online course

How to Create an Online Course for Free – The Best Ultimate Guide 2018

If you ever wanted to learn how to create an online course for free, now’s your chance. I’ll be taking you through 7 simple steps that will help you create your first online course from scratch.

online course

First thing first – the planning!!

Planning is the key to any task in order for it to be successfully completed. The same rule applies to an online course. But when making a plan, don’t think that you can create your course in few hours or one day. These unrealistic notions of creating a course are only stressful, but most of the time set you up to fail.

Instead, why not to divide the whole process into simple steps and make a plan in a way that you cover each step over a certain period of time. This way, the whole process of creating your course will be smoother, easier, and most importantly, more enjoyable.

Now, let’s get started with our journey of creating an online course!

Step 1: A simple process of choosing your own topic

topics for online course

When you take out a pen and paper and begin brainstorming to design your course, think about something you find interesting or something that you achieved, or your favorite hobby. For example, learning a new language, your body transformation, learning to play the guitar or even gardening!

Remember, it is always better to select a topic that you have a personal connection to rather than randomly selecting any topic!

Before finalizing your topic, keep in mind the following:

Your topic should interest you – but it doesn’t need to be a passion, at least in the beginning!

Your topic should be something you are interested in. Something that you enjoy. Something you want to learn more and more……

So how about passion? Well, I may not completely agree with the notion that your topic must be your passion from the beginning.  My personal experience says that passion develops over time.

When I got started with teaching my online course, everyone told me it should be my passion – if I want to be a successful online instructor. I actually found it a very challenging task and had no passion for it at all. With the passage of time, however, my interest developed, and I started enjoying it. After one year of experience, now it has become my passion.

As an example, think about losing weight. Everyone wants to have a good body shape. But going to the gym, running or jogging on a daily basis is challenging and tedious in the beginning.

But! If you are committed to your aim of losing weight, you will get results. As you begin to get these good results, you will start to enjoy the workout and hey presto! Your passion for working out develops.

Your topic should be something you “like”. Don’t worry about the passion – as I said, this will develop over time.

It should be specific

You have to avoid being too abroad with your topic. When you are thinking about choosing a topic for your course, think about a specific group of people who are searching for a specific course; ergo, you should address a specific problem for a specific group of people.

Successful online instructors choose one topic and they nail it.

It should have a market

market for online course

Being passionate about a topic is not enough, the key is that the topic should have a market. That means that there are people out there who search for your course and are willing to pay for it.

But how do you know whether your topic has a market?

One simple trick is a good keyword strategy. Find a keyword that receives a decent number of searches on Google. There are a number of online tools that you can use to find a good keyword for your topic.

The two most common keyword search tools are Google keyword planner and Ubersuggest. These two keyword searching tools will give you tons of keyword ideas for your course. They provide instructions, and these tools are completely free.

In addition, Jaaxy is another advanced and very popular tool that I personally found the most efficient and powerful among all other tools for keyword selection. It takes your keyword research to the next level and suggests the best keyword that ranks well in Google in a matter of seconds. Check out the free trial here and find the best keyword for your online course.

Step 2: Creating course materials and Contents


sources for online course materials

Now that you have chosen a topic for your course, it’s time to do some research on it.

Maybe you already have a good knowledge about your topic- which would help you to get through this phase quickly. But if you don’t, then you really need to do some research and collect all correct information into a document.

The most simple ways that you could use for doing research on your topic are:

Google.  We all know it’s the best search engine. Just type your topic there and you will retrieve a bunch of information. But make sure the information you get is reliable.

You can get reliable information from websites maintained by government agencies, universities or non-profit organizations. Also, online databases containing scholarly books or articles, Trade books, and magazines used for educating the general audience are the sources of reliable information.

YouTube.  It is the fastest way of gaining knowledge on any topic. Look for video information about your topic. Note down all the key information. But again, make sure that the information shared in the video is reliable.

Amazon/Kindle books.  This is not a very commonly used method, but I found it as a good source of getting detailed information on a specific topic. So, I would suggest using it for your topic research.

When buying these books from Amazon, always check the author’s credibility and list of sources at the end of the book. This ensures the reliability of information in the book.

When doing your research, don’t worry about covering everything related to your topic. A good way to set limits is to set a time (3-4 hours) and do your best to gain as much information as you can during that time. Then take a quick break to refresh your mind. Comeback and continue your research!

Step 3: Creating the lessons and outline of your course

As for now, you should have a document with sufficient information about your topic. With this document, you should be able to start compiling the lessons and outline for your course.

Begin by going through your research and write down the key areas that your course will cover. I would suggest making a list of at least the 5 most important sub-topics. Arrange them in an order that makes the most sense. Each of these sub-topics will represent a lesson for your course. When giving the titles to each lesson, make sure they are descriptive and compelling.

Now that the course lessons are set up, it’s time to structure each lesson in more detail.

For each of your lesson, write down the 5 most important things to be covered in that lesson. This is important because it will help you to formulate your lesson properly so that it becomes easy for you when you begin teaching it, i.e. it is the outline of your lesson.

Once you have come up with 5 things, go over your research and compile the information relevant to those 5 things. Most likely, you would need to do a little more research to collect more information in this regard.  Repeat the same procedure for all your lessons.

Here you go, you have created lessons and a good-looking outline for your course and for each lesson.

It is important to mention here that the lessons created here are for short online courses, which usually comprised of up to 5 lessons. You can include more lectures in your course, but it will take more time to finish it.

Step 4: Creating lecture slides for lessons

Now that you have your lessons ready, let’s start with preparing lecture slides.

There are whole books and lecture series on how to prepare slides– this is a difficult topic to cover here. So, I will try to highlight some of the things you need to exercise while preparing your lecture slides.

Use the latest version of Microsoft PowerPoint for your lecture slide. If you don’t know what template/style you should use, I would suggest visiting Slideshare, where people share their slide style. You can copy the style you like from there (certainly not the contents/images) and use it for your lecture.

It is always good to have a slide showing the outline of the lecture. This will serve as a roadmap that helps not only the students but also you as an instructor to remember where you are and where are you headed.

The visual aspect of your lecture slides is very important. Keep each lecture slide simple, with little text. Avoid using long sentences – use them only when e.g., you need a definition or a quote. To make it more interesting, add some pictures. A combination of a picture and text always makes the slide more attractive.

Furthermore, try not to use too many animations or colors. A strong contrast from the background will give a good visual impact. Finally, each slide should have a take-home message.

How about the total number of slides per lecture? Well, it depends on the length of your lecture. Here, I am talking about creating a short course, where one lecture is about 20-30 min long. That means on average you should have 25-30 slides per lecture.

Step 5: Recording lectures

tools for online course


A perfect recording of your lecture is as important as your lecture contents. If your contents are brilliant but your video quality is poor, your course will not attract consumers. Therefore, good quality tools and correct video settings are key to lecture recording.

High-quality video recording relies on three basic things – the camera, the microphone, and lighting.

When it comes to the camera, I’m sure you already got one. Yes, laptop webcam is good enough if there is sufficient lighting around you. So, you may don’t need to buy an external webcam.

But if you are a person who really doesn’t compromise on the quality, then I have a list of the best webcams for you. Check it out here.

Optional: You can further enhance the quality of your video by using additional software called iGlasses. This software basically increases your webcam capabilities by adjusting many of its parameters, such as brightness, white balance, contrast, sharpness etc. I used this software for my video recording and found it a worthwhile investment.

The audio is as important as video. If the sound is not clear, your lecture will not make a good impression on your audience. Undoubtedly, you will lose your audience quickly and they will not register for your course in the future.

Your laptop microphone is capable of recording audio, but again if you don’t want to compromise on the audio quality, it’s better to have an external microphone that could record and deliver a high-quality sound.

Click here to check my review on high-quality microphones and choose the one that suits you the best.

Proper lighting is crucial as it can really make a difference to your video. And for this, you really don’t need any investment. Just use any floor or desk lamps that you have around the house.  A very simple trick is to record your video during the day. Doing so, you can utilize daylight through your window, but make sure your position is near to the window and the back of the camera is toward the window.

How to present your lectures?

how to prepare lecture for online course


You may have seen different ways of giving online lectures. Some follow the tradition of writing on a whiteboard or paper easel, while others prefer using a TV screen or an interactive tablet.

I personally prefer a combination of PowerPoint slides and a webcam (so that your audience can see you as a small insert bottom left or right). This way you would really feel connected with your audience. Nevertheless, you have to think about the style that suits you the best.

Before giving a lecture, always make sure that the recording room is free from noise. The background should not be distracting, and your appearance should not create a negative impression.

Step 6: Editing lecture recording

editing online course lecture

Once you have finished recording your lectures, you can enter the video editing phase, where editing of clips, deleting errors and many other things will happen.

It sounds like you should have some expertise in computers to do this! Well, it’s a simple procedure, and honestly, this is the fun part of the whole process.

Simply download a good video editor, learn how to use its basic features, and then use it for your video editing. In the beginning, it might be a little boring and may take more time. But as soon as you get familiar with some basics, you will start enjoying it.

Again, you don’t have to spend any money on video editing. There are many good video editors available online, which have been developed specifically for this job, and they are completely free.  I have compiled a list of them, click here for more details.

Don’t be so obsessed with the perfect recording. It’s ok to have minor mistakes (like repeating words, thinking for a while, etc). These kinds of mistakes are usually non-distracting. So, keep your editing to a minimum.

Step 7: Launching your course

launching an online course_2018

What platforms should be used for launching my course?

Logically, this question should have popped into your head from the beginning.

There are two possibilities here: either self-hosting or launching through a marketplace platform.

Self-hosting your course is a great idea for launching your course as it has many advantages. For example, you have more freedom for pricing your course, you get everything you earned from the course, you can access to your student’s emails; in other words, you have a complete control over on your course.

But if you don’t have any experience of the online industry/world and you are thinking about self-hosting, think again. You will have to go through the stress of WordPress (to create your website) and plugins, and marketing strategies. If you don’t have these skills and you are creating your course for the first time, I would suggest to go to marketplace platforms like Udemy, Skillshare, Teachable etc. They will do the campaigning or marketing job for you. The main con is that you will have no control over the price of your course, and they will charge a large proportion (up to 50%) for each sale.

To wrap it up, I think you should first try to launch your course on market hosting platforms and when you get a little bit of experience and success then go for self-hosting.

That’s it! You are done with the whole process of creating your first online course!

Remember, you have to start right now. Don’t wait for the perfect time. There is never going to be a perfect time. Start right now from today following these simple steps and create your first awesome online course instantly.


I hope you like the post. Please share your thoughts about the post in the comments box below. I would be more than happy to discuss. 

Thanks for reading, 








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  • Alex

    This was quite a thorough article. I especially enjoyed your tip on research. When researching, do it for 3-4 hours and then take a break to only come back later. When constructing a course or building a website, you can burn out if you are not careful. It takes a lot of energy, so people to remember that it is a marathon, not a sprint.

    I do have a question though. This article was quite enjoyable. Are you going to be writing future articles on this subject in the future? You covered a lot of ground, but I would like to see an article just about research because there are quite a lot of techniques to it.

    Thank you so much for sharing and I hope you have a wonderful day!

  • Irma

    Excellent post!

    I was just starting to research this subject when I ran into this article. You have given me the necessary steps to start this project, so I am super happy about that.
    I have more research but at least I know how to get it done.
    Thank you!!!

    • Akbar

      Hi Irma,
      Proper guidance is the key to any successful project and the same rule apply to an online course creation. I tried to simplify all the necessary steps required for creating any online course from scratch. I’m sure you will be able to create your first online course soon if you follow these simple steps. Good luck!!

  • Damien

    Hi Akbar.
    Awesome article. Creating an online course is hard work. A lot of ppl only see when the course is online, but they don’t know what happens before. You explained everything clearly. I really enjoyed reading it.

    • Akbar

      Hey Chuck,
      creating an online course is not expensive, you just need to spend some time and to make sure follow the process properly.
      Good luck mate,

  • Esther

    Hey Akbar, thank you for this! I actually learned a lot on your post. Especially for someone who just started a website, this article helps me think about my content and the approach I should use when writing it! Thank you again

    • Akbar

      Hey Esther,
      I’m so glad you liked the post. I tried to make it as simple as possible so that people should absorb the information quickly.
      Thanks for reading,

  • Owain

    Great post mate, much appreciated. I have a couple of sites that I run and in time I do want to create a course, (as I do have plenty of content that I can use).

    I’ll keep referring to this guide over and over again.

    Thank you.

    • Akbar

      hey Owain,
      Yes, great idea, create your own course as you have enough contents. There shouldn’t be any problem if you follow the whole process correctly.
      Good luck.

  • Joann

    Gosh, I didn’t think about all the preparation that goes into creating an online course! I like how you give tips on how to get reliable information and how to give the best lecture possible. This has given me a whole new outlook on tutorial videos that I see online and it’s also made me want to try creating my own online course!

    Thank you for sharing!

    • Akbar

      Hey Joann,
      I’m very happy you read the post and liked it. Good luck with your course and let me know if you need any help. I would be more than happy to help you out.


  • Tabsmark

    Lovely! Just what I needed to hear. I have been thinking about creating an online course about cake decorating. But I got stuck with the initial stage – your tip to narrow it down to something specific and then nail it – really hit home for me. I am now eager to see where is information is going to take me. Yes, and I totally concur with you about Jaaxy! I don’t think I could do a post without it! Appreciate the tips.

    • Akbar

      Hey Tabsmark,
      I’m very glad you read the post and liked it. Really appreciate your nice comments. Good luck with your creating your 1st online course. I would be more than happy to help you if you need any help.

  • Philip

    Hi Akbar,

    I never thought of creating an online course before, but amazingly, just using power point, some recording equipment etc it is very doable per your instructions.

    I have a few topics I could create an online course with such as chess perhaps – you think there is a good demand for cheap courses in this area Akbar?

    Anyways, while I wait on your reply, I will have a look through your post again, and try and come up with a doable plan, for each stage of achieving this.

    Great post and easy to follow details for those interested in becoming an online teacher.

    Thanks Again.


    • Akbar

      Hey Philip,
      Thank you for reading the post. I think the trend of learning through online is increasing at a rapid pace, it could be related to anything. There is no such thing as the cheaper course. If your course addresses people burning desires or urgent pain, for them it is the most valuable course. So if you have a topic that you think is a good niche, go for it and create your first awesome online course following the steps mentioned in the post. Good luck.

  • Maurice

    The whole process sounds overwhelming. But I guess if you really want bad enough you will take the challenge. I know having an online course can be very profitable. Is it an expensive endeavor?

    • Akbar

      It could be a challenge in the beginning, but i am sure you will get over it if you are committed to the process. My experience says it’s not expensive at all to create an online course, the process required a lot of time though. Once you get some experience, you can finish it in short time.
      Thanks for the comment.

    • Akbar

      I am happy you found it useful. I hope you will start creating your 1st online course soon, follow these steps and you are good to go to launch it.

  • Melissa

    Great comprehensive post. You lay it out in such a way that makes it easy to follow, even a beginner would have no problem following along. I like the idea of taking your favorite hobby and teaching others your passion through an online course. Thanks for the information!

    • Akbar

      Thanks for the nice comment. I am glad you found the post useful. Because you invest your passion in your favorite hobby, creating a course on this topic makes the process faster and enjoyable.
      Thanks for reading the post.

  • Colin

    Your post is wonderful Akbar.
    Your page is easy on the eyes and the content is excellent. I enjoyed reading this very much and have bookmarked it for the near future, as I need to make my first course soon.

    • Akbar

      Thank you so much. I am happy you like the post. Good luck with creating your 1st course. I’m here to help you out any time.

  • Michelle Frey

    This is very good training on how to put an online course together. You discuss some very good tools that can be used. I am interested in software like iglasses and using slideshares. Those seem very helpful. You mentioned MS Movie Maker for editing software. I have used Coral to make presentations several times – I wonder if Coral would work also.
    Thank you for this great information.

    • Akbar

      Thank you for the comment. I’m glad you like the post. ya, iGlasses and slideshares are very useful programs. Regarding Coral, if you are talking about CorelDRAW, then I agree it is very good for making a presentation (creatin/ drawing an object) but I am not sure if you can use it for video editing. I don’t find any features for video editing in it.

  • jlclayton1

    I have a website and am hoping to develop a section of online training videos, but really had no idea where to start. Thank you for all the links and steps, I think I need to get to work!

    • Akbar

      you already have a topic for your course. Follow these steps and you are good to go to create one.
      Thanks for reading the post.

  • Sook-young

    Love it! In this post, I could feel the kindness and the consideration to help the beginners not to waste their time. I am looking forward to the next post. 🙂

    • Akbar

      Thanks for the nice comments. Ya, the post main aim to guide beginners. keep visiting my site for more posts.

  • Hong

    I love the article. i was actually looking to develop an online course for my website, but I had no clue where to even start. i am glad I came to your article, such an informative post. I will bookmark this for the future. thank you so much for sharing. Looking forward for more posts.

    • Akbar

      I am very glad that you read the post and like it. If you have a good niche, then why not to create a course about that. Really, it’s not that difficult. Follow the steps that I have mentioned in the post and you’re good to go 🙂
      Thanks for reading.

  • Joanna

    Very nice style and flow, I enjoyed reading this. Definitely keep posting more! Although it’s more lengthy than average blog posts, you kept me reading because of valuable content that really made me think, why not, maybe I should do create an online course myself 😀

    • Akbar

      Thanks a lot for your nice comments. I really appreciate it. Constructive comments like yours will keep me going 🙂
      Sure, if you have an interesting niche, go for it and create a course on that. I’m here to help you out.

  • Karen

    This is a fantastic post, which I have bookmarked thank you. I have been thinking about creating a training resource for a while now around twitter, and this provides a great framework to tackle the task in a logical manner. Thank you so much for sharing. Cheers, Karen

    • Akbar

      Thank you so much. I’m very glad you like the post.
      ya sure, go for it and create your course, its fun. If you have any questions/problems in this regard, I would be more than happy to answer/help.

  • Vince

    I love your site. this is something I want to start working on but not sure where to start.

    Will you be covering more website tech for building online courses?

    • Akbar

      Thank you so much. If you have any question regarding creating online courses, I would be more than happy to comment on that.

  • Jacquie

    Akbar, nice in-depth, step by step outline of how to do a course, presentation, or even how to build a website with great content. You layout is so nice and clean which makes it really easy to implement all this great advice. Looking forward to more information from you. Good job!

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