In this blog post, I will be comparing two of the most popular online course selling platforms: Podia and Thinkific.
Podia is an all-in-one digital selling platform, while Thinkific specializes in training courses.
While Podia offers a wide range of features and covers many bases, Thinkific may still be preferable depending on your specific use case as a course designer.
Although both platforms come at a similar price range, it is the minor differences that matter for your particular needs.
As an instructional designer with 3+ years of experience using both platforms, I am well-equipped to compare them in this blog post.
|All-in-one digital selling platforms
|You can send one-off newsletters and drip campaigns. You also have segments and automation.
|Not as good as Podia. You can just send the emails by segmenting on conditions
|It integrates with 6 email marketing software.It also has integrations with Google Analytics, Stripe, and PayPal.
|More integrations than Podia. It integrates with 7 email marketing software.
|Has free plan?
|Yes (8% fee)
|Yes (No fee)
Overview of Podia and Thinkific
Podia positions itself as an all-in-one platform, allowing users to create memberships, webinars, and digital products.
Podia was founded in 2014 by Spencer Fry, who had previously started several companies such as Typefrag, CarbonMade, and Uncover( HR and online portfolio related companies).
Initially, Podia began as a simple course-building platform with basic quizzing functionality. However, over time, they added features like selling digital products, email marketing, and online communities. This transformed Podia into an all-in-one digital selling platform.
On the other hand, Thinkific focuses on e-learning tools to simplify the creation of course content, similar to Teachable. However, it may not offer membership sites or digital product selling features.
It was founded in 2012 by brothers Greg and Matt Smith. They identified the need for a high-quality online course creation platform while working on their own course. This led to the inception of Thinkific.
Similar to Podia, Thinkific also started as a course platform.
What we like about Podia over Thinkific?
- All-in-one digital selling platform: Podia is an all-in-one digital selling platform. It offers online courses, digital downloads, webinars (integrations with Zoom), and email marketing automation capabilities, saving you money on using multiple platforms.
- Email marketing automation abilities: Podia has inbuilt email marketing abilities. You can segment your audience and automate emails based on user actions on your site.
- User-friendly interface: Podia’s user interface and experience are minimalistic and well thought out. It provides a clutter-free interface that is easy to navigate.
- Better value for money: Podia is cheaper than Thinkific and offers a better value for money. Its pricing starts at $39 per month, while Thinkific starts at $49 per month. To access features like community and webinars, you can choose Podia’s Shaker plan for $89 per month.
What we like about Thinkific over Podia?
- Specialist course features: Thinkific specializes in online courses and offers a wide range of specialist features, such as better course compliance and a variety of course formats, including surveys, presentations, discussions, and Brillium Exams.
- Academic use cases: Thinkific is tailored for academic use cases and provides direct integration with assessments solutions provider Brillium, making it easy to create elaborate tests at no extra cost. However, Podia does not support these features.
- Engaging learning: Thinkific is more suitable for simulating live classroom experiences with interactive features like tests, surveys, discussion forums, and narrated presentations, which help create a more engaging learning environment.
- Course compliance and analytics: Thinkific offers better course compliance features and provides per-student analytics, including heat maps and video retention graphs, to evaluate student engagement. This makes it perfect if you value accountability in your community.
🏆 Upfront bottomline: To summarize, if you’re a marketer who needs marketing automation abilities apart from just course creation, you will absolutely love Podia. On the other hand, if you need some of the specialist course creation features that Thinkific offers (like more content formats), Thinkific may be the right choice for you.
The first time you sign up and log in to Podia, this is how the dashboard will look:
It feels well nested such that you can intuitively tell where to find what in seconds instead of minutes.
It also loads fast, which helps when your students are trying to get to a lesson on a mobile device.
Now about Thinkific
Instead of top menu bar, Thinkific nests its menu on the sidebar like this:
The layout is similar to the type we’ve seen inside Teachable for example.
Thinkific’s interface loads quickly and feels modish, too. And it will also give you a quick glimpse of your online course analytics.
Still, Thinkific comes with some unique layout ideas that you may need some getting used to.
For example, Thinkific placed “Integrations” settings under its “Market and Sell” tab. You’d expect it to be under Settings.
As per my opinion, as these platforms begin to roll out a lot of new features, Thinkific’s interface starts to become a lot more cluttered. Whereas Podia has a well thought out interface.
Winner: The dashboards of both platforms provide a clean and intuitive user interface, allowing for quick access to advanced features and analytics. Despite this, I find Podia to have a more intuitive UI/UX compared to the other platform.
Both of these platforms have fairly good course creation capabilities, but Thinkific has better depth in course creation features.
Podia has a course builder, where the curriculum is divided into sections and lessons.
When it comes to adding course content, it supports different lesson types like text, files, quizzes (basic multiple choice), embeds, and coaching.
👍 I really like the feature that allows you to add coaching lessons directly into the curriculum. If your students have any doubts, they can book paid coaching classes with you booking a calendar slot right away.
However, please be aware of the following:
- Custom codes are not supported within the lessons (no flexibility).
- You are unable to include multiple content types within the same lesson (for example, a quiz and a video file).
- Cloud uploading is not supported (embedding, however, is supported).
Podia has recently introduced a new text editor for their text lessons. This editor allows you to add different styles of content using slash commands, similar to how it is done on Notion.
Now about Thinkific.
When you create a new course, Thinkific allows you to choose between 4 different pre-made course templates.
That means you can just pick the most relevant pre-made course layout and it will automatically apply a suitable course structure for you.
You may want to start from a blank template if you want more flexibility as you build your curriculum.
Like Thinkific, Podia offers a two-level course structure: Chapters and lesson contents.
Here’s the kicker!
Thinkific will let you use bucketloads of different content formats to create the most engaging course possible.
Among these, Narrated Presentations, Webinar Content, Live Streams, Brillium Exams, and Surveys are some of the unique content formats.
In addition, you have the option to include assessments and Disqus content/discussions as part of your course content.
Each content type is optimized for efficiency.
For example, when it comes to videos, you can upload a video lesson to your Thinkific Video Library once and utilize it across multiple courses.
Furthermore, you can also use the same video in different chapters and lessons within the same course.
Also, Thinkific supports cloud uploading unlike Podia. This means you can upload your course videos directly from Google Drive and Dropbox.
Bottomline: As a specialist course creation platform, Thinkific offers a variety of different content formats. However, whether these additional formats are truly valuable for your use case is for you to decide. In my personal opinion, unless you are focused on academic course creation, the extra content formats offered by Thinkific may not be of significant value to you.
Course compliance options
In Podia, students can choose to complete or skip quizzes in their course. There is no requirement to achieve a passing score.
However, in Thinkific, you can set a compliance mechanism wherein students must complete assessments to progress to the next chapter or lesson.
You can also set a passing grade.
That would require students to attain a higher grade than the minimum pass grade to continue or get a certificate of completion.
When you set this up, Thinkific will automatically grade all test scores and apply the restriction until your students can comply and score higher marks.
Thinkific goes further.
It will allow you to require a student to watch a particular video length before the lesson can be marked as complete and allow them to continue with the course.
Winner: Thinkific has far superior course completion tools than Podia. This is crucial if you do not want students to skim through the course, not gain much from it, and probably ask for a refund. Also it gives a lot more value to the certificates you offer them. Think about it.
Assessments and quizzes
To gauge student understanding, you can either give them a test or ask for course feedback.
Thinkific allows you to create surveys/quizzes within the course, while Podia requires the use of Google Forms.
Thinkific offers several options for administering tests, including its direct integration with Brillium. This integration allows you to create sophisticated exams and provides comprehensive exam results for analysis.
Additionally, Thinkific can automatically assign up to 100 random questions from the Thinkific Randomized Questions Bank.
You can also add several different course compliance options to your assessments.
Bottomline: Thinkific‘s native integration with Brillium is a must-have. Still, Podia holds its own since you can create quizzes to gauge your students’ progress. But if you want really advanced assessment methodologies, Thinkific is the best.
Course completion certification
Previously, neither Podia nor Thinkific had a built-in certification method. However, both platforms have recently introduced an inbuilt certification feature. With both platforms, once students have completed the course, you can provide them with personalized certificates.
There is a distinction between the two platforms in terms of course completion tracking.
In contrast to Thinkific, Podia does not have an automated course completion tracking method. This means that students can mark the course as complete even without actually completing it and still receive the certificate.
On the other hand, Thinkific tracks the percentage of course videos that students have completed, making their certificates potentially more valuable.
Community and memberships
Both of these platforms come with the ability for you to set up basic communities to engage with your students.
With Podia, you can provide access to your community, to your course students.
You can create different channels for your community by creating different topics and restrict access to different topics based on the subscription plan the students are in.
Thinkific’s community feature is also similar to Podia.
It’s pretty much limited. You can create a community and have these different discussion spaces inside it.
Based on the membership level of the users, you can give them access to different spaces, and there isn’t really much to this.
One important thing to note is that Thinkific has both iOS and Android mobile apps.
While their app may not be as feature-rich or highly rated, but having a mobile app keeps community engagement high.
On the other hand, Podia currently lacks any mobile apps, though this may change in the near future.
However, both of these platforms lack advanced community features like gamification, accountability, ability to host meetups, and challenges.
👉 If you’re looking for more specialized community management apps (with good mobile apps), you may want to consider Circle.so or Mighty Networks. Also, Kajabi might be a better option because, although it is an all-in-one platform, it offers a wide range of features unlike platforms such as Podia, but it comes at a higher price.
Design and customization
Both Podia and Thinkific have limited design customization options. You can’t expect either of these platforms to replace your WordPress for building your websites.
Podia comes with a minimal and clean page builder, but it’s designed primarily for building storefronts rather than creating entire websites.
If you have a background in web design, you may find Podia’s minimalistic approach too restricting.
On the other hand, offer 3 different site themes to make your site standout.
Also, Thinkific’s site builder has a few more modules and integrations with various apps, as well as pre-built themes.
However, some people find Thinkific’s page builder clunky and not very flexible.
Although both platforms offer decent page builders, you shouldn’t expect to create highly complex landing pages with them.
Marketing courses online
You can do a couple of things to help make your Podia or Thinkific course more visible to ideal customers.
Thinkific does not have a dedicated email marketing feature, whereas Podia comes with email marketing and automation abilities, including advanced features like email templates and audience segmentation.
In Thinkific, you have transactional emails that are automatically triggered based on user behaviors on your site and can be customized.
However, there is no support for sending one-off broadcasts or setting up autoresponder sequences.
But, Thinkific does integrate with popular email marketing software like MailChimp, ConvertKit, and ActiveCampaign through its app store integrations.
On the other hand, Podia offers dedicated email automation abilities.
It allows you to send one-off broadcasts and set up autoresponder sequences.
With the recent release of Podia Emails 2.0, you can effectively segment your audience and trigger specific emails based on user behaviors on your site.
These features demonstrate that Podia will soon be stacking up against Kajabi when it comes to marketing automation.
Affiliate marketing for online courses
Both Thinkific and Podia offer affiliate marketing features that allow you to recruit affiliates to promote your courses and products. These platforms provide necessary features such as inviting affiliates or allowing them to sign up on their own.
With both of these platforms, you can set commission rates for specific products that you have created.
However, there is a major limitation with Podia.
You cannot set custom affiliate commission rates for specific affiliates, such as your top-performing VIP affiliates.
This can be a significant downside.
As a workaround, you can offer incentives based on the volume of sales they generate. But keep in mind that this is not as flexible as setting custom commission rates.
On the other hand, Thinkific allows you to set custom affiliate commission rates for select affiliates, and they also provide partnership revenue sharing functionality.
This means that if you are co-creating a course with other instructors, you can establish a revenue sharing mechanism.
Thinkific will handle tracking and automate payouts for your partner. This option is preferable to setting a flat 50% commission rate and signing up your partner as a regular affiliate. Commissions and partnerships have different implications for taxation and legalities.
If you plan to co-create a course with your business partner, Thinkific may be the right option for you.
Sales and checkout
Both of these platforms come with the ability for you to bundle different products together and offer discount coupons on them.
Additionally, both of these platforms support upsell functionality in marketing.
Unfortunately, Podia does not offer this order bump functionality, which is a significant drawback.
💡 Order bumps allow you to offer an additional product for customers to add to their purchase during checkout.
Thinkific offers an order bumps feature, but it is only available when you use their performance checkout feature in conjunction with Thinkific payments.
Please note that Thinkific payments are currently only available in the US, Canada, and the UK.
When it comes to checkouts, Thinkific traditionally had a two-step checkout process.
However, they recently rolled out a performance checkout feature that allows customers to check out in one step.
This feature also unlocks additional payment methods and features, such as the ability to sell order bumps and enable social login during the checkout process to improve conversions.
On the other hand, Podia offers a single-page checkout experience by default. Additionally, you can embed the checkout on any external websites.
For example, if you have a landing page on WordPress, you can simply embed Podia’s checkout button. This loads the checkout form asynchronously in a pop-up, allowing people to complete the checkout process in one go.
However, unlike Thinkific, Podia does not provide extra payment gateways, instant payouts, or EU VAT handling functionality. This is because Podia has not yet introduced their own proprietary payment system similar to Thinkific Payments (T-commerce) or Teachable Pay.
Here’s something you may have noticed by now:
Both Podia and Thinkific may not offer a ton of built-in features like Kajabi.
What they both do have is a ton of integration options.
They both have a good range of tools, which you can pick from several categories such as:
- Email marketing: From ActiveCampaign to ConvertKit to MailChimp
- Analytics: Integration with tools like Google Analytics
- Zapier: For more advanced automation
- E-Commerce: Utilizing tools such as Shopify, WooCommerce, and payment gateways
Still, Thinkific provides more third-party integrations than Podia.
Winner: Thinkific provides more native-level integrations than Podia. That means you can use third-party tools without leaving your Thinkific site, paying extra, or logging into separate sites to make things happen.
Podia offers both chat and video support regardless of your plan. Thinkific doesn’t offer those yet. You’d have to settle for back and forth emails. That may not be as sluggish as it may sound. Thinkific customer reps are awesomely responsive, actually.
But we like how you can just reach out to support right from any page inside Podia.
Yet, both platforms do not provide 24/7 support.
Also, they both run during U.S. business hours. So if you are an international customer, you have to wait for hours before you can get a response.
But it gets better.
Podia offers free migration from another site regardless of your plan.
That’s unheard of in the e-learning management system world. So, if you are reluctant about switching to Podia from, say, Thinkific, the smooth transition could be a deal maker.
But if you want a little hand-holding through setting up your online course business, Thinkific offers its experts for the job in three ways, provided you have a Premier or Pro plan:
- 30 to 60 minutes onboarding call
- Launch preparedness training
- More and advanced training on a dedicated site
Now, both do not have a search tool similar to the Kajabi Assistant, which we are great fans of.
Instead, they provide help centers, guides, videos, and articles for self-paced learning and troubleshooting.
Bottomline: You decide. We’ll say choose the option that won’t cause you any head and heartaches, depending on your support needs.
Podia has two plans – Mover and Shaker.
Then what about free? Well, the free plan is quite restrictive. It does allow you to have draft courses, but it comes with an 8% transaction fee.
I guess they will be charging this fee for the community access sales.
The Shaker plan offers these extras:
- Affiliate marketing
- Zoom integration (what they call webinars)
- Ability to install third-party code such as Sumo, Olark, and Facebook Pixel.
Thinkific also comes with their free plan. It’ll allow you to create 3 courses with tons of restrictions so it is best for testing out the platform. It’s indeed pretty generous.
Most people, they end up choosing the Pro plan because they may need access to the communities feature, advanced customization, assignments, and certification features that are not available in the basic plan.
But it’s great that none of the products impose a limitation on the number of courses and students that you can serve, unlike Teachable or even Kajabi.
Podia vs Thinkific – Frequently Asked Questions
Do they offer free plan?
Thinkific has a free plan whereas Podia doesn’t have any free plan.
What’s the difference between Podia and Thinkific?
Podia is an all-in-one platform, but Thinkific is only a course platform. You can see the full comparison in the above post.
Do these platforms charge any transaction fee for my sales?
Unlike Teachable, both Thinkific and Podia don’t come with any transaction fees.
How good are these platforms when it comes to integration?
Podia integrates with 6 email marketing platforms whereas Thinkific integrates with 7 email marketing platforms. Compared to Podia, Thinkific has good integrations.
Among these two platforms which one has powerful email marketing features?
Thinkific lacks powerful email marketing features. With Podia, you have the ability to send one-off newsletters and also drip campaigns.
Podia vs Thinkific: Verdict
Here’s a quick summary to help you decide:
Podia is great if you are looking to:
- Create dedicated communities
- Sell both digital and physical products
- Use drip email marketing
Thinkific is ideal if you want to:
- Use a ton of different course content types in your curriculum.
- Add more than one content format in the same lesson.
- Get better analytics and reporting for student level course accountability
Overall, I would say Podia has good value for money, considering it is an all-in-one platform. However, if you are specifically looking for a course platform, Thinkific would be the right choice for you.
Over to you. What is it going to be?