Creating an Online Course

A-Z Guide with Tips, Useful Tools, FAQs & More

This in-depth guide deals with how to create an online course from start to finish.

Together, we will go over:

  • Planning
  • The gear you’ll need
  • Writing content
  • Recording content
  • Polishing and refining

Get ready for a deep-dive into how veterans create online courses.

Let’s get started.

According to Business Wire, the corporate eLearning market is set to increase by $38.09 billion between 2020 and 2024.

Creating and selling online courses can be an extremely lucrative venture if done correctly with the proper research and planning.

In this post, we’ll go over all the steps you should take to create a compelling online course that will not only provide value to your students but also, sell well.

So, let’s get into it.

The first and probably the most important step to create an online course is:

Ideation and niche selection.

Trust us when we say that it could make or break your passive income journey.

That’s why, it’s not just important but crucial to get it right.

Choosing a topic for an online course may seem simple enough but the fact is:

“If you choose an online course topic without proper planning, it could lead to failure.”

Let us give a very quick example:

If you don’t plan properly and choose a topic that’s too large to cover in a single online course, you’ll end up with a bloated course that no student wants to take .

Another case is targeting a saturated market with a lot of credible and established instructors.

In this case, your course would not sell well at all since no one would want to purchase a course from a new creator when there are already reputable online courses available on that topic.

So, how do you go about choosing an online course topic?

Well, you can start by looking inwards and asking yourself a few questions:

  • What am I interested in? Write 3 – 4 examples
  • What am I an expert in? Write 3 – 4 examples


After asking yourself these questions…

You’ll have a list of a few course topics to start with.

Next, it’s a good idea to do a little market research to see which of the topics on your list already have online courses available by reputable course creators.

Note: These are the topics you want to avoid.


It’s important that you go after online course topics that have low competition when you’re first starting out. It will be much harder for you to gain traction as a new course creator if you’re making courses about topics that have already been extensively covered.

Another approach is to target a very micro segment of a broader topic and sell that. Once, you have established yourself in that area, you can expand on that to cover more ground.

At a micro level, the size of your target audience would be less but the conversion into sales would be higher. Not to mention, less competition and an opportunity to build a loyal and focused audience.

Once you’ve narrowed it down to a single course topic, it’s time to zoom in.

This means that you will not create an online course topic that deals with the entirety of that topic at length.

Instead, you should look further into your chosen topic to find a problem or issue.

Is there a problem students are facing in that field that hasn’t been addressed properly or in detail?

Is there some technique or skill within that field that you know how to do better or more efficiently?

These are the questions you can ask yourself to identify a problem that you can make your online course about.

Remember that good online courses don’t deal with huge, sprawling topics. Instead, they focus on a specific problem or technique and attempt to bring forth solutions to it.

We’ve made a detailed post on how to choose your online course topic that you can check out.

Once you’ve chosen a topic for your online course, it’s time to start gathering information and valuable content for it.

There are many sources of information you can look towards for insight and knowledge regarding your course topic such as your own knowledge, peers, books, and of course, the internet.

The first step to gathering information for online courses is:

To note down everything you already know regarding your course topic.

After that, you can start considering other sources of information. If you have peers, colleagues or even students that are in the same field as your course topic, it can be a great idea to conduct interviews.

Not only will these interviews help you gather information but they may also give you insight into what problems they may be facing in relation to your course topic.

This could give you some direction as to what you should be focusing more on in your online course.

When it comes to gathering content off the internet, it’s important to verify your sources and ensure that any information you’re including within your course is correct and authentic.

We’ve talked about authentication techniques such as RADAR within our post on why it’s important to evaluate sources before gathering them.

When it comes to tools that you can use to gather information off the internet, any SEO tool that you may have used during market research of your course topic can come in handy.

Free tools such as as well as paid ones such as Ahrefs and SEMRush can be invaluable for gathering information for online courses.

The great thing about tools such as Ahrefs and SEMRush is that they provide you with keyword suggestions and ideas that you may not have thought of on your own. You can use these suggestions on search engines to gain access to further information you may not have initially come across.

Other than that, you can also use these keyword suggestions to include them within your course in order to increase traffic to your website and your online course.

If you want more details on gathering content, you can go to our post that talks extensively about how to gather information for an online course.

This next step is crucial and it’s, sadly, often thought of by new creators as an optional step that they can skip.

The truth of the matter is that if you don’t take the time to create an outline, you can run the risk of your online course coming out as long-winded, bloated and unfocused.

A course outline helps you keep your content in check and ensures that only crucial information is included within your online course.

Furthermore, creating an outline also ensures you don’t forget to add anything when actually writing content for your online course.

Tools to Help You Out

Employing the use of certain word formatting software such as Google Docs, Microsoft Word or LibreOffice can help you immensely when creating an outline.

The process for creating an outline for all these tools is the same:

  1. Start by creating a table that has four columns and as many rows as the number of lessons you’re going to have within your online course.
  2. The four columns will represent the lesson title, the main points explained in the lesson, any learning resources you may want to include (images, videos, extra readings, infographics, etc.), and any learning activities you may want to have at the end of the lesson (quizzes, practical activities, etc.) respectively.

Creating an outline using this method is extremely effective and you’ll find that it will save you a lot of time when you’re actually writing content for your online course.

The Importance of Practical Activities

This is something that many new course creators fail to include within their online courses and it’s a huge reason why many online courses fail to be engaging.

Learning activities can improve your online course for a number of reasons:

  • They keep your students engaged.
  • They test what your students have learned over the course of the past lesson.
  • They serve as mini-accomplishments for your students to help them see that they’re gaining value from your online course.

When creating your course outline, you don’t have to write down all the details of the practical activities you’re going to have in your course.

All you have to do is come up with a general idea and mention them within your course outline.

Then, when the time comes to actually develop content for your online course, you can start writing them out in detail.

For more information on creating a course outline, you can check out our post on how to create an outline for your online course.

Finally, we arrive at the first step that involves actually producing content for your online course.

When it comes to writing content, you will mainly write what will appear within your online course’s lecture slides.

Hence, the first thing you must keep in mind is to write in bite-sized, digestible chunks.

Bombarding your students with long paragraphs and texts of information is a sure-fire way to put them to sleep. When you’re making lecture slides, ensure that you’re only writing the absolutely necessary points concisely which would then be elaborated upon via your audio narration.

What to Include and What to Exclude

You will have made this decision for most of the content when you’re developing the course outline.

However, you may still run into some situations where you’re unsure of whether or not you should include a certain piece of information or not.

In this case, you should refer to your course objectives and goals.

If you went through our post for creating outlines for online courses linked above, you’ll know that creating course objectives is a crucial step.


Course objectives detail what students will be able to do once they finish your online course.

They also answer important questions like:

  • What new knowledge will they have?
  • What new skills will they gain?
  • What problem will they be able to effectively solve?


So, when you run into a piece of information that you’re unsure of whether to include or exclude, ask yourself:

 “Does this information serve any of my course objectives?”

 If the answer is yes, include it. If it’s no, exclude it.

Practicality Over Theory

We’ve already mentioned the importance of practical activities but we must reiterate that you need to avoid being “that teacher” when creating an online course.

You know the one we’re talking about, the one that rambles theory throughout their course without giving any examples of the practical applications of that theory.

The theory is important, yes, but at the same time, you need to show rather than tell.

 This can be achieved through examples, images, videos, extra resources, etc. as well as, you guessed it, practical activities at the end of each lesson.

For more tips on effective writing for e-learning, you can check out our post on how to write content for online courses.

Before you start producing videos for your online course, you need to decide what type of content you want to make.

You have a few options:

  • Produce videos of you talking to the camera and elaborating on your online course.
  • Produce videos consisting of your computer screen displaying your course lectures with audio narration.
  • A combination of both.

If you choose the first option, you’re going to need extra gear such as a camera, a microphone, lighting, as well as a video editing tool.

If you choose the second option, you won’t need a camera but you will need screen recording software such as MovAVI and a microphone.

For the third option, you’ll need a camera as well as screen recording software.

In our opinion, the third option is the best since it gives you all the benefits of the first two options.

So, let’s discuss what these benefits are:

Option 1 (just you): When you produce videos speaking directly to the camera, it serves to keep your students engaged since you’ll be speaking directly to them. Not only that but it also helps you compel your audience and build a personal connection.

Option 2 (just the slides and computer screen): When you narrate your online course lectures, it makes your online course much more compelling. This is because as you show your course lectures on the screen, students will know exactly what’s being talked about. You can also avoid having too much text in your course lectures since you’ll be explaining the majority of the concepts via your narration.

Tip: A better approach is to share your screen. This is by far one of the best and most effective methods for online teaching. We highly recommend it especially in situations where you are explaining a process.

Option 3 (both, you and and the computer slides/screen): This gives you the best of both worlds: You can refer to your online course lectures within your videos whenever you’re talking about a certain concept and cut between lectures and your face when speaking. In this way, your students will know what you’re talking about and you’ll also build a human connection with them in the process.

Naturally, video production and editing take a lot of practice as well as a lot of gear in order to get right.

You’ll need a couple of things. Some of them are:

A video editing tool such as Adobe Premiere Pro, FilmoraPro or Final Cut Pro.
For a complete, step-by-step rundown on producing video, you can check out our post on how to create video content for online courses.

Audio recording may seem straightforward but it can actually be quite difficult if you don’t know what you’re doing.

You’d be amazed at the impact a well-produced audio narration can have in terms of the engagement of your students.

Contrary to this, a poorly produced audio narration can single-handedly ruin your online course and make it nearly impossible to go through.

Ask yourself:

Would you go through an online course in which the audio narration is harsh, distorted and difficult to listen to?

No, you wouldn’t. Not only because it would be grating to listen to but also because it would be unclear.

Hence, it’s important that you invest as much time, money and effort as you possibly can to ensure your audio sounds crisp and clear.

So, how can you achieve this?

Well, the first thing you’ll need to think about is gear.


A decent microphone is essential. Do not make the mistake that many new course creators make of recording your narration through your laptop’s or phone’s built-in mic.

We’ve gone over some cheap microphones for recording that you could check out for your online courses. They don’t cost a fortune but provide clear sound that is easy to clean up and make suitable for your online course.

Other than that, you can also invest in some cheap accessories for your microphone such as a pop filter, a shock mount and a boom arm.

A pop filter ensures:

Your sound doesn’t get distorted when pronouncing consonants such as “P” or “B”

A shock mount ensures:

Your mic doesn’t pick up any rumbling from you placing your hands on your desk or handling the mic.

Finally, a boom arm helps you:

Clear clutter from your desk as it enables you to suspend your mic in the air so it’s close to your mouth.

Audio Editing Tools

Merely recording your audio narration is not enough.

Once it’s recorded, you’re going to have to clean it up and make it crisper so that it’s ready for your online course.

We must once again stress that this is not an optional step.

Choosing to not edit your audio files at all will result in your audio narration being harsh and unclear.

This will result in your students losing interest and even being downright annoyed with your online course.

Some great audio editing tools or Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) that you can think of getting are:

All of these tools have the features necessary to clean up your audio, mix it properly and ensure it sounds clear to your students.

Quick Tip: For a step-by-step rundown of what you should do to record perfect audio, check out our post on how to record and edit audio for online courses.

Once you’ve written content, recorded videos and audio, it’s time to organize them properly into a well-structured online course.

The first thing to do is to gather all of your different files into separate folders.

We recommend having your course lecture files (.ppt or something similar) in one folder, videos in another and any additional audio narration in another.

While your videos are going to be the bread-and-butter of your online course, depending on the platform you’re choosing to post it on, you may need to upload course lectures separately as well.

If you’re choosing to host your online course on your own website, you can pretty much do whatever you want.

Typically, adding videos alongside online course lectures is the way to go.

For an in-depth look at how you can effectively organize content, you can go through our post that deals with compiling and organizing content for online courses.

Once everything’s done and organized, it’s important that you go through it thoroughly to correct any mistakes or oversights.

We recommend that you go through the entirety of your online course as a student would and keep an eye out for any typos, grammatical errors or even conceptual mistakes.

You should do this for the written content in your course lectures as well as the auditory content in your audio narration.

You should also keep an ear out for any audio clipping, distortion or points in your audio where anything may sound unclear.

Depending on how severe the issue is, you may either have to clean up the audio file further or record an audio snippet to replace it.

Enlist the Help of Peers and Friends

If you have peers or colleagues that work or study in the same field that your online course is about, it can be a great idea to send it to them.

Ask them to go through the entirety of it and ask for feedback.

Not only will they be able to catch typos or grammatical errors that you may have missed out on but they might even give you more insightful feedback as well.

This might be something related to how you could structure your online course better or some other addition or subtraction you could make in regards to your content.

Apart from friends and colleagues that deal with the same field your online course is about, it can also be a good idea to send it to friends that are unfamiliar with the course’s field.

An outsider’s look can sometimes be very helpful for refining your course and gauging how well someone with zero understanding of your topic can grasp the concepts you’ve detailed.

Add Any Remaining Content

At this point, we expect that you must have added all necessary resources that you’d detailed within your course outline.

However, sometimes when you’re going through your finished online course, you may see that some extra resources, images or screenshots could be added.

Tools such as Lightshot and Gyazo help you take screenshots and add them to your online course which you may have missed out on.

Quick tip: We would personally suggest you include a lot of screenshots like that. They really help with the engagement.

Adding Music to Your Audio Narration

This is something that’s completely optional and something that your online course doesn’t really need.

However, the addition of soft, ambient background music can definitely amplify the production value of your course and help it engage students better.

When choosing music, it’s important that you choose something that is unobstructive and not flashy at all.

You don’t want the music to distract students from what you’re saying.

We have a detailed guide on how to cut music using Audacity that you can check out for easy compilation of music with your audio narration.

For more information on how to polish and refine your online course, you can check out our step-by-step guide.

Once you’ve completed and refined your online course and are ready to bring it to the public, you have two options:

  1. Choose an existing online learning platform to put your online course on.
  2. Build a website yourself and host your online course on it.

As you can probably imagine, the latter option gives you far more control but is also much more complicated. We’ll talk about the latter option later in this post but for now, let’s talk about what you should know if you choose the former option.

When it comes to online platforms for online courses, they can be broadly split into two categories:

  • Online Course Marketplaces
  • All-in-One Platforms

Online Course Marketplaces

Online course marketplaces allow you to put up your online course as part of their catalog. Your online course will be a part of whatever category that it’s about and you may get the option to customize your course’s landing page but that’s about it.

While online course marketplaces may not offer a lot of control, the great thing about them is that most of them let you publish your course onto them for free. However, they will take a share of what you make from your course sales.

One major benefit of uploading your online course to such a marketplace is the fact that they have an existing student base that may be looking for exactly the type of course you might be selling.

Examples of online course marketplaces include but not limited to:

If you’re a new creator without much of an online presence, then online course marketplaces can definitely be a worthwhile choice.

All-in-One Platforms

All-in-one platforms give you a lot more freedom in that you can create your own landing pages, build your course right on the platform using its tools and also, use intuitive tools to market your course.

These types of platforms usually charge a monthly fee along with transaction fees.

Factors to Think About When Choosing an Online Platform

Some of the factors and aspects you should be thinking about as an online course creator choosing a platform are the following:

  • Formats supported: It’s a good idea to go for a platform that supports a number of different file formats for your online course. These could be different formats of video (.MP4, .WMV, .AVI, etc.), audio (.WAV, .MP3, .FLAC, .OGG, .AIFF, etc), PDFs, text files (.doc, .docx, .txt, etc.) as well as images (.JPG, .PNG, .TIFF, etc.).
  • Customization Options: Naturally, the more customization options a platform has, the better. At the very least, you should at least go for a platform that allows you to build a respectable landing page that tells students all they need to know about your online course.
  • Affordability: This is why most new online course creators go for course marketplaces rather than all-in-one platforms. A monthly fee is usually too much for new online course creators.
  • Tools for Making Quizzes, Assessments: We talked at length about how practical activities are a major key to making a course engaging. Hence, you should look for an online platform that has features to create such activities within your course.

Examples of all-in-one platforms for online courses include:

You can look at our extensive guide to choosing an online course platform to get a better understanding of what to look for in such platforms when browsing.

Learn More

Seed launching your online course may seem like an unnecessary step to most but it’s something that can really help you perfect your course before you publish it.

So, what is seed launching?

Seed launching your course means testing it out among a small group of people and gathering their feedback.

You can think of it as “testing the waters”.

It’s an ideal way to straighten any wrinkles that your course may have and as we mentioned earlier:

Other people may be able to give you better insight into certain aspects of your course than you ever could on your own.

In addition to refining your online course, seed launching can:

  • Help you refine your target audience.
  • Discover what content is gratuitous within your course and what content needs to be elaborated on further.
  • Help you connect with your audience before you’ve officially launched your online course.

Another great thing about seed launching is that you don’t really need to develop a marketing strategy for it like you would if you were actually launching your course.

All you have to do is offer “early access” to your online course to a group of students. You could find this group through:

  • Your email contacts
  • Your followers on social media platforms
  • Friends, colleagues and family

For more information on the benefits of seed launching and how to do it, you can check out our step-by-step guide on how to seed launch online courses specifically.

Building a personal brand around yourself will do wonders for the promotion and initial sales of your online course.

Hence, it’s something you need to work on and establish before you actually launch it.

A personal brand, just like a corporate brand, elaborates on who you are, what your values are and what you hope to achieve with your products (online courses).

 In order to understand your personal brand, you need to look towards who your audience is first.

When creating your course outline, you will have developed your course’s goals and objectives. These can be the key to establishing what type of people you want to target with your online courses and what types of problems you want to tackle.

Identifying the niches, problems and solutions you want to present within your online course(s) can play a major role in identifying what your personal brand is going to be.

We’ve detailed the complete process to develop your personal brand as an online course creator that you can check out.

We’ve talked above about what your options are if you choose to host your online course on an already established online course platform.

Now, let’s look at the steps you’d take if you wanted to create your own website and host your online course on it.

Choosing a Web Development Platform

Back in the day, if you had to make a website, you’d have to learn HTML, CSS, Javascript, JQuery, PHP and much more in order to create a compelling one.

These days, you have the option of choosing easy-to-use web development platforms that have easy visual options for you to create a website just the way you want without having to learn to code. 

The most popular example of this is WordPress but in recent years, other competitors have also been gaining traction such as:

Choosing a Hosting Service

In order to have complete control over your website with the ability to monetize it, you’re going to need a hosting service for it.

A hosting service is basically what you need to make your website available to everyone on the internet. Without it, your created website would just be sitting on your local computer, not accessible to anyone else.

Some great examples of web hosting services include:

Choosing the Right Plugins

Plugins are going to be a huge part of your web development process and they can help you out with a number of different things such as payments, the aesthetics of your website, link management, streamlined searching and compilation, and much more.

WordPress has the most diverse array of plugins you can find among the different web development tools and chances are, if you’re having trouble with a certain process, there’s probably a plugin out there that can help you out.

We go into detail about the essential plugins for online course creators as well as the entire website creation process in our post on how to create a website for selling online courses.

We’ve given you a complete overview of all the steps you need to take to create an online course from start to finish.

That being said, there are a number of things we wish we knew when we were working on our first online course.

In this section, we’ll go over some quick tips and things to keep in mind when creating online courses.

Keep it Simple, Always

In our content writing for online courses section above, we mentioned how you need to condense your content into bite-sized, digestible chunks.

This is important because:

If you don’t, you’ll risk overwhelming your students which would then lead to them losing interest in your course.

While keeping it simple while writing content is important, you should know that this is a rule you need to abide by in every aspect of your online course creation journey.

For example:

When creating a website for your online course, try not to pack it with too much information and/or large blocks of text and paragraphs.

Another example would be regarding your course topic and how it should only deal with a single problem or technique and not with a large niche that would require tons of lessons and modules.

This is especially important when you’re first starting out.

Creating an online course that’s large and dense is not always a bad idea but you need a lot of skill to keep it engaging from start to finish. That’s not something you’ll be capable of when you’re first starting out.

Save and Re-Use Assets

In a lot of cases, creating your first online course is the hardest part. After that, things become easier for a number of different reasons.

The most obvious one being that you now have the experience and know-how of every single aspect of creating an online course.

However, a more underrated aspect is the fact that you’ll have templates and assets from your first course that you can now use in your second one (assuming that you saved them).

That’s the tip here:

If you’ve created navigation menus, button layouts, lesson structures, etc., be sure to save them for future use.

In this way, when you create your second online course, you can just copy-paste these templates and save yourself a whole bunch of time.

Always Keep Your Audience in Mind

No matter what step of the creation, selling or management stage of your online course you’re at, you should always keep your customers in mind and make decisions accordingly.

If you’re writing content, write it while keeping the expertise and know-how of your target audience in mind.

 If you’re developing a website for your online course, develop it with the ease of use of your website visitors in mind.

If you’re recording and editing audio, edit it while keeping in mind that it should be legible and clear for your students.

Always remember who you’re making these online courses for. While your end goal may be making money from these courses (and there’s nothing wrong with that), if you don’t satisfy your customers, your courses are not going to sell.

Keeping your audience in your mind will help you ensure that every part of your online course is perfectly designed to accommodate them and ensure they have the best experience.

You can check out our post for tools, FAQs, tips & tricks to create online courses for a much more detailed list of similar tips as well as useful tools that can help you out with creating your first online course.

Learn More

Online course selling can be highly profitable and can result in you receiving passive income for many years to come.

That being said, it can also be a complete waste of time, money and effort if you go into it without proper research and planning.

We’ve given you a complete overview of what goes into the online course creation process. If you have any questions, you can let us know in the comments below.