Heights Platform What’s the Best Way to Deliver an Online Course? [Online Course Delivery Methods]

What’s the Best Way to Deliver an Online Course? [Online Course Delivery Methods]

9 minute read

Online courses have become a popular way for individuals and businesses to share their knowledge and expertise with their audience and create a leveraged income online.

With the rise of online course platforms, it's easier than ever to create and sell online courses.

What you might not know, is that there are many different ways to deliver an online course to your audience. In today's article, we will cover all the main online course delivery methods, and which online learning is best for you and for your students.

With so many online course types, it can be tough to decide which one is right for you. Keep reading below to learn about the pros and cons of 5 common online course delivery methods: self-paced courses, membership sites, challenges, live courses and hybrid courses.

Self-Paced Courses

This is probably the most well-known online course type and delivery method. Self-paced courses are exactly what they sound like: learners can work through the material at their own pace, without the need to follow a set schedule.

Self-paced courses are a collection of modules and lessons, generally pre-recorded and ready for learners to consume. Self-paced courses are typically sold as a one-time payment, and students get access to a set amount of content and lessons over a sometimes limited period of time.

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This online course delivery method can be a great option for people with busy schedules or those who prefer to learn at their own pace. Since learners can access the course content at any time, creators can attract customers from all over the world and from different time zones.

In self-paced courses, creators can choose to set a specific launch date or have enrollment open at all times (evergreen enrollment): this means that new students can join the course at all times and they are not restricted to a set launch date.

Check out this article from our blog to learn all about the different types of enrollment strategies you can choose for your online course business: Selling Evergreen Online Courses Versus Scheduling Multiple Launches. Which is Better?

There are many ways creators can build a self-paced course. The two main ways to approach this are by either creating your online course on your own website and having full control over pricing, content and audience - or, you can upload your course content on a marketplace, even though this means having to share your revenue with the marketplace and renouncing any control over content and students.

How to create self-paced online courses?

Create your free Heights Platform account. On Heights, you can build all types of online courses, including self-paced ones. You can easily map out the lessons and modules you are going to create, upload videos and any content format your want to your lessons, and use our gamification tools to build an awesome learning experience for your students.

You can set the price your want for your online course, and Heights Platform doesn't take any commission or transaction fees from your earnings!

Pros of Self-Paced Courses

Flexibility: One of the biggest advantages of self-paced courses is the flexibility they offer in terms of scheduling. Learners can complete the course at a time that works best for them, whether that's early in the morning, late at night, or on the weekends. This can be especially appealing for those who have other commitments that make it difficult to adhere to a set schedule.

Easy to scale: As the creator, once you have created your course - your job is done. Once your course is open for enrollment, you can welcome as many students as you can, making this online course type extremely easy to scale - without the need to be present at all times.

Generate leveraged income: Since self-paced courses are easy to scale, you have the opportunity to generate a leveraged income stream for your business. This means that you are not trading your time for money!

Cons of Self-Paced Courses

Lack of interaction: One potential drawback of self-paced courses is the lack of real-time interaction with instructors and other learners. This can be easily fixed depending on the availability of the creator. You can include a community area or other ways for students to connect with you and discuss with other students.

Low accountability for students: Without the structure of a set schedule, some learners may struggle to stay motivated and complete the course. It can be easy to put off learning when there's no immediate deadline or consequence for not completing the course.

Subscription-Based Courses (Membership Sites)

Subscription-based courses, most commonly known as membership sites, are learning programs where students pay a monthly or annual fee to access.

This course delivery method can be an excellent option for creators with a large volume of content to deliver and for students who prefer to learn at their own pace.

While self-paced online courses generally have a set start and end date, membership sites don't typically have an end date, and their goal is to retain learners as long as possible.

A topic that requires a long time for students to learn is a great fit for a membership site. For example, a language course or a fitness course can work well with the subscription-based model, as students typically need an extended amount of time to learn a language, or want to keep practicing a sport over time.

How to create a membership site?

Create your free Heights Platform account. On Heights, you can build all types of online courses, including membership sites and subscription-based courses. You can create bundles to group different courses, digital products and community channels together and sell them for a monthly or annual fee.

Everything you earn is yours to keep, as Heights Platform doesn't take any commission from your revenue!

Pros of membership sites

Large volume of content: Subscription-based courses often offer a large library of courses or materials for learners to choose from. This can be a major advantage for those who want to learn about a wide range of topics or who want to delve deep into a particular subject.

Flexibility: As with self-paced courses, learners can work through the material at their own pace, which can be especially appealing for those with busy schedules.

Compounding revenue: As membership sites charge a monthly subscription, your revenue can compound as you keep enrolling new students in your program.

Cons of membership sites

Consistent work: With membership sites, you constantly need to release new content for your students, keep them engaged, answer their questions and work to produce the next content round.

Lower price point: Prices for membership sites are generally lower than self-paced courses. Often membership sites charge less than $100 per month. That said, this revenue can compound if you manage to keep enrolling new students and maintain the turnover low.

We talk more about online courses vs membership sites here: Online Course vs Membership Site. Which Info Product is Best For You?

Online Challenges (Cohort-Based Courses)

An online challenge (or cohort-based course) is a type of online course where new content and lessons are delivered on set calendar days, with the aim of helping learners to reach a specific goal.

You might have already seen a creator offering these types of courses, with names such as "7-Day Challenge".

This course delivery method can be incredibly engaging for students, as new lessons are released daily or on a set calendar schedule. They are also a great way to collect new leads, build your email list and grow engagement.

Generally, challenges are shorter compared to self-paced online courses and membership sites and help learners achieve a clear goal in only a few days.

How to create an online challenge?

Create your free Heights Platform account. Heights Platform is the first online course software to design an easy solution for creators who want to build and run multiple challenges.

You can create challenges where each lesson is automatically delivered on a set calendar day and will disappear after a set period of time that you can customize. Everyone who purchases an online challenge will gain access to the course and go through the lessons at the same time, making it a great way to build a feeling of community and incentivize peer-to-peer learning.

launch an online challenge with Heights Platform online course software

Once your Heights Platform challenge is completed, you can easily restart the same challenge at a later date.

Pros of online challenges

Highly engaging: since the content is delivered on set calendar days, challenges are very engaging for students and can promote learning.

Student accountability: Knowing that they are learning alongside others going through the challenge at the same time and that a lesson is only available for a small time window creates a feeling of urgency and motivates learners to log into your course and complete the lesson.

Build a community: If you build your challenge with Heights Platform, once the course starts, everyone who purchased it gains access at the same time and all students go through the content together. Students can also leave comments under lessons and build a connection with their peers.

Cons of online challenges

No flexibility: While students can access self-paced courses at any time and from any part of the world, an online challenge forces students to consume the content as it is released. You can easily fix this: if your audience is international and prefers a longer time window, you can adjust this in your settings.

Lower earning potential: Generally creators use challenges as a way to collect new leads and introduce them to their brand. Challenges are also shorter compared to self-paced courses. So naturally, a 5-Day challenge cannot have the same price as your flagship course. However, challenges are a great way to engage new learners and introduce them to your main programs.

Live Online Courses

Live courses are very different from all the course types we have seen so far, as they are delivered in real-time, with students and instructors meeting "face-to-face" at set times via videoconference or other online tools.

This can be a great option for those who prefer the structure of a traditional classroom setting and the opportunity to interact with instructors and fellow students. This is also a great option for creators first launching their course, where you get to teach and gather feedback in real time before completing the recorded version of your course.

However, they lack all the benefits related to pre-recorded online courses, such as the option to scale your business and create a leveraged, recurring income stream and the flexibility for students to access your content at any time and go through your course at their own pace.

Pros of live courses

Interactive: Live courses allow for real-time interaction with instructors and other students, which can be a huge advantage for those who learn best through discussion and collaboration. Students can ask questions, participate in group discussions, and get feedback from instructors in real time. This can make the learning experience more engaging and effective.

Accountability: The set schedule of a live course can help learners stay motivated and on track. With specific days and times set aside for class meetings, it's easier to make a commitment to the course and stick to it.

Cons of live courses

No flexibility: Live courses require a commitment to a set schedule, which may not be feasible for learners with busy schedules or from a different time zone.

Not scalable: If you are teaching live courses, you need to show up for every lesson over and over again. The only way to scale your business and increase your income is to offer more courses and work harder.

No leveraged income: When you are teaching live, you are trading your time for money. This makes it impossible for creators to generate a recurring income stream that is not tied to the amount of work they put in.

Hybrid Courses

The last online course delivery method we cover today is hybrid courses. Hybrid courses combine elements of self-paced and live courses, making them a great option for creators who want to achieve freedom in their business, without compromising the student experience.

The structure of hybrid courses is very similar to self-paced ones, with some additions to improve the students' experience.

Students go through pre-recorded lessons and pre-made materials at their own pace, but also have the opportunity to participate in live Q&A sessions or occasional live calls with instructors. You can add a community space to your course and offer guidance to your students alongside providing the course materials.

Heights Platform online course bundle

The added support and guidance can significantly increase the value of your course, and make it easy for creators to justify a high price. For these reasons, hybrid courses are the best option for creators who want to generate a high leveraged income, while still offering support and guidance to their learners.

How to create a hybrid online course?

Create your free Heights Platform account and create a new online course. Once you have built your course content, you can add elements to make the course more interactive and offer added support to students.

Create an online community, and add digital products and resources for your students (for example, set up a live coaching call or anything you want).

Pros of hybrid courses

Flexibility: Hybrid courses offer the best of both worlds, allowing students to work at their own pace while still providing the opportunity for real-time interaction with instructors. This can be especially appealing for those who need a little more flexibility in their schedules but still want the benefits of live instruction.

Highly engaging: Live Q&A sessions, a community space and the added guidance allow for student-instructor interaction, which can be a major advantage for those who learn best through discussion and collaboration.

Higher earnings linked to the value: If done well, your hybrid course will be extremely valuable for students. You can easily justify a high price for your course since you are putting in the work to assist students along the way.

Cons of hybrid courses

Need to keep up with support: Not all creators have the time to offer one-on-one or group support to their students, so you need to take this into consideration if you are thinking about creating this kind of online course.


Ultimately, the best course delivery method for you will depend on what you are teaching, your availability and your teaching style. Consider your needs and goals as you decide which online course type is right for you to start.

Create your Heights Platform account today and try out for yourself all the different online courses you can create!

Create Your Online Course Today