When you know how to create an online course, you can attract a lot of students. Turning your knowledge and expertise into a thriving business can be a lot easier than you think.
Do you want to create a virtual classroom? Are you thinking of creating a steady income stream?
Whatever the case, online course creation can help.
Would you need to shell out a hefty sum of money to create an online course?
Not at all!
We will teach you how to create an online course for free in this guide.
Do you have to be a tech expert to create an online course? Again, the answer is No.
Even if you are a beginner, creating online courses is easy. Just follow the steps in our comprehensive guide on how to create an online course. You will be able to create your own course in no time.
Read on to learn more.
What is an Online Course?
An online course is a learning program that takes place virtually. It usually consists of a study plan or a curriculum that is organized into units.
An online course can include videos, text, images, and hyperlinks. Some may offer live classes conducted by a tutor, while others may have pre-recorded videos and other study material.
You may watch these videos at your convenience, allowing you to learn at your own pace.
Online courses may be formal or informal. Informal online courses focus mostly on teaching one specific skill and don’t offer a certificate of completion.
Here is an example of an online course on cake decoration.
Image via Udemy
Formal online courses may help you earn a certificate or degree upon course completion.
Here is an example:
Image via Coursera
Why Should You Create an Online Course?
By creating an online course you can generate a side income stream. And the best part is that you can create an online course for free.
Here are some other benefits of creating an online course:
- It is a quick and simple way to offer something valuable to your audience.
- Sharing your knowledge and expertise helps to establish yourself as an authority in your niche or industry.
- If you own a business, an online course could help you widen your reach by increasing brand awareness.
- You may incorporate your online courses in your marketing pipeline to upsell other products or services.
Creating an online course does not require you to have any teaching experience. All you need is a topic you are knowledgeable about and the willingness to learn how to create an online course.
This guide will walk you through the steps on how to create an online course. So, let’s get right to it.
How to Create an Online Course in 10 Steps
Creating an online course takes time and effort. Thorough research on your target audience and a strong course outline are key to creating a successful online course.
We have created this guide to walk you through the various steps of how to create an online course.
Let’s get started.
Step 1. Pick the Right Topic
Like all other significant endeavors in your life, you need to plan to create an online course.
The first step in the course creation process is to determine the subject matter. The topic is extremely important because it determines your audience, the teaching methodology, and so much more.
Your topic could be anything from gardening to graphic design. When you pick a topic, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have expertise in the topic?
- Is there a demand for the topic?
- How deep are you willing to go into the topic?
Ideally, you should be an expert on the topic, either through education or practical experience. When you have real qualifications to show your students, they trust you more.
Now, why do we say “ideally?”
That’s because it’s not always necessary to pick a topic you are an expert on. But you must have a considerable amount of knowledge or experience on the subject.
We would strongly advise you to never create an online course on a topic you have no idea about. You will have nothing of value to offer, and it will fall flat on its face.
Why should you pick a topic that’s in demand? Because if you don’t, you may struggle to find students.
How can you find topics that are in demand?
Use tools like Google Trends to find the popular types of courses students are looking for. You may also check websites like FutureLearn, Coursera, or edX to see which online courses are already popular.
Here is an example of Google Trends search for Java courses. You will see that there is a steady demand for these over time. In the same image, you will see that the interest is more in Washington compared to other states.
Image via Google Trends
How deep are you willing to go into the topic? That depends on the audience you are targeting.
Say, you want to create an online course on cake baking. If you are catering to newcomers, you will have to design the course in a way that starts from the basics.
You will need to teach your students the right ingredients to pick for the cake as well as the correct measurements.
However, if you are catering to advanced-level students, you may not need to include such basic information.
You will be catering to students who are already good at baking cakes. These students are looking for an online course to help them further improve their skills.
Step 2. Understand Your Target Audience
While picking a topic is important, it is equally important to understand your audience before creating course content for them.
Here are a few reasons why you must research your target audience:
It Helps You Step into Their Shoes
You may be an expert in your field, but your students are not. When you have extensive knowledge about something, it is very easy to assume that others have the same background as you.
Unfortunately, this assumption means that the course you design might not be the best way to teach them. This may create a lack of understanding or even confusion.
Thorough research will help you understand:
- Who is your ideal audience?
- What is their skill level?
- What is their preferred way of learning?
When you answer these questions, you will be able to tailor your course content according to the needs of your students.
It Helps You Understand Their Challenges
The purpose of your online course should be to solve the problems of your students. You should help them acquire the knowledge that they are unable to find elsewhere.
Help them learn something more quickly or effectively than other alternatives.
Unless you understand the problems of your students, you will not be able to tailor your content to address their needs.
It Helps You Sell Your Course
Have you heard the saying, “If you sell to everyone, you sell to no one?” That stands true when you create online courses as well.
Understanding who you’re marketing to is crucial to use the right channels, messaging, and tactics to reach them and get them to enroll.
Step 3: Decide the Format of Your Course
Online courses are offered in different formats. The structure of your online course determines how you will market it and what to include in the curriculum. It will also help you determine how much price to charge for your online course.
Here are three online course formats that you can choose from.
A mini-course only takes a few hours to complete. You may offer a playlist of short videos or a series of emails.
Mini-courses are usually low-priced, and may even be free. They are mostly used as a marketing tool to attract students towards more in-depth and expensive courses.
If you want to learn how to create an online course, this format is the perfect option for you to start with. Plus, it will also help you test the market without investing too much time and effort in the first go.
Here is an example of a mini-course.
Image via SkillShare
Like the name suggests, multi-day courses may take students several days to complete. You may include pre-recorded videos to break down the course into various modules.
Using supplementary materials like checklists and worksheets is also recommended.
Here is an example of a multi-day course:
Image via Edureka
A masterclass could be anywhere from a few days to a few months long. Masterclasses are generally targeted at professionals or advanced-level students.
If this is your first attempt at online course creation, we recommend creating a mini-course instead of a masterclass. Gain some experience before you start creating masterclasses.
Here is an example of a masterclass:
Image via Market Gardener Institute
Step 4: Create a Course Outline
Now that you have the topic and the format of your online course sorted, it is time to move on to the next step.
You need to now decide how you will deliver the course to your students. That’s why you need to create a course outline.
Here are the things to keep in mind when creating an online course outline.
Identify the Learning Outcome
Ask yourself, “What would your students learn from your course?”
It will help you organize your course material in a way that serves the outcome you want. You will be able to add or eliminate content that is relevant to their learning.
Create a Checklist of Skills You Want Your Students to Learn
You will not be able to create a successful course unless you determine which skills are the most important for your students.
You have a learning outcome in mind. Ask yourself, “What skills do your students need to achieve that outcome?” The answer to this question should be a list of skills and competencies you want your students to have learned upon course completion.
Use the Checklist to Create Course Modules
Follow the checklist of skills to put together your course modules. We recommend grouping closely related skills together to create more effective course modules. This will also help you avoid adding more content than necessary.
It is okay to rearrange the checklist keeping the complexity of the course in mind. In fact, you should keep the basic skills at the beginning of the course and leave the advanced skills for the end.
Set Goals for Your Course Modules
If you want to create a successful online course, you must set a goal for your online course. Your course may have different modules. But it is extremely important for each module to have a learning goal.
Look at your online course as you would a University degree. For instance, a degree in Economics may contain subjects like Mathematics and Statistics. Each of these subjects has a clear learning goal.
Your online course should also be structured in a similar manner. There should be a clear learning objective for the students after each module.
The most successful online courses progress in a natural way. Each section builds on what the students have learned previously.
Step 5: Choose an Online Course Platform
Where do you want to sell online courses?
Well, you could always create your own website to sell online courses. However, that would require a considerable amount of investment to create and maintain a website.
If you are looking for a cost-effective solution, we recommend using online course platforms like Thinkific.
Thinkific offers a variety of tools to create your own online course. It also makes it super easy to market and sell your course.
Here is our Thinkific review to help you assess whether it is the right choice for you.
Image via Thinkific
Online course marketplaces like SkillShare or Coursera are also great places to sell your online course.
Image via SkillShare
They come with a built-in audience, making it easier for you to surface your course. The downside is that you may not have as much control as you would like over data and pricing.
Whatever platform you choose, the content of your course is more important than the platform itself. If you feel that the platform you are using does not have the required features, you can always switch to another platform.
Step 6: Create Your Course Content
Well done! You now have your topic, format, course outline, and platform decided. It is now time to create your course content.
We know you want to create an awesome online course. That’s why you need to focus on the following:
Pick the Right Type of Course Content
How do you want to present your online course?
Most online courses use text, images, video, and screencasting content. If you want profitable online courses, you would want them to be engaging and effective at the same time.
That’s why we recommend you use a mix of different types of content to convey different types of information.
If you keep your content text-only, it will become boring. Also, humans respond better to visual information than text.
You can use images and videos to make your online course more engaging. You can use online video makers to create your own videos. Or, add relevant videos from other platforms, such as YouTube.
You can also add screencasting content depending on the type of online course you are building.
Write, Record, and Edit Your Content
Once you know how you want to deliver your content, it is time to create the modules.
It is not always necessary to have the entire course ready before you start selling. You can make a small batch of content first. Gather feedback from your students and then make adjustments and improvements to the rest of the content.
Don’t make hours and hours of videos only to find out that your voice quality or camera lighting was bad. Instead, make your content in small batches, ensuring that your videos are of high quality.
Content writing is also incredibly important. After all, the quality of your content will ultimately determine your online course’s success.
If possible, use content writing tools to improve your writing. Also, give yourself enough time to plan and write your lessons properly.
Establish Assessment Methods
Assessments are important to determine how much your students have learned. There are different ways to assess your students.
You could have a pop quiz at the end of each lesson or a final project at the end of the course. It will depend entirely on what you are teaching and how you would like your students to prove their knowledge.
For example, if your course is on gardening, a pop quiz may suffice. However, if you are teaching English literature, you will need something more elaborate.
Here is an example of a pop quiz.
Image via Reckon
Of course, assessments are optional. However, they are useful in keeping your students attentive and engaged in your course.
Step 7: Determine the Price of Your Course
How much should you sell your online course for? The course price depends on the type of online course you create.
For instance, if you have created a mini-course, you may sell it for a low price or even for free. Multi-day courses are more expensive, while masterclasses are the costliest.
Your course price will depend on the following factors:
- Course topic: The niche and topic of your course play a major role in determining the price. Customers will be willing to pay more for a course on Forex investing than gardening because of the complexity involved.
- Marketing: Do you want to use paid ads or free marketing tools to market your online course? If you use paid ads you must ensure that you set the price accordingly to offset any losses.
- Authority: An online course created by an industry expert will cost a lot more than a course created by someone who is not as famous. Keep your authority in mind when you set a price for your online course.
If you are a complete beginner, follow this trick used by many course creators. Check out what other course creators in your own niche are selling their online courses for. Do some research to figure out what they are offering.
If your course is falling short of what they are offering, you can always improve your course. Ensure that your course price is neither too high nor too low.
If your course is priced too low, you will need lots of students to meet your sales goals. That means you will need to spend a significant amount of time marketing and driving traffic to your course.
In case it is priced too high, you may not find many takers. So, strike the right balance.
Step 8: Launch and Market Your Course
It’s not enough just to learn how to create an online course. It’s equally important to learn how to find buyers for your course.
After creating a great online course, it is now time to find students willing to enroll in your course.
Here are some tactics you can use to sell your online courses.
It is a very powerful marketing tactic that requires very little investment.
A student may not buy your course the very first time they come across your landing page. However, you could design your landing page in a way that visitors are encouraged to leave their email addresses.
You can, then, create an email list of prospective students. Sending them updates, information, or discounts related to your course to motivate them to enroll for your course.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is another effective way to get more students for your online course. However, don’t feel pressured to create a presence on every social media platform.
Instead, pick one or two platforms where your target audience is most active. If your audience uses Facebook the most, try finding Facebook groups on the topic of your course.
In case you are targeting professionals, you may want to leverage Twitter or LinkedIn instead of TikTok or Instagram.
Using advertising platforms like Facebook ads or Google ads is yet another effective way to get more students to enroll in your course.
However, ensure that you keep your budget in mind. The cost of acquiring a student should not be higher than the price of your course.
Step 9: Gather Feedback and Testimonials
How do you know if your students are understanding your lessons effectively? By gathering feedback, of course.
The feedback you receive will tell you how effective your course is. Based on the feedback, you can improve your content and make your course more effective, engaging, and profitable.
Besides students, you should also get feedback from fellow subject matter experts. They can give you valuable tips on how to improve your teaching style and course value.
Don’t forget to collect testimonials and reviews from your existing students. Positive reviews and testimonials increase your credibility and help you grow your online business.
Here is an example of student reviews on an online course on Java.
Image via Coursera
Step 10: Adapt and Improve
As a course creator, adapting and improving your course content is a vital part of your learning journey. It takes time, effort, and flexibility to learn how to create an online course.
It is nearly impossible to get everything perfect in your first online course. You can use feedback to improve your content and make your course more profitable.
Don’t be disheartened by negative feedback. It is an important part of learning.
Also, courses lose their relevance with time. That’s why it is crucial to review and update your course from time to time to keep it relevant and useful.
Q1. Can you create an online course for free?
A. Yes, you don’t need money to create an online course. Just follow the steps in this article and you can create your own online course absolutely free.
Q2. What software and tools can I use to build a free online course?
A. You can use the following tools:
- Thinkific: To create an online course for free
- Canva: To create free images, graphics, logos, etc.
- Beaver Builder: It will help you build your own WordPress website to host your online course
- Camtasia: Great editing software for your course videos
- Vimeo: This software solution offers free video hosting
Q3. Should you offer a free course?
A. Offering free courses can be a great way to get more students, especially if you are a beginner. It helps generate awareness for both you as well as your course.
As long as your free course is part of a bigger course, it may help generate more interest in your paid courses. However, offering free courses only may not be a very profitable option.
Q4. How many hours long should your online course be?
A. The length of your course usually depends on the complexity of your topic. According to Thinkific, the most profitable courses are between 10 to 25 hours long.
Q5. Why is keyword research important in picking the topic of your online course?
A. Creating online courses that are successful and profitable requires you to pick a topic that has a high market demand. Tools like Google Keyword Planner and Semrush can help you identify the keywords that are being frequently searched by your audience.
You may check the search volume of these keywords and pick a topic accordingly.
When you know how to create an online course, you can share your insights, knowledge and skills with the world. If you have helped companies create a strong social media presence, there are many who would love to learn how. If you have learnt illustrations on your own, maybe you could teach others too.
By creating an online course, you not only create another source of income but also share your expertise with the world.
Do you have any feedback about the steps mentioned above? Please let us know in the comments below.