Create and build your own short online course for the first time.

online course builder
Are you thinking about creating courses online? In this article we share some of the basics to creating online courses, a webinar series, or workshops you can teach or train others on. Ultimately your best way to succeed will be to utilize an excellent online course platform (like our recommendation Teachable or also Thinkific) and utilize the resources, training, and step-by-step demonstrations they offer on succeeding with developing (and selling) your own online courses. Here are some things to think about as you consider creating and building your own online course for this first time.

Finding your topic to teach to get started

You don’t have to be a thought leading expert or keynote speaker to share your knowledge with others, but you have to create a strategy for your online course to help your students get the best out of the content. Don’t expect students to pay money (or even enroll) just to find course content or information that may interest them. They are probably seeking to solve a problem or take on a specific challenge and need a short online course in order to learn what to do. Create your content (lectures, activities, assignments, questions, etc.) based on what you’ve learned your students need as what you would like to teach. Check out this guide to starting your own online courses.

Why should you create a course online?

This question is often asked by those new to sharing their expertise with students (or more formally teaching it). Because the online course format provides access to audiences, activities, and learning opportunities that are not available in most classrooms, the following factors should be considered to decide if your online course will be a success:

Do my students need this kind of content and learning experience? How do I know that? Does creating and teaching this course add value to me as an instructor?

Can I get a reasonable amount of teaching and learning time from students so we will be able to cover the material that I intended to cover?

Can I effectively share the material with my students quickly?

When should you create an online course…and how big should it be?

Will this course by synchronous (you the teacher will be live with the students) or asynchronous (students can do the course on their own and in their own time)?

Things to think about with your first online course:

  1. Determine your audience or market

You have to understand who you have to reach if you want to build a successful online course. You have to have the right audience. You don’t want to teach online to students that are not in a position to take an online course for whatever reason. You need to identify your target customers before you plan how you want to teach. Then, you will design your course for them and teach to them in a way they will learn. You might find that the type of work people need to do (and possibly struggle with) requires skills that you have and can share with them.

  1. What topics do you want your course to cover?

You have to know what you want to cover in your online course, the materials you have to bring in, your activities, and who your target audience can be that could benefit from those topics and why. Everyone has something to teach and an area of expertise. Convert this into your course topic and break it down.

  1. Create a market for the courses

When you start creating your course, you will be thinking about who is going to respond. You can specifically identify this market or group of potential students. Helping students learn is often easier than getting them to sign up and begin the course. Where are your students online? How can you reach them to inform them of your course and encourage them to enroll.

Online Course Builders & Platforms

What online course platform will you use?

Online course platforms have come a long way in the 10-15 years we’ve been selling our online courses and teaching online. In addition to delivering the modules and tracking progress, they handle payments, help you market, provide certification, and also educate you on how to offer an excellent online course and get your first paying customers as students. They also help you scale up. The most popular platforms like Teachable and Thinkific will help you to do this.

creating courses online
Engaging your students (and you)in virtual learning

There’s nothing quite like being the creator, builder, teacher and owner of your own online course. It allows you to work from anywhere, anytime, in whatever context you choose and share your knowledge with the world through an engaging platform.

However, how to present and share ideas online is a challenge for many online teachers (and learners), even if they’re self-motivated. Therefore, we’re here to offer you the basic best practices of creating a successful online course to engage these learners:

Create your course (and yourself as a teacher entrepreneur)

An online course is an act of creation. It’s also entrepreneurship. Many new ideas are born from nothing or a simple idea, but sometimes they come when thinking about problems you faced. That’s what happened to us.  Anytime we encounter a new learning challenge we tried to find videos to help us understand. We wondered if we could help others learn what we did over many years of practice and that led us into teaching and facilitating workshops. We found that developing courses in the online world was ideal for our teaching to happen at scale and globally. Since we first started designing and teaching our own courses, webinars, and workshops 15 years ago, we’ve been able to reach thousands of students.

We decided early on we needed to learn how to teach online and then decided to create our own online course. But, then while getting started, we discovered the unique challenge of creating online courses. We’re always in the process of improving our online courses and workshops. We continue to learn from our students and have many ideas on how to design our e-learning program. You will too. There are many mistakes that will pop up. If you follow our suggestions, by the end of this article, you’ll have the chance to create a successful project in the area of teaching and learning.

Design an engaging and interactive course

Create a course that allows you to interact with the audience. This is more than simply filling in the blanks of the course. You want to make your online learners feel confident enough to ask as many questions as possible and, thus, creating content that’s both relevant and entertaining. When this isn’t possible, it’s best to create a content that has been inspired by the subject being taught. Make sure that you have interactive activities in your design so students aren’t just reading or watching videos.

Online course builders and course creation tools

Applying technology for the benefit of you and your students is required to create a successful online course. There are many online course tools and learning management systems that you can use to make it very easy for you.

Note that many times online courses have more to do with the tools used to develop and maintain that course as opposed to the subject matter of the course. In the higher ed setting, universities and their teachers develop a course plan that can be executed with an online education system like Canvas, and a learning management system like Blackboard Online Course Maker. If you are not a part of a university, our favorite platform for running your online course is Teachable. It’s what we use but many people also like Thinkific. These are the two main platforms where you are fully in control of your own online course. Others platforms (like Udemy) exist that are more of a marketplace for various courses. Many people switch to Teachable or Thinkific to be in control of their own pricing, marketing, and course ratings.

creating courses virtually

Virtual Course plan

A course plan is a basic outline of the structure of your course – the sections or units, their modules, their objectives, and the delivery methods. It’s really just a way to organize information visually. Most learning management systems will be organized in a way for you to deliver modules in a sequence. This system helps you begin creating courses online.

For example, there could be three to five units in a course with activities, lectures, materials and learning outcomes that correspond to each unit. Your platform will help you to organize your units with the specific materials.

If you’re building an online course – one that is designed to be distributed and viewed online – a course plan is important. Without one, no one can understand how your course is supposed to be utilized or evaluated.

A good course plan includes course topics, learning outcomes, assessment techniques, deadlines, and a course outline format.

Virtual course purpose and topics

It’s important to clearly state the “scope” or focus of your course. Don’t be afraid to get specific. Many times a course will be divided into multiple “units” with different learning outcomes being offered in each to support that specific focus. These sections can still be categorized by learning outcomes – for example, to help learners recognize how the material fits their professional goals or skill development.

For the sake of clarity, the course topic need not be an entire unit in your program, but it should give you a clue to what is meant by the scope of the course. The course topic is the umbrella all of the units and desired learning outcomes fit under.

Learning objectives

Ideally, the learning objectives are real needs you hear from your students.  They are what students should be able to do as a result of the course. They are the desired outcomes from the activities you guided them through. The learning objectives relate to your course topic and units. These are the basics of starting your own online course.

Conclusion Creating Courses Online: Tips for New Online Course Builders

This article shares some of the basic to starting your own online course or designing workshops. Your next step is to just get started in actually creating and building your course for your audience of students or learners. The best way to do this the right way is to utilizing the educational resources from the platform you choose. For this benefit we recommend Teachable or Thinkific that are not only the most popular online course developer platforms, but also have many resources to help you take action building a great course and making it your business. Also check out some of the Create Online Courses Video Tutorials. Good luck creating courses online!


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