A step-by-step guide to creating online courses

How To Create An Online Course: The Ultimate Guide

How To Create An Online Course: The Ultimate Guide for 2021


If you're a consultant, coach or trainer then one thing that's no doubt been hammered home to you during the pandemic is that a complete reliance on face-to-face work is a huge risk.
When lockdowns first started around the world we saw an immediate switch to a variety of remote working approaches like conference calls and video workshops. These allowed us to continue current and planned projects without fundamentally changing what they were about. Instead of live workshops we did webinars. Instead of 1-1 meetings we did phone or video calls.
But the changes didn't stop there.
Even by June, researchers Brandon Hall were reporting that client organisations were pushing training sessions from webinars and calls towards pure e-learning and video based online courses.
Brandon Hall research into 'Go-To" tools for online training
And all the indications say this switch is going to be permanent rather than returning to "normal" after the pandemic.
As research by Fosway shows, the vast majority of Learning & Development Directors, Managers and Learning Technology Professionals say there has been a major shift in what they do and they don't expect things to return to a pre-pandemic scenario.
Fosway rapid Research Survey into post-pandemic L&D strategies
The logic behind this shift is clear.
Clients report increased engagement and retention of information with e-learning strategies, along with a better fit with busy employees lifestyles.
In addition, there's less time wasted on travel and breaks, and the environment can often feel safer for employees rather than learning alongside peers.
And perhaps most significantly, most clients embarking on e-learning projects expect significant cost savings as a result. IBM, for example, reported savings of around $200 million as a result of their e-learning initiative and McDonald's reported savings of 50% of their training costs by switching to e-learning.
It's little surprise that even before the pandemic the global e-learning market hit $200 billion in 2019 and was predicted to grow to $375 billion by 2026.
And from a service provider's perspective, online training courses have many advantages:
  • They allow you to reach clients in geographies you could never reach with in-person services and to serve many more people
  • They allow you to scale your sales much more easily (ie selling additional courses doesn't require much more work from you after your initial investment in building them)
  • They can be sold and delivered 24/7 and while you're working on other things
  • They allow a much higher degree of automation, freeing up your time
  • They can increase the lifetime value of each client allowing you to invest more to win them
  • The content of your online courses can be reused for marketing, live presentations, articles, etc.
A word of caution however: creating online courses isn't for everyone.
Creating online courses is a significantly different business model to delivering services.
With traditional service delivery you market and sell to clients and your contract is confirmed before you start the bulk of your work. Often you get paid at least in part up front.
With online courses you have to invest up-front to develop the course and then sell it. And while there are things you can do to minimise your upfront investment (and we'll cover them in this guide), it's inherently a more risky business model. More investment up front for potentially exponential returns downstream rather than a more linear "get paid as you go" model.
The style of work is different too. Many service professionals enjoy working live with clients and being "in the moment" as they react to what clients say and do in coaching sessions or workshops. 
Creating online courses is a very different style of work. It's largely solitary and the work is much more structured as you plan, design and create courses. And unless you're outsourcing elements of the work too, it's much more technical and requires mastery of recording video and audio, lighting, slideshows, video editing and online tools for course delivery.
Marketing and selling your courses online is also very different to marketing and selling face-to-face services. Again, it's more technical, more solitary and less "in the moment".
And the reality is that those differences in business model, working style and marketing just don't suit some people.
You need to go into this with your eyes open, and ideally to test it out quickly to see if this different style of working will suit you and you can make it a success.
That said, if you can get it to work for you the potential rewards are massive. Online courses offer the opportunity to serve more people, give unrivalled flexibility in your working life and (let's not mince words) make a lot more money than you could from face-to-face services alone.
So let's dive in to our in-depth guide: 

How To Create an Online Course: A Step By Step Guide

Click on any of the sections below (or the menu at the left of the screen) to see the in-depth guide for that section.

Critical Success Factors for Creating Online Courses

Critical Success Factors for Creating Online Courses

5 key factors that will determine the success of your course:

  • Pick the right type of course
  • Deliver a specific tangible outcome in a priority area
  • Pick the right audience for you
  • Make your course stand out from others on the market
  • Use a Lean approach to speed up and derisk course development

Choosing the Right Topic for Your Online Course

Choosing the Right Topic for Your Profitable Online Course

Learn which topics lead to the most profitable and easiest to develop course

  • Brainstorm ideas using Topic Triggers
  • Strengthen your initial ideas
  • Evaluate and select the best idea

Identifying the Best Audience for Your Online Course

Identifying the Best Audience for Your Online Course

Identify and evaluate the best potential audiences for your course to use as you develop and launch it:

  • Deciding which type of buyer to focus on
  • Brainstorming potential buyer audiences
  • Evaluating the best audiences for you

Outlining Your Online Course

Outlining Your Online Course

Create a course outline to motivate buyers and guide the creation of your course:

  • Doing small scale personal research 
  • Broader research with a survey
  • Interpreting your research
  • Creating Your Course Outline

Learn more about  Outlining Your Online Course

Choosing the Best Technology Platform for Your Online Course

Choosing the Best Platform for Your Online Course

Review and select the best technology to use to run your course during your pilot and beyond:

  • The 5 technology pillars of online courses
  • Technology choices for your pilot
  • The 3 options for building and running your course long term
  • Technology choices for your course launch and continuing operation

Learn more about  Choosing the Best Platform

Pricing Your Online Course

Pricing Your Online Course

Define an optimal price for your pilot and full launch of the course:

  • The Economics of Course Pricing
  • Psychological Influences on Your Course Price
  • Strategic Influences on Your Course Price
  • Benchmarking customer alternatives
  • Pricing your pilot and adjusting for launch 

Learn more about  Pricing Your Course

Piloting Your Online Course

Piloting Your Online Course

Learn how to run a pre-sold paid pilot for your online course to ensure its success:

  • Naming your Course
  • Pre-selling your Pilot
  • Your Pilot Timeline
  • Running Your Pilot

Launching Your Online Course

Launching Your Online Course

Learn how to plan the three key steps to launch your course after piloting:

  • Updating your content
  • Updating your technology
  • Preparing your marketing

Marketing and Scaling Up Your Online Course

Learn the three key success factors for profitable course growth after launch:

  • The Lifetime Value and Customer Acquisition Cost Equation 
  • Converting More Existing Contacts into Buyers
  • Expanding Your Contact Network While Promoting Your Course to Them

Find out more about how we can build your online course for you 

Webuild.courses is our dedicated service where we work with you to build a brilliant online course that meets your exact needs:

  • A beautiful course site with content and sales pages
  • Membership and learning management
  • In-built forums or groups for client engagement

Learn more about webuild.courses