Online Course Platforms: Marketplaces vs. Self-Hosted LMS

Article by Sona Hoveyan / Updated at .06 Jun 2024
16 min read
Online Course Platforms: Marketplaces vs. Self-Hosted LMS

If you are looking for ways to monetize your knowledge but cannot decide between starting on the marketplace or self-hosting, then you are at the right place. 

This article will help you understand the difference between marketplaces and self-hosted LMS platforms and help you choose the best option for you. As a bonus, we will also present the top 10 self-hosting LMS platforms in today’s market. 


What are self-hosted online course platforms?

Self-hosted online course platforms are the solutions that enable you to create, manage, and sell online courses on your own website rather than relying on third-party platforms. These platforms give you more control over your content, branding, and monetization options. Self-hosted online course platforms also provide the perfect opportunity to monetize your knowledge and make money without paying additional fees for a marketplace. 

Marketplace platforms vs. self-hosting | Differences 

Before making a choice, let’s understand if it’s better for you to launch your online course on marketplaces or choose a self-hosting platform. 

The major difference between the marketplace and self-hosting platforms is the amount of control you have over your online course creation business.  With marketplaces you greatly depend on the terms the marketplace lays. 

However, when it comes to self-hosted platforms, you are on your own terms. You gain freedom on when and how to promote your courses, coaching sessions and so on. For instance, you may want to create and promote separate landing pages for all your products. Every decision you make with self-hosted platforms is completely up to you. 

Another difference between these two is related to the way you gain profit. If you publish your courses on a marketplace, the platform will keep a percentage of each sale. However, with a self-hosted option, all your profits go directly to you. 

When it comes to freedom, then indeed, you will have more of it if you go with self-hosting. Website design, custom certifications for your students, live video conferencing features, and everything else to ensure the successful growth of your eLearning business are offered within self-hosted platforms. 

Pros & Cons of Marketplace Platforms 

If we were to take a look at the advantages and disadvantages the marketplace platforms have to offer, we would have the following:


  • Access to a huge client base 
  • Customer trust is already set 
  • You will have to deal with far less technical issues 
  • No fees for hosting and running an independent website.  


Though marketplaces provide you with an audience, you still will have to deal with lots of other disadvantages. Such as:

  • High competition, as lots of creators publish their courses on the same platform
  • High commissions from the sales 
  • Limits your control over your business
  • No white labeling and distinguished branding functionality 

Pros & Cons of Self-hosted Platforms 

Self-hosted platforms also come in handy with a variety of benefits and a few drawbacks. So, let’s take a look at them. 


  • Branding features and ability to stand out from the rest
  • Total control over your business and positioning 
  • No fees from course sales 
  • Allows you to build a business and establish a strong online presence 
  • Provides blog functionality (which you can use for organic traffic) 
  • Lots of customization options 
  • Potent analytics to gain actionable data insights into youtube audience 
  • High data privacy 


Self-hosted platforms also have certain drawbacks, such as: 

  • Some of them can be pricey 
  • Requires more effort to run a course creation business (marketing, blog, support, etc.) 

But at the end of the day, if you are a course creator, trainer, or coach who is looking for business growth and expansion, then self-hosted platforms are the best way to go. These platforms give you the creative freedom and break barriers that marketplaces create. With a self-hosted platform, you will be able to succeed and position yourself as an expert in your niche.


What do successful course creators choose? 

After reviewing the pros and cons of both marketplace and self-hosted platforms, it will be useful to take a look at an example to better understand which option is better. 

After extensive research and interviews with various course creators, we discovered that most prefer self-hosted course creation platforms over marketplaces. Even those who once started with a marketplace eventually shifted to a self-hosted option. 

For instance, Eli Natoli started to generate passive revenue with courses for more than four years. A self-hosted platform gave her creative freedom and control over business processes that allowed her to grow a successful business. 

Eli advises paying huge attention to marketing strategy when it comes to generating income with educational materials. To gain total freedom over your marketing, you also should lean toward self-hosted platforms that come in handy with various marketing automation tools. 

Another key aspect Eli pays attention to is the mobile learning experience. Once again, we recommend choosing a self-hosted platform to provide a customized one. Mobile learning keeps gaining popularity and can help you to multiply your profits. 

Best platforms for self-hosting online courses

Finally, it is time to review the best platforms for self-hosting online courses and growing your eLearning business. Here is a quick rundown of self-hosted platforms we are going to cover:

Self-hosted PlatformPricingFeatures you can find

Starts at $39/month

Free plan available

  • Website and course builder
  • Local payment gateways
  • Marketing and in-depth analytics

Starts at $36/month

Free plan is avaliable

  • Membership site building
  • Marketing and sales automations

Starts at $39/month

Free plan is available

  • AI tools
  • Tax inclusive pricing

Starts at $149/month

Free plan is available

  • Website builder with templates
  • Marketing funnel builders

Starts at $4/month

+transaction fees

Free plan is available

  • Website builder
  • Email marketing templates

Starts at $24/month

  • $5 from each course


  • AI assistant
  • White-labeling and branding
MoodleStarts at $117/month
  • All features for course management
Mighty NetworksStarts at $99/month
  • Learning communities
  • Online course library

Starts at $99/month

Free plan is available

  • Course health tracker
  • Audio and video streaming

#1 Uteach

One of the best self-hosted online course platforms is Uteach. It is an all-in-one SaaS software that provides every feature necessary to scale your online course business. Most importantly, this platform comes in handy with various built-in automation that will help you save time and resources. Let’s take a look at some of the features Uteach offers. 

  • Easy-to-use Course Builder: with this feature, you can design comprehensive courses with modules, quizzes, and other materials.  
  • Pre-made templates and drag-and-drop website builder. These allow you to customize your website while saving time when building it from scratch.  
  • Live functionality to host live courses, webinars, and coaching sessions
  • Marketing & Sales automation tools, such as automated emails, built-in SEO, and blog. 
  • Branding and white labeling functionality. This allows you to remove Utach’s name from the domain and fully white-label your website. 
  • Potent analytics to gain actionable insights and improve strategies for further growth.
  • Built-in CRM to track and manage customer relationships at different stages. 
  • Seamless payment gateway to ensure secure payments from students to you. 
  • Direct integrations with popular tools to enhance your user experience with the platform. 
  • Responsive mobile app. With this feature, you will be able to provide a mobile learning experience for your students. 

When it comes to Pricing, the platform has three main pricing plans. 

  • Free: $0
  • Launch: $39, plus 10% from each sale
  • Grow: $99 without commissions.

There is also a custom plan available. 

Also, it is worth mentioning that Uteach offers a 14-day free trial run period. So, if you want to start and grow your online course business, then Uteach is definitely for you. 

#2 Thinkific

The next platform on our list of self-hosted online course platforms is Thinkific. Thinkific allows you to sell courses, digital downloads, build communities, and manage memberships. The main features of the platform include the following: 

  • Course builder and website builder for you to  build a professional online course website. 
  • Community building and management features to ensure engagement. 
  • Branded mobile apps that allow you to provide a mobile learning experience to the students.  
  • Integrations with popular third-party tools to ease up your life. 
  • Quiz and test-building tools to increase student engagement levels and learning experience. 
  • Membership site-building features that allow you to create communities and optimize revenue streams. 
  • Custom domains to remove Thinkific’s name from your domain and website. 
  • Drip content support. Essentially, allows you to release course content to the members in parts and not all at once. For instance, one module every week. 
  • Marketing and sales automation tools such as automated emails. 

As you can see from the wide variety of useful features available, it is also a good platform to consider. Let’s also take a look at the pricing plans that are available. 

Thinkific offers four main pricing plans, which are presented down below. 

  • Free. This plan allows you to use the platform for free and, in a sense, test drive it. 
  • Basic costs $49/mo or $36/mo if purchased annually. 
  • Start is priced at $99/mo, or $74/mo is billed annually. 
  • Grow costs $199/mo or $149/mo if you purchase the yearly plan. 


#3 Teachable 

Another self-hosting platform for online course creators is Teachable. It is a popular platform that offers a variety of student engagement tools and is best for those who pay lots of attention to interactive learning experiences. The main features of the platform include: 

  • Built-in AI functionality. Teachable allows you to generate curriculum, quizzes, subtitles, and even summaries with the help of built-in AI. 
  • Sales tools such as flexible payment options upsells, and order dumps to optimize your sales process. 
  • Tax-inclusive pricing to optimize prices for global reach. 
  • Analytics tool to track and evaluate results better than ever before. 
  • Affiliate marketing tools allow creators to reach wider markets at almost no cost. 
  • Student progress tracking tools. These will allow us to analyze student progress and find more efficient ways to motivate them further. 

Teachable has four pricing plans, which are presented below. 

  • Free, as the name suggests, it’s completely free and great to test the platform.  
  • Basic $59/mo and $39/mo if billed annually. 
  • Pro will cost you $159/mo, but if you go with the annual plan, then the monthly cost will be $119. 
  • Pro Plus costs $249/mo, with an annual plan price being $199/mo. 

So, if you are looking for an easy-to-use and scale platform than check out Teachable as well. 

#4 Kajabi

Kajabi has an easy-to-use tool that offers all the necessary features to course creators, from digital products to potent marketing tools. It will allow you to diversify revenue streams with membership functionality as well as build your funnels. 

Some of the primary features of Kajabi include the following: 

  • Easy-to-use website builder with different templates.
  • Marketing automation tools such as email sequences, marketing funnel templates, etc. 
  • Unlimited hosting capabilities to scale your business with ease. 
  • Built-in SEO to make sure your site ranks high in SERPs and drive more organic traffic. 
  • Auto-scaling technology to ensure that the website is able to handle lots of students simultaneously while working fast. 
  • Pre-made templates to save you time on quiz building and website building. 
  • Single-click upsell technology to help you optimize the sales process. 

When it comes to pricing, the platform comes in handy with four pricing plans. 

  • Free plan that comes in handy with basic features for testing the platform. 
  • Basic plan costs $149/mo, but if you purchase the annual subscription, it will cost $119/mo. 
  • Growth plan is priced at $199/mo and $159/mo if billed annually. 
  • Pro costs $399/mo, but if you get the yearly subscription, it will be $319/mo. 

Essentially, yearly subscriptions allow you to save 20%. 

The main drawback of the platform is price. Even in comparison to the platforms mentioned in the first positions, Kajabi is more expensive and offers similar functionality. You can visit the pricing page to check out all the features offered within each plan. 

#5 Podia

Podia is an awesome platform for course creators who are mainly looking for a platform for community building and management. The main features of Podia include the following: 

  • A website builder that allows you to build and customize your website. 
  • Allows to sell digital downloads and courses to generate income from multiple revenue streams.  
  • Email marketing features to reach your audience at an optimized cost and ensure engagement. 
  • Unlimited storage capabilities that allow you to upload as many courses and resources as you want while still scaling your website. 
  • Integrations with popular third-party tools. 

When it comes to pricing, it stands at the mid-price range level. You can see the main plans presented down below. 

  • Free - you can use this plan to get familiar with the product. 
  • Starter plan costs $9/mo and $4/mo if purchased annually. It allows you to have a custom domain. There is also an 8% transaction fee for each sale. 
  • Mover plan costs $39/mo and has a 5% transaction fee from each course sale. If you purchase the annual plan, then it will be $33/mo. 
  • Shaker has no translation fees, and you get to keep all your profits. The monthly fee for the platform is $89. However, if you get the annual plan, then it will cost you $59/mo (first year) and $75/mo after the first year. 

If you want to learn more about features offered in each plan, than check out the pricing page here

#6 LearnWorlds

LearnWorlds is another self-hosted platform for course creators and trainers looking to grow their businesses. It is an awesome platform for course creators who are looking for enhanced marketing functionality and built-in AI tools to optimize creation processes. 

So, let’s take a look at the main features. 

  • AI assistant that helps you with curriculum generation, marketing, and course building. 
  • Website builder editor that allows you to build and edit a website without coding skills. 
  • Interactive elements for higher student engagement.  
  • Mobile app builder to build and market your mobile app, providing students mLearning experience. 
  • White labeling and branding features to remove LearnWorlds watermarks from your website completely. 
  • Marketing and sales tools to optimize business operations, reach wider audiences and make more sales. 

This platform comes in handy with four main pricing plans, which are: 

  • Starter (keeps $5 per course sale), it costs $29/mo, and $24/mo if billed annually. 
  • Pro Trainer plan costs $99/mo and $79/mo for the annual plan. 
  • Learning Center costs $299/mo and $249/mo if billed annually. 
  • High Volume and Corporate plans are tailored to your specific business needs. Thus, the price is custom. 

#7 Moodle

Another platform for course creators on our list is Moodle. It is pretty simple to use but limited in terms of branding functionality. Usually, this platform is a better fit for universities or online schools. However, many course creators who prefer simplicity over powerful features also use it. So, let’s take a look at the main features Moodle offers. 

  • Customizable learning management system to create and manage different courses. 
  • Different task formats & activities for students, such as forums, homework uploads, quizzes & tests.  
  • Measure and manage students’ progress with analytics tools to ensure your students are on track.
  • A secure and scalable platform that can handle student bug flow. 

There are five pricing plans available for the platform. They are mentioned in Australian dollars; however, we converted them into USD. Thus, keep in mind that there might be slight changes. 

  • Starter costs around $117 
  • Mini’s price is around $203 
  • Small plan costs $379 
  • Medium is priced at $882 
  • Standard costs $1672. 

Also, keep in mind that all plans are billed annually. So, the displayed prices are yearly. 

#8 Mighty Networks

You can also consider Mighty Networks to start your self-hosted course creation business. Essentially, it is a community-building platform, so if you want a membership platform focused on community engagement, it is a perfect option for you. The main features of this platform include: 

  • Activity feed and chats so that students can engage with one another. 
  • Course/resource library where you can upload your courses and give access to the members. 
  • Member list to easily manage your member list, conduct outreach, and grow your business. 
  • Page builder to customize your website. 
  • Integrations with platforms such as Zoom and ConvertKit. 

Mighty Networks offers four main pricing plans, which are the following: 

  • Courses cost $119 for a monthly plan and $99/mo if you get the annual subscription. 
  • Business is $219/mo, but if billed annually, it will cost $179/mo. 
  • Path-to-Pro $360/mo for annual plan. This plan does not offer a monthly billing option. 
  • Mighty Pro offers custom pricing based on your specific business needs and requests. 

Also, it is worth mentioning that the platform offers a free trial run period. 

#9 Ruzuku

Last one on our list of best self-hosted platforms is Ruzuku. It offers powerful course management features and allows you to grow your business with an ease. This platform is perfect for course creators who are looking for a way to connect and engage with their students rather than only generate a passive income revenue stream. 

Let’s take a look at the main features of this platform: 

  • Daily backups to avoid data loss. 
  • Course health feature to track how well your course is performing and understand aspects that can be improved. 
  • Mailchimp integration for better email marketing, which allows to reach wider audience as well as engage your current one better. 
  • Audio and video streaming features for live webinars and workshops. 
  • Powerful global content delivery network. This feature will ensure smooth content delivery all over the world. 

The platform offers three pricing plans, which are presented down below. 

  • Free - you can choose this plan to kick start your business 
  • Core plan costs $99/mo. If you decide to go with an annual plan, you will be able to save $191 yearly. 
  • Pro costs $199/mo; however, if you purchase a yearly plan, you’ll save $391. 

All the paid plans have a few features in common, such as unlimited students, daily backups, and bank-level security when it comes to payments. Also, it is worth mentioning that the platform offers a 100% money-back guarantee. 

Start your self-hosting course business now

So, to summarize, many course creators choose self-hosted platforms over marketplaces due to additional freedom and opportunities these provide. With self-hosted platforms, you gain full control over every aspect of your business. Also, there are lots of self-hosted platforms in today’s market from which you can choose. Each platform comes in handy with its unique set of features that make it suitable for different creators.  

Well, eventually, you should choose a platform most suitable for you and start your self-hosting course business now. 

If you are looking for the best price and quality ratio, then we recommend Uteach. It is a potent software for online course creators, coaches, and trainers. It comes in handy with a variety of useful features to scale your business and monetize your knowledge. 

Get started with Uteach and take advantage of a 14-day FREE Trial run period. 


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  ? Too Long; Didn't Read

Self-hosted online courses are courses published on platforms owned by independent creators. Meaning that the creators own an independent business website and have more creative freedom as well as branding options.

The key difference between self-hosted platforms and marketplaces is the independence of course creators. On self-hosted platforms, course creators have more creative freedom and the ability to take advantage of branding features to stand out from the rest.

Meanwhile, on marketplaces, such freedom is not presented, and you simply have a profile as a creator where you publish your courses without many customization options. One of the best self-hosted platforms to launch your online course is Uteach. It does not keep fees from sales and allows for better scalability.