Your course materials are ready, maybe you even did a beta launch and have some students that you have co-created course content with (if you want to know more about pre-selling your course, read this article) and now you’re ready to host all the goodness somewhere.

But where? There are just SO MANY OPTIONS.

Instead of getting bogged down by the details of WHICH provider to use, let’s just make a decision on whether you’re going to self-host the course on your website or whether you’re going to use a third-party platform to host your course.

There are of course advantages and disadvantages to each one, so let’s look at these.

Self-Hosting Your Online Course

What does that even mean?

Self-hosting means that you are hosting the course materials on your own website instead of on a third-party platform. To do this you would usually create a subdomain in your website hosting account to make sure the speed of your main website is not affected by content hosted for your courses and programs. A subdomain looks like this courses.jessicadornieden.com or programs.jessicadornieden.com for example.

Your students will have a user account there and they will access all of your pdfs and videos via that subdomain (that doesn’t mean your videos have to be hosted there, it means that they are simply accessing them here).

What’s good about it?

The best thing about self-hosting is that you are independent from third-parties and you can make your course look exactly how you want it to look. You are not limited by weird bugs with sales pages, or by the existing layout of the checkout page that you really don’t like. You have true design freedom and everything can be changed to suit your brand. 

My favourite theme to use for creating course websites is Divi, because of it’s ease of use and lack of bugs. This is an affiliate link, but I would not be recommending Divi if I wasn’t using it myself.

What could be challenging?

If you are not tech-savvy this can be a bit of a beast to take on as a project. You don’t have to worry there are people like me that support you in doing this, but that may not be in your budget at this moment in time, so you may need to handle a lot of this yourself. You may need more than one plugin for your WordPress site to handle payments and content protection. You will also need to have a solid plan for setting up the course area as a whole and how students navigate your content, otherwise it will be frustrating and confusing for them resulting in a negative experience.

Hosting your course with a third-party provider

This means that you are signing up for an account with places such as Teachable, Thinkific or Kajabi for the purpose of hosting your course there.

All of your content is uploaded to them/embedded on their course pages and your students create an account on THAT platform to access their content.

What’s good about it?

It’s still a learning curve, but if you are not techy at all, then this is the easier solution. The integrations with other platforms are usually straightforward and things are smooth without having to set much up.

The course area is automatically set up like an online course and some platforms offer additional gamification. Overall you will probably be able to launch a course way quicker in this way.

What could be challenging?

If you have a very strong visual brand and you want to be able to fully customise the look and feel of the sales pages and course area you may struggle here. Teachable’s and Thinkific’s sales pages are true rubbish and need code to customise and even then the results are hit and miss. You may also find the ongoing monthly cost to access all features that you need too much to justify.

So, all in all I’d say if you’re NOT techy, don’t have design skills or don’t have money to hire for help if need be, use a hosted platform. If you have a strong visual brand, want the flexibility and can set it up yourself or hire it out (feel free to book a chat with me via the yellow box below if you need help) then go for the self-hosted option.

Are you ready to finally launch your online course?

But you are so pushed for time that there is no way that'll happen any time soon?

Then we should talk. I can help you to find the right platform to host your courses, set up all of the niggly tech stuff for you and leave you to focus on creating the content and selling the thing.

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