ideal for creating training websites, or for adding training pages to your existing website.
The one thing I would improve is having more themes available.
Making Money from your Online Course Platform with Thinkific
Every course creator wants to make money from their expertise online. But this is probably the hardest part of turning online learning into a business.
I’d say one of Thinkific’s strengths is how much support it offers for selling your online courses. Here’s what the learning management system offers.
1. Promote your courses
Thinkific comes with marketing tools to help you turn course content into cash. On the free plan, these start out basic. There are straightforward search engine optimization (SEO) options. You can also build free trial course tasters to encourage people to sign up for more.
As you go up through the Thinkific pricing plans, you get more marketing tools. These include:
- Coupons for handing out special offers. Digital codes make these easy to share. And Thinkific’s checkout system automatically redeems them.
- Sales Widgets for posting purchase links on other websites and social media.
- Email Marketing Tools for managing newsletters and sending out targeted promotions to subscribers. Thinkific integrates with email marketing tools like Mailchimp, Mailerlite, AWeber, Constant Contact, ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign.
- Affiliate Marketing, get experts and influencers to promote your course.
2. Thinkific payment options
To receive payments for your courses, Thinkific connects to the card payment platform Stripe. For one-off payments, you can also connect to PayPal. A third option is to link your courses to a Shopify site. That gives you all the eCommerce tools Shopify offers.
You can charge for your course with several payment plans. Sell for a one-off course fee, all the way up to membership subscriptions.
For example, once you have a decent library of courses built up, you can start to sell them in bundles. You can also offer paid-for memberships that allow users to access unlimited courses. Another option is to create group packages for selling courses in bulk (e.g. to organizations).
These smart options increase your margin compared to selling courses one by one.
Thinkific doesn’t take any commission on courses sold! See full pricing here.
3. Reporting and analytics
Thinkific’s new Reporting platform was in Beta when we were reviewing it. At present, Thinkific reports on four areas: Revenue, Orders, Enrollments, and Student Engagement. Only available on the Pro + Growth add-on package.
Data can be filtered by date, by course or product type, by whether customers are new or existing, and more. Charts and graphs make the data easy to understand.
For me, the most useful information comes from the Student Engagement reports. It compares things like course enrollments with completion rates. If completions are low, you know your courses may be too hard, or too long.
This bubble chart shows what type of learning materials get the most views and are popular with your students.
Marketing and Reporting summary
Thinkific’s marketing features are very impressive. Its clever tools will help you monetize your course quickly. I would have wanted more payment options than Stripe and PayPal.
Digital learning is different from classroom learning. Online learning management systems have to think of ways to support students. Here’s how Thinkific goes about it.
1. Student communications
Thinkific has three ways to communicate with your students. These allow course leaders to keep in touch with trainees and students to talk to each other.
You can connect Thinkific to email marketing services. But email is also used as the main communication tool within Thinkific.
There are welcome emails, notifications for replies, receipts etc. The big plus is that they are set up to send automatically whenever a trigger event happens. This saves a lot of time and makes students feel involved.
Discussions & Community
In classrooms, debate and dialogue is a valuable part of the learning experience. Thinkific recreates this online with its Discussions tool.
Discussions are basically the same as the comments sections you see on social media or on articles online. It gives students a chance to ask questions or make comments about what they are learning.
Thinkific also provides a virtual space for people to interact outside courses. With community pages, they are like a branded social network for your online school. You can set up different communities for different groups. Thinkific manages membership and access.
Like social media, Community pages work on posts, likes, and comments. It’s all about building relationships. No more need to start a Facebook group and clunky switching back and forth between lessons and groups!
2. Track progress and reward achievement
Thinkific’s student progress tracking helps you spot when someone needs extra support. And tracking progress also means you can celebrate success.
Progress tracking will, for example, flag uncompleted assignments or lessons. This could be a sign a student is struggling. But whenever a student finishes a course, Thinkific automatically sends certificates of completion.
There are several certificate templates available. Name and course details are dynamic and automatically generated, saving lots of time. In the paid plan, you can edit the design and content of all completion certificates.
Free Training on how to create and launch your course
You may be thinking, but how do I get started? Thinkific is very generous. They give you a Fast track free course on how to make and publish your first training. Something that normally costs over $300, you get for free.
Added to it are:
- lots of courses to help you get started quickly with making and selling courses,
- a Community page to talk with fellow course creators,
- and a Dashboard to track your progress.
When you sign up to any Thinkific plan, you automatically get access to the whole training site. This gives you the same experience your own students will get on your site. In the Thinkific Academy there are:
1. Thinkific Fast Track and other courses
Signing up with Thinkific also gets you enrolled in three free courses. One of these is Thinkific Fast Track. Its purpose? To get you building and selling courses as quickly as possible.
The bulk of the course is a series of short video tutorials. There are 28 in all, most of them just two or three minutes long. They cover:
- how to make an online course
- how to build a course website
- how to publish your courses
- how to run your business successfully.
Thinkific Fast Track is a brilliant resource. Three things make it stand out from being just a series of self-help video tutorials:
- There’s a clear structure to the learning that makes sense as you go on.
- There’s a progress tracker that keeps tabs on what you have watched and haven’t watched. This makes it easier to work at your own pace.
- There are quizzes and surveys at the end of each section. This makes the lessons stick.
Fast Track doubles up as a great example of what a strong online training course looks like. The heavy use of video makes the content easy to digest and the whole thing takes just over an hour to complete.
One of the other free courses takes a deeper dive into creating course curricula. The third covers content and marketing strategies. Digital business guru Neil Patel is the instructor.
You don’t need to complete any of these courses. But, they cover pretty much all the key things you need to know about using Thinkific and getting the most out of it.
Thinkific currently also offers five paid-for courses:
- The Online Education Business Masterclass
- How to Price Your Online Course
- Leverage: Using Student Engagement to Drive Impact and Revenue
- Designing Great Courses
- Profitable Facebook Ads for Online Courses.
As standalone purchases, they cost $149 to $299 per course. But if you sign up for Thinkific’s Pro plan, you get them for free. I think that’s pretty good value and a good reason to sign up!
2. Thinkific Experts
As well as taking online courses, Thinkific offers help from digital learning specialists.
Thinkific Experts is a marketplace for training entrepreneurs, marketing professionals, techies and more. Every expert is accredited as a partner by Thinkific. They sign up to work with Thinkific customers as paid consultants.
3. Thinkific customer support
If video courses and asking for expert help aren’t for you, there are other ways to master Thinkific.
Thinkific has an enormous Help Centre library. There are well over 500 articles, documents, videos, FAQs and more. These resources cover all areas of the service. You can search for answers to specific queries or browse categories to look for general help.
Self-service support relies on good access to resources. The key thing is that users can answer their own queries quickly. In the app, there is a Help button on every page. When you click it, a taskbar opens with a search tool and a list of all resource categories to explore.
If you can’t find what you are looking for in the Help Centre, Thinkific offers Live Chat support on all paid plans. On the free plan, you can submit a support ticket by email.
Integrations and Thinkific App Store
The Thinkific App Store is where you pick your integrations. Extend what your own platform can do. It also means users can connect several accounts so they all work in sync together.
Thinkific has over 45 direct apps available in its App Store, including Shopify, Salesforce, Segment, Intercom, Google Analytics, Poptin.
Thinkfic Pricing Plans
Thinkific has four pricing plans. You can always start for free and later move to a paid plan if needed. Are Thinkific plans good value for money?
Thinkific doesn’t charge any fees on courses sold. Pay attention to this when comparing Thinkific pricing with other online course platforms. Other course platforms may take a commission which can become quite pricey!
The Free plan is a great way to test drive the service. You can do all the main things you want from an online course platform. Without any cost, you can create courses, sell courses, and build a website to sell courses.
It gave me a good taste of some of Thinkific’s key strengths. I love that you can have an unlimited number of students sign up for your courses. I also like that you can access their courses on how to build online training in full.
With Thinkific’s free plan you can build three courses. After that, there is the Basic plan.
The Basic plan starts at $49 The main benefits of upgrading from Free to Basic are unlimited courses and more marketing tools. You also get access to the Thinkific App Store and the option to have a custom domain for your course website.
The Pro plan includes features like community pages, assignments, and live stream lessons. for $99 a month. Creating all these in separate tools and making the integrations work costs more.
There are also two add-on packages for group management and bulk courses to the Pro plan. Thinkific Plus is a bespoke managed service for large enterprises.
Thinkific DiscountThinkific offers a 20% discount if you pay for a year. This means that you can save $120 on the Basic and $240 on the Pro plan when you sign up through this link.
We also negotiated an exclusive offer for our readers. Get a 1-month free trial of Thinkific’s Pro + Growth Plan today.
Thinkific Pros and Cons
Judgement time! I’ve shared all the details, so how do Thinkific’s positives weigh up against the negatives?
Thinkific’s Best Bits
- Easy to build multimedia lessons and courses from scratch
- User friendly drag and drop website builder with excellent customization options
- Lots of tools to help market and sell your courses
- Free courses to get you up to speed with the Thinkific platform and selling online courses
- Dedicated app store for extending what you can do with your Thinkific account
- Free plan with access to the Course Builder, Site Builder and ecommerce.
- No commissions on courses sold.
Could Do Better
- Few templates in both the Course Builder and Site Builder
- Limited options for customizing how your lessons look.
Thinkific is far from the only online course hosting platform out there. It’s a growing market with competition increasing all the time. So how does Thinkific compare to its main competitors? Here’s the lowdown on three of its biggest rivals.
Thinkific vs Teachable
Teachable is another popular course platform aimed at small businesses, entrepreneurs, and creatives. It is one of Thinkific’s main market rivals and offers similar core features. These include:
- course building and editing tools,
- multimedia lessons,
- sales and marketing,
- and a free plan.
One difference is that Teachable charges transaction fees on all courses sold. Thinkific does not, so everything you make on the platform goes to you.
Thinkific vs LearnWorlds
LearnWorlds is a big, feature-packed learning management system. Its target market is professional trainers and large enterprises.
With its Pro and Premium plans, Thinkific caters to larger businesses, too. But LearnWorlds has the edge with more advanced features. These include a fully customizable Course Player, interactive video lessons, and in-depth analytics.
LearnWorlds does not have a free tier and its one ‘affordable’ basic plan is limited. It only lets you build three web pages. Thinkific offers unlimited pages even on its free plan. Thinkific is the better option for small businesses and new course creators.
Thinkific vs Podia
Podia is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades digital service. Yes, it centres on creating and selling online courses. You can also sell digital downloads, webinars and scheduled coaching sessions, too.
You can also build a custom website to host your courses. And on top of that, it offers email marketing and a live chat messaging platform for any business website.
Affordable, flexible and easy to use, Podia offers a bit more than a standard course platform. It’s a good option for sole traders and lone creators just dipping their toes in online teaching. Having all those tools in one place is very convenient.
Thinkific offers more in-depth features. It has more course content options, more web customization options, more marketing tools. It’s the better choice for growing e-learning businesses.
Conclusion: Should You Try Thinkific?
After reading through our in-depth Thinkific review, you should have enough information to decide if it’s the right choice for you or not.
What’s my final recommendation? Thinkific is a quality online course platform. It has a strong set of core features and a simple user interface.
If you’re just starting out selling courses online, I’d definitely give Thinkific a go. Thinkific’s marketing tools are great to grow a budding online education business.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Thinkific really free?
Get started here on the forever free plan
To build more, or to access more advanced marketing and sales features, you have to sign up for a paid plan.
Does Thinkific charge transaction fees?
Check here for a full pricing overview
Can you create a full website with Thinkific?
Pre-built templates help you create everything you need for an online learning site. Course pages, the home page, sign-up forms, checkout, community forums and more. The drag-and-drop builder means you don’t need any technical skills. There are also theme templates to help you with your designs.
Who Should Consider the Thinkific Online Course Platform?
Thinkific is also popular with larger established enterprises. Hootsuite, Meltwater, Halmstad and New Scientist are a few examples that currently use Thinkific.
Can you put any kind of content in a Thinkific course?
Can you switch to Thinkific from another platform?
What are the Best Thinkific Alternatives?
Is Thinkific mobile friendly?
Thinkific doesn’t currently have a dedicated mobile app. You need to do everything from a web browser.