The Ultimate Guide to Creating an Online Course in 2018 | LearnWorlds Blog
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Online learning and training have become an essential part of our society. Therefore, creating and selling courses online can be quite profitable with many professionals achieving 6- and 7-figure incomes. There has never been a better time to join the growing industry of eLearning.

But, in case you have thought you have something to share with the world, there is a lot to concern about:

– Are online courses the right type of online business for you?
– How can I conclude to the right course topic?
– How can I create a profitable course?
– How will I sell it afterwards?

Well, we created this massive guide to answer all those questions for you.

Should I Create an Online Course?

Guess what?

There’s a very good chance that for the people in your circle, you’re that expert on something. You might already know what that something – your gift or skill that people come to you for – is.

If not, continue reading, and you will find a subject to teach!

Consider by yourself:

– Have you ever purchased an online course?
– What has worked for you?
– What compelled you to buy?

A successful course always:

– Solves problems for others.
– Teaches something new.
– Helps achieve a goal.

Your experience can provide valuable information to younger professionals. A good idea is to reuse your blog’s content. Monetizing your blog as an online course. Besides, you already have the people interested in following you.

You can easily record and sell online speeches and workshops, you have already been doing. Turn your training into a profitable online course!

Create a beautiful online school without any technical skills.

Types of Courses You Can Make

Masterclass

A Masterclass is a class given by an expert to highly talented students (Definition by Wikipedia). If you are an expert on art, skill or have mastered a specific discipline, then you can create a masterclass training to transfer that knowledge.

Examples of masterclass training themes:

Students of a masterclass can access tutorials and lectures pre-recorded by experts in various fields and have regular one-to-one classes from the master trainer.

Coaching

Coaching courses are specially designed to achieve a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance. Coaching happens when focusing on specific tasks or objectives.

The tasks can be time-bound and spread within days or weeks. Coaching courses usually use drip-feed courses (released in intervals), so that the coach can control the flow and not overwhelm the student.

Coaching type courses you can create are:

MOOC

MOOCs were first introduced in 2006 and emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012. A massive open online course is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and public access via the web.

In addition to traditional course materials in MOOCs special support is given to community interactions among students, professors, and teaching assistants.

A MOOC should be offered for courses that are easily repeatable, offer pre-recorded and fixed courses, include quizzes and exams, and have optional instructor support or participation help in case of questions.

Good courses for a MOOC are:

Corporate Training

Corporate Education refers to a system of professional development activities provided to educate employees. It may consist of a formal university or college training or informal training.

The purest form of corporate education may be training programs designed “in-house” for an organization that may wish to train their employees on specific aspects of their job processes or responsibilities.

However, external corporate training takes place when a company outsources training for their employees to a professional. Other than internal training that takes place from specialized employees, human resources, managers or trainers within the company, professional trainers outside the company can provide training to industry employees such as:

Additionally, Continuous Professional Education Training and retraining of employees to update their skills or re-qualify for regulated industries can be a branch of corporate training.

Mini-Course

A mini-course is a bit-sized alternative to offer as a lead-capture mechanism for your business, educating your customers or presenting your skills to nurture leads into customers. They can also be used to test the market for their interest in the course you are interested in making.

Mini courses require less resources and can be 0.5 – 2 hours long.

Academy & Software Onboarding

Academies are the prestigious educational part of companies. If you are offering a variety of workshops and training, then you can create a stronger brand under one academy, providing all your training in one place.

Branded as an academy, a software company (SaaS) can create their own academy to educate their customers on the use of their software, capture valuable leads and upsell to customers.

How much money can I make?

Launching an online school or online courses can, of course, bring you a passive income or a truly impressive new source of capital, but it can also offer other multiple benefits to you or your business.

There’s a huge potential to make money through online courses. From simple online lectures to intensive boot camps, you’ll find courses that charge anywhere from a few hundred dollars to nearly $20,000, depending on the topic.

How much money you can make with online courses mostly depends on the resources at hand, including the value of your personal or company’s branding, your industry or target group and the work you put on creating, marketing and selling courses. You could be earning from a few hundred dollars per year to a six-figure income and more. You can use our Course Revenue Calculator for a calculation of your potential profits.

However, changing people’ lives by sharing your knowledge is invaluable. And when your course income comes in, it’s a good idea to invest more in your online business 😉

Launching new courses will bring repeat buys from current satisfied customers, with each course launch bringing in more income while improving your course’s content will allow you to sell it for a higher price!

Bypassing Mental Constraints

Lot’s of negative thoughts are spinning around your head when you think about creating an online course:
“I don’t have enough money to start online courses.”
“I am not an expert.”
“What if this doesn’t work?”
“I don’t have the technical skills required.”

But your course, and ultimately the business that you want to create, is somewhere outside of this circle. If you are waiting to have the right mindset down pat before you start building your course, you’ll never get started. Procrastination is a mental block holding you back.

Specify the negative thought you are having. Stuffing it away isn’t the best strategy. It will just build up and explode. You have to acknowledge your feelings so you can replace the negative thought with a positive one.

And don’t think of yourself as a person trying to start your own business. Think of yourself as a business owner already. Own it. Like it’s already ingrained into who you are as a person.

The truth is besides that no technical skills are required to use a course platform, and you don’t need thousands of dollars to create a course.

Also, you have to embrace the possibility of failure.

If you let the fear of failure hold you back, you are missing out on your real potential. Failure may be the most significant thing keeping you in your comfort zone. But the thing is. You don’t have to be afraid of failure. Be fearful of not getting back up.

You can learn a valuable lesson through failure that will get you that much closer to your success. That’s another aspect of the CEO mindset you want to develop. The ability to bounce back from failure and try again.

Creating an Online Course Step by Step

5.1Decide the course topic

Finding the topic for your course shouldn’t be a struggle at all. We suggest that you look no further from your everyday reality and ask the following questions:

– Do your friends, customers, and colleagues ask for your help in a specific thing that you are considered an expert?

– Have you solved a problem that you think others are struggling for?

– Are you an expert on a software or a method that other want to use?

It’s all about creating a course about anything you are passionate about. How excited are you about creating this course? You’re likely to quit before you get there if you hate working on something!

The other important factor of starting a course topic is the profit potential: The profit potential is high if you are solving a problem that people would pay for? So, think about the following: “do people already spend money to solve this problem, in the form of books, apps, services, etc…?”.

A technique that will help you define the most profitable courses is asking for people’s opinions through surveys.

Here are some questions you can use:

“Tell me about your experiences with…”

“What’s your biggest challenge with…?”

“What would you achieve if you deal with this challenges?”

“What communities are you a part of online? What blogs do you read frequently”

Once you have created your course, you can make a smoke test to see how many of your audience enroll already. Setting up a landing page should take you a few hours and maybe two or three days to get it out there.

Actively go and find out where your potential learners are hanging out and make a public post asking if they sign up. Also, if you have an email list, do an email blast advertising your course. Then, you have the time to get feedback and make the necessary changes to your course.

5.2Research the subject

Research and planning the course is the most crucial stage of your course creation. You can’t have a good course if you don’t have a plan. Besides, you don’t want to be giving out unorganized information that people could get anywhere else for free.

Let your creativity roam free. Brainstorm all the subtopics you would like to include in the course. Write everything down on a piece of paper.

After that, go for an online search and study your topic as much as possible. You may already be an expert. But there is always something new out there. Looking into what people are talking about online, asking and teaching (potential competitors) on your subject is essential. Learn your area as no-one else.

Doing that will help you update your brainstorming ideas and include new subtopics, find new literature and external links to add to your course.

5.3Plan the Course Outline

After your search, you probably have many ideas about what subtopics you can include in your course. Break down those ideas even more. Then, divide them thematically. Put all those topics in a logical order and make a list. You can follow for example this template:

Topical outline template
(Course subject)

– Main topic 1
– – Subtopic
– – Subtopic
– – Subtopic
– Main topic 2
– – Subtopic
– – Subtopic
– – Subtopic
– Main topic 3
– – Subtopic
– – Subtopic
– – Subtopic

An example of such a list could be this:

Course subject: Improving writing skills at home

– Main topic 1: Introduction on writing as a skill
– – Subtopic: Using vocabulary
– – Subtopic: Combining meanings
– – Subtopic: Organizing content

– Main topic 2: The importance of reading texts
– – Subtopic: How reading affects writing
– – Subtopic: Practices to improve writing

– Main topic 3: The benefits of writing summaries
– – Subtopic: How summaries affect learning
– – Subtopic: Practices to turn summaries into new texts

Although this step is helpful, it is not obligatory. What is most important is to know what exactly you want to teach and the impact you want to create.

You can also follow Dr. Finley’s Unit Plan to plan your curriculum as a new teacher. His eight-step plan can guide you from research to development of the teaching curriculum and comes as a downloadable PDF.

5.4Writing Goals and Objectives

Learning goals are the heart of a course and need to be made clear at the planning stage. They are broad, general statements of what we want our students to learn and provide direction, focus, and cohesion for our work with learners.

Objectives tell the learner or us how they will be able to know, whether or not they have learned and understood the lesson. This way the instructor can see in which ways they can shape each lesson around their main priorities for learning.

Why is this step we are explaining so important? It is as simple as that: With goals and objectives:

What is the Difference Between Goals and Objectives?

Many people confuse the definitions of goals and objectives, and often conflate the terms. Learning goals are long-term, broad, and achievable, but not necessarily measurable. On the other hand, learning objectives are also referred to as learning outcomes because they are immediately linked to the expected outcomes—what we can expect learners to be able to do by the end of the course.

Goals-Objectives-Assessment

Changing one of these three components utterly affects the other two. So, this process is dynamic while you design a course.

Distinguishing goals from objectives helps to achieve a better course design. Use the following planning map to turn your goals into objectives.

Tip: Learning Goals are great pitches for your course sales page, and you should use them to increase sales.

Below you can see two examples of an instructional goal vs. the objectives for an Art course and a Photoshop course.

How to Form Your Instructional Goals

Write at least three goals to shape your ongoing course design. To make it easy for you, complete the following sentences regarding your course goals:
“In this course, I will emphasize in…”
“The main themes learners will go through are…”
“The big picture I want to promote through this course is…”

Use verbs set goals are. For example,

“Through this course, you will…”
Learn,
Know,
Understand,
Enjoy,
Appreciate,
Achieve

How to Form Objectives?

Objectives should be specific, concise, observable and measurable. Each learning objective should target one particular aspect of student performance and be expressed with a single action verb.
But how do we set those objectives?

Bloom describes levels of student learning, that could help a designer set the right objectives for each level of learning:

There is a specific order according to which learners process information in a course. Bloom’s taxonomy helps to understand this natural order.

Following this taxonomy is the most surefire way to boost learning to a higher level. The following table depicts everything we are talking about. In it, there are examples of verbs and activities you can use to formulate your course objectives.

Examples of how to use the listed verbs:
– Learners will be able to use a rule to determine if a sentence is grammatically correct. (Application stage)

– Learners will be able to classify foods according to their origins. (Analysis stage)

– Learners will be able to discriminate between the program’s peculiar features. (Evaluation stage)

See how it goes? This method provides an analytical design which makes it worthwhile to try out! You will see how a much clearer picture you will have of what you want to achieve.

While designing your course objectives, it is optimal to follow Bloom’s hierarchical order of objectives and not dismiss lower levels as unworthy so that learners have all the requirements regarding previous knowledge to proceed. In the taxonomy, learners start at the base layer, or the “Remember” step, and work their way up as they master the content in the increasingly complex layers.

Using the table above, design your Learning Objectives. Break down your goals to form more specific and measurable learning objectives. Link those objectives to the corresponding sections.

Quick Tips:
–> Consider developing 3 learning objectives for each section of your course.
–> If the objectives are several, organize them into subcategories.
–> Use simple language, speak personally (ex. ‘You will be able to’) and keep objectives short.
–> Don’t use more than one sentences to express your objectives.
–> Don’t list multiple verbs in one objective – since every action will be measured and assessed differently, each verb should be in a separate objective.
–> Communicate your objectives through your course page, your welcoming video or discussion with your learners!

How to Use Objectives with Activities

For each objective of the course, write down some corresponding activities that you are planning to use to accomplish that objective. Through these activities, students will achieve the objectives you set for them. Other activities not mentioned above are:

Remember: To use your assignments to achieve an objective you have to give learners valuable, on-time feedback.

Ideally, as you are drafting course goals and learning objectives, you are also beginning to develop the assessments for the course. Decide which questions you will include in your questionnaires or exams (as well as the type of questions you will use) or the content of your assignments based on the objectives you have set.

Align your assessment activities with your objectives. This way you can be sure that your learners have the desired progress.

Reflect on your objectives

–> Are your course objectives achievable given the available resources?
–> Are your course objectives in agreement with the course goals?
–> Can learners’ performance on the objective be measured?
–> Are there real measures stated (rate numbers, percentages or frequencies)?
–> When do you want learners to accomplish the objective?
–> Are you attempting too much so that your objectives are not achievable?
–> Is the objective valuable for the learner?

Achieving active learning

Ιn the framework for online course creation described above, it’s worth noting that everything in the learning experience column is active instead of passive. Learners must DO something to learn. It is not enough to include dozens of videos of yourself speaking into the camera.

Give the opportunity to learners to apply content they are learning about. Use quizzes, assignments and interactive elements in our new video editor to transform learners from passive to active.

Social activities such as starting a dialogue in the discussion section or sharing pictures of the activities can increase engagement of the students. You, as the instructor, should also be available for questions, feedback and guiding the students where needed.

5.5Creating the Course Content

The next step is to create the actual content. Based on the course plan and the activities you have planned, you will probably a variety of media productions for your course. Although, you have already identified material during the research stage you can reuse.

Experienced trainers and educators can easily create a course from scratch. But the best approach to launching your online academy is by repurposing your old content. Looking through your old (and newer) files you can find a lot of material to reuse.

You probably have some digital material from informative leaflets to word documents with valuable information. Do you write a blog? Have you recorded your last workshop, training or webinar? It’s a good idea to do it next time!

Take a look at your computer and find some material that might be great for repurposing as an online course and save yourself precious time. Here is a list to inspire your search frenzy:

Video and Presentation Recording Tools

How do you want to present your course material? You have several options:

Decide based on your competencies and the subject matter.

For instance, videos and images might serve you better if your course teaches students how to complete a craft. Text descriptions are easily misinterpreted, and your students will want to see you complete each step up to completion.

You will need video recording and presentation software, like Camtasia, Screencast-O-Matic, Audacity, Filmora, Adobe Premiere. Looking for tools to convert your presentations into video presentations for your courses? You can read more on ouw article on how to make educational video.

While choosing the right camera and microphone we suggest you start small and grow as your audience grows. Recording your first course with your laptop’s camera and microphone could be enough, and if you feel like upgrading to better quality, you can re-record it after you have your first paying students.

You can also join our free course on Video Based Learning to learn how to create professional high quality video courses.

If you have the budget to spare, you can get yourself some professional equipment for the job. We looked for the best affordable cameras and microphones we suggest to create quality videos for online courses.

Microphones

Cameras

5.6Choosing an Elearning Platform & Uploading the Content

Next step, is choosing the right place to host your academy and upload your course. While marketplace options like Udemy, Khan Academy, Udacity or Skillshare are great places to find a lot of students, you have no control over your brand, pricing, marketing and data of the students. Course marketplaces will take a significant share of your earnings and sell your competitors’ course on the same page as yours.
The best way is to use a course platform like LearnWorlds to create, market and sell your courses. You will be able to host your course, your website and sales funnel all under one roof and keep all your earnings and students’ data.

Uploading or creating your first course on LearnWorlds is quite easy, and no technical skills are needed. All you need to do is follow the step by step instructions here and your online course can be ready in a few minutes.

Creating Your First Course With LearnWorlds

You have researched, planned and developed your course. Now, it’s time to get it into an elearning platform your students will drool over to join. First things first, you will need to get a free 30-day trial with LearnWorlds.

Click on “Manage Your Online School”

The Dashboard is what gives you access to the administration (back-end) of your school. All the magic happens there and you can create and customize every part of your school from there. Remember, you need to sign in to your school first with your admin email to access the admin dashboard that controls your school. There you will have all the course building tools you need.

Click on Create a Course

Look on the top menu of the page, you can click on the + Icon to Create a Course. Easy, right?

Follow the Wizard

We have created a unique course creation wizard to guide you through the process of building your courses. The wizard will guide you in adding and changing the most important settings without the need to go look for them. If you want to change something later, don’t worry, you can do that by visiting the settings of your course.

Write a catchy course title which will help you sell online courses and follow the steps by clicking “Next”.

Creating a Course Wizard

Pricing and Types of Courses

Give a price to your course. If you haven’t thought of the price, then read my guide on pricing courses. Then, choose the type of your course:

Paid – Students can either buy or you can manually enrol them.
Draft – This course is being build and only admins and instructors can see it.
Coming Soon – Give a sneak peek to your students, it will show up on your course catalogues but will not be available.
Free – Free courses are great lead capture tools, educating customers and testing a market.

There are more advanced course types to choose from after you finish the wizard, and you can always change any course between them:

Private – My favourite type of course is a private one. Why you may ask? It’s great to selling to private customers, segmenting your classes and giving access to VIP material to a few select students.
Enrollments Closed – If you are running an Autumn and a Spring class every year with limited access, this is the option to stop new students from registering, but keep it visible to inspire interest and let your class have access to it.

Create a Structure and Add the Course Material

Go to the tab “Contents” of your course and add your first section. Then, choose from a list of Learning Units to upload to your newly created online course:

Note that Quizzes are just used for self-assessment and not formal exams. Students get immediate feedback on their answers but they are not getting a score at the end of the test. If you want to create a formal test then have a look at the Exam learning unit

Do you have your content in a word format? Upload and convert it into an interactive ebook.

Having a course without a content is not going to help (except if you are pre-launching your course). You don’t need to create everything from scratch.

Prepare the Landing/Sales Page

You got the course material, but you still have the sell the course. Click on the “Layout” tab, this is your course’s Landing Page. With LearnWorlds’ templates, you can create an awesome sales page that converts visitors to customers.

It’s as easy as choosing the template you like and editing it as you would a MS Word document or for Mac users a Pages document. Click here for a detailed guide 😉

Landing Page example

Common mistakes to avoid

Are you making an online course for the first time? You might be susceptible to common and easily avoidable mistakes. Follow these rules of thumb for a successful online course.

Lengthy videos

Attention spans are getting lower. Video courses should be lower than 20 minutes, avoid lengthy and crowded videos. There are three categories of video lengths:

Worrying too much

One of the worst mistakes. Being a perfectionist is one thing, but if you are overly worried about the quality, your audience or any other factors, your course will never get live, and that is the biggest of your problems.
Without trying, there is no chance of success. Give it a shot, test your market, make a sample course and try to get your first paying customer. Do not worry about all the details and make-up as you go. Use the lean startup method (and read the book, it’s an eye opener) on building your online course or any other venture.

Forgetting to Test

As all new ventures, testing your product with real users, friends and family is a great way to avoid silly mistakes. You might have forgotten to add a video, deleted a quiz you mention on the previous assignment or didn’t include a “buy button”.

Test your course and have someone proofread your landing pages and content for mistakes. When you work on a project, you tend to become “immune” to mistakes from the many times you have passed over the text.

How to Price Your Courses

Finding that sweet spot where your course price is attractive to your learners while earning enough money by selling online courses can be a tricky job.

There is a direct correlation between how much you charge for your course and the engagement level of your students.

The higher you charge, the more engaged learners will be. When you make your content free or cheap, people are less likely to trust it and have low expectations for results. If you increase the price, people inherently feel that they’re getting more value.

Course Earnings Calculator
How much money can you make with online courses?

Once people purchase your course, they immediately feel compelled to see a return on their investment. So, don’t hesitate to price your course as it deserves and not lower.

To help you further with this, keep in mind to price most of your courses well above $100. Only your smaller courses intended to attract new students should be priced below the $100 mark.

Also, don’t compete on pricing. The worst way to do marketing is by competing on pricing. You can do discounts to earn difficult or price sensitive clients, but a price competition with someone that offers a cheap course is not a solution. People buy because there is a connection, they perceive a higher quality or find the solution in their problems in your services. Learn more about how to price your course here.

Nurture Learners Into a Community

Τhe best value your students can ever get is from a community.

Although learning is somewhat of individual activity, it is still a social process. Learners love to communicate with people who are on the same journey with them and share ideas.

Besides, it is impossible for you, as an instructor, to have all the answers. By building a community around your course, what you’re doing is helping your students become self-sufficient and rely on the group more than they rely on you.

Create groups in your course, your blog or social media and initiate discussions.

Looking for ideas to create an engaging community? Then read 8 Ways to Build an Online Learning Community.

How to Market & Sell Online Courses

Get familiar with email marketing and use an ESP (email service provider).

Once you have created your awesome course for a certain audience, you shouldn’t stop here. Grow your email list as much as possible using email marketing techniques. For example, you can use lead magnets so that people pay you with their emails, capture emails from your website or through social media.

Through your newsletter offer to meet personally. When you take the time to invest in helping your students what you’re effectively doing is helping the long-term growth of your own business.

Selling online courses is a big deal, and much more than what we can say in a blog post, you can download our free ebook on how to sell online courses and find out how to grow your sales!

Free ebook
The Ultimate Guide
To Selling Online Courses
Discover how to make your online courses ready for sales and, most importantly, profitable.
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Growth Marketer at

Nick Malekos is the head Growth Marketer of LearnWorlds. He is a results based and well-rounded Digital Marketer with years of experience in the education industry that doubles as a youth trainer and volunteers’ coordinator in his free time.

Course Designer & Content Creator at LearnWorlds

Anthea is a Course designer and Content Creator for the LearnWorlds team. She holds years of experience in instructional design and teaching. With a Master of Education (M.Ed.) focused in Modern Teaching Methods & ICT (Information & Communications Technology), she supplements her knowledge with practical experience in E-Learning and Educational Technology.

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