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Online Course Creation: A 10-Step Guide for 2022

  • Willy WoodWilly Wood

As an entrepreneur, you’ve probably dreamed about creating your own online course.

And it’s no wonder. After all, there are many benefits to developing an online course. For example, an online course demonstrates your expertise and raises your status in your field, and it allows you to help more people more efficiently than many time-intensive methods such as one-to-one coaching.

On top of this, after you’ve created a popular course, you can automate it and generate a consistent income stream. And a successful course can also lead to other opportunities, such as JV partnerships or speaking engagements.

Now you might be thinking, “these benefits sound great, but I have no idea where to start.”

If that’s the case, fear not, because in this post, we’ll describe a step-by-step process for creating your successful online course. This post will give you a 30,000-foot view of the key steps you should take.

Ready? Let’s get started!

10 Steps for Successful Online Course Creation

Alright, it’s time to dig into the nitty-gritty of how to create an online course to sell.

Here’s a quick overview of the 10 steps you’ll need to take to create your own course:

  1. Select a Profitable Course Subject: Make sure there’s a market for your subject and that you can offer a solution to a problem your audience struggles with.
  2. Develop Compelling Learning Outcomes for Your Course: Identify a transformation you can deliver and create objectives that describe what your audience will get from your course.
  3. Plan and Structure Your Course Content: Chunk your content into modules and lessons that form a logical sequence.
  4. Validate Your Course Content: Pre-sell your course to determine whether there are enough people willing to pay for it.
  5. Choose Your Online Course Platform: Select the platform that provides the best experience for your students.
  6. Craft Your Amazing Online Course Content: Create scripts for your videos and written materials and upload them into your platform.
  7. Film and Record Your Videos: Once created and edited, upload the videos to your platform.
  8. Price Your Online Course: Set a price that establishes you as an authority and allows you to make a profit.
  9. Launch Your Pilot: Enroll a small beta group to help you co-create the first iteration of your course.
  10. Assess and Improve Your Course: Use feedback to revise your course and prepare to launch the new, improved version to the public.

With that big picture in mind, let’s dive into the details.

1.  Select a Profitable Course Subject

The first step is to choose a subject that works for both you and your audience.

To determine whether your course subject will work for your students, ask:

  • Who is my ideal customer?
  • Does my subject address one of their main pain points?
  • What’s the solution they need?

To determine whether your topic will work well for you, ask yourself the following:

  • What topics am I truly passionate about? 
  • How have I previously helped people with problems like those my ideal customers are experiencing?
  • Can I provide the solution my ideal customers are looking for?

Picture a Venn diagram—the intersection between a major problem your ideal customers are facing and your experience with and passion for solving that problem is the perfect “sweet spot” for your course.

Once you’ve found a subject your audience needs help with and about which you have both passion and expertise, there’s still another big question you need to answer:

“Is there a demand for a course on this subject?”

To find out, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are people in my field talking about the subject?
  • Is it something my customers ask about often?
  • Are there others in my field offering courses on the subject? 

You might be wondering why you should care about what your competitors are doing. If so, think of it this way – if others are teaching about the same subject, that indicates there’s a demand for it.

What you want to do next is take a look at your competitors’ courses. Is there a gap in their material that you could fill? Can you put your own spin on the subject matter?

If, after answering the questions above, you’re optimistic about the subject, move on to step two. If you identified some red flags, consider looking for another topic before getting too deep into the process.

2. Develop Compelling Learning Outcomes for Your Course

Now that you’ve selected a topic, it’s time to define your course objectives.

To do this, begin with the end in mind. Your course should be a vehicle for transformation. What’s the end result you want to help your students achieve? What should they know, be able to do, and feel after taking your course?

Put these objectives into writing and use them in all your marketing materials. After all, you wouldn’t sign up for a course where it wasn’t clear how it would help you solve your problems, would you?

Didn’t think so. And neither will your prospective students!

So, write your objectives out, using measurable verbs, and as clearly as possible state:

  • The knowledge they will gain,
  • The skills they will be able to demonstrate, and/or
  • The feelings they will have moved away from (pain) and moved toward (pleasure) by taking your course.

Use the following template for each objective: “By the end of this course, you will (know) OR (be able to) OR (feel)…”.

For example:

 “By the end of this course, you will be able to create a database of prospects and identify which ones to reach out to in your networking efforts.”

Having clearly stated objectives also ensures that you attract the right students—those looking for the transformation you’ve defined through your objectives.

3. Plan and Structure Your Course Content

You’re now ready to create a high-level outline of your course, breaking the material into modules (big topics), then breaking these down into sub-topics to create lessons.

Keep the pain point your course addresses and your course objectives in mind as you do this and sequence the material from beginning to end in a logical progression.

It’s important to remember that your students don’t know the material like you do, so keep it simple. Many course creators overwhelm their students by trying to cover too much. Throw out anything that doesn’t relate directly to achieving a learning objective.

Once you’ve selected your material, write one or more learning objectives for each lesson. Again, clearly state what your students will know, be able to do, and/or feel as a result of going through each lesson.

Use the stem, “By the end of this lesson, you will (know) OR (be able to) OR (feel)…”.

For example:

 “By the end of this lesson, you will know the steps for starting networking conversations, gathering information about your conversation partners, and following up with them after the event.”

4. Validate Your Course Idea

Now that you have your course outline and objectives, it’s time to see if there’s a market for your course.

“Wait,” you may be thinking, “Didn’t I already do this?”

Well, yes and no.

In Step 1, you determined that there was a generic market for your course subject. But now it’s time to determine if people will pay money for the specific course you just outlined. This is critical!

The best way to validate your course idea is by pre-selling your course, which means that you’ll need to build a sales page, explaining who your course is for, why they need it, and what they’ll learn.

Then, drive traffic to this page and encourage people to pre-order, leave a deposit, or join a waiting list.

Track the following metrics:

  • Number of email opens
  • Number of clicks through to your sales page
  • Your conversion rate

Once you’ve run enough traffic to your sales page, check the numbers. How many pre-orders or how large a waiting list do you need for your course to be viable?

If things look good, advance to the next step.

If your course seems to be generating little interest, you’ll want to return to Step 1 and brainstorm some new ideas. No use pouring time and energy into developing an idea people won’t buy.

Note that steps 3 and 4 in the process described here could be done in either order.

Some people prefer to validate their idea by preselling before even outlining the course. The upside is, if the idea flops, you’ve wasted less time on it.

On the other hand, it’s easier to write a good sales page if you’ve outlined the course and developed objectives before trying to pre-sell the course.

Both steps are crucial, so go with the order that makes the most sense to you.

5. Choose Your Online Course Platform

Before creating your course, you’ll want to select the best online course platform for your needs.

There are three options for building, hosting, and selling your course:

  1. Online Course Marketplaces are web-based course platforms that allow you to build and promote your course to a large existing audience. Many have drag-and-drop features that make course creation easy. 

Popular course marketplaces include Udemy, Skillshare, and Udacity.

  1. Learning Management Systems (LMS) are stand-alone course platforms that allow you to create and host your online courses. They provide the tools you need to build your course and sell it on your own site.

Popular learning management systems include Thinkific, LearnWorlds, and Teachable

  1. Plugins for Your WordPress Website allow you to host your course on your own site. Most of these plugins are easy to use and you can add the features you want without worrying that the plugin will crash your site.

Popular WordPress plugins for online courses include LearnDash, Access Ally, and Course Cats.

There are many factors you’ll want to consider when selecting your online course platform, so do your research.

For a deeper dive into the topic, check out our post, 21 Best Online Course Platforms in 2022.

6. Craft Your Amazing Online Course Content

Finally, it’s time to script your course content!

Before diving into actual scripting of materials, think about these guidelines for effective adult learning:

  • Limit overall course length to the minimum time it will take to move students from point A to point B (in other words, achieve course objectives).
  • Break content into smaller bites for easier consumption.
  • Accommodate different learning styles by including a mix of video, audio, and print materials.
  • Include assignments that give students quick “wins” to build motivation.
  • Include engaging elements such as stories, case studies, and quizzes to keep interest high.
  • Include community-building elements in your course design, such as a Facebook group, peer conversations, or coaching calls.

Keep these learning goals in mind as you script the following materials for your lessons:

  • A description of your course, including the promised transformation
  • Module titles, lesson titles, and a short description of each lesson
  • An 30-90 second intro video summarizing your course
  • Scripts for your instructional lessons
  • Homework assignments
  • Your course slides

This will probably be the most time-consuming part of the process. Just tackle the task in small bites until you’ve created scripts for the entire course. You can do this!

7. Film and Record Your Videos

Now that you have your scripts, it’s time to record your videos.

Common options include:

  • A “talking head” approach, where you’re on camera.
  • Recording your computer screen and including a webcam-type video of yourself on top of the computer image.
  • Recording a voiceover, where you narrate your presentation.

You can edit your videos yourself using software like Camtasia, or you can hire a video editor to do it.

Whatever approach you choose, make the videos look and sound as professional as possible, then upload them into your online course platform.

8. Price Your Online Course

Your pricing can be the difference between a profitable course and a money pit that costs more money to fill than it generates in revenue.

Key factors to consider include:

  • Who is your audience and how much money do they have to spend?
  • What’s your level of experience and expertise?
  • Is your course more of a premium course or budget course?
  • If you’re using an online course marketplace, what’s the expected price range?
  • How much do you need to make per student?

Even after taking all of these factors into account, there’s really no easy guideline for course pricing.

Here’s what we suggest: 

  1. Compare your course to others on the same subject, and identify the range of prices.
  2. Analyze your competitors’ courses, then find a way to make your course a little different and a little better. Then…
  3. Price your course at the top of the range.

Never underprice your course because…

  • A low price sends the message that your course is of low quality.
  • It gives you a narrow margin to work with, and you can’t invest in growth if your margins are too low.
  • It takes as much effort to market a low-priced course as it does to market a high-priced course.

The suggestions above are just basic guidelines. For a much deeper discussion of pricing, see our post on the topic.

9. Launch Your Pilot

Now that you’ve developed a course, it’s time to launch it, right?

Wrong!

Before you launch your full course, test a scaled-back version with a small “beta” group of students.

Enroll 4 to 12 highly interested people and deliver your pilot course one lesson per week via Zoom to keep it low tech.

Why pilot before going big?

The most important reason is that it allows you to get feedback on each session in “real time,” via surveys between sessions, and through one-on-one conversations after the course has ended. You’ll use this feedback to take your course from good to great before you launch.

In addition, you can tap your pilot students for testimonials and use their results for case studies that you can use when marketing the full course.

Warning: You may think that this pilot step is just extra work and can be skipped. That would be a mistake. Nothing helps you fine-tune your course like feedback from real, live students!

10. Assess and Improve Your Course

The piloting process described above is just your first chance to use feedback to improve your course. Once you launch your full course, you’ll need to continue this process of iteration indefinitely.

Why?

Because nothing stays still for very long in the online course world. If you’re not constantly improving your course, it will quickly grow obsolete.

So, engage with your students at every opportunity. Respond to assignments, answer emails, and participate in discussions to learn what’s working for them and what’s not.

This engagement allows you to improve your course over time, and it will also help you counter the biggest problem with online courses—the dismal rate of course completion.

Course Creation is No Longer an “Extra”

Not long ago, having an online course was considered a nice “extra.” No longer.

In fact, courses are now considered basic necessities for most online businesses—as basic as having a business card.

But if you don’t have an online course yet, don’t stress about it. Just consider this post your online course template.Work your way through the steps one at a time, and you’ll have your own profitable course in no time! And if you’d like more detail, check out our ultimate course creation guide for 2022.