How To Create An Online Course

One of the biggest hurdles in creating an online course is the technical challenge of producing engaging, relevant and high-quality content for your students. I've been working on creating some new online courses to add to my library and I wanted to share my process and some of the tools and resources that I use when I create an online course.

Course Creator Essentials:

  • Microphone (webcam optional)
  • Presentation software
  • Screen recording and editing software
  • Learning Management System

This guide is going to dig into some of the different tools that you can use to create and a launch your very first online course. Let's dig in. 

Validate Your Course Idea (market research)

Validating your idea for an online course is one of the most important steps you can take before you invest time in creating content. If there isn't an audience for the subject you want to teach, it will be that much harder to find students to take your course. 

You might already know that lots of people are interested in your idea but the real question is; how are you going to turn that audience and that idea in a profitable course?

My best advice for validating your course idea is to use existing course marketplaces like Udemy and Skillshare to spy on other instructors and their courses.

Go to one of these sites and search for your topic or niche. More than likely, there will already be a few courses on the subject you want to teach. That's okay! You're next step is look at the engagement these instructors are getting. 

 
My online course landing page on Udemy.
 

Things To Look For:

  • How many students do they have?
  • How much are they charging?
  • What kind of reviews do they have? Are they good? Bad?
  • What is the video and sound quality like?

Looking at competitor courses is an extremely valuable asset. They'll give you an idea if there is an audience that is hungry to learn about your subject. You can also find pain points in the student experience and work to create a course that addresses those pain points. Look at bad reviews and find ways that you can provide those unsatisfied students with better content. 

Some 1-star reviews for my online course.

Some 1-star reviews for my online course.

Google Trends Online Course Validation

You can also use tools as simply as Google Search and Google Trends to find out the popularity certain keywords and phrases. Using the Keyword Planner Tool in Google AdWords, you can find out the search traffic volume and competition of any given keyword in Google.

Another strategy is to browse YouTube tutorials for videos with lots of views and mediocre content. If a certain topic or pain point is being watched for and searched on YouTube, there's a good chance that there is a sizeable audience to be found with an online course.

You can also gain insight into how well other instructors are doing by visitor their profiles and running their websites through tools like SpyFu and SimilarWeb. These competitive analysis tools will tell you roughly how much traffic they're receiving and how well they're ranking for certain terms.

Equipment and Tools For Course Creators

You can bootstrap an online course with a really small budget -- you probably have all the equipment you need to get started right now. Don't fret about buying expensive microphones, webcams or editing software just yet. 

As we mentioned earlier, all you need to create an online course is;

  • A microphone
  • Slideshow software
  • Screen recording software
  • Editing software

The great news is that you can find all this equipment for free (or extremely cheap). Let's jump into some of the different options you have when it comes to your equipment. 

Microphones

Microphones are an abundant and affordable technology. Most laptops come built-in with a webcam and microphone (albeit, not a very good one). Your audio quality is an incredibly important aspect of your course -- if your audio sucks, people won't want to watch it.

USB microphones are perfect for course creators as they are usually affordable and provide decent enough quality for courses and tutorials. Here are some options for microphones;

  • Built-in webcam microphone (free)
  • Your Smartphone (free)
  • Blue Snowball iCE ($60)
  • Audio Technica ATR2500 ($120)
  • Blue Yeti ($200)

Slideshow Software

Slides are a hallmark of online courses. Why? Because it's natural to present a course in the form of a slideshow presentation. Since the early days of PowerPoint, teachers have been using presentation software to guide students to a new topic. Nowadays, there are countless slideshow softwares to choose from. Here are some great options for creating course slideshows. 

  • Google Slides
  • Microsoft Powerpoint
  • Prezi

Screen Recording Software

You're going to need some way to record all your videos and that's where screen recording software fits. Screen recorders do just that -- they record your screen. When you've finished recording and going through each individual lesson, the screen recorder will export a video file for you to use. 

There are many different screen recorders, from full-blown desktop apps to little browser extensions. I will always recommend NOT to invest a lot of money when you are first starting out.

Browser Extensions/Apps

These screen recorders can be added right into your browser. This is perfect if you are going through slides or doing web tutorials. Most of these browser extensions are completely free so you should have no problem finding one that you like. 

Desktop Apps

Most desktop screen recording apps requires an investment as they are usually more feature packed and include an editing. Still, if you are looking to up your game and you're fine with throwing down some cash, desktop apps are a solid choice.

Editing Webapps

These apps are a little limited in scope but will often do the job just fine. The YouTube Video Editor is my top recommendation for a free video editing software.

Editing Software

Most of these apps cost a lot of money (and for good reason). They are fully-featured NLEs (Non-Linear Editing Programs) that are considered industry-standard for film and television -- with the exception of iMovie. 

  • Adobe Premiere
  • Final Cut Pro
  • Sony Vegas Pro
  • iMovie

Image Editing Software

Creating awesome images can be hard, especially if you're not a designer. Use these awesome (and free tools) to create images for your course.

Explainer Video Software

Explainer videos are great for promos and introductions. These apps allow you to create animated "explainers" - short videos designed to explain your unique value proposition. Most explainer software costs money but include a free and watermarked plan. 

Stock Photos

Stock photos aren't an essential part of creating an online course, but it's good to have a few resources in your back pocket when it comes to high quality and aesthetically pleasing stock photos. 

Where To Sell Your Online Course

You've done all this work and created an awesome online course; but now what? You need to host it of course! There are countless course hosting and learning management systems (LMS) that you can use to host your course but essentially it boils down to two main categories;

  1. Sell on a marketplace,
  2. Sell on independently.

Course Marketplaces

Course Platforms

WordPress Plugins

Conclusion

This short guide has just scratched the surface on the tools you can use to create an online course. As you set about outline and recording your own course, try using different tools and see what works for you and your workflow. Creating a course can be a daunting task but with a solid set of tools and some gumption, there's no stopping you.