Are you a subject-matter expert, educator, or training company who wants to create and sell profitable online courses?
We understand it. It’s a completely valid idea.
Today, people are turned off by flashy marketing and empty promotions; they want value.
So, if you’re someone with expertise in a subject or field and can add value to others’ personal or professional life, online courses are a great way to share your knowledge with your target audience.
You can create online courses and promote your offerings while enlightening your audience and giving them something valuable.
But all this still isn’t enough to understand the need for creating an online course, is it?
So, let’s start with the basics and work our way up to discover how to create an online course with easy steps.
What Is an Online Course?
An online course is an educational or training program delivered over the internet. This enables learners worldwide to access and complete these programs through an online training platform, such as a learning management system (LMS).
It’s similar to a traditional course or class, but instead of attending physical lectures or sessions, you can learn at your own pace and convenience using a PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
Online courses may contain a series of lessons or modules and they can be designed for various levels of learners, from beginners to professionals.
Online courses can be offered by K-12, colleges, universities, businesses, non-profits, government agencies, or subject-matter experts.
Generally, these courses include engaging elements like videos, interactive quizzes, community forums, and live webinars, and learners can engage in self-paced learning.
The ability to access anytime, anywhere, and flexibility in scheduling are other hallmarks of an online course.
By enrolling in an online course, you gain access to structured content, expert knowledge, and a learning community that can support your personal or professional goals. It’s a convenient and accessible way to acquire new knowledge, develop skills, or enhance your expertise in a specific area without the need to physically attend a classroom.
What Are the Benefits of Creating an Online Course?
There are many reasons to create an online course. It offers several benefits to individuals and businesses that are using it for different purposes. So, we’ve segregated the benefits into three broad categories based on who creates the courses and why.
- Potentially gain more customers or clients by educating them on your products and industry trends.
- You can sell courses and increase revenue streams as an additional source of income.
- It helps develop credibility and establish authority in your industry.
- It allows you to emerge as an industry leader by showing your expertise.
For training managers:
- Enables managers to streamline online employee training through training automation.
- Cuts training development costs as you can create an online course once and reuse it multiple times.
- Online courses are widely accessible, allowing employees to learn at their own pace and schedule.
- You can easily create engaging and interactive courses to make workplace learning informative and exciting.
Watch: How to Create Employee Training Courses Online
Here’s a case study from Health First that highlights how it benefited from creating and sharing online health insurance training courses with its executives.
For online educators/subject-matter experts:
- Offers a global platform to share your knowledge and help others achieve their goals.
- A great source of passive income since you can publish and sell your courses online.
- Helps you develop a personal brand and come through as a leading figure in your niche.
- Offers opportunities to work on the topics you’re passionate about and connect with others with shared interests.
Now, let’s move on to the heart of the discussion: how to make an online course.
12 Steps to Create an Online Course
Whether you’re doing it for the first time or the nth time, the following best practices for building an online course can help you master the process and produce quality courses easily and quickly.
Watch: How to Create Online Training Courses
1. Pick the Right Topic
One of the most crucial steps when creating an online course is picking the course topic. It should be something you’re passionate about, have expertise in, and you can talk about confidently.
Choosing the right topic ensures your course is engaging, relevant, and valuable to your target audience.
Before settling on a topic, make sure you conduct user research, identify gaps in existing courses, and analyze the interests and needs of your target audience.
2. Choose Your Course Type
Another vital step for making an online course is to determine the type of course you want to create. Some of the most common types of online courses are:
- Self-paced courses
- Instructor-led courses
- Hybrid courses (a combination of self-paced and instructor-led)
- Live courses
- Microlearning courses
Your choice of course type should depend on your goals and target audience. For instance, a self-paced course would be ideal if you want to provide maximum flexibility to your learners. In contrast, an instructor-led course would better suit learners who prefer a more structured learning experience.
Hybrid courses are great for learners who need flexibility while also requiring some level of interaction with an instructor.
Microlearning courses are ideal for learning in short bursts, especially by employees who don’t work behind a desk like constructor workers. They can learn on the go while out in the field.
For businesses, microlearning and self-paced courses are the best bet. They can create such digital courses for the following training types:
- Training remote employees
Watch: How to Train Remote Employees Effectively
Watch: How to Create an Employee Onboarding Training Program
- Skills development programs
An online course builder like ProProfs Training Maker can help you create courses and add engaging and interactive elements. You can leverage its library of ready-to-use courses and templates, add multimedia, and quizzes and assessments.
Watch: How to Design Online Training Courses Effortlessly
3. Research Market Demand
Once you know the topic that interests you for your online course, you must check whether there’s a demand for it on the market. This will validate your online course idea.
Ask these three questions to pre-sell your digital course and gauge its market demand:
- Are people searching for and asking about this topic?
- Is there anything your competition doesn’t cover or doesn’t cover well?
- Will someone spend money to solve the problem your course addresses?
You can conduct user research surveys using online survey tools like Qualaroo. The idea is to collect feedback from the target audience to see the level of demand for your online course topic.
As a business, if you’re designing a course for customers, you can launch surveys on your website or app to see the gaps in your content strategy so that you can create online courses on topics that are valuable to your customers.
As for internal training, you can create surveys for employees to identify their skills gaps and plan your training course accordingly.
Conducting thorough market research and analyzing trends can help you identify if there is a demand for your course. You can also explore popular online course platforms to identify trending topics.
Note: Don’t discard a topic just because it has high competition. High competition means there’s a thriving market for the course. However, it doesn’t guarantee the success of your course either. It simply helps you reach a wider audience.
Watch: How to Sell Your Quizzes and Courses Online
4. Set Practical Goals
Learning goals are simple statements that tell prospects the expected learning outcomes. Creating compelling learning goals is an essential part of designing effective online courses.
A well-crafted learning goal helps guide the course design, engage learners, and ensure they achieve the desired outcomes.
For instance, if the online course is about social media marketing, the learning goals could include the following:
- Identifying the target audience
- Creating engaging social media content
- Measuring the success of social media campaigns
Each goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART), which helps learners understand what they are expected to achieve and how to track their progress.
Watch: How to Set SMART Goals | Training Course Introduction
Note: Your goals should fill the gaps left by competitors and provide what users want to achieve.
5. Diversify Your Sources
When creating an online course, gathering all the necessary content from diverse sources is key. You should consult textbooks, academic journals, research papers, online articles, video lectures, and audio recordings.
For example, if you’re creating a course on marketing, you can collect relevant case studies and articles from popular marketing blogs like HubSpot, Neil Patel, and MarketingProfs.
Another helpful resource for course content is online courses and tutorials that cover similar topics, as they can provide valuable insights and examples to build upon.
Gathering content from various sources can help you create a comprehensive and engaging online course for your learners.
6. Use Modules
Structuring your course plan is essential when creating an online course. One effective way to do this is by breaking it down into smaller and manageable modules or units.
You can also create a storyboard to organize your materials, add structures to them, and create a skeleton of your course.
For example, if you’re creating a course on graphic design, you could create modules on color theory, typography, etc. After that, each module could be further broken down into lessons or topics, such as color psychology or using grids in design.
Another helpful way to structure your course plan is organizing your modules and lessons in order of complexity, starting with the basics and gradually moving to more advanced topics.
You can also include interactive elements, such as quizzes and assessments, using tools like ProProfs Quiz Maker to make the courses more engaging and motivate users to complete them.
7. Identify the Best Method and Platform
If you want to keep your learners interested and motivated till the end, find an engaging and effective course delivery method.
One way to do this is to use multimedia elements, such as videos, images, and infographics, to explain complex concepts.
For example, if you’re creating a course on cooking, you could include video demonstrations of recipes or animated graphics to explain cooking techniques.
Another method is incorporating interactive elements, such as quizzes, polls, and discussion boards, to encourage active participation.
For instance, if you’re creating a course on marketing, you could include quizzes to test learners’ knowledge of marketing concepts or a discussion board to encourage them to share their creative ideas.
But to ace your delivery and do everything we just discussed, you need a reliable online course builder to get started quickly with creating a delightful online course.
You can rely on ProProfs Training Maker, an online course creation software, to develop online courses. It offers a vast course library and supports different media files, quizzes, surveys, games, learning pathways, and more.
8. Use Recording & Editing Software
As we discussed, adding media to a course makes learning fun and allows you to be more creative while sharing your knowledge and point of view. To begin with, it’s essential to have a high-quality camera and microphone to record your lectures or presentations.
Once you have recorded your content, you can use video editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro to edit and enhance your footage.
For instance, if you are creating a course on graphic design, you can record your screen using Photoshop or Illustrator to teach your audience how to use these tools effectively.
Ultimately, the key is to create high-quality content that is easy to follow and informative for your target audience.
9. Launch Your Course
After creating your online course, it’s time to launch it. Find an online course platform to host it. There are several options available, including popular learning management systems like Udemy, Coursera, and Skillshare.
These platforms allow you to upload your course content and provide a user-friendly interface for your audience to access your course. Alternatively, you can use a website builder like WordPress or Wix to create your custom website and host your course content.
It gives you more control over the design and branding of your course, and you can also use plugins and integrations to create a seamless learning experience for your audience.
Another option is to use video hosting platforms like Vimeo or YouTube to host your video courses and embed them on your website or LMS. It will work as a great marketing strategy to promote your course to new audiences by showing them a glimpse of what your course offers.
Watch: How to Share Your Courses With Learners
10. Set Up Your Pricing
When it comes to pricing your online course, there are several factors to consider.
- First, see how much your competitors are charging for similar courses. It will give you an idea of the market rate and help you determine a fair price for your course.
- Secondly, you should consider the value of your course and the amount of time and effort you have put into creating it. A course that offers unique and valuable content may be priced higher than one that covers similar topics but offers less value.
- Thirdly, you should consider your target audience and their budget. If your course is aimed at students or people on a tight budget, you may need to price it lower to make it affordable. On the other hand, if your course is aimed at professionals or businesses, you can price it higher to reflect its value.
Finally, you can experiment with different pricing models, such as offering a one-time fee, subscription-based pricing, or a payment plan. But of course, price is of no concern for businesses creating an in-house course.
11. Find Scope for Improvement
Whether it’s building a business from scratch or developing a course, you should always be on your toes to find areas of improvement. And what better way to do this than by asking your audience?
You can use online survey software to conduct in-course surveys at different touchpoints and gather valuable user feedback. This will throw light on what needs improvement, what needs to be added, and what needs to go.
Watch: How to Choose the Best Survey Software
12. Develop an Online Community
Creating a vibrant community around your online course can enhance the learning experience and improve retention rates for your participants. To turn participants into a community, you can create a forum or discussion board where learners can connect, ask questions, and share their experiences.
You can also leverage social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Discord to create groups where participants can engage with each other and build a sense of community.
Additionally, you can organize live Q&A sessions or webinars where participants can interact with you and other experts in the field in real-time.
For example, HubSpot invites users at different touch points throughout their courses to join their community to discuss their experience with the course, ask questions, and communicate with other users.
Creating challenges or group assignments can also foster collaboration and help participants feel like they are a part of a team.
By turning participants into a community, you can create a more engaging and rewarding learning experience and increase your learners’ chances of completing your course.
5 Silly Mistakes to Avoid
Now that you know how to create a custom online course, it’s wise to also look at the common mistakes you should avoid in the process.
1. Information Overload
While it may seem like you need to cover every aspect of a topic in great detail, this can overwhelm and deter potential learners. Dumping loads of information is a common mistake many course creators make when creating online courses.
How to avoid it: Rather than creating a specific course that covers everything at once, you can do two things:
- Focus on breaking the material into small chunks and delivering it in an engaging, interactive, and actionable way. It will keep your learners engaged, help them complete the course, and achieve their learning objectives.
- Divide the course into two parts and create two courses out of it, one covering the basics and the other covering the more complex information.
You can easily bypass this mistake by focusing on the key concepts and goals your learners need to know to achieve their learning objectives. Another effective strategy is to provide learners with actionable takeaways that they can apply to their work or personal lives.
For example, if you’re teaching a course on time management, you might provide learners with a checklist or template that they can use to organize their day-to-day activities.
2. Not Testing the Course
When you don’t conduct a test run of your online course before launching it, it can give rise to several drawbacks. First, it can lead to technical issues and errors that may disrupt the learning experience.
Secondly, your course may not be as user-friendly as you intended, leading to confusion or frustration among learners. It can also affect the credibility of your course and your reputation as an instructor.
Thirdly, the persisting issues in your online course can lead to poor course completion rates. Learners may drop out before completing the course.
This can impact your revenue and may also result in negative reviews or feedback, making it difficult to attract new learners in the future.
Not testing your course before officially launching it can result in missed opportunities to improve the course content and design.
How to avoid it: You can conduct sample testing with a small group of learners before launching it to gather feedback and make necessary changes.
3. Not Leveraging Gamification
Another common mistake many educators and training managers still make is overlooking the importance of gamified learning.
All of us prefer to see learning as a fun and exciting activity. When there are no game-like elements in a course, it can reduce engagement, decrease motivation, and increase the anxiety level among learners.
Gamification motivates learners to complete a course and earn rewards, leading to higher completion rates and better learning outcomes. It also encourages healthy competition among participants.
How to avoid it: Incorporate game elements such as learning paths, points, badges, scores, and leaderboards into the course content and design. For this, you may adopt a gamification LMS to promote habit-forming learning systems that stimulate learners and make learning eventful.
4. Failing to Leverage Marketing
Marketing is critical to the success of an online course because it builds brand awareness, attracts potential learners, and establishes your course as a valuable resource in your field.
When you disregard effective marketing, you would be unable to reach your target audience to a maximum capacity. This will affect your need to generate interest in your course, leading to poor enrollments and revenues.
How to avoid it: Here are some best practices for marketing an online course you can implement:
- Define your target audience and tailor the messaging to their needs and interests.
- Develop a clear value proposition that explains the benefits and outcomes of taking your course.
- Utilize multiple channels to promote your course, including social media, email marketing, and paid ads.
- Leverage the power of content marketing to build your brand and establish your course as a valuable resource.
- Engage with your audience and encourage them to share feedback and reviews, which can help build credibility and attract new learners.
- Provide incentives and promotions to encourage early enrollments and referrals.
- Continuously track and analyze your marketing efforts to optimize your strategies and improve the course’s performance.
5. Engaging in Underpricing
Underpricing your online course can have several negative consequences that can impact both your revenue and your brand reputation.
If your course is priced too low, potential learners may perceive it as a low-quality work or lacking in value, which can deter them from enrolling.
Similarly, underpricing your course can impact how they perceive your expertise and authority in your field.
If you offer a high-quality course that is priced significantly lower than comparable courses in your industry, potential learners may question your intention and take it as a tactic, which can harm your brand reputation and make it difficult to attract new learners in the future.
How to avoid it: Setting the right price for your online course is a strategic decision that requires careful consideration. For this, you need to understand your target audience and their income level. Also, you should determine the value of your course, evaluate competitor pricing, and consider the production costs.
Remember that pricing is not solely based on the time or effort you invested in creating the course but also on the perceived value by your target audience. Continuously evaluate market trends, learner feedback, and the competitive landscape to ensure your pricing remains competitive and aligned with the value you deliver.
Create Online Courses With ProProfs Training Maker
Now that you know the fundamentals of creating an online course, let’s look at the simple steps you can take to create your own online course. We’ve used ProProfs as an example here.
Watch: How to Create an Online Course
Step 1: Log into your account and click ‘Create a Course’ on your dashboard.
Step 2: Next, click ‘Create from Scratch’
Note: If you wish to use a template or a ready-to-use & customizable course, click ‘Create Using Templates’ or ‘Ready to Use Courses.’
Step 3: You’ll be directed to the course cover editor. You can customize the course cover using two settings: ‘Header’ & ‘General.’
Under the Header, you can add a cover image, course title & subtitle, course description, and more.
Under the General, you can add the course objectives, table of contents, information about the instructor, and other elements.
Step 4: Preview the course cover by clicking the ‘Preview’ button and look at the changes, or you can click ‘Done’ to go back to the editor.
Step 5: Here, you can add and edit course elements to customize it based on your needs.
Tip: Use our beautiful page templates with predefined sections and formatting to save time.
Step 6: You can preview the final design and once satisfied, click ‘Done’ to create your course.
You have successfully created a new online course. As you can see, it is easy to create online courses with a robust tool like ProProfs.
Start Creating and Selling Online Courses
Online courses can provide significant benefits to individuals and businesses. By creating the right courses that add value to professional and personal growth, you can reach a wider audience, establish yourself as a thought leader, and generate a steady revenue stream.
Use robust tools and best practices to create online courses and start sharing your knowledge with others. With the continued growth of eLearning, there has never been a better time to make a course.
But remember, the success of your online course also depends, apart from other factors, on the kind of course builder you use to make online courses. It can be the best starting point for your creative journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I create an online course for free?
Yes, you can. There are many solutions available for this. Several online learning platforms support the free creation, hosting, and distribution of courses. For example, some LMS software allow you to create an unlimited number of courses and other assignments, either from scratch or by using prebuilt and fully customizable courses and templates.
How to choose a topic for my online course?
Choosing the right topic for your online course becomes easy when you follow certain steps. Choose a topic that is within your expertise. Research your target audience’s needs and the problems they face. Evaluate the demand and competition for potential course topics. Seek a topic that balances your passion with market viability. Consider evergreen or trending topics since that will help your work stay relevant for a long time.
How do I structure the content of my online course?
The structure of a course decides how clear and engaging it is for your learners. To structure a course for best results, you should define the learning objectives at the outset, create a course outline, organize the content into modules or lessons, add a compelling introduction, and break down topics into small and easy-to-understand units. Also, try using different content formats, add relatable examples, and include a progress bar. Finally, summarize the key points at the end of each module to reinforce learning.
What software/tools should I use to create online courses?
To build online courses, you can use an authoring tool, either as a standalone system or integrated into an LMS. Generally, you’d need a course builder, screen recording software, video editing tool, graphic design tool, audio recording system, assessment tool, and file storage and sharing system. These platforms are designed for rapid authoring. Make sure the solution you choose is easy to use and doesn’t require any coding knowledge. Here’s a look at The 15 Best eLearning Authoring Tools & Software in 2023
What should be the length of my online course?
The length of your online course will vary depending on the topic, depth of content, learning objectives, and your target audience. There is no fixed rule for determining the ideal length of an online course, as it can range from a few hours to several weeks or even months. That said, it will help you to take into account the attention span and engagement level of your target audience. Also, consider the practicality of delivering and managing your course content. Longer courses may require more time and effort to create, update, and support. Research similar courses in your niche and analyze their durations.
How can I make my online course engaging/interactive?
To make your course highly engaging and interactive, you can add interactive videos, gamification, discussion forums, quizzes and assessments, real-world examples, exercises and activities, a feedback system, and microlearning. Interactivity should align with the learning objectives of your course and enhance the learning experience. Find out How to Add Text, Images, Audio, Videos, Docs & Presentations to a Course
How to create an online course to sell?
Creating a course to sell can be a rewarding endeavor. To get started, you should:
- choose a topic
- identify your target audience
- define the course objectives
- plan your course structure
- organize your course into modules or lessons
- create content
- add supplementary resources
- incorporate interactive elements
- create a sales page
- choose a platform
- set pricing and payment options
- market your course
- launch and gather feedback
Remember, creating a successful course requires continuous improvement and adaptation based on user feedback. Regularly update and refine your course content to ensure its relevance and effectiveness in meeting your audience’s needs.
How should I price my online course?
Pricing your online course is an important decision that can impact its perceived value, sales potential, and profitability. When determining the price, research the market, assess your expertise, determine the course content and duration, identify your target audience, factor in production costs, test and offer different pricing strategies, and monitor and adjust the pricing. Finding the right price may involve some trial and error. It’s important to strike a balance between pricing your course competitively and ensuring it reflects the value and quality you provide.
How can I sell my online course?
The best way to sell courses online is by utilizing an LMS with a dedicated eCommerce platform. That way, you get a unified solution for creating, managing, promoting, hosting, and tracking courses. Most of these tools should support a business website, landing pages, membership sites, subscription plans, affiliate programs, marketing, sales analytics, and payment processors. These are the functionalities you would ever need to meet the demands of your sales journey. Learn about our eCommerce LMS.
Is creating an online course profitable?
Creating an online course can be a profitable venture, but it depends on various factors, such as market demand, your USP, the quality and relevance of the content, the pricing strategy, and the level of your marketing. To maximize the chances of profitability, you should consider careful planning, execution, continuous improvement, and adaptation to market dynamics.
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