What Do I Think About Thinkific?
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
Course creator platforms -- essentially slimmed down LMSs with added marketing features -- have made a huge splash in the eLearning market, particularly during COVID, as brick and mortar businesses have tried to find their way online.
Some of the most popular include:
Mighty Courses (part of Mighty Networks)
With my own clients, I usually encourage the use of one of the first three, depending on their needs.
Today, I'm going to spend some time talking about Thinkific.
For full transparency, I am a Thinkific Affiliate Partner. I only become affiliates for brands I really can vouch for, and I feel Thinkific is one of them. How do I know? Well, because it's the backbone of the Upskill Experience, Your Instructional Designer's learning network.
If you think you'd like to create a Thinkific school, please consider signing up with my link:
It won't cost you any extra, but it will help Your Instructional Designer to continue turning out content and supporting our Facebook community for freelancers.
So... who should and should NOT use Thinkific?
You should consider Thinkific as a solution if:
You prefer not to put all your eggs in one basket. Some people like streamlined software that does it all for you, but the risk is that, should that software disappear or get a price hike that's no longer working for you, you have to start from ground zero. Thinkific is great if you're just looking for somewhere to put your course content, keep track of users, and manage the basic ecommerce side of selling courses. It's not set up to do email marketing, events, or sales funnels.
You want more than just video-based content. Of all the course creator platforms I've looked into, Thinkific was the only one that allowed me to upload SCORM-based content, though it's not SCORM compliant and won't handle reporting. If I had a Storyline file or Rise module I wanted to share, where assessment or user progress wasn't critical, I could. I can also create lessons with Zoom integrations to create blended learning experiences, and I thought that was pretty cool. The other feature I like is the multimedia embedding feature. I use this to link up Typeforms, webpages, and things hosted on my S3 server. If you're someone who wants more flexibility in your online teaching tools, Thinkific is it.
You want to get started for nothing. Thinkific has a free offering. You'll be stuck using a [your name].thinkific.com link, and you'll have certain limitations as far as eCommerce goes BUT you can at least test out the tool and see if you like it free of charge. And if those things don't feel necessary to you, you can start making money right away until you're ready to invest in upgrading to their Growth plan, which at $99 per month or $79 per month for an annual license is still pretty affordable in comparison to most products out there.
You're looking for a community of support as you take the leap into course creator territory. Thinkific's Facebook community is awesome! People are always there and willing to help each other. There are live trainings hosted there Thinkific Experts from time to time, as well.
You should NOT consider Thinkific as a solution if:
You want an all in one marketing and course system. Thinkific has tons of great third party integrations, but that means you're buying software licenses for products outside of Thinkific. This can create extra costs and extra layers of set up. For me, it means I'm using Thinkific, Mailchimp, and Zapier rather than just one tool.
Your course will only be video and some simple document downloads. I mean, you CAN do this with Thinkific, but I think aesthetically, Thinkific's interface is less appealing than, say, Kajabi's when it comes to these very simple course structures.
You want deep analytics and data visualization. Thinkific will give you basic user data, like how much of the course each student has completed and when they last logged in. But it's not sophisticated. It doesn't track data from SCORM files. For quizzes and surveys, you have to constantly download excel sheets to see your students' responses (I find this incredibly frustrating). If you want significant analytics, you'll have to pay more for an LMS or LXP.
Discussion boards are essential to the success of your course and/or you want video uploads in your discussion boards. The UI of Thinkific's courses have discussion boards placed as a button at the top right of the screen (on desktop). It's just not intuitive, and I find students don't engage voluntarily. On other platforms, like Kajabi and Kartra, comments are right under the video. The Communities feature is also just not that great, and it's one of the reasons I continue to use Facebook for a community instead.
Is Thinkific easy to use?
Yes! Let me show you around the backend. When I enter the admin dashboard, I get data about how my school is performing. I'm going to skip that to keep user data private, but just know it's super easy to navigate.
To access the course editor, I just go to the dropdown menu, and select courses. There I see everything I've already created, and if I want something new, I just select "New Course." There's also the option to create Memberships & Bundles, organize the way in which these courses appear on your home page, and edit course player settings.
Once inside the course editor, the fun begins. Basically, everything works in building blocks: Courses > Curriculum > Modules > Lessons. Here's From Data to Design as an example:
You can pick from a number of lesson types, including video, PDF download, presentation, and multimedia. The one shown above is a video lesson, but as you see, you can add text and files.
You can also decide whether you'd like content to be downloadable or not. For From Data to Design, I've made just about every video and file downloadable.
In Settings, you can decide your course colors, set your title and description, add your url, determine whether videos need to be watch all the way through, and set your player logo.
There are also options for dripping course content by date or by day from release, setting multiple price options, determining the post-purchase flow of events, and publishing your course. It's a pretty intuitive backend, in my opinion.
From the front end, this is what my students see.
Connected to each course is a landing page you can use. You just pick a theme and use the builder to decide what elements you want to add to your page. The elements are all responsive (with the caveat that the banner image is not), so they will display nicely on mobile devices and tablets.
You can use Thinkific to build a home page and all kinds of custom pages if you'd like, or you can integrate with your own website. I've chosen to use Thinkific for all of the Upskill Experience, but in the future, I may upgrade to a more sophisticated and customizable site.
I've been able to build some really fun confirmation pages and waitlist pages using Thinkific.
One other cool feature is the custom certificates. Thinkific makes it really easy to build them, and my students enjoy sharing their earned accolades. Each certificate has an autogenerated custom number, so it can be tracked in the system. If someone were to say "hey, did so and so really finish this course," I could verify the certificate number.
So, as you can see, it's pretty easy to build a course, build a page, add a certificate, and get started sharing your program. There are more bells and whistles, but this gives you a pretty good foundation.