UPDATE October 2017: Since publishing this post on February 8, 2016 Teachable has made a number of improvements and added new features. Here are a few pros not mentioned
- Site-wide coupons are now available
- VAT is automatically collected and paid out based on user location - a huge bonus
- The Teachable companion app will allow for offline playback of course videos, though it is still early days for this feature
We are still really happy with Teachable as our platform and highly recommend it. You can see our courses here. We have also recently started a second school as part of a collaboration with the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University.
Read on for the original review.
A year ago, we switched all of our online courses over onto Teachable (then Fedora). Switching platforms comes with a host of challenges and risks, from having to rebuild all courses from the ground up, to security concerns, to managing billing and other functionality. A year on, here is our detailed review of Teachable and how it has worked for us.
Long story short, the switch of platforms was well worth the risk. I had built our previous membership access site using a combination of Wordpress, Amember membership script, and secure video hosting. While the site nominally had all the functionality we wanted - from recurring billing to coupon creation - nothing ever seemed to work as well as it should in theory. Users had trouble with video playback on certain devices. The interface was difficult to navigate. It was unclear what was included with each subscription. Constant updates meant constant work in trying to get everything aligned and working properlyâ€¦
You have to add to all these challenges the sheer difficulty in building a course online, even with all the content ready and organized. Each video, audio, or PDF file had to be manually linked and embedded inside a hard-coded nested structure of toggles and tabs. With hundreds of videos in each course, this was a very time-consuming process, and one that was difficult to get right all the time; one character off in the source script, and the video wouldn't play or the file wouldn't download. It took days of work just to upload and organize our courses online. Nightmare.
Teachable seemed like the best platform available that would offer us the flexibility we needed at an affordable price. After researching all the different options, we decided to give it a go. While there are a few things I miss about our old platform, and a few functions I would love to see added to Teachable, the experience has been an overwhelming success. Switching to Teachable has saved us time and money in maintaining our website, which has allowed us to spend more time on research, testing, and course creation.
Pros of Teachable
Ease of Course Creation
Creating a course on Teachable is super easy when you have all the materials filmed and ready to go. Integrations with Dropbox, Google Drive, and other cloud services make it a simple process to bulk upload files of any type, which can then be dragged and dropped in different orders and sections. This means that even one of our full language programs can be uploaded and published in only a few hours once all the content is ready. A few hours is much better than a few days!
Video Playback and Tracking
The video lessons themselves play faster and better across devices and a range of bandwidths. Users with iPads have said the experience is markedly improved over our homemade platform. Additionally, you can play the videos at an increased speed (fast-forwarded) and the system will track your progress not only within the course at large, but also within a specific video. If you have to stop a lesson in the middle of the video, no big deal - you'll be at the exact same spot the next time you log in.
Maintenance and Support
Support from online businesses can vary widely. At Linguisticator, we pride ourselves on providing personal assistance as quickly as possible to our customers. Teachable is no different. I've been very impressed with the speed of response and the genuine helpfulness of the support team. The platform was less proven a year ago, and not all of its current functionality was fully built or tested; there were a few issues that arose early on, but the support team was determined to provide a good experience and fix the bugs.
In terms of site maintenance, one of the great things about Teachable is how hands-free it has been for us. We no longer have to manage the backend or synch cross-platform updates. All of that is taken care of, which is particularly good for us, because we're not technologists and find such work to be a distraction from our actual business.
Teachable has a built-in affiliate program, which we've started using a bit in the last few months. You have control over the commission you set for an affiliate, and each affiliate gets their own unique links, which they can access along with their stats through their own affiliate dashboard. It only takes a few clicks to set up, and has a very intuitive interface. I'd like to see some functionality added to this component, but more on that later.
Teachable integrates with a number of useful applications, from Google Analytics to email list management tools, like MailChimp. These integrations add key functionality to the platform as a whole without requiring Teachable to build everything from the ground up.
Teachable operates on a combination of monthly subscription and transaction fee, so the barrier to entry is low, yet they make more money themselves the more successful you are as a school. This is good, as our interests are aligned well. There is also a free version you can try out, but you can't use your own domain for the free level. Compared to other comparable services, Teachable is as affordable as it gets. The extra you pay on transaction fees and such is well worth the time and money you save in not having to do your own maintenance.
Cons of Teachable (Minor)
The experience using Teachable has improved considerably over the last year, and many early gripes and bugs have already been addressed. There are a few things I'd still like to see added to the platform, but these are relatively minor and don't usually detract from our or our users' experience.
No Site-Wide or Product-Wide Coupon Creation (Site-wide coupons now available)
Creating a coupon in Teachable is simple and straightforward. There are a couple of simple things I'd love to be able to do with coupons that are not currently possible in the system. The first is that you cannot create a single coupon that applies to every course on your site. You can only create a coupon that applies to a single product - which means a single billing profile for one course. If you want to create a site-wide coupon, you will have to use the same coupon code to create a coupon for each and every course.
In addition to site-wide coupons, product-wide coupons would be great. What does that mean? Well, you have the option of creating different billing profiles for a single course. For us, since most of our customers are either in the UK or the USA, we have a subscription in GBP and a separate subscription in USD. To make a coupon that applies to one course, we have to create that coupon twice: once for the GBP profile and once for the USD profile. It's not a huge deal, but it is a real hassle and means you end up with lots and lots of coupons within the system (if you are making coupons frequently). We don't give discounts frequently, so this is not a big deal, but it can be a hassle when it comes up.
Limited Support for Multiple Currencies
Handling payments in multiple currencies is supported through Teachable, which is great, but it has to be done in a kind of roundabout way. As mentioned above, we've had to create different billing profiles for different currencies: one for GBP and one for USD. It would be much simpler to have a single product option - â€œMonthly Subscriptionâ€ - and then allow customers to select their billing currency when they go to check out.
It is also frustrating that payouts from Teachable are only made in USD - we're a UK company, so would like to receive our monthly payout in GBP. Even if our pricing plans are in GBP, we get paid by Teachable in USD.
No Bulk User Creation
If you are working with institutions or want to give access to a large list of people, there is no way to do this automatically in Teachable at this point. In other words, you will have to create a user profile manually for each person. I believe Teachable have created a beta version of a bulk user creation feature, but it's not been available yet. When we switched platforms last year, we had to re-create a user profile for each of our students manually, which was a bit of a pain!
Missing Affiliate Features
The affiliate program in Teachable is simple, straightforward, and easy to use. There are a few missing features, however, that would be really nice to have. First, there is no way to assign a customer manually to an affiliate. Automatic payouts to affiliates can only come when someone has used their unique affiliate link. If you attract customers from a live event or from a coupon, they will not necessary use the affiliate link. There is no way to assign these customers to an affiliate once they have signed up.
On the back of this, another feature that would solve most of this issue is to allow affiliate tracking via coupons. It's easy to create a coupon code unique to an affiliate, so it would be nice to be able to automatically assign any customers who use that coupon to the affiliate.
Finally, there is no two-tiered affiliate system. In other words, you cannot give commission to someone who finds other affiliates. You can also not set separate commission rules for the first month and subsequent months of subscription. These are the kinds of features more robust affiliate programs offer; that Teachable has an affiliate program built-in at all is great. Hopefully some of these functions will be added over time, particularly assigning users to affiliates based on coupon usage.
Can't Create Modules within Courses
There are limits to the organizational breakdown within courses that are a bit frustrating, particularly for us, as we have large courses with lots and lots of content. It's possible to bundle whole courses into packages, which is great, but it's not possible to create separate modules within a given course. For us, it'd be great to be able to break up a specific language into smaller chunks: introduction to the language, starter module, map, and vocabulary builders. Then students could feel a real sense of accomplishment when completing each module. It would also make the breakdown of the course easier to understand and use.
All in all, the switch to Teachable has been a very good experience, and I'm glad we took the plunge. I so wish Teachable had been around when I first started creating video programs for Linguisticator - it would have saved me so much time, effort, and money. After a full year of using the platform, I'm happy to give it a strong endorsement. The time and headaches it's saved us in terms of management are tremendous, and we look forward to using that time to create new and exciting courses in the months and years to come.
Visit Teachable HERE.