In this Skool review, you’re going to get the low-down on this course platform that aims to simplify everything for creators.
Skool puts community at the fore-front so that you can have a highly engaged group of students who complete your courses in higher numbers. Gamification is also one of their strong points.
To see how these all go together and whether or not you should be using Skool, I gave the platform a try and I’m going to let you know what I think.
Pros, cons, thoughts on pricing, features, alternatives and more will be covered here. So if you’re looking for a great, honest and in-depth Skool review, read on through to the end.
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What is Skool?
If you hadn’t heard about Skool until now, it’s because the platform, created by Sam Ovens in 2019, just came out of it’s beta phase and has been available to the public since early 2022.
Skool is a relatively new course and community platform that bills itself as a simplified version of the course platforms you may already know about. For this reason, it does not have all the features most platforms would have even though they have a decent enough set to help creators build and present their courses to audiences.
The platform operates on a community-first model with gamification and other tools to promote engagement and retention.
You can create a group and it will be presented alongside Skool’s own community where you can get support, help from other Skool subscribers. Create courses that your community can access and release them immediately or through gamification where users earn points to reach a particular level.
Skool is a combination of community, courses and calendar where you can create events like live streaming workshops and webinars.
While the platform is very easy to use, there are several missing components that are very important to creators looking to sell their courses online.
This is possibly because they are very new to the online course space and they are working on getting new features out to creators.
You’ll find out more in this Skool review what’s available and what is not and how Skool compares to other online course platforms.
Who is Skool For?
Creators of all types can use Skool to grow their community and courses. Skool offers a community-first model as this is shown to be great for engagement and helps with course completion.
Whether you’re a blogger, YouTube creator, consultant or just want to move your community off Facebook to somewhere with less noise, Skool has the right tools and resources to handle the job.
There are members on Skool who have migrated from other course platforms because they love the simplicity of using this platform despite the lack of some very important features.
If you want to see if Skool is for you then you can try the 14-day free trial and decide for yourself.
One of the strong points of Skool is it’s easy to use interface and navigation. Once you’re logged into the dashboard, it is cleanly presented with lots of white space and clear nagivation.
Right at the top, you can see navigation to the most important parts of the site – the community, which is presented by default, the classroom, calendar and leaderboards.
The classroom and calendar links are not available if there are no courses or events which is the case when you (or your members) first log into your community dashboard.
If you click on your group name, you will get a list of all the groups you belong to and can easily switch between them.
When you first log into Skool as a new member, the only options are your own group and the Skool community. You will also have the option to easily create another group.
The search bar at the top lets you search everything in the selected group including discussions and course content and members.
Chat, notifications and your profile icons occupy the top right side of the dashboard so you can easily see any communications sent to you and manage your user settings.
The post editor is also very easy to use and you can do a lot inside this space.
You can add attachments such as images or files, links, embedded video, polls, gifs and emojis. However, it doesn’t look like you can add inline images and embeds get added to the end of the post as attachments. Not exactly what I had in mind.
Members can react to posts by liking and comments have the same media options as posts (minus polls).
Overall, Skool’s interface isn’t too bad. It’s easy to use and navigate. However the post editor, though easy to use could use some work with formatting posts by allowing inline images and embeds.
Skool was launched with some very good features that are valuable to all creators. In this section, I’m going to be reviewing the most important ones which include:
I’m going to also point out a few features that are just as essential that are missing at the moment. These missing pieces could well be the deal-breakers and can influence your decision on whether to use Skool or not, depending on your overall goals.
Let’s dive in.
Courses without community aren’t as engaging as those that have a community attached. Skool uses a community-first approach to getting courses to your audience – you build the community, then give them the knowledge.
The community feature of Skool is one of it’s strongest features and possibly the one that you’re going to be using most. This makes Skool a community platform as much as it is a course platform.
When you first sign up to Skool, one of the first steps you do is to create a group. This is actually what you’re paying for and not the ability to create courses.
If you want to create another group on Skool, you will have to pay another $99/month to be able to run multiple groups.
To really see the group/community features in action, use the community switcher and check out the Skool Community group. You’ll be able to exactly how the community feature works and everything you can do with your own.
On Skool, everyone has a profile where you can see their bio, activity, you can follow them or start a chat and also see their website and social media profiles.
You can customize your community inside the settings by doing a number of things.
- Set member rules and add categories for posting
- Upload a group icon and cover and add your description
- Change your group name, initials and color.
- Set your group to private or public
- Change your group URL (only on a paid account)
You can invite people to your group in a number of ways. If you have their email address, just enter it and send them the invite. Or you could bulk invite by uploading a .csv file with all the email addresses.
Skool also provides you with a link that you can share to invite people to your group. Finally, you can put the power into the hands of your members and allow them to invite others to your group. This is turned on by default.
I didn’t like that I had to kind of dig to find courses. There should be an easy way to start building a course like a button in the header. This makes Skool feel like more of community platform by default with courses as an addon.
To start a course, you have to click on the settings button on your group card from the Skool admin home.
This settings is different from the user settings that can be accessed from your profile photo in the top right corner.
In settings, you’ll now need to click on Classroom to find where to start a course.
To start building your course, click “Add course” to begin.
The first step is to add basic stuff like the course name and description and which members have access.
There are three options for who can have access.
- All members have access
- Only some members have access
- Members of a certain level have access
If members of a certain level have access, you’ll need to choose which level members have to reach in order for the course to be unlocked.
Clicking add course forwards you to a page where you can add course content. It is best to toggle off published so that your course isn’t available until you’re finished adding course content.
In the course editor, you can add sets and modules. Modules would be lessons in the sets and sets help with organization of your course like chapters.
The pencil icon allows you to rename sets and also to move them from draft to published mode.
On modules this allows you add the lesson, rename it and change settings such as drip, discussions and adding a transcript.
Building a course on Skool is a rather easy process and you can usually do it without referencing any guides.
Your course layout will look like this:
After adding your first course, you will notice several changes in your Skool dashboard. There will be a link in the header that members can click to easily find courses they have access too.
Also when you go to Classroom, you will be able to see all the courses you’ve created and can add more.
The obvious downside of building your course on Skool is the lack of native video. With no way to upload and host video content on Skool, you’re presented with some options for video hosting that integrate with the platform.
All of these options are great for hosting video but aren’t ideal for course content. Some work better than others. However, the ideal situation would be to host your video on Skool with native video.
Then there’s the problem of not being able to charge for courses. Group members can access your course freely or when they get to a certain level according to your gamification settings. The most common way to earn from your group is to charge for group access after which paying members can access your courses.
Maybe in the future, you can have more flexibility with gating your courses. Then you can probably have a free group where you can sell access to courses or a paid group where you can upsell your course.
The other major component to Skool is the calendar feature. Again, there is no quick way to access this without going into your group settings.
The calendar can be used to create events so that community members can see what’s happening and add it to their personal calendars with a click.
To add an event, you can click on the “Add Event” button to begin.
Add an event by filling in the title, description (with Zoom or other event link) and the date and time settings. The box remind members by email before the event is checked by default. You can also set up a recurring event.
If you hadn’t added an event until now, the calendar link will now appear in the header navigation which is accessible to all members.
Members can now check the community calendar and add the event to their own personal calendar.
The calendar feature is very straight-forward and very easy to use and add events. It would have been great if there was a field to add your Zoom or other event link as I forgot to add a link while creating my first event. Thankfully, it’s also easy to edit events.
With lots of non-existent features in Skool, integrations are necessary to fill in the gaps. And Skool has quite a bit which is great.
To fill in for the lack of native video, Skool has integrations for YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia, Loom and Bunny.net. These are very easy to use and all you have to do is copy the video link and paste it into the box provided. These integrations are used within community discussions and in courses.
The most important integration though are the ones you can get via Zapier. With Zapier, you can connect Skool with thousands of online apps which provide important functionality for operating groups on Skool.
Skool users are using Zapier to sell group memberships through ThriveCart, Samcart and Stripe. This is necessary if you want to monetize your knowledge and sell courses on Skool which has no checkout options.
A conversation with a support member of Skool revealed that they’ve left this open-ended so that admins can use whatever payment processor they want and be able to switch whenever they need to.
Gamification is a big part of Skool and why groups can grow bigger and faster and the platform.
You can use gamification to unlock courses when members reach a certain level. This is a great way to get users to participate thus creating a busy and thriving community.
On Skool, there are leaderboards so members can track their points and participation within the group.
Levels can be customized inside the group settings and renamed to whatever you want to call them.
Members participate for points and strive to move up the levels. Rewards are presented in the form on courses which can be unlocked at designated levels.
The gamification feature is definitely one feature that makes Skool stand out and is very exciting and rewarding for members.
With so many community and course platforms available online for creators to choose from, it’s hard to ignore the features that are missing from Skool.
What’s deemed as essential features for running a course business should be available but some aren’t.
I would like to point out two features in particular.
Firstly, Skool does not have native video hosting so you instead have to rely on embedded video from integrated video hosting sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia, Loom and Bunny.net. It’s not so much a bad thing but it would be better and more secure to be able to upload your videos right inside Skool.
This means also that there is no live streaming feature unless you use YouTube Live or some other option and you’re taking risks uploading all your course material on an external platform. Still, the integrations work and you can essential present your courses without much problems.
The next problem is the lack of a checkout feature which makes it tough to sell courses or even community access. With no way for members to pay natively, courses are free to members or access relies on gamification.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t sell access to your community though. Skool has an API and you can use the webhooks feature for invites to set up a Zapier action that integrates with a payment processor like Thrivecart, Samcart or Stripe.
With that setup, you can sell access to your group on Skool which means paying members get access to your courses.
The problem is that you don’t have to do this with the majority of the course platforms online because the sales process is built in usually with other features like order bumps and coupons.
Skool is relatively new and still has time to add these features which would make their platform even more powerful.
Skool Help & Support
Help and support are important in any platform especially when you’re just starting to use a new platform like Skool.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of help and support in Skool. It doesn’t matter what you get stuck on, you will always find the answer. Skool provides a number of ways to help creators.
- Skool knowledge base
- Skool Community group
- Chat with admins
- Email support
- Skool courses
Finding help inside your Skool admin dashboard is easy. In the bottom right hand corner, a standard location inside many platforms to find help, you will see a question mark button. Clicking this button will reveal the three above ways for finding help and support.
Help docs will open up the platform’s knowledge base which gives helpful tutorials with screenshots of how to do things in Skool and answer common queries.
The Skool Community group is probably the best way to get help as members are always online, creating discussions and responding via comments.
You can use the community switcher to go from your group to Skool Community or click on the link in the help tab.
To find help, you can start a discussion by clicking on the discussion box at the top that says “write something”. Create your discussion and wait for responses. There are some expert members on Skool who know a lot about the platform and these include the 4 admins.
Speaking of admins, you can also get live help which is close to Skool providing a live chat experience. Just click on members in the Skool Community card on the right and look for the admin tab. You can then initiate a one-on-one chat session with any of the admins. You can also chat with any member that allows chats.
Email support is also available and the email address is provided in the help tab.
Finally, you have access to Skool courses. These can be found in the classroom tab of Skool Community.
The Skool 101 course is available to all members and shows you how to use Skool to set up and run your own group.
The other courses are unlocked when you reach certain levels, an example of the gamification experience that is available on this platform. These courses go deeper into more advanced tactics involved with using Skool to run an online business built on community.
Finding help within Skool is not a problem at all and it can mean the difference between being confused and making the best of what Skool provides.
One thing that is different with Skool and other platforms is the pricing. There are no pricing tiers and plans to choose from.
You get everything that Skool has to offer for one monthly price of $99.
There is no annual billing option either, which would have been great to prepay and get a discount.
For $99/month, you get 1 group and you can add unlimited courses and unlimited members. If you decide that you want additional groups, the cost would be $99/month for each new group you decide to create.
One good thing about Skool is that you automatically become an affiliate and can refer others to the platform. The payout is 40% on $99/month for every month the referred member stays in Skool.
After three sales, you’re essentially just being paid to be a Skool creator as they will apply any commission to your account first before paying you.
Skool Pros & Cons
There are things that I love about Skool and there are some things that have me scratching my head. Skool is a relatively new platform and they’re probably working on adding new features and making improvements.
There’s no denying that they’re building a very powerful platform though. Here are some of the pluses and minuses about the Skool platform.
I already explained the cons of Skool in the features review section above in “what’s missing“. Skool does have some good things to love about them and I’m guessing that’s why they have some members who have even migrated from other course platforms.
A simplified course platform may not be what everyone is looking for. And with those cons, I’m sure a lot of creators are going to want a better set of features to run their course business the right way.
Here are 5 of the best alternatives to Skool based on similar features they offer.
As far as course platforms go, Thinkific is one of the best you can choose. As an alternative to Skool, Thinkific also serves as a community platform if you want to take the community-first approach.
Skool is great at gamification and the Skool Community group which lives on the Skool platform (not Facebook groups) cannot be beat.
If you’re thinking about selling courses online and would like to do so from an optimized landing page with built-in checkout, then Thinkific is the better choice. You’ll have lots of options when it comes to selling and promoting your courses such as coupons, order bumps and even affiliates.
Thinkific offers not only a 30-day free trial but you can also get a free forever account with no transaction fees. You also have multiple plan options and the $99/month Start plan gives you a community, unlimited courses with native video and advanced features, unlimited students and lots of other features and integrations via the Thinkific apps store.
Simplified? No. But it’s everything you need in one place if you want to earn money selling courses online.
Mighty Networks is a community and course platform that has pretty much the same business model as Skool.
They offer a community first approach to selling courses and there are some rather powerful features available to creators. I was so impressed that I put Mighty Networks at #1 on my list of best community platforms here on TrialBear.
In comparison, Mighty Networks has a cheaper option for community alone but their $99/month plan allows you to access everything (almost) including the ability to create and sell courses.
Mighty Networks has native video that is used to host course content and also, as a true Facebook groups alternative, to run live streaming content right inside the platform.
You can also create unlimited events inside Mighty Networks with their robust event creation system and automatically send notifications to users who RSVP.
Mighty Networks also gives you a 14-day free trial so that you can sign up and experience their platform without commitment and without even entering any credit card details.
If a community-first approach to selling courses is important to you then this is a much better alternative to Skool.
Heights Platform is a course platform primarily that has community features included. The reason why I chose this platform as a worthy alternative to Skool is because of their strong gamification features.
In Heights, badges are automatically awarded to students for completing different tasks (such as completing their first lesson in a course). Creators can make it even more exciting by creating their own custom badges and requirements.
Heights Platform also has all the essential features for running a course business including sales checkout and checkout features, as well as video hosting and many course features not available in Skool.
Like all of the other alternatives here, Heights also has a $99/month plan. This plan, called the Pro plan, included all of the features that they offer including community, courses and sales features like bundling and selling hidden products. There are also a lot of other features included that aren’t available on Skool.
Heights offer a 30-day free trial for anyone who wants to try out their platform and you don’t need to enter any credit card details during their one-step start process. Give Heights a try if your main goal is to sell courses online.
Circle is another community platform that also has courses.
Their entry plan is much cheaper than Skool’s but only allow community but no courses. Skool’s sole plan for $99/month can however be compared to Circle’s $99/month plan which has both community and courses included plus you can create unlimited events and a lot more.
Circle lets you organize your community with spaces which include templates for posts, chats, events and courses. Course spaces are very powerful and you can gate it how you like and charge for courses separate from access to your community.
There aren’t any gamification features that make Skool so exciting but you can still have a very powerful community engaged by live streaming experiences, group chats, private messaging, engaging discussions with inline images and more.
Circle also lets you try their platform with a 14 day free trial before you commit and no credit card is necessary to begin.
GroupApp is a similar platform to Skool as it lets you create a learning community with courses.
They have everything that Skool offers including events creation and calendar, profiles, support, Zapier integration and more. They also have everything that Skool doesn’t have including native video that you can use for hosting course content or for live streams or even video chat.
GroupApp also has a $99/month plan in addition to a free forever plan and a $39/month plan. You can start building courses on this $39/month plan in addition to community so there’s no real need to go for the $99/month plan in the beginning.
The real catch is that while Skool allows you to have unlimited members, GroupApp limits members depending on the pricing plan you’re subscribed to. If you’re on the $39/month plan then you can only have up to 1000 members while the $99/month plan allows up to 10,000 members.
There are two ways to try GroupApp. You can sign up for free to the free forever account or you can go the suggested way and use their 14-day free trial to sign up to one of their paid plans.
Skool is a community-first course platform with a lot of promise and people seem very excited about it that they’re signing up and using it as an alternative to other course platforms.
Personally, while I think there are great features including the calendar, the easy to use group platform for discussions and the gamification benefits, I think that they still lack a lot for the average creator who wants to make money selling their courses.
Not having a checkout is a big deal to me and there are other platforms that have this in place as an essential part of the course building and sales process.
Still, there are solutions to every problem that Skool has and it could be a solid platform when these solutions are implemented.
If you want to give Skool a try for yourself to see what’s possible, they have a 2-week free trial that you can cancel at any time. Sign up and see what all the buzz is about.