The online course space is growing rapidly in 2020, as more and more people turn to the internet to learn something new or create their own course.
Two of the major platforms used for building online courses are Thinkific and Podia.
In this article, I’ll take a detailed look at Thinkific vs. Podia to see how they compare in each of the following:
By the end, you should be able to make an informed decision on which platform to use.
Let’s dive in!
Podia vs Thinkific – Who Wins in 2020?
Based on extensive research and my own testing, Thinkific edges out Podia as the better online course platform. Thinkific has more features and is powerful enough that it can be used as a simple course builder or a complete Learning Management System.
Read on for a detailed comparison between the two platforms. Or, start using Thinkific now (it’s free).
The following chart compares Thinkific’s Pro plan to Podia’s Shaker plan since they are most equivalent in terms of the features offered.
|Pricing (for the yearly plan)||$79/mo||$65.83/mo|
|Free plan||Yes||No (14-day Free Trial)|
|Unlimited courses and students||Yes||Yes|
|Free, paid, & subscription course payment options||Yes||Yes|
|Accept payments through Stripe & PayPal||Yes||Yes (limited)|
|Coupons & promotions||Yes||Yes|
|Upsells & bundles||Yes||Yes|
|Quizzes||Yes||Yes (but not graded)|
|Themes & color picker for customizing your course||Yes||Yes|
|Drag-and-drop site builder||Yes||Yes|
|Zero transaction fees||Yes||Yes|
|Live chat support||No||Yes|
|Certificates of completion||Yes||No|
|Advanced exams||Yes (Brillium)||No|
|Bulk-import course content||Yes||No|
|Multiple administrators||Yes||Yes ($20/mo each)|
|Inbuilt course messaging/live chat||No||Yes|
|Native email marketing service||No||Yes|
|Embed checkout on other websites||No||Yes|
|Try Thinkific||Try Podia|
Main Differences Between Thinkific and Podia
The primary differences between Thinkific and Podia are:
- Thinkific is more customizable than Podia in terms of design and layout.
- Thinkific offers more interactive classroom features like graded quizzes, assignments, and exams.
- With Thinkific, you can create a forum for your course whereas with Podia, you can chat with students through a messaging system.
- Although Thinkific offers phone support, Podia’s live chat support is widely considered the best of any course platform.
- Podia has its own built-in email marketing service. With Thinkific, you have to integrate a third-party tool for email marketing.
Thinkific is more popular than Podia if you look at the raw numbers.
Thinkific is used by over 51,000 course creators, while Podia is used by over 25,000. So in terms of the number of users, Thinkific is about twice as popular as Podia.
On Twitter, Thinkific has about twice as many followers as Podia.
It’s pretty clear that Thinkific is the most popular, but it should be noted that Podia has rapidly grown in the last year. It’s hard to say which platform will be more popular in the future.
Arguably the most important part of an online course platform is the actual course builder. In this section, I’ll compare Thinkific’s course builder to Podia’s course builder.
Thinkific’s Course Builder – Feature-Packed & Easy to Use
After signing up for Thinkific, you’ll be taken to a page that will walk you through all the steps necessary to launch an online course. Thinkific leads you by the hand on each step, so the learning curve is almost non-existent.
The course builder page is where you’ll spend the bulk of your time. It starts you off with putting together the curriculum. This simply means you’ll be uploading videos and other files for your course, creating chapters, and adding lessons.
When you add a lesson, you can choose from a bunch of different lesson types. The options are:
- Video (you can add text and downloadable files underneath)
- Quiz (includes an intuitive quiz builder with lots of options)
- Multimedia (add external content like a Google Doc or upload a .zip file if you’re on the Pro plan)
- Text (includes a WYSIWYG editor with options to add videos, images, tables, custom code, and more)
- Survey (with the following question types to choose from: rating, scale, one answer, multiple answers, and free text)
- PDF (there’s a file size limit of 25mb)
- Audio (the supported file types are aac, mp2, mp3, mpga, ogg, wav, and m4a. You can add text to audio lessons as well)
- Download (supports any file type, and you can include text above the download link)
- Presentation (upload slides in PDF format)
- Exam (uses Brillium and requires the Pro plan and Growth package)
- Assignment (requires the Pro plan)
- Live (after connecting Zoom, you can hold a live lesson or webinar)
From the course builder page, you can bulk import content if you have some or all of the files for your course already.
Under the Settings tab, you can control how the front-end and back-end of your course works. In the basic settings you can rename your course and change the URL, disable text copying (for security), delete your course, and set it to “private” or “hidden” if you have the Pro plan.
Other settings let you change the appearance of your course (even setting it to dark mode!), add completion certificates, and add a meta description and title tag for SEO.
If you have a paid plan, you can set up a drip schedule to control when students have access to your course.
The Pricing tab lets you set your course as “free” or “paid”. With the Pro plan, you can set up a subscription or a monthly payment plan.
You can customize the after-purchase experience with the Pro plan and add upsells or a custom thank-you page.
The Publish tab allows you to set your course to draft mode, pre-order, or published.
At any point during the process of creating a course, you can preview it from the perspective of an enrolled student.
Podia’s Course Builder – Basic & Less Intuitive (Hear Me Out!)
Accessing the course builder on Podia is a bit more confusing than on Thinkific. There’s no walk-through, which surprised me a bit.
The course builder can be accessed by going to the Products tab, clicking the Create Product button, and then selecting “Online course”.
I found it a bit confusing at first. Compared to Thinkific, it wasn’t very intuitive.
To start creating your course, you first add a section and then you can begin adding the actual course content.
The supported content types include files, links, text, and quizzes.
To add a video (or any other file), you’d select the “file” content type and then drag and drop your video file into Podia. Once it is fully uploaded, you can edit the lesson title and thumbnail, as well as add content below the video.
The “text” content type is simply a rich text editor. You can do basic formatting such as adding links, headings, and lists. It’s not immediately apparent how you add a video or other file to a text lesson, though it is possible. For that, click the “Formatting help” link and it’ll take you to a help page that will show you how to add videos, images, and more to the rich text editor. Basically, you just drag and drop images from your computer, and for videos you simply insert a link to the video and it will automatically embed it.
The “quiz” content type is easier to use than the one Thinkific offers, but it’s much less robust. Thinkific’s has a ton of formatting options for questions and answers, even allowing you to add images and videos. Additionally, you can add an explanation for why an answer is correct or incorrect. Podia’s quiz feature only has text fields and there aren’t any formatting options. See the comparison below:
On top of that, you can’t even preview quizzes with Podia. So it’s hard to know for sure how a quiz will look until you actually publish the course.
From the Settings tab, you can change your course name and URL, as well as put it under a specific category (useful if you have multiple products in your Podia storefront).
You can also set the start date for enrollment, and close enrollment.
The last setting lets you add an integration with a third-party like Zapier or Mailchimp.
After personally using both Thinkific and Podia, I don’t get all the hype around Podia’s supposed ease of use. To be honest, I found Thinkific both easier to use and considerably more feature-packed.
A good-looking and user-friendly website is absolutely necessary for establishing trust and boosting course sales. In this section, I’ll provide a detailed comparison of Thinkific’s and Podia’s website builders.
Thinkific’s Website Builder – Rich with Features
On the site builder page, the first thing you’re met with is a walk-through that shows you how to use the site builder. If I found this helpful as a seasoned internet nerd, I can imagine it would be helpful for beginners and non-tech savvy people as well.
Thinkific starts you off with default website theme, but if you don’t like it, there are several other themes to choose from. Within each theme, you can even set different styles to further customize the look.
You can also edit all the colors and typography to match your brand.
Editing pages is very straightforward. You initially start out with a home page, a course page, a bundles page, and default pages such as checkout, sign up, and a student dashboard. But if you want, you can add custom pages as well.
When you go to edit a particular page, you have the option to add a section anywhere on the page. Sections include pretty much anything you could want. Some of the types that stood out to me were:
- Product list
- Call to Action
- Countdown timer
- Icon & text
- Image & text (with CTA)
- Image gallery
- Lead Capture (newsletter/email signup form)
- Pricing options
- Text & media
In addition to editing pages, you can also edit the header, logo, and footer sections.
Overall, Thinkific’s website builder is quite robust and relatively easy to use. Navigating it may be a tad confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it fairly quickly.
Podia’s Website Builder – Limited, but Great Design
To use Podia’s site builder, click the “Edit Store” button from the dashboard.
You’ll be taken to the storefront where you can add sections, edit the appearance, and edit the header.
The section types available are:
- Image with text
- Video with text
It’s immediately apparent that Podia doesn’t offer as many options as Thinkific in terms of website sections.
In terms of website appearance, Podia lets you change the colors for everything – including each individual section. You can also pick from a variety of fonts for your headings and body text.
One thing I did like is that Podia’s design looks much better than Thinkific’s out of the box. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of similar website builds from Thinkific and Podia:
For the header, you can upload your own logo, add menu links, a favicon, and an image for social media.
If you want, you can add additional pages to your site. They come with all the same options for sections and appearance as the homepage. You can set the title and URL of your new page in the Page Details section.
One thing I didn’t like about Podia’s website builder is that when it comes to technical details like adding pages to the menu, I didn’t find it even close to intuitive.
Winner: Thinkific (barely)
While Podia’s design is hands down better, Thinkific’s site builder edges Podia’s out with more features and less headaches.
For design and UI, I’m comparing both the back-end where you put together your course and the front-end that users see.
After spending a good amount of time tinkering with both Thinkific and Podia, I have to say Podia’s design feels more neat and organized. For the most part, settings are where you’d expect them to be. With Thinkific, you have to jump around quite a bit more and some of the settings aren’t where you would expect.
Thinkific comes out on top in terms of website customization options. You can select from several themes and styles, and customize each style quite a bit. With Podia, you’re stuck with the default theme.
On the front end, Podia websites look better in my opinion. You can make a beautiful site with Thinkific, but it will require a lot more time and effort. Podia’s design simply looks great without you having to do much.
Although Thinkific is so much more customizable, Podia’s design is arguably better and it doesn’t take as much time to make it look good.
If you rely heavily on integrations with third-party tools, both Thinkific and Podia should have you covered.
Thinkific has a few more integration options such as ConstantContact for email marketing, Brillium for exams, and SamCart for checkout pages. But there are alternatives to these that work with Podia (except Brillium).
Both Thinkific and Podia offer Zapier integrations as well, which means you can connect to thousands of apps.
The integration options are pretty much the same, but Podia lacks a good integration for exams.
If you want to get your course in front of as many people as possible, you’ll need to do some marketing. Thankfully, Thinkific and Podia both have some great marketing tools available.
Here’s a list of Thinkific’s marketing tools:
- You can set up affiliate marketing for your course to reward people for promoting it to their audience. The commission rates can be customized.
- You can connect your favorite email marketing provider.
- You can connect Google Analytics to measure the success of your marketing campaigns.
- You can connect Google Adwords and Facebook, and serve ads for your course to past visitors with through retargeting.
- You can use Zapier to integrate your course with thousands of different apps.
Here’s a list of Podia’s marketing tools:
- Advanced email marketing using Podia’s own email service. You can send newsletters, build funnels, drip campaigns, segment email lists, and track the performance of your emails.
- You can embed buy buttons and a complete checkout page for your Podia products on your own website.
- You can offer coupons for your products.
- You can set up affiliate marketing for your Podia products.
Winner: It’s a Tie!
Thinkific has a wide range of marketing tools which include pretty much everything you could need. However, Podia has some unique features such as it’s own email marketing service and embeddable checkout pages.
Cost-wise, Thinkific and Podia are pretty similar. The major differences are that Thinkific offers a free plan (Podia only offers a 14-day free trial), and that Podia’s annual pricing is a bit cheaper than Thinkific’s.
Overview of Thinkific’s Pricing
Thinkific’s main plans are Free, Basic, Pro, and Premier. I say “main” because Thinkific also offers a Plus plan for enterprise clients, and a Growth package that can be included with the Pro plan and up.
The Free plan comes with all the core features and is enough for you to create, launch, and sell up to three courses. There are zero transaction fees on any Thinkific plan, including the free plan. You also will get instant access to your funds regardless of the plan you’re on.
The Basic plan comes with all the core features and also includes coupons, the ability to email your students, drip content, set up a custom domain, integrate with Zapier and email providers, and more. There’s also no limit on the number of courses you can make.
Cost: $49/mo or $39/mo if paid annually.
The Pro plan comes with everything from the Free and Basic plans, but includes such features as certificates, live Zoom lessons, and memberships.
Cost: $99/mo or $79/mo if paid annually.
Premier comes with support for up to five site admins and 50 course authors, and several other features that large clients would find useful.
Cost: $499/mo or $399/mo if paid annually.
The Growth package can be added to the Pro and Premier plan and comes with even more features. It’s free for up to 100 students, and then $10/100 students per month capping at $499/mo. See the screenshot below for the list of features that come with the Growth package:
The Plus plan is mainly for major clients who need a learning management system for thousands of employees and students. Some of the companies using Thinkific’s Plus plan are Samsung, Intel, Shopify, and Hootsuite.
Overview of Podia’s Pricing
Podia only has two plans: Mover and Shaker. There’s no free plan available, but you can get a 14-day free trial.
The Mover plan comes with unlimited students, courses, digital downloads, webinars, a messaging system to engage with students, and Podia’s proprietary email marketing platform. There are zero transaction fees and instant payouts on both of Podia’s plans.
Cost: $39/mo or $32.50/mo if paid annually.
The Shaker plan comes with everything from the Mover plan, plus membership subscriptions, affiliate marketing, off-site buy buttons, Zoom integration, a blog, and third-party code.
Cost: $79/mo or $65.83/mo if paid annually.
Here’s a look at all the base features included in both plans:
Though it’s not shown there, 24/7 customer support comes with both plans as well.
Although Podia’s plans are cheaper and the pricing structure is way less confusing, Thinkific offers a pretty feature-heavy free plan and and much better plans for large customers.
The quality of support is one of the most important aspects when it comes to online course platforms. In this section, I’ll compare Thinkific’s customer support to Podia’s.
Thinkific Customer Support
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, an influx of people began creating online courses and asking for help, which negatively affected Thinkific’s customer support response times.
So, although Thinkific is known for having good support, these days they’re having a hard time keeping up.
Thinkific offers phone and email support, as well as an extensive help center and a Facebook group.
Podia Customer Support
One of the biggest reasons people switch over to Podia from other course platforms is the outstanding customer support.
Podia offers 24/7 live chat and email support, and boasts a less-than-2-minute average response time. When I had a question, I received a helpful answer in 4 minutes. Still, not bad.
Podia also has a help center with over 150 articles if you prefer to find an answer on your own.
On paper, the customer support from Thinkific and Podia may look about equal. But judging by all the glowing testimonials which almost all mention Podia’s support, it’s obvious that Podia has put real effort into making sure their support is the best in the business.
In deciding which platform to choose, it’s always super helpful to read about other people’s experiences. So, I’ve compiled screenshots from multiple different sources which show people’s opinions of Thinkific and Podia.
Reviews of Thinkific
Reviews of Podia
Podia is probably better for beginners as it’s slightly less confusing to use. However, some beginners might find Thinkific easier to use because of the detailed walk-throughs that show you how to use the main features.
It comes down to your learning style. If you like to figure things out on your own, you’ll likely find Podia more intuitive.
But if you have experience with WordPress or Shopify, you’ll have no trouble using either platform. Thinkific feels a bit more like the Shopify and WordPress back-ends, but it’s definitely it’s own thing.
If I had to pick one as more “beginner-friendly”, I would say Podia. But only by a small margin. The reason Podia is more beginner-friendly is that it doesn’t take any effort to make your site look good, you can put together your course and website in less time, and the customer support is better.
Thinkific vs Podia – Final Verdict
After exploring both platforms myself and doing a ton of research, my final opinion is that Thinkific is better than Podia for creating online courses.
Not only does Thinkific come with a good free plan, it also has a more feature-rich course and website builder. If you need more advanced features like exams, Thinkific has you covered.
If you’re just looking for a platform that will allow you to easily make a great-looking course and launch it fast, AND you don’t need a ton of features, try Podia.
Otherwise, I’d definitely pick Thinkific.