As a marketer in today’s digital age, you’ve likely taken at least one online course in your day – if not dozens.
After taking a course, you also probably know that a well-formulated course can leave you energized and excited to implement the new tactics you just learned. On the other hand, there’s nothing that turns you away from a brand faster than a lackluster course that wastes your time.
So, now you’re ready to create a course of your own, which has so many great benefits (we’ll get to that in a second), how can you ensure that your program brings value to your customers, consistent evergreen revenue to your company, and doesn’t leave your audience with more questions than answers?
We’re here to help answer that question. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to create an online course step-by-step, so you can craft a trusted program from scratch that your customers will be eager to get their hands on and help create an incredible source of passive income for your business
Benefits of Creating an Online Course
From helping establish lifelong trust between your business, customers and leads to building an opportunity to create recurring revenue from a single effort, the list of benefits online courses offer for both businesses and consumers is endless.
Even more, the online learning market is poised to grow to $370 billion over the next five years, and it’s easy to see why. Online courses have the ability to teach learners anywhere at any time.
If this worldwide access seems like an enticing opportunity to grow your business, you’re right to think so. Offering an online course can enable you to expand your audience and reach customers you couldn’t reach before. This also aids in positioning yourself as an even bigger and more well-known authority in your industry.
Additionally, creating an online course enables you to scale your business much more quickly. Think of it this way: reaching 100,000 customers with an online course requires no more work than reaching 10,000 customers with that same course.
If you focus on creating content that is evergreen, you can make an online course at a single point in time that can serve as a source of recurring revenue long after the course creation.
Now that you know the value of creating an online course, let’s get started.
10 Steps to Create an Online Course
The key to building courses that will generate revenue over the long term is building courses that people will actually complete. Follow these 10 steps to set your business up for success when you launch your first course.
Step 1: Choose a Course Topic
The very first step to creating an online learning course that will be successful for your business is choosing a topic that is in line with your brand and what your customers want to learn. But how do you determine what your customers want to learn from you? The answer is simple: ask them!
A great way to ask your customers what they want and gather information is by using a marketing survey. Whether it appears in the form of a pop-up on your website or is sent out to your email list, a marketing survey is a great way to gather information about choosing a course topic, as well as putting together a course outline later on.
Social media also makes surveying your customers simple. Ask your audience for comments on a particular post, responses to an Instagram story, or host a poll once you’ve narrowed down the topics to two options in order to gather their input.
Step 2: Research & Test Your Course Idea
Once you’ve come up with a list of potential course topics, it’s time to hone in on the right one for your first online course through research and testing and by cross-checking it with your knowledge. You need to be an expert in the topic you choose for your online course.
If you consider yourself an expert, you probably have a lot of the knowledge you need to include in the course already, but it is still a good idea to do thorough research on the topic. Also, research what competitors are saying about the topic, so you know what you should definitely include in the course.
You’ll likely come across plenty of great facts and figures that you can use to supplement the information in your course. You also may decide that this topic has a lot of competition, and another angle may get a better response.
Next, it’s time to test your course concept. This is crucial, as you wouldn’t want to dedicate the time and energy to creating an online course that no one will buy.
To begin testing, first, create a landing page for your potential course to garner interest. On it, you can collect email addresses or even pre-sell the course. Be sure to include a detailed description of the course and, better yet, a comment section where people can ask questions or express their excitement. Don’t forget to promote the landing page so you can get accurate insights into how many people are interested in the course and if it is worth it to move forward.
Step 3: Outline Your Modules
Creating an online learning course means developing a series of individual lessons that build upon one another and come together to provide an extensive understanding of the topic. Creating a detailed course outline will serve as your road map as you create each lesson.
To begin your outline, consider the big ideas you want to share and place them in a logical order. Then, break down each idea into lessons or steps.
You want the course to flow seamlessly as if it were a book and each lesson was a chapter that flows sensibly into the next chapter. Ask yourself “What do I want the viewer to know at the end of this lesson?”
Then, detail what content you will include in each lesson to provide the viewer with the information they need.
Step 4: Determine Each Lesson’s Format
How will the content of your course be best presented? Video? Text? Audio? It may also make sense to have it available in multiple forms. After all, everyone learns differently.
Your customers may be auditory, visual, kinesthetic, or even musical learners. In addition to different learning styles your audience may have, they may also have different lifestyles and preferences for their learning setting. For example, people may prefer to listen to your course while they’re commuting or watch videos at home and take notes.
Either way, integrating multiple formats helps ensure your course is accessible to all of your customers in whatever way works best for them.
Whichever format you choose, the key is to make it engaging. Including interactive elements in your course will not only keep your users engaged, but will also force students to practice what they’ve learned, which will help them better retain information and feel motivated to continue. A few great examples of interactive elements to integrate into your course are:
- Dedicated action items
However, the key with any supplementary learning instrument is the instruction; telling users exactly WHEN and HOW to use a worksheet or journal is crucial to the success of your interactive online course.
Step 5: Produce Your Content
Now it’s time to actually produce the content that will make up your online course. If you’ve decided on a video or audio format for your lessons, you’ll need to record and edit each lesson (and get the right equipment to do so).
It’s a good idea to practice the lesson and write out a script beforehand to limit the number of cuts it takes to get it right. Our tip? Relax and remember, you’re the expert! You already know this information and are simply sharing it with other people who are eager to learn.
You may also find it helpful to hire a professional to edit the video or audio files to enhance the flow and overall professional quality of your course. If you don’t have the budget for a professional editor be sure to:
- Cut out long pauses
- Add titles to each lesson
- Include captions with relevant or important info
- Add background music
At the end of every lesson, include an action item such as one of the interactive materials we mentioned above. This will encourage your customers to put what they have learned to use and to continue the course.
Step 6: Set Up Your Online Course
Once your content is recorded and ready to go, it’s time to bring it online. The course can live right on your website, or on an online learning platform such as Skillshare or Teachable.
While hosting your online course on your own website will require special plugins or software, it does give you more control over branding and pricing, which is extremely valuable.
Either way, make sure your content is uploaded in the order you worked so hard to create and is clearly defined with lesson numbers and titles.
Step 7: Determine Price Points
Creating an online course doesn’t only provide value to your customers; it should also provide value to your business. When you decide to sell your course online, it can produce ongoing revenue if priced correctly. Consider the value of the education you are offering in your course and the amount of time that went into creating it to help price it accordingly.
Don’t be afraid of selling your course for a high price. In fact, many people associate a higher-priced course with a higher value than other, lower-priced options. Additionally, the more someone pays for a course, the more likely they are to complete it. Keep in mind, however, customers won’t return if they think what they receive isn’t worth the value.
At the end of the day, your customer’s drive to complete any course, project, and challenge comes down to what they will gain by doing so. Ask yourself the question, “If I were the customer, why would I be motivated to take this course?”
As you’re putting together your course, make it extremely hard for users to lose sight of its value. Seed reminders and encouragement will keep them motivated to attain the final reward, whether it is a skill they need to further their career or the knowledge they need to take hold of their health.
Don’t forget to ask yourself these other 5 questions before you launch, as well.
Step 8: Launch & Market Your New Course
Are you ready to get your course out there? If you’ve made it through the first seven steps, you are!
Use the landing page you created in step 2 to launch your course, ensuring it has the proper information and payment links built out so your customers have all the details they need to learn about, pay for, and begin the course.
You can then use the page to market the course to your potential customers through a variety of channels, including email and social media.
You should have a well-thought-out strategy to market your new course to develop the buzz it deserves. This includes creating ads, participating in affiliate marketing, collaborating with other leaders in your industry who are willing to promote your new product, and organically building hype by posting about it on your social media accounts. You can also promote your new course by adding a call to action at the bottom of both new and old blog posts.
Step 9: Build an Online Community
Another part of your marketing strategy should include providing customers with access to an online community. It’s human nature to want to be a part of a community, which is why adding a communal element to your online course can help take it from good to great. Communities encourage:
- Group discussion and Q&A
- Finding common ground (sharing struggles, stories, etc)
- Relationship building
- Brand evangelism
- General positivity and encouragement
For these reasons, an online community can be an enticing and useful aspect of any educational course for both customers and companies.
However, if you’re going to set up an online community for your course, it’s imperative to establish a monitor, whether it be you or another individual. A monitor can help set the tone of the group, encourage discussion, answer questions, and steer the group back in the right direction when needed.
Step 10: Ask for Feedback
Feedback is critical to improving any product, including an online course. Once you have a community of people who are taking or have taken your course, you can gather feedback in a similar way to how you surveyed your audience in step two. Use your email list, social media channels, and the online community you created to gather feedback.
It’s also important to ask for feedback throughout your customer’s journey through the course, as well as once they complete it. Consider adding a form for customers to submit comments or questions after each lesson. Then, at the end of the course, you can include a survey to gather important analytics, and encourage customers to leave reviews by offering discounts.
In addition to gathering feedback straight from your customers, your website analytics will also help you understand how your course is performing. For example, is traffic to the course page dropping off after lesson 3? Are your marketing efforts driving people to the landing page, and are they actually purchasing the course?
All of this data can help you enhance your course and create better online courses in the future.
Watch Your Online Course Takeoff
Creating an online course is easier than ever before, but you can’t create a course about just anything or slack off on your marketing efforts and expect it to be successful.
The key to creating a successful online course is ensuring your customers actually complete it.
Customers who don’t finish a course are more unlikely to continue to buy courses or products from you in the future. However, customers who do finish a course are more likely to buy another one. And as we all know, repeat purchases lead to customer loyalty, brand evangelism, and at the end of the day, more revenue.
Follow these 10 steps and your online course will be sure to take off.
For more helpful tips to grow your business, sign up for our newsletter to receive actionable steps to broaden your audience and increase your revenue straight to your inbox.