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How to create and sell a profitable online course in 10 steps

How to Create an Online Course

These days, more people are looking for novel types of quality content to explore online, especially when it comes to learning new skills. One way to cater to this rising demand—while also generating revenue—is to create and sell an online course.

Imparting knowledge and expertise via an online course will allow you to position yourself as an authority in your field, foster a community of like-minded individuals around your business and expand your reach—all from within your home.

This guide will walk you through the different steps of how to create an online course. From choosing the right topic to learning how to make a website for your course, here’s everything you need to know.

What is an online course?

An online course is a structured learning program conducted entirely over the internet. It typically consists of pre-recorded or live lectures, discussions, assignments and assessments. Online courses offer flexibility and convenience, allowing learners to access the material at their own pace and from anywhere with an internet connection.

How to create an online course

01. Choose the right subject matter

The topic you choose is entirely in your hands, and can be pretty much anything—from beauty tips to dog-training videos. While the possibilities are just about endless to create online courses, the right subject matter is a determining factor in your course’s success.

When picking your topic, heed these tips:

  • Choose something you want to teach. The topic for your online course should be either a subject that you’re already knowledgeable about or are willing to invest in learning thoroughly. Either way, you need to be passionate about the subject. Try and think about what it is that you do best, and what people come to you for advice on. Those topics usually make for the most successful online courses. Alternatively, ask yourself what you’d like to know more about, and through learning it yourself, you’ll be able to become a great teacher on the subject. You can also browse some of the Wix Learn Online Courses to find inspiration or brush up on your skills.

  • Choose something others want to learn. Before getting to work, measure the demand for the topic at hand. Ask a group of friends, as well as your existing audience, what they think of the subject you had in mind. Test it out by sharing polls or online forms for your audience to fill out. You can make a short tutorial first, and monitor its performance. Then, follow up on the tutorial on social media or via email, asking your audience if this type of material is something they’re interested in seeing more of.

  • Get the lay of the land. Conduct some online research into your topic. Are there already a ton of courses published on your topic? Or, is the field ripe for new content? While it could be worth participating in tried-and-tested spaces, it could also help to find smaller niches to hone in on.

  • Define your target audience. Once you have a clear target audience in mind, you’ll be better equipped to create and promote your courses. You’ll have an easier time predicting the type of content that your audience wants to consume and their familiarity level with your topic-of-choice.

02. Validate your idea

Creating an online course requires a lot of hard work and effort on your part, so running a short test before you go “all in” will help you ensure that your online course will pay itself off down the line.

In order to test your idea, use a landing page builder to introduce your soon-to-come online course. Although you haven’t created the course just yet, you already know what it’s going to be about. Include a concise description of your course explaining what people can expect to learn, and add eye-catching imagery to further reflect the concept. (Check out these fully customizable landing page templates to use as a starting point.)

Promote your course landing page on various channels, like social media, newsletters and more. Sample the excitement around your course. Check that you have enough attendees and positive feedback to expand your class. Note: you’ll want to establish goals and KPIs ahead of time, so that you’ll know what results to look for at the end of the trial period. This ensures that your online course idea truly is a profitable one from the start.

03. Research the topic extensively

Whether you’re already an expert in your field or are looking forward to learning it from start to finish, now is the time to deep dive until you know everything there is to know about the topic.

As part of your thorough learning process, go beyond what course attendees will easily find on search results. Go the extra mile and find a variety of different sources on the topic, from literature to competitor classes and webinars. Perform keyword research in order to see what type of queries people are looking up on the topic. From this, you can get a better feel for the kinds of questions that your audience might be interested in.

Keep your eyes open for any subcategories within your niche. For example, if you plan on instructing a course about how to take care of indoor plants, you’ll definitely want to cover the basics, such as water and natural light. But in order to provide added value, look for unique angles to widen the scope of your course, like the types of air purifying plants.

04. Write a course outline

Now is the time to develop the curriculum for your online course. On a piece of paper, write down a list of the different lessons you plan on teaching online. Within each lesson, break it down to the main topics you want to cover. Go in a logical order and try to make your ideas evolve naturally from one to the other, to ensure a smooth and frictionless learning process.

Remember that teaching is about guiding your audience through an idea, step by step. To make this clear in your course outline, define an objective for each of your lessons.

Continuing with the indoor plant care example from the previous section, you might want your students to be able to classify the plants they have at home in one lesson, and to be able to recognize signs of pests or disease in the next.

Here’s an example of an online course outline for an indoor plant care class. You can use this example as a template for creating your own:

Lesson 1: How to water plants

Lesson objective: students will learn how much and how often to water their plants.

Topics covered:

  • The importance of watering

  • The dangers of overwatering

  • Different types of plants and the watering they require

  • Soil as a signifier of dehydration or overhydration

Lesson 2: Plants and natural light

Lesson objective: Students will understand the importance of natural light and will be able to pick the optimal lighting for their plants.

Topics covered:

  • Light and its role in plant photosynthesis

  • Different types of plants and the amount of sunlight they need

  • How and when to use fluorescent lighting for indoor plants

05. Set the stage for your online course

Once you’ve mapped out your course, you’ll want to start prepping your virtual stage.

If you’re looking to make a website for the first time, check out these designer-made online education website templates for inspiration.

online education website templates used to create an online course

Or, if you’ve already made a website, install Wix’s Online Programs app to easily create a course that complements your site. You can choose to offer your course as standalone lessons (presented as videos, audio, quizzes and other content types) that participants can access at their leisure. Alternatively, offer your course as scheduled events that require signup beforehand. With Wix’s Online Program App, you can release course content gradually to create a structured learning experience.

example of an online course on SEO built with Wix Online Programs

Think about all the different aspects of your site that you need to get up and running in order to launch a course. For instance, aside from a signup page, you may want to create a members’ area that only program participants can access (more on this later). Or, you may want to set up a community with Wix Groups to foster engagement among participants. Think about where and how you want to host all of your course activities as you flesh out your course materials.

06. Create the course content

If you already have professional experience with your course topic, it’s likely that you’ve put together content about it in the past. Have you ever written a blog post or created a webinar about the subject? Maybe you’ve hosted a podcast or posted YouTube videos that discuss similar themes? If so, revisit these materials. Think of ways to repurpose existing content to enhance your online course.

Based on the materials you’ve gathered, as well as your outline and research from the previous steps, you can now create the actual content for your online course.

If you’re creating new course content, consider these tips:

  • Filming: As a home-based business idea, creating an online course can be done with relatively simple equipment, and you don’t have to be a video production pro in order to create a high-quality course. After all, the level of education you provide is what matters most, and you can create quality content even if you’re working from home. You can film yourself speaking to the camera, record your screen while you talk in the background, or both. While your videos don’t have to be pixel perfect, we do recommend reading up on video tips for creating professional-looking content, as well as choosing the right type of camera and microphone for your needs.

  • Editing: After you’ve filmed your content, invest some time editing your raw footage. There are many free video editing software available, from iMovie to Lightworks, and the Wix Video Maker. Try to craft a nice rhythm to your video by breaking it up into digestible bites. Leave out unnecessary pauses and cut longer takes up into a series of shorter, dynamic clips. Add titles (which should include your course and lesson name) and video captions to make your course accessible and easier to follow. You can also include background music to your video and relevant slides if applicable.

  • Class assignments: Consider adding assignments and activities as part of your course curriculum to help the newly gained knowledge sink in. These can be in the form of downloadable PDF files that students can print or view on their computers. Other options include surveys or online quizzes, which you can create using Wix’s built-in features. It’s recommended to start each lesson with a theoretical discussion, then give some examples and follow up with an assignment at the very end.

  • Course certificates: Incentivize participants even more with professional certificates and/or badges. Offer a badge for accomplishments, or design custom certificates that are automatically emailed to participants once they’ve completed your entire program.

07. Sell your online course

There are four different options for selling your online course and monetizing your website, depending on your needs:

  • Individual lessons for rent or purchase: Allow users to rent or purchase your online course on a video-by-video basis. When purchasing a video, users will enjoy unlimited streaming of the lesson they’ve purchased, so that they can go back and rewatch the content at all times. Choose if you want to allow viewers to download the video or watch it directly on your site.

  • Channel subscription: By paying a monthly fee, users will be able to access all of the paid videos within a channel. Selling subscriptions creates a pay-wall, separating the content of your website into public and premium.

  • Paid plans: Set up different payment options, offering your students to pay all at once or with a recurring payment plan. You can control everything from the type of plan, to what is included, how long it will last, and more. Display plan options on your site for clients to choose from and purchase. Paid Plans act as a pay-wall, allowing users to access the content only after they pay and log into the members area within your site.

  • One-on-one real-time lessons: In addition to the course, you may teach live lessons to students in a personalized one-on-one setting. This format allows students to ask you questions and learn in a tailored approach that meets their specific learning level. Course takers can easily book an available spot with you through online scheduling software. Choose if you want to offer this option at an extra fee or have a predetermined number of private sessions included in the fixed course price.

Alongside your paid lessons, be sure to also offer a small preview of your course entirely for free. Getting a sneak peek of what they can expect to see will encourage students to sign up for the paid classes. Your free content can be either in the form of a short trailer for each lesson, or you can offer the whole first lesson for free, while the rest are paid.

Another idea for a freebee is to create a live Q&A session at the beginning of the course, inviting users to participate free of charge while generating interest. To do this, set up a live stream video, helping you connect with fans in real time. Whichever giveaway option you choose, the free version of your course will come in handy in promoting your online course.

How to price your online course

After filming your content you might be asking yourself how to set the rates and prices for your course to make sure you are profitable. Here are some ways to determine your course fees:

  • Competitor prices: Start by doing a quick audit to determine the average course price on your topic. While the prices can fluctuate depending on how much of an expert the course instructor is, try to get a sense of what the going market rate is for reference.

  • Creation time: Take into account how long it took you to create the course. Any business endeavor that aims to be profitable should have a good balance between time invested and profits gained.

  • Course value: Another factor to consider in how you price your course is the amount of value the user will get from taking the course. Will the paying student later make an income based on the skills and tools you taught them? As you can imagine, the more the student can financially justify taking the course, the more sense it makes to charge a higher price.

  • General best practice: Course prices can have a huge window between a hundred dollars (or less) to over $10,000, depending on the topic. However, it has been found that the higher you charge for a course, the more people assume they will get a lot of value from it and perceive it as “good.” Often when people pay more money, they will be more engaged and invested in learning the content at hand.

Online course website template

08. Market your content

You’ve spent a lot of creative energy and valuable time to create a profitable online course and now it’s time to promote it and get those course registrations. To market your online course, you can use both free promotions and paid types of marketing. You can even create a logo to help your course look extra professional and stand out as you promote it.

Take a look at some of the most popular and effective ways to market your course:

  • Email marketing: Send email marketing campaigns, including early-bird promotions and discounts.

  • Social media: Promote your course on social media and in relevant groups (tip: LinkedIn can be a great start since people are in a professional mindset already).

  • Emails: Reach out to existing contacts with a good ol’ email campaign (tip: utilize Wix’s built-in email features to send targeted communications).

  • Paid ads: Run paid advertising such as Google Search Ads and Banner Ads.

  • YouTube and promo videos: Start a YouTube channel and launch video promotions for your course.

  • Referrals and reviews: Get referrals, reviews and positive testimonials from past students.

  • Website pop-up: Add a lightbox pop-up to promote your course on your own website.

  • Other websites: Collaborate with third-party course websites and continuous studies organizations.

  • Blog posts: Create a free blog and write about the course and course topic to boost your SEO and showcase your knowledge.

CTA to create a blog which can help promote your online course

  • Influencers: Partner with industry influencers that reach your audience niche.

  • Affiliate programs: Kick off an affiliate program and work with ambassadors so others promote the course on your behalf.

  • Webinar: Host a webinar that gets people excited about all they can learn from you.

  • Collaborate with instructors: Work together with other instructors to tap into each other’s network or co-teach a lesson.

  • Go multilingual: Translate your course into another language to reach a wider international audience and break into new markets.

09. Gather feedback

In recent years we’ve moved to conduct a lot more of our business and learning online. This also means that we’re able to make a lot more data-driven decisions, tap into rich analytics and scale our reach to hear more customer voices. Likewise, use the data at your fingertips to help make informed choices and turn a real profit from your online course.

When it comes to your online course, take advantage of opportunities to improve your curriculum by asking for feedback, either during and after the course. The more effort you put into improving your course, the more likely it is for students to recommend you or enroll in future workshops.

To get feedback, create surveys with the help of a form builder and ask about students’ experience, suggestions for improvement and anything else they hoped to get out of the course. Once you measure the success and analyze the answers, you can adjust and continue running better and better courses.

Wix's build-in form builder

10. Cultivate a learning community

Online education is mostly a solitary activity. Therefore, fostering a community of learners around your course will greatly improve their experience, contributing to the overall success of your course.

An active online community can help users share their learning process with a group of peers. Together, they can celebrate their successes and raise any questions they may have. In addition, students can bounce ideas off one another, generating a vibrant conversation and enhancing the interest around your class.

Your online community is also a good place to share news about upcoming courses or other opportunities that might be of interest to this already engaged audience.

Some options for fostering an active learning community include:

  • A Members Area: Creating a Members Area on your site allows registered or paying users to access a variety of premium content - from chat, to forums, blogs and more.

  • An online forum: Create a forum as part of your website, allowing users to support one another’s growth and learning.

  • Social media groups: Consider creating private social media groups—such as a Facebook group—or a Wix Group—which keeps everything under one roof—for learners to engage in.

  • Online communication platforms: Utilize online communication platforms such as Slack or Discord for your learning community.

Common mistakes to avoid when creating an online course

Creating an online course can be a rewarding experience, but it's important to avoid common mistakes to ensure the success of your course. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when creating an online course:

  • Neglecting clear learning objectives: Clearly defined learning objectives are the foundation of an effective online course. They provide a roadmap for learners, ensuring they understand what they will gain from the course and how it will benefit them. Without clear objectives, learners may feel lost and unsure of the course's purpose.

  • Lack of interactivity and engagement: Online courses should not be passive learning experiences. Incorporate interactive elements, such as quizzes, polls, discussions and hands-on activities, to keep learners engaged and motivated. Interactive elements allow learners to apply the knowledge they gain and reinforce their understanding.

  • Poor quality audio and video: Audio and video quality play a significant role in the overall learning experience. Ensure your audio is clear and free from background noise, and use high-quality video that is visually appealing and easy to follow. Poor audio and video can distract learners and hinder their ability to grasp the content.

  • Inadequate testing and feedback: Regular testing and feedback are crucial for assessing learner progress and identifying areas for improvement. Incorporate quizzes, assignments and self-assessments throughout the course to gauge learners' understanding and provide constructive feedback.

  • Ignoring accessibility and usability: Make sure your online course is accessible to learners with disabilities. Use inclusive language, provide alternative text for images and consider using transcripts for videos. Ensure the course platform is easy to navigate and compatible with various devices.

How to create an online course FAQ

How do I create a course plan?

On a piece of paper, write down a list of the different lessons you plan on teaching online. Within each lesson, break it down to the main topics you want to cover. Go in a logical order and try to make your ideas evolve naturally from one to the other, to ensure a smooth and frictionless learning process.

Remember that creating a course plan is about guiding your audience through an idea, step by step. To make this clear in your course outline, define an objective for each of your lessons.

What software do I need to create an online course?

Is creating an online course profitable?

How much does it cost to create an online course?

Is an online course passive income?

How long does it take to create an online course?

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