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.
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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,