Skool is a community platform for creators. Its mission? “To help 1 billion people find their community by helping 1 million creators earn a living building community online” . It was founded in 2019 by Sam Ovens, and bootstrapped while running Consulting.com, an e-learning company that helps people run profitable e-learning companies . He became frustrated with having to use multiple tools to run a community alongside his cohort courses and events.
The result, Skool, is a single platform where creators can host their communities, course content, and events in one place. In the past, you would have needed to use a community platform like Facebook Groups alongside a learning management system (LMS). Instead, Skool puts it all together, adding gamification to make it engaging and fun, but without the distractions of algorithmic feeds and ads that you get on social platforms.
In this overview, we’ll take a look at the key functionality, pricing, and support it offers to see whether Skool is a good fit for your community needs.
The core of Skool focuses on four main areas:
Let’s take a look at each, to understand what the platform has to offer.
First, though, it’s useful to know that the platform works around groups. A group can be private or public. A private group means only members can contribute and see who is in the group. Content is hidden from search engines, so these are mostly used for gated communities. A public group, however, is open to anyone - so you can see who is in the group and the posts. You can still lock course content, but otherwise, content is indexable and discoverable by search engines.
Either way, when someone joins a group, you can optionally ask up to 3 questions. This provides a useful way to get details about a prospective member to customize outreach, or to decide whether to approve them if you have some membership requirements.
OK, let’s get into the key functionality 💪
Community is the core of the platform and it’s the default tab that opens when members land on your group page.
The right-hand bar includes a description of your community, alongside social proof showing how many members it has and how many are online right now. You can also add links to help new members get started.
Admins and members can create posts that populate the main feed, which can include text, video, a GIF, poll, or a link. Admins can optionally send an email version of the post to members too. Posts are organized into categories, making it easy for members to search and find what they want. By default, posts with the most recent activity are shown at the top, although you can pin important posts as well. Other members can respond to a post by adding a like, or a comment. Replies to comments are threaded beneath the post.
Likes are what add the gamification element. Gamification is a fun, useful part of Skool. Its system is quite straightforward - you earn points when other members like your posts or comments. 1 like gets you 1 point. As you get more points your level increases. And leveling up can unlock certain resources, like a course, when you hit a particular level.
This mechanism encourages members to make quality contributions and engage in meaningful, useful interactions with other members of the community.
Users with the most engagement are recognized for their contributions on a leaderboard, which is another tab within your community. Other members can also see a member’s level alongside their avatar, so prominent contributors are easily identified.
Members can DM each other in chat, which is an option that community admins can choose to enable.
Lastly, each member gets a profile page. It features an activity chart reminiscent of GitHub’s contribution diagram, visually highlighting a member's engagement in the community. It also shows the communities that members have created, and other communities they’re a member of, alongside a list of their recent contributions and key stats. The profile is where you can opt to follow them to receive notifications about any new posts and comments they make. A member’s level is shown under their avatar on the profile page, as is the number of points needed to level up.
The community functionality is a big value-add over course hosting platforms. It enables you to offer support and foster member-to-member engagement, which is often missing from learning management solutions and can be a great way to build advocacy for your work and make your community sustainable long term.
Courses are housed under the ‘Classroom’ tab. On the admin side, you get a simple menu system to add and organize your content. Courses can be broken up into sets of individual modules. Each module is one video, which can have a description, links, files, action items, and a transcript attached. The description supports linked video timestamps, which is nice. You can toggle on/off comments for any particular module, too. Modules can be released at once, or dripped out over time, enabling a cohort-type setup.
It’s important to note that Skool doesn’t host your videos. It gives you the flexibility to use your own hosting solution and supports YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia, Loom, and Bunny.net. There aren’t learning tools like quizzes, so you’d need to link out to a third-party solution like Typeform to add in any test or accreditation system.
Members see your courses as a list under the ‘Classroom’ tab. Courses can be free and open to everyone, restricted to logged-in users with a particular level membership, or restricted to paying members only. Progress on a course is shown both on the individual course page and on the Classroom list.
The Calendar is the last main tab, and it’s where members can see a group-wide calendar or list view of upcoming video calls, in-person meetups, or whatever other important events and dates you want members to keep track of.
Handily, times automatically show in a member’s own time zone, so you don’t need to worry about members converting times if you run a global group.
An event includes the name and date/time, alongside a short description. You can also add a link, giving your members a way to register or add an event to their own personal calendar. It doesn’t provide scheduling functionality, so you’re free to use Calendly, Cal, or whatever scheduling solution you like. Similarly, this isn’t a video call or live streaming solution, so you can use Zoom, StreamYard, or whatever event platform you want.
A useful feature is when an event is coming up soon, a highlight is shown in the community tab, flagging it to members automatically, even if they haven’t registered already.
Skool recently added a native payments feature, too. This means you can now charge for membership subscriptions directly on Skool - no Stripe or other payment provider is necessary. Just plug in bank account details, and they charge a 2.9% + 30c fee for each monthly subscription payment. There are no other costs, whereas some platforms like Stripe charge extra for processing international payments and 0.5% for subscriptions specifically. You can’t yet do one-off or annual payments, but it does support the creation of multi-tiered membership plans. If monthly is all you need then it effectively replaces your landing page, order form, merchant account, etc. — setting a price and sharing a link is all that’s needed to start monetizing memberships.
That’s the main functionality, let’s take a look at the pricing and support offered.
Pricing couldn’t be simpler - they have one plan. It’s $99 per month, per group, and it comes with a free 14-day trial. Each group can be made up of an unlimited number of members, and you get all the functionality - a community, a classroom with unlimited courses, and a calendar.
If you opt to monetize, then there’s also the 2.9% + 30c fee for each monthly subscription payment.
It’s straightforward forward, affordable, and you don’t need to worry about your success costing you more money. As your community grows, the cost stays the same.
Skools offers support via email at [email protected], but also via its community. Yes, Skool uses Skool to run its own product community and it has done so from the get-go.
As Sam says, “At first it was just all like ‘we're missing this,’ we’re missing like a thousand different things” but they stuck with it. “Some people on my team were like… ‘it just makes our product look bad’” and they wanted to remove the community . Instead, they’ve co-created the product alongside their community of creators. Sam explains:
“I listen to the community. I get their feedback. And then I improve the product” and that’s how they’ve developed the product all along.
Skool came out of beta in early 2022 once people started to “say they love it and at that moment you've really won the community… although, that took like three years” .
There are a couple of other things worth highlighting. Skool has its own mobile app, available on iOS and Android. It’s how you and your community can keep up with new posts and comments while on the go. Much like Mighty Networks, or Slack, it’s a central app, meaning it’s not branded for your community. Rather, members can use the app to keep up with all the communities they’re a part of on Skool. But members can use the app to do anything they can on the website, such as post and comment, take courses, see when events are happening, or DM other members of your community.
There’s also a handy Zapier integration, which enables you to integrate Skool with other platforms. Actions can be triggered when a member answers a question, and you can invite a member or unlock a course for a member based on a trigger. This makes it possible to use Skool alongside other payment processors, a CRM, and marketing automation tools.
Skool's simplicity is both its greatest strength and weakness. Small business owners, coaches, consultants, educators, and creators will love Skool for being easy to set up and manage, and it’s a snip for members to use. It’s a simple, all-in-one platform that’s ideal for those wanting to build a community around a learning experience. If that's you, it could replace a need for multiple separate platforms, like Facebook Groups, Circle, or MightyNetworks for community, and an online course platform like Teachable or Kajabi.
However, those with grander plans might find the platform a little constraining. Its lack of video hosting, course assessment, and event scheduling features will have you reaching for other tools. For some, this means flexibility to choose your own. If those missing features are essential to your use case, though, then you should consider the total cost once you've factored in paying out for those things too.
I don't have plans for a community yet, but I like where the platform is going, and when I do, Skool looks like a solid option to consider.