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Starting an online school in 2024 can mark the beginning of an exciting journey.
With online learning becoming more widespread and the e-learning market and the education industry growing exponentially, selling online courses offers an easy and accessible way for everyone to learn a new skill and an opportunity to invest in knowledge.
Being able to transmit that knowledge in the best way possible is a skill on its own.
Before you move on, if you plan to launch your online school and sell courses or training, LearnWorlds is the all-in-one course platform you need.
Try LearnWorlds with a 30-day free trial, and start building your courses today!
Education is a beautiful gift and should always come in a beautifully wrapped package ready to be delivered to learners – regardless if these are called students or employees.
Just like learning coach, Connie Malamed says:
Table of contents
- Step 1: Choose a Platform
- Step 2: Validate Your Idea
- Step 3: Find a Profitable Topic
- Step 4: Your School’s Branding and Website
- Step 5: The Tools You Will Need
- Step 6: Connect the Analytics and Know Your Numbers
- Step 7: Sales & Marketing Features
- Step 8: Schedule Automated Email Notifications
- Step 9: Most Important Settings of an Online Academy
- Step 10: Go Live
- Infographic: 10 Steps to Starting Your Online School or Academy
Step 1: Choose a Platform to Build Your Online Courses
However, each one comes with its features, tools, and capabilities for building and promoting high-quality online courses, for learners’ enrollment and community management, and it’s essential to choose the LMS customized to your needs.
Using a state-of-the-art online learning management system like LearnWorlds will make your academy the must-go learning destination in your industry.
An Online Course Platform with Community
Modern online academies come with a community to strengthen social learning, interact with students, and connect people with similar audiences.
Be sure your platform has all the built-in features you need to nurture a strong learning community. Below, you can see the example of LearnWorlds’ online community features.
Use AI to Create & Manage Your School
AI can help create material for your course, posts for the community, and even give feedback on learning activities & assignments.
LearnWorlds’ AI Assistant does all of the above and even more!
Step 2: Validate Your Online Course Idea
Developing an online course is time and resource-intensive. It would be best if you first validated your learning subject before setting out to create one.
To test whether your idea has potential, you must first condense it into a value proposition. You can make a list of questions that address your audience’s needs and traits for online education. The answers to these questions will help you refine your idea.
Here’s a sample list of such questions:
During the validation process, you will most probably identify competitors with a similar course. Ensure your elevator pitch stands out from the competition by demonstrating how your online course differs from others.
Besides, it would help if you also made a forecast for a small budget to promote your online course through paid advertising. Also, run the numbers to know how much it will cost to develop and run a pilot program, the course itself, and the course revenue you need to make your desired profit.
Move on to analyzing the demand for creating new content compared to the content you already have for the specific course. You can search online or utilize a keyword suggestion tool to identify the relevant search terms and phrases people commonly use to learn more about your course’s subject.
Dig deeper and talk to your target audience -either by emailing them a brief poll or through your online community- to identify challenges that your course can solve or in-depth skills that your learners want to excel in after participating in your online course. You can run a quick people search online in case you don’t have the contact details of your target audience.
You can also use lead magnets that address the same topics as the course you want to create to identify if there actually is a demand for the specific course subject. Suggest people download pieces of content from your website (e.g., checklists, reports, or ebooks) by providing their email addresses.
Another way you can validate your idea for an online course before investing time and money into designing and implementing it is to run a pilot program or a webinar.
The pilot program/webinar will allow you to try out your idea on a group of learners (aka your online course’s beta testers). You can create just a couple of course sections of your online course with just enough content to deliver results to your beta testers.
Step 3: Find a Profitable Topic for your Online Course
Once you have your virtual school’s website up and running, it’s time to get some learning content on there.
All you need to come up with your own is to find a profitable idea for a course and then work on that idea to create e-learning content. Prefer to choose a subject that you are passionate and knowledgeable about or is relevant to your online business industry that your learners can follow easily via remote learning.
Create an outline for our online course
To create a course outline, you will need to divide the course curriculum into main topics and sub-topics. Set the course sections apart by the level of difficulty, a specific pedagogical approach, or any other category you prefer.
It might help to brainstorm ideas on how to teach the subject, research the literature, search the web, and look at what others in relevant topics are doing.
Download Our Free Online Course Outline Templates:
Choose your learning method
Decide on a learning method or a blended approach you want to follow and stick with it. This will define the type of content and activities and the format of your whole academy, since it’s not just about the course, but about the learning environment where your teaching is taking place.
Remember that learning does not happen in a social vacuum, but rather in a social environment with multiple variables. Besides, this is what a successful online academy is all about.
Learning online and especially in an ecosystem that is part of your website, has several interactions you can consider or leverage. This includes social activities, group study, forums, or educators’ feedback through messages or email.
Upload your first online course
If you have already prepared training material on the subject – video, text documents, or blog posts, you are one step ahead as you can reuse your content in the course. However, if you are creating new content from scratch, our step-by-step guide on creating online courses can give you the best guidelines.
Once you have prepared your learning material, you can upload them on the LearnWorlds platform by following our quick instructions below:
Click on the “Create Course” button and go through the course creation process.
Give a catchy title to the course, select a user-friendly URL for it, select the type of access for the course, and choose an image that goes with it. And that’s it.
Then, you are ready to start editing the course layout:
and you can add your content and learning activities section by section:
Depending on the kind of learning, training, or coaching you will be doing, you will probably use various learning activities. The most common learning activities on courses are ebooks, PDFs, videos, and audio lessons.
You can elevate all your learning activities using LearnWorlds’ powerful Assessment Builder, which enables you to easily create assessments, quizzes, exams, and certificates, or you can even upload your own SCORM/HTML5 packages.
Adding the learning material
Putting all of this into practice means thinking about how you can use the learning materials and the tools you have in your inventory most engagingly. This should help to create an enhanced learning experience and increase the number of students.
A video is a powerful tool for delivering online education. It is a vehicle of communication that increases student participation. When using the right video editing equipment and choosing its place carefully, a video can do wonders.
Insert a short 1-2 minute intro video to your course, and you will see the difference. With LearnWorlds, you can create interactive videos while adding interactive elements and activities – like captions, inside them. Try them out to avoid boring content and offer something unique!
The most commonly used medium for delivering education online and offline is the written word. While the video might be popular and considered high-value, many people prefer to read.
Text documents are much easier to produce. They allow more knowledge to be retained and are more familiar to us since childhood. They may take the form of educational leaflets, guides, reports, case studies, or any material you have used before in offline training.
PDF is the best format to use for your Word documents, or you can spice them up using the LearnWorlds’ Ebook Authoring Tool to create a web-friendly ebook.
With LearnWorlds interactive ebook, you help students mark up parts of the text, take notes, and highlight essential sections.
Regardless of what you choose to add, you can adjust the teaching environment and output to suit the course subject’s needs.
What’s great about creating courses this way is that it gives you the ability to add any elements you want inside your course to make it as unique as it can be and centered around your students’ learning needs.
Step 4: Your School’s Branding and Website
First off, start building a website that will host your online school. A landing page is the first page your website visitors will ‘land on,’ so it makes sense to begin from there.
While working on it, make sure to invest in your brand identity. Add your logo, change the colors of the theme you are using, and the fonts.
The LearnWorlds Site Builder is doing a fantastic job on this since it offers the ability to personalize your website within minutes, without the need for any technical or coding skills.
Choosing a unique website template
You will find a rich collection of templates to choose from and customize as you see fit on the Site Builder. Selecting and editing yours is super easy and feels like editing a Microsoft Word or Mac pages file!
With this handy tool, you can get creative with the colors of your brand and the logo to create a landing page that is customized to your personal or professional brand, message, and audience.
Also, you can use it to choose the right font that suits the style you want to create for your online academy.
Choosing the right templates, especially for the header image, is crucial because it is a make-it-or-break-it move. If your landing page can’t entice your site visitors to read your content within a matter of seconds, then they will reach immediately for the X button, and the opportunity is lost.
Similarly, you can create any page that either has to offer more to the current students of your education website, helps to get new ones onboard your academy, or serves a specific goal you want to achieve.
For some more advanced customizations, you can also customize the CSS code and customize each course’s player to create a unique experience.
As you can see, with the LearnWorlds Site Builder, possibilities are endless, and there is no need to spend money on expensive tools, hosting, and maintenance to set up your school’s website.
With it, you have all you need to create the most stunning pages and fill them with videos, images, text styles, or even embed and mirror external content. In short, we have you covered!
Step 5: The Tools You Will Need
Every business has an essential toolset to help them manage different aspects of it, automate repetitive tasks, or improve productivity.
LearnWorlds comes equipped with many of these tools as built-in functionalities, integrations, and connects with the top software tool providers to take care of the rest.
Some of those come as direct integrations or can be connected by using Zapier.
So, what are the essential tools for an e-learning business?
Email marketing software
Email is the king of marketing software for the web. Each business owner or marketer likes to use their favorite email marketing software to communicate with their students and sell online classes.
We have connected with eight of the most popular email marketing software: Mailchimp, Active Campaign, AWeber, Convertkit, GetResponse, Constant Contact, MailerLite, and Moosend, to make your life easier.
If you are using any other email marketing tool, chances are it integrates with LearnWorlds through a Zapier integration.
Referral & Affiliate Tool
Referral management tools are usually quite expensive, and you need to test a few before you see what works for you. This is why we have created our own built-in affiliate management tool that works incredibly well for recruiting your students as affiliates to promote your courses.
Invite your students, influencers, and partners to join your online school and your affiliate program and grow your education business!
To start using Affiliate Management, you need to have a Pro trainer or a higher plan. Then, you log into your school, navigate to the “Marketing Tools” menu, and you click on “Affiliate Management.”
Got to “Setup” and Switch to ‘On’ to enable the affiliate program:
Adjust your settings by setting your desired commission rate, expiration date, and duration for the commission payable:
And manage all of your affiliate marketing efforts through the main dashboard.
Productivity apps, Zapier, and others
Productivity apps are everything that makes your job easier. From a HubSpot CRM to an automation software like Zapier.
Anything that makes tedious tasks not an issue can help you manage your business more efficiently and save you the valuable time you would otherwise spend on activities that need more attention.
You can create LearnWorlds Zaps to automate an abundance of repetitive workflows.
💁 Learn more about LearnWorlds integrations powered by zapier in this article.
API, SSO & Custom code
An API can be used for more complex connections and custom work for businesses with in-house technical expertise. Whether you are looking to create a seamless transition between your website, automate tasks from in-house software, or any other tasks that cannot be achieved with simple integration.
💁 Please take a look at our API documentation here.
The API is also an essential part of the Single-Sign-On (SSO) capability, which allows you to seamlessly transition from your website’s login process to an online academy without requiring the students to log in twice with different credentials. We have also built an easy-to-implement WordPress SSO plugin to make this even more comfortable!
You can use it for redirecting new users to your favorite youtube video, showing a popup to all users tagged as premium, wishing happy birthday to your students with an alert instead of a section, and much more. Read more about the custom code editor here.
Step 6: Connect the Analytics and Know Your Numbers
The course content is on the site, and everything is working as it should. What’s next?
Before you are ready to launch your academy and start receiving enrollments, you need to set up your analytics tools. This is a crucial step to take since such tools can help you assess your online academy’s overall business model performance in terms of website traffic and brand exposure.
Google Analytics is an industry-leading tool that allows you to monitor web traffic and can be easily integrated with your virtual learning academy.
💁 To connect Google Analytics with your school, follow these steps.
Also, out of the many analytics and monitoring integrations you can get with LearnWorlds is Facebook Pixel, another powerful tool to use. With it, you can leverage the actions people take on your website across devices to create more effective Facebook advertising campaigns.
💁 To connect Facebook Pixel with your school, follow these steps.
This is the big-boy player of analytics. Mixpanel allows for more advanced tracking and analysis of users.
💁 If you are looking to track user interactions in more detail, our Mixpanel integration will solve everything for you!
Step 7: Sales & Marketing Features
Just like with any business, your online academy needs to follow a marketing plan. Adopting a marketing strategy can help sell your online courses and gradually grow your students number.
These are the tools that help you sell your digital products, such as online courses, online classes, and online training, create offers, manage promotions, and upsell to your customers. LearnWorlds comes with built-in marketing tools such as the following:
Create a bundle of courses to upsell to your customers. Sell more courses in one quick swoop and offer a great offer to your customers by grouping similar courses together into one big bundle.
For example, if you have four courses worth $325 in total if bought individually, you can bundle them up and offer them at the price of $150 to entice people to buy them all at once. Here’s how you can create a course bundle:
First, go to Marketing Products and choose “Bundles”:
Click on ‘Create bundle,’ and then another window will open up to choose the courses you want to bundle up and their price.
Promotions / Coupons
Another way to increase interest in your courses is by offering promotional coupons with or without an expiry date. Coupons can be used for unique offerings, sharing with partners, or loyal customers as a gift.
They are also great for discount periods, sharing them by email or on coupon sites to attract first-time remote learning customers.
To create a promotion or coupon, go to ‘Marketing Tools,’ ‘Promotions (Coupons),’ and click on ‘Create Course/Bundle Promotion.’
Then, give your promotion a name, decide the discount for it, and select the courses for which the promotion will apply.
Create a coupon code by giving it a name, setting the maximum number of times this coupon can be used, and choosing an expiration date for it. And that’s it!
💁 For more details on how to create and share promotional coupons, go through these steps.
Lead captures are an excellent tool for getting people to opt-in to your email list. For it to work, you need to offer your school website visitors the option to join your email newsletter subscription.
Get them to complete an online form to opt-in and ask them to give you their contact details, e.g., their name and email address, through an online form.
As an extra incentive, you can also offer a free course, an ebook, a PDF document, or a checklist related to the subject of your course and get them more interested in it.
Step 8: Most Important Settings of an Online Academy
Having your own online academy goes beyond building a website, a course landing page, and customizing the email notifications. You will need tools & options that can give you absolute control, and you can find these listed in your LearnWorlds school admin menu.
On this menu, you can find various customizable settings for even the slightest detail and make the academy of your dreams a reality:
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Site settings: Sign in/up & Navigation
First of all, controlling the students’ experience is more than mere settings; it also defines who is allowed to log in to your course platform, and in what cases you can block a user from signing up or enable social logins.
This is the Sign in/up screen. Be sure to check the settings there and customize it to work for your dream school!
This is even more important if you plan to allow only paid users through 1-click funnels or operate a private school for specific users you want to enroll.
By clicking on the navigation option below, you will see the Site Navigation options. From there, you can control how a student navigates through your school.
LearnWorlds allows you to control the complete learning and customer journey, from redirects, force logout, sign-ups, pre-registrations, and more!
Go through the General Settings
Deleted: The last section on the left side of your school’s menu is the ‘Settings’ menu. Be sure to go through those at least once.
It’s essential to control the students’ experience, regardless of whether you have a fully open or private social environment.
LearnWorlds sends several emails automatically. You have already received one saying that you have registered for the school.
In the notification settings, you will choose which emails are going to the instructor or the admins and which emails go to the students.
You can also customize the emails and the signature of those emails. It’s a good idea to give your personal touch to those emails.
Note: The emails are always in English. If you have changed the language of the school, the emails will also need to be changed.
Video hosting is included in all plans when using LearnWorlds. If you are already using your Vimeo or Wistia account and wish to keep using that, you can connect them with LearnWorlds to manage the videos directly from there.
Here, you will also be able to change some typical settings, like how videos appear in the course player, and adjust the transcripts’ settings.
Interactive transcripts are a premium feature for the Learning Center and the High Volume & Corporate plans. You can read more about it here.
Learning apps are applications/features within LearnWorlds that you can enable, disable, and manage from here. These are:
You have probably already seen the Access, Pricing, Settings, and Course Player tabs when creating and updating your course.
Those are all basic settings you need to go through before launching.
Those are the settings on how students access the course and its contents. Is your course paid, still a draft, coming soon, free, or private? Do you release content weekly or 10 days after a student enrolls?
The price of your course, the discounts connected to it, and how to show the course’s payment options. Is this course in a bundle or a subscription? Can the course be purchased at a discount with certain coupons?
Your course’s name, description, labels, images, category, and SEO fields.
How does your course player look? We have five themes and even more customization options to show up information and your students’ progress.
Course Navigation / Prerequisites / Completion:
Course navigation is located under the Course Player settings. This is an essential part for anyone delivering continuing professional education (CPE) training or any other accredited or not program that needs to lock activities before progressing to the next activity. Read more about it here.
It’s also where you can set the requirements for the completion of the course.
Double-check the sections
Check that all units are either Free or Paid. While working on your course contents, you might have forgotten to change a finished draft section into paid/free, so your students will not be able to see it.
On the other hand, if you are offering only a few sections and still working on the last ones, remember to make them “draft” or “coming soon.”
Test the content
While you are looking through the course settings, you will want to see that everything works correctly. Creating one or more test users is important.
A test user can be yourself with a secondary email that is a simple user without admin privileges, a colleague, or a friend helping you check that everything works well.
It’s pretty easy. All you need is to add a user, add a name, email, and then change the password to the one you will remember.
💁 You can see the full process of how to create a test user account by reading this article.
Remember to also check the purchase journey by making a test purchase in Sandbox mode. Read more here.
Customize the Email Notifications or Send Mass Emails
Using email as your primary channel of communication between you and your students (and customers) comes with an added advantage: Automated Email Notifications.
These are “the voice” of your school, and you can send them out to your learners whenever certain events take place in your academy.
You can choose whether to:
Through our notification center, divided into nine different sections, you can create and edit the text of the emails you want to send out.
Customizing your email notifications comes with a few handy guides. Go through them to create a dedicated message for each notification:
There is also the option to send automated emails when drip-feeding the course content. Create an email course sequence or a notification when new course sections become available, and make sure to customize each email in the sequence.
Pricing the course
One of the biggest challenges course creators need to face is determining the price of their course.
💁 There are many tactics for pricing your course, and we have written an Ultimate Guide on How to Price Your Course.
Financials: Payment Gateways, Currency & Invoices
Chances are, you are expecting to get paid for your course, am I right? If not, you are either offering the courses for free, manually enrolling users, or using our API to do so.
It would help if you didn’t forget to connect your payment gateway – through which you will set up the sales and receive the money.
You can even have two or more payment gateways if you will combine, for example, PayPal payments with a Stripe Checkout.
⚠ Just remember, Stripe is the only payment gateway that supports subscriptions and payment plans.
Click on the one that works for you, follow the installation instructions, and let the sales flow. 🙂
Local Payment Gateways
LearnWorlds is also the only one adding local payment gateways for specific European countries such as:
You can also accept payments (subscription plans are not supported) through Klarna, Afterpay/Clearpay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.
💁 Read more about these local payment gateways that work using Stripe here.
Go through the integrations
LearnWorlds integrates with your favorite tools, whether that’s the software you are using to send mass emails, track visits to your website, or add a chat bubble!
If we don’t have an integration, then this is probably achievable using Zapier. For example, connecting Mailchimp with LearnWorlds will automatically sync all emails to your Mailchimp account, so your lists are always ready without additional work.
You can see all the integrations here or visit your school to check them out!
Connect your domain
Your trial LearnWorlds account looks something like myschool.learnworlds.com. This is not the best way to promote your brand (but it’s not uncommon). A website that owns its domain name is more inviting and trustworthy because it looks credible.
The white-label option can help you sell more courses or price them higher while at the same time differentiating you from the competition.
If you already own a website or a domain name, then you can connect that to your LearnWorlds account. You will need to choose whether to use your main domain as your school’s website or a sub-domain. How does that work?
Let’s say you own www.myperfectonlinecourse.com. You can connect your school to that address.
But, if you already have a website or blog connected to the domain, then you don’t want to lose that. Here comes the sub-domain to save the day!
You can create a subdomain like “academy” and connect your school there. In this case, it looks like academy.myperfectonlinecourse.com.
Popular subdomains for this case are:
💁 Learn more about setting up your custom domain in this useful article published by our stellar customer support team, and build your own branded academy in no time.
Step 9: Get Inspired by Successful Course Creators!
You are now ready to launch. All you are missing is the right funnel and a marketing/sales strategy!
But, before we go to the next step, you are probably looking for some inspiration on how others have built their academies on LearnWorlds.
We have some incredible success stories to share, of course, creators who achieved success using LearnWorlds to create & deliver their online courses:
Example 1: LEARNPEDIA AUSTRALIA
Industry: Structural Engineering
Learnpedia trains engineers through a hands-on traineeship program supported by elearning courses. Training a young generation of engineers on the engineering standards of Australia and the most important engineering design software.
Example 2: Code and Compile
Industry: Industrial Programming & Automation
Code and Compile teaches Factory Automation, PLC Programming, HMI, AC Drives, and IIoT. Boost your skills in Node-RED, OPC UA, MySQL, and MQTT!
Along with the courses, the school has a vibrant community of students who interact, share, and learn together.
Example 3: European Institute of Esthetics
Industry: Beauty & Esthetics
EIE teaches students everything they need to know about Spas and MediSpas. Graduates receive the knowledge and skills employers seek in today’s competitive market.
Offering both beginner and advanced diploma-level education on esthetics to begin a career as a professional in the beauty industry.
Step 10: Go Live
Going live means that you make your academy publicly available to people. Now is the time to start setting up and selling your courses.
There are numerous ways that you can start promoting your brand new online school and announce your online courses even before they go live. One of the most effective ways, especially if you already have an email list of subscribers, is to create an email sequence campaign to raise anticipation.
The great thing about sequence emails is that you can write them once and then use an email marketing tool to send them directly to subscribers.
Here are More Resources to Help You Create and Sell Online Courses
Our very own LearnWorlds Academy is here to save the day and educate you on creating and selling online courses. Sign up for the LearnWorlds Academy and enroll in our online courses for free:
💡 Go through our ebooks and checklists and download them for free, or read our large collection of articles on our blog!
Putting the work into creating, marketing, and selling your online courses, offers you the potential to transform from a startup to making a six-figure income. Besides, everything is possible with an LMS, an online teaching platform that can adapt to your learning business model and is branded as your own virtual school.
So, make sure to start your own free trial with LearnWorlds today and start creating amazing learning experiences!
Infographic: 10 Steps to Starting Your Online School or Academy
Nick Malekos is a Senior Digital Marketer in LearnWorlds. He is a results based and well-rounded Digital Marketer with years of experience in the education industry, writer and digital literacy trainer.
Rosemary is LearnWorlds’ Content Marketing Manager. She has over 2 decades of experience in omnichannel marketing and content writing for the IT and SaaS industry. Her expertise lies in crafting effective content marketing strategies that attract, engage, and nurture customers, enabling LearnWorlds to reach its target audiences with precision.