Which Online Teaching Platform Is Right for You?By Halley Bondy January 13th, 2021
Many freelancers teach their trade online for extra cash, and for good reason. The demand for remote learning has spiked during COVID-19, and using online teaching platforms can be an extremely gratifying experience as well as a lucrative one.
But it isn’t for everyone. While many freelancers classify teaching online as a side hustle, it takes a lot of time and effort to create a successful course. Plus, not all platforms are created equal. The one you choose might determine your outcome, so you should select one that fits your specific needs and experience.
If you’re trying to decide between Udemy, Outschool, or Skillshare, you’re not alone. To help you sort through a sea of online teaching platforms, we spoke to freelancers about some of their top picks for earning income and sharing expertise.
1. For freelancers with K-12 teaching experience: Outschool
While teaching experience is beneficial on any platform, it is especially helpful on Outschool. Though the site doesn’t require teachers to hold a degree in education, it’s popular for live Zoom instruction among K-12 students and teachers.
Bjorn Norstrom, who has worked in schools for 14 years, has successfully taught animation, game design, and coding on Outschool. “It’s a very similar experience as being a public school teacher,” he said. “You submit a course and create lesson plans… If you have never taught before, it’ll be tricky. And if you combine that with never having taught on an online platform, that could be a disaster.”
For those who do have the teaching chops, Outschool is low-investment in terms of tech. Teachers don’t need to produce any content other than their lesson plans, a thumbnail image for the class, and a basic profile. However, they should be highly adept at Zoom to set up screen sharing and ensure audio quality.
Outschool engages in targeted marketing through social media posts and email blasts. The company takes 30 percent of payments for individual courses, while 70 percent goes to instructors.
“When you first start teaching online, it feels artificial and not real,” Norstrom said. “But then there are some benefits. In the same class, you might have one kid from Canada, one from England, and one from Spain. I never would have had that in a regular classroom.”
2. For passive income: Skillshare
On Skillshare, teachers upload pre-recorded video courses that can bring in steady income for years without additional work.
“When I create a course, it takes me around a week to film and edit it—but once it’s done, it’s done for life,” said Angelique Noll, an artist who teaches watercolor and oil painting on Skillshare and Udemy. “For me, I set aside a week to make the course.”
On the consumer side, Skillshare is subscriber-based rather than course-based. On average, teachers earn about 5-10 cents per minute watched. Teachers can also reshare older courses and earn passive income. Skillshare handles the brunt of marketing, which is a boon for freelancers who don’t have a following of their own.
Freelancers should have high-quality production capability if they’re interested in Skillshare because courses must follow the platform’s specific class guidelines. For example, the videos in your course must add up to at least 10 minutes and meet Skillshare’s audio/visual standards. Clips can’t be overtly self-promotional or promise content they don’t deliver.
“Skillshare is a video platform, and learners are relying on cohesive and presentable classes they can follow along without technical difficulties,” said Nadège Richards, who teaches design on the site. “So if someone doesn’t know how to do all of that themselves, quickly and efficiently, I think using Skillshare would be challenging. Not impossible, just challenging.”
3. For DIY brand-builders: Teachable
At first consideration, Teachable doesn’t seem as user-friendly as some of the other online teaching platforms. As a teacher, you have to pay to get the most out of the service, and tiered fees range from $29 to $299 a month. Secondly, you have to market yourself.
However, you get a lot in return. Teachers keep all of their class earnings. They also gain access to courses in marketing, one-on-one coaching, and Teachable’s affiliate program, which can bring in additional profits. Instructors can pre-record their courses or deliver them live through YouTube.
“Teachable understands that you’re not just there to set up a class. You’re there to set up a whole school,” said Chanté Griffin, a freelance journalist who teaches writing for media outlets. “They push you further and they give you a vision for what you can do overall. They’re good about training you.”
Griffin has seen success on the platform. Her school, Bloom Media Academy, is on its way to sustaining her full time while she writes a book. She noted that Teachable is best suited for instructors willing to put in more upfront work.
“To be on Teachable, you need to be excited about what you’re teaching. You need to be willing to do a bit of graphic design, marketing, and copywriting—or hire someone to do those things for you,” she said.
4. For first-timers testing out online teaching platforms: Udemy
From the teacher’s perspective, Udemy is similar to Skillshare in a number of ways. All instruction is pre-recorded, and the barrier to entry is fairly low. Teachers upload 30 minutes of coursework and split the content up into five lectures or more. All submitted videos must meet Udemy’s quality standards.
“Markets like Udemy and Skillshare are super flooded with not-great courses,” said Jessia Brody, who teaches online writing on Udemy and the brand platform Kajabi. “If you create a really good one, it’s going to rise up, and people are going to notice it. It’s not hard to succeed if you are willing to put in the work to make it good.”
While platforms like Skillshare are subscription-based, Udemy offers individual course packages. For some teachers, this makes it easier to track progress and create financial goals. To give high-quality content a boost, Udemy markets some classes on their own. The company also offers a paid promotional program.
However, there are some downsides. Brody is not a fan of Udemy’s pay structure, for instance, which is based on revenue sharing and coupons. While she has made money on the platform, she noted that the structure is complicated and changes frequently.
Udemy, Skillshare, and Teachable are all non-exclusive, so it might be worth uploading your material to multiple platforms and seeing what shakes out. “In terms of starting a course, I would start with Udemy, see how people are reacting to [your content], then try to expand out onto LinkedIn,” Brody suggested.
5. For teachers with a following: LinkedIn Learning
If you already have a following and teaching credibility, you can succeed on all of these platforms. One bonus is that you may have a better chance of making it onto LinkedIn Learning, which is more exclusive.
LinkedIn Learning acquired Lynda.com in 2015. Today, teachers can apply to the platform with a sample video. After that, LinkedIn may or may not get back to you. The pay is not publicly divulged, though we know that it’s a member service. Brody was invited to LinkedIn Learning thanks to the popularity of her writing courses. To officially join, she had to undergo a review process.
For those who pass the application process, LinkedIn offers helpful services to package your course—from writing promotional copy to advertising. Many teachers welcome this assistance, but it may not be ideal for those who want to control every part of their image and the course.
If you choose to move forward, though, LinkedIn Learning provides a huge platform. LinkedIn has over 720 million users interested in professional development, which means there are plenty of students just a click away.