For the majority of us, online education started in high school with learning maths concepts from platforms such as YouTube and Khan Academy.

If you were one of us, you would not be surprised to hear that by the end of 2024, the user penetration rate for e-learning platforms is projected to be 14.9%.

This has largely been due to macroeconomic factors such as the ease of internet connectivity and technological adoptions.

This trend has been on an exponential rise since the COVID-19 pandemic in the past 4 years. Reportlinker forecasts that the global learning industry will hit an all-time high of $430 billion by 2023.

Compared with traditional learning, online learning carries the benefit of allowing students to learn at their own pace.

This results in improved retention rates, as reported in a study. Students were able to retain 40 to 60% of the content with e-learning versus other learning methods.

As easy it is to use the internet for education purposes, a research mentions that students tend to   be lenient towards online education with easy distractions.

So as content creators, how can you create an online course that resonates with students and keeps them engaged through the duration of the lesson?

It may seem overwhelming but in this article, we will focus on the technical aspects of course creation.

You will learn everything from the beginning to the end, including picking out your niche, developing the right content for the audience, and setting up platforms for the course.

Key Steps and Ideas to Create an Online Course in 2024

  1. Are You an Expert on the Online Course Topic?
  2. Have You Picked a Niche for Your Course that has High Market Demand?
  3. Structuring the Modules and the Course plan
  4. Identifying Your Target Audience and Their Needs
  5. Creating Engaging Course Content: Outlines, Lessons, and Multimedia
  6. Gather and Compile Your Course Material
  7. Record and Edit Your Online Course
  8. Setting Up Your Online Course: Platforms, Websites, and Features
  9. Choose a Business Model and Set Your Course Price Right
  10. Marketing and Launching Your Course: Strategy, Branding, and Pre-Sales
  11. Build Your Community and Continue to Improve Your Online Course
  12. Gather Student Feedback for Constant Improvement

1. Are You an Expert on the Online Course Topic?

Are you someone who is responsible for helping out your colleagues, friends and family with learning a new topic or a skill?

If yes, then you are also someone with the potential to sell your skill by means of creating an online course on it.

People look forward to learning from someone who can offer valuable and life-changing knowledge that helps them to grow professionally.

This comes with the requirement of having an ideal level of knowledge regarding the topic or the skill that you choose to teach.

Think about what you are good at and on what topic people come to you for advice. Ideally, your expertise is your strength, and therefore easy for you to design a course on.

Certifications and qualifications in your desired field always gives a social and a market boost.

However, it makes it very easy to be carried away by feeling you know better than others, or that your knowledge is insufficient to create a course.

You need an assuring way of self-assessing your set of skills or interests before venturing into this. This becomes easier when we align our interests with a business idea.

Important questions to ask yourself are, what are you naturally good at? Do you have a passion to teach, train and launch your own platform?

Another way to get insight into your abilities is to acquire feedback from individuals you have helped or taught over time.

Ponder over what you could have done differently. Knowing where you can improve can give you a new perspective into developing the online course.

It is also important to recognize that this is a gradual process which demands patience and you may not recognize your passions overnight.

An entrepreneurial path comes with experimenting but it requires you to show your commitment to the cause.

For example, if you were someone who would explain mathematics to your friends, get a notebook and start brainstorming how to sell it as an online tutoring course.

2. Have You Picked a Niche for Your Course that has High Market Demand?

In the education industry, a niche is a specialised segment of the market for a particular kind of topic.

Choosing a topic that you are passionate about for an online course is not a guarantee enough to determine the profitability of your business.

Therefore, targeting the right niche outside of the usual topics opens an opportunity to connect with an enthusiastic audience.

Market demand analysis is important to stay updated with the latest developments in the marketplace worldwide to identify potential course topics.

Know your direct competitors and check what other top course creators and higher education platforms are offering for that niche. The key is to look for gaps in the market that you can fill with the right course.

The online platforms you should be looking at for popular niches are listed below:

  • Google Trends: You can get an idea of what people are looking for and exploring, while identifying popular keywords related to the topic.
  • Coursera, Udemy, Masterclass, FutureLearn and Skillshare: You can use these leading higher education platforms to understand what learners are looking for by navigating through the best selling courses.
  • LinkedIn:  You can view what courses are most popular among professionals, and identify the skill gap that needs to be focused on. You can also visit course creators’ profiles and learn from their journey.

A factor that is common to all platforms includes the high search traffic rate and the monthly visitors that tells you how popular the niche is.

Some of the popular niches that yield a high click rate include the following:

  • Health and physical fitness
  • Parenting: building an online parenting community
  • Do-it-yourself (DIY) projects: hardware, decoration, installation, repairs
  • Fashion: trending fashion styles
  • Digital skills: freelancing, writing, coding classes.

Although these generate high ROI, it is possible that multiple courses may saturate the niche so be thorough with the search.

The next step is carrying out a competitive analysis to assess your strengths and weaknesses within a niche. What is unique about your course? What are your limitations?

Keywords are an important part of niche analysis. Use popular keywords that show up in website’s title, meta tags, and headers to carry out a thorough keyword search.

Then, you can identify the gaps and develop a refined search strategy for your course.

Identifying the pain points of the audience gives you a competitive edge when gauging the niche of your course.

Let’s look at an example you can implement to understand this better.

You have identified the health and fitness niche with “Intermittent Fasting for Working Professionals” at your topic.

This might be due to a growing interest in intermittent fasting and weight loss, but many professionals struggle to implement it due to their hectic schedules.

You find that existing courses on intermittent fasting either cater to a general audience or focus on specific dietary aspects without addressing the challenges faced by busy professionals.

You conduct market research using tools such as social media and discover that there is significant interest among busy professionals in finding a sustainable way to lose weight that fits into their busy lifestyles.

To validate demand, you could offer a free webinar on “Intermittent Fasting Hacks for Busy Professionals” and promote it through targeted social media ads.

High level of engagement and feedback can be a positive indicator for a more comprehensive course on the topic.

3. Structuring the modules and the course plan

When launching a new online course, you need to define the course learning objectives and look at aims that you want students to achieve by the end of the lesson.

This also helps you plan your course outline in a systematic manner, ensuring you do not miss anything important.

You can adopt multiple ways to make it easy for your students to navigate the course. Here are some examples followed by content creators across the globe:

  1. Module based structure: the course is divided into modules to cover different themes of the subject matter, making it easier for learners to progress through the study material.
  2. Sequential Learning Path: Design your course to start from the basics and gradually progressing to more advanced levels and concepts.
  3. Topics and subtopics can be used as subheadings for each module’s theme.
  4. Weekly plans: You can further classify the modules into weeks for students to follow at their own pace while ensuring they finish it in a  timely manner.
  5. Resource library: provide reading materials, articles, videos, and external links for students to explore the field more.
  6. Progress tracking and self-assessments at the end of each module to judge their skill set.
  7. Time taken to complete the course dedicating a few hours every day.

One of the most common templates content creators use to write the learning objectives for online courses is as follows:

Action + Skill/Outcome + Conditions + Criteria

Action: it describes what the learner will be able to do.

Skill/Outcome: Specify the skill or outcome that the learner will achieve.

Conditions: Circumstances under which the learner will demonstrate the skill.

Criteria: State the criteria for success, indicating how the learner’s performance will be evaluated.

For a course on graphic design it can be: By the end of this course, learners will be able to identify the key principles of graphic design, given a set of design elements and principles and achieving an accuracy rate of 90% or higher on a design quiz.

4. Identifying Your Target Audience and Their Needs

To make sure that your online training course will appeal to your audience, you must first understand your target audience.

To understand the target audience that may be interested in your course, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your audience familiar with your niche?
  • What is their level of proficiency, are they beginners, intermediates or professionals?
  • Have they previously taken a similar course?
  • Is your audience familiar with online courses or eLearning?
  • What does your audience expect to learn from the course?

Buyer persona is built on multiple steps but it gives you a thorough understanding of your audience.

This is how you should go about it:

  1. Surveying: customer preference through data sources such as surveys, website analytics and social media platforms to see their engagement
  2. Segmentation: of the customer demographics, purchase history, loyalty, engagement, preferred channel and channel frequency.
  3. Persona templates: are a customer’s requirements to fill in so you can better understand them.
  4. Validation: conduct A/B testing and experiments with colleagues and friends to measure how your personas respond

Buyer personas create an opportunity to maximise personalization in your course as this is the main attraction for users to choose you in the market.  

5. Creating Engaging Course Content: Outlines, Lessons, and Multimedia

Creating engaging course content is important to capture the attention of the target audience, and foster their learning process.

A well-designed course outline provides a roadmap for both the learners and instructors, ensuring they stay on the same page.

There are five simple questions you should be asking yourself at every step of course designing to deliver high quality content to your subscribers:

  1. Is the content relevant to your student demographics?
  2. Is it visually engaging and non repetitive? Have you used engaging visuals and videos, podcasts, and online platforms deliver an immersive experience?
  3. Have you included gamification such as leader boards, badges and ranks in your website?
  4. Does it give students a practical experience?
  5. Can course learners collaborate with each other on online forums, chat rooms and blogs?

Multimedia Content for Course

Multimedia content can enhance a course by presenting the information differently and appealing to different learning styles, ensuring high engagement.

Multimedia plays an important part in information retention and makes it easy to process the data presented.

Here are some examples of the type of multimedia content that can be included to enhance outcomes:

  • Videos
  • Images
  • Infographics
  • Animations
  • Slides
  • Quizzes
  • Virtual Simulation
  • Games
  • Podcasts
  • Live video

For example, Excel Basic for Data Analysis course offered by IBM on Coursera provides information on the multimedia content students will be provided during Week 1.

This course includes videos, reading material, and quizzes.

coursera course example

Source: Coursera

Balance Theory & Practice in Your Course Content

A balance of theory and practice in course content is important to create a conceptual foundation and framework for an effective learning experience.

By linking theory and practice, students are better able to have an understanding of real-world contexts.

6. Gather and Compile Your Course Material

If you look at the course material holistically, it requires a cohesive curation of the material.

You need to ensure that course materials:

  • Do not overwhelm students with too much information.
  • Cater to different learning styles with text-based resources, videos, podcasts, interactive quizzes, case studies and simulations.
  • Is updated regularly to contain the latest research developments.

In order to ensuring content authenticity:

  • Follow citation styles such as APA, MLA, or Chicago when referencing external sources in your course materials. Provide credit for quotes, paraphrases, and ideas borrowed from other sources.
  • Cross-Check sources and choose content from reputable publishers, academic institutions, experts in the field, and peer-reviewed journals.
  • Avoid plagiarism

Here we have an example of Online Anger Management Classes, where you can see the heading tag, course content outline, with learning objectives, pricing and the instructor details. This gives a holistic view of the online courses.

online course content
course content

7. Record and Edit Your Online Course

The quality of the audio and the visuals of an online course will govern the quality of the education delivered.

In a mode of learning that is completely online, it is vital that you invest in the multimedia of the course. This aspect of a course should be based on the modality principle that tells us to present words as narration rather than on-screen text. It allows students to rely on both audio and visual information.

  • Keep the text of the slide simple and concise.
  • Use high quality pictures to support your text.
  • Work on a unified aesthetic appeal of your presentation.
  • Do not spend more than longer on a slide, unless necessary.
  • Annotate on the slides to explain your students in a better manner.
  • Avoid narration that is similar to the text on the screen.
  • The narration should complement the visuals on the screen.

8. Setting Up Your Online Course: Platforms, Websites, and Features

Proprietary LMS

These are licensed under exclusive legal rights, require a fee and offer limited modifications to the existing platform.

This is suitable for large educational companies who want a dedicated LMS domain.

Litmos

Using litmos is not easy but follow these simple instructions to launch you course:

  • Log into Litmos LMS as an administrator or course author.
  • Open the Courses tab.
  • Create a new Course or open an already existing course to add a module
  • Enter a course title and click Save.
  • From the Content tab within the course, click Add content.
  • Drag your SCORM course or choose a file to the Upload window.
  • When the uploading process is finished, you will see the SCORM course in your content list.
litmos
LearnUpon

To upload the course content, these are the detailed steps:

  • From the primary navigation menu, select Courses.
  • On the Courses page, from the action menu, select Create New Course.
  • In the Create New Course card, enter the course name, and a brief description of the course.
  • Select Save to finish and the application opens the course Info page.
learnupon lms

Open Source LMS

These operate under the GNU General Public License, which guarantees the freedom to share and modify the program but customization requires a vendor. This is suitable for individuals looking for customization of their platform.

Moodle

Follow these steps to create a course on Moodle:

  • ​Log in with your administrator account
  • Click Site administration
  • Click the Courses tab
  • Click Add a new course
  • Add your course details
  • Click Save and display
  • Click Proceed to course content to add your teaching materials.
moodle
Open EdX

In order to upload the course to this, follow the instructions:

  • Create a Course in Studio
  • Schedule a Course
  • Create a Section
  • Create a Subsection
  • Create a Unit
  • Add a Video to the Unit
  • Add Written Content to the Unit
  • Add a Multiple Choice Question to the Unit
  • Publish the Course
openedx

9. Choose a Business Model and Set Your Course Price Right

In order to set a fair price for your online course, you need to decide on a business model. It can any of any of the following:

  1. One-Time Payment: single fee for a lifetime access to the course
  2. Subscription/Membership: a recurring fee for ongoing access to the course content and updates which can be renewed based on a monthly, six-monthly or annually.
  3. Tiered Pricing: Offer different pricing tiers with varying levels of access or additional features.
  4. Bundle Pricing: Package multiple courses together and offer them at a discounted rate.
  5. Freemium Model: Offer a basic version of the course for free, with the option to upgrade to a premium version for additional features or content.
  6. Upselling and Cross Selling: for individuals enrolled in a course, offer newer courses at a discounted price.

10. Marketing and Launching Your Course: Strategy, Branding, and Pre-Sales

We discuss the top three marketing strategies used by course creators to promote their platform:

1. Email Marketing

    Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to engage your customer’s attention, and very popular amongst course creators.

    Email marketing allows you to offer free downloadable resources, send course updates, and offer discounts on sign ups.

    The content of the email should have updates on new courses, enrollment deadline, and exclusive offers or discounts only for email subscribers.

    You can easily segment your emailing lists into users who are currently using your courses and those who have never taken any courses.

    This way, you can regularly update the user lists into the above categories and make the email templates more personalised. 

    2. Social Media Advertising

      According to an online report, social media traffic is the leading platform for content creators to attract students.

      Facebook and Instagram allow you to promote your post using Sponsored Ads for a fee.

      This is effective in reaching a large target audience with the freedom to choose the demographics.

      The post can be an infographic or your course, a promotional video or a reel of the course content.

      LinkedIn is a platform which individuals use to seek professional career and networking opportunities thus making it a useful launch site. Use tags and relevant hashtags to reach your audience.

      While doing all of this, we recommend you test new and creative titles for your posts. These can be “learn the basics of French in 2 weeks for just $80.”

      3. Influencer Marketing

        Through this new strategy, you can get shoutouts from influential and popular individuals in the e-learning industry.

        This boosts engagement on your page and also helps you connect with people on a one-on-one basis. 

        11. Build Your Community and Continue to Improve Your Online Course

        The greatest benefit of starting your online course platform is the opportunity to find and to connect with like minded people.

        There is no better way of starting your own e-learning community who are motivated to complete the course.

        By building an online community, you are not giving an opportunity to learn from their peers but bringing in diversity and promoting reflective practice and critical thinking.

        Here are some ways how you can achieve this:

        • Create a course community through online forums, chat rooms, or social media groups.
        • Collect feedback from students through surveys, polls, and other tools to make improvements.
        • Make sure your course stays relevant and up-to-date with the latest trends and information.
        • Use prompts to increase engagement and discussions in the community.
        • Leave messages to offer ongoing support for students who enrol in your online course.
        • Conduct ice-breaking activities to introduce students to each other

        Examples of important messages for your forums include:

        • The purpose of this thread is for you to ask Coding101 course-related questions . When appropriate, please feel free to post thoughts to questions posed by others as well.
        •  I am glad to see many of you participating in the weekly discussion forums. During the next week, I will send your grades and comments. You can email me if you have any questions.

        12. Gather Student Feedback for Constant Improvement

        If you wish to keep existing users and students engaged with your online learning platform and attract new ones, it requires you to consistently improve the quality of learning.

        For this, you have to regularly update older course content and create new interesting ones.

        To know where your course lacks and how to make it more personalised,  you need to hear your audiences’ experience.

        According to a recent research, a successful course creator is someone who:

        • 2 times more likely to track student engagement
        • 2.7 times more likely to collect students’ reviews, and 
        • 1.4 times more likely to collect course feedback 

        A survey from eLearning provider Mirasee identified that 57%, of course, creators claim they measure the success of their courses based on student satisfaction.

        Gathering student feedback allows you to identify new directions for content.

        Whichever method you adopt, ensure you offer both multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions to gather quantitative and qualitative feedback.

        The most common techniques for gathering student feedback include the following:

        1. Surveys: Online surveys using platforms like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey, or Typeform to ask about content relevance, clarity of instructions, ease of navigation, and overall satisfaction. Embed feedback forms, feedback widgets or pop-ups directly within course modules or lessons or conduct them at the end of the course.
        2. Mid-Course Check-Ins: Conduct mid-course check-ins via short questionnaire or virtual meetings to assess students’ progress and gather feedback on their learning experience so far.
        3. Discussion Forums: Set up discussion forums or message boards within your course platform where students can post feedback, ask questions, and engage in discussions with you and their peers. Encourage active participation and provide prompts to elicit specific feedback on different course components.
        4. One-on-One Check-Ins: Offer individual check-ins where students can schedule a brief meeting with you to discuss their feedback privately.
        5. Anonymous Feedback Channels: Create anonymous feedback channels where students can submit feedback without revealing their identity.
        6. Peer Reviews: Incorporate peer review activities into the course where students provide feedback on each other’s work.
        7. Social Media Polls and Q&A Sessions:

        Example:

        A Professor selling online courses on programming and technology, reiterated the importance of student feedback.

        He mentions how updating his courses regularly based on student feedback alone gave him the benefit of word of mouth marketing, and brought him over 30,000 students in a year.

        How to Create a Digital Course Checklist PDF

        Common Mistakes to Avoid During Online Course Creation

        If you’re creating an online course for the first time, you might make some basic mistakes.

        But that’s okay. You’ll learn from your mistakes. 

        But to help make your online course a best seller on your first attempt, we have compiled some online course creation mistakes that you should avoid.

        Avoid Creating Lengthy Lessons

        You may want to go in-depth and share as much information with your learners as possible, but we’d suggest not doing that.

        Instead, keep your lessons short. Because the fact is, most of us have short attention spans. If you overwhelm your students with too much information, they won’t be able to retain any of it.

        Depending on the length of your course, you may want to have a 5-minute intro, and a comprehensive video lesson not exceeding 20 minutes in length at max.

        Don’t Be Scared to Try

        You may be overwhelmed with so many thoughts when thinking about creating your online course. It’s perfectly normal.

        But how would you know if your course has any potential unless you try?

        If you’re skillful and you’ve researched your target audience well, then you should leap.

        Create your online course and market it well. Within no time, you’ll start generating a stable income for yourself.

        Not Testing Your Course

        Before you take your course online, run it through your social circle to see what they like or dislike about it.

        Asking your friends and family can help you figure out any mistakes that you can fix. Fixing all the errors in your course content before sharing it with your students is crucial to building credibility.

        If you fail to make a good first impression, it may turn away potential students.

        Frequently Asked Questions:

        How much does it cost to create an online course?

        You can make a professional-looking course for between $350 and $1000. Some factors that can increase the cost include software, equipment, hosting, and promotion of your online course.

        How to create a profitable online course to sell online?

        The most important thing to create a profitable course is to get aware of your audience. Know what they are interested in and come up with the best profitable online course. For instance, if you are advertising B2B training, it’s a good thing to connect with your presented touch points on the phone and try to understand their needs before you begin cold outreach.

        What are the different types of online courses?

        There are multiple types of online courses that you can find online including digital marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization, content marketing, content writing, and so on.

        How to create an online course with WordPress?

        WordPress is one of the best platforms for web designing and development. You can create an online course involving WordPress training by including designing, coding, content editing, plug-in installation, and so on in the course.

        What are the steps to creating an online course?

        Here’s how to create an online course that sells:

        1. Find the right niche to create a course for
        2. Choose a platform where you want to publish your course
        3. Select a course topic 
        4. Analyze your competitors
        5. Figure out how you want your course to be (webinar, text-based, video-based) 
        6. Create your online course content
        7. Set pricing for your online course
        8. Market and promote your online course
        9. Measure your course’s performance
        10. Continue to improve

        How can I create online courses and make money?

        The easiest way to create and sell online courses is to publish your course on Udemy, iSpring Market, or Thinkific.

        Which platform is best for online courses?

        Here are some of the best platforms for online courses:

        1. Udemy
        2. LinkedIn Learning
        3. Treehouse
        4. Coursera
        5. Shaw Academy
        6. Skillshare

        What software do I need to create an online course?

        • Learning Management System (LMS) such as Blackboard or Canvas.
        • Content Creation Tools such as Articulate, Camtasia, and Abode
        • Course Website or Landing Page Builder such as WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix.
        • Payment Processing Tools such as Stripe or Paypal.
        • Communication & Collaboration Tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google Drive, or Slack.

        Final Words

        Online courses can be a rewarding and profitable business idea, especially in today’s digital age.

        With the growing demand for online education, now is the perfect time to start creating and selling an online course that aligns with your expertise, experience, and knowledge.

        By partnering with an online education marketing agency, you can maximize the potential of your course and reach a wider audience.

        To summarize, creating an online course requires the best selection of the right strategies, plan, and tools to create, deliver and manage your course.

        You need to market your course effectively to attract learners and deliver value for them to generate revenue from your education business.