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How to Create Your First Online Course

Guide to creating your first online course

When you think of online courses, you may think of online universities. However, all sorts of people and organizations create their first online course on a wide variety of topics!

You might want to make an online course for training purposes at your work, online workshop or to provide further education to students outside of a classroom.

The things that you will need to consider when creating your online course will differ based on who you are, who your audience is, and why you are making your course.

How Will You Make and Offer Your First Online Course?

The first thing that you may want to consider is what sort of platform you are going to use.

If you are an educator or a member of a large company, you might already have access to course management software. Consider talking to a supervisor or the person who does the web development at your place of work to see if they have any advice or resources.

If you don’t have access to any of the resources mentioned above, you may be able to get off by running your online course through free cloud services. Many of these services offer whole suites of tools that you can use to design your course.

Running a course with a cloud suite is possible but it isn’t easy. If you’re an educator or working in a company, consider asking your advisor about getting course management software.

Will You Charge for Your Course? How Will You Pay for it?

On the topic of cost, you’re going to have to decide whether you want people to pay for your course and how to charge them. And, incidentally, charging is one thing that you can’t easily do without course management software. Similarly, if you do decide to charge, it can go a long way toward offsetting the price of that software.

If your course is for training purposes at a company or extra credit at a school, chances are you won’t want to charge for it. However, if you’re a community organization or a non-profit offering certification, you may be able to get away with charging for your class.

If you are a non-profit or community organization, be sure that your group has enough publicity and notoriety to make people want to take the course, especially if they’re going to be paying for it. Partnering with some other well-known community organizations can help you to get the recognition that you need as well as bringing insight and funds to your project.

Who Is Your Audience? How Will You Reach Them?

After you’ve handled these basics about online courses in general, it’s time to ask some more specific questions about your course. For example, who is the audience?

We’ve mentioned some clear examples above. If you are an educator or making a training course for a company, you already have an audience – or know where to find one. Similarly, if you’re a non-profit or community group, you might have an audience that is going to find you.

However, if you’re in business for yourself – maybe you just have a skill that you would like to teach people – you’re going to need to consider how to attract an audience.

That’s especially true if you are planning on using revenue to pay for costs. If that’s your case, consider some of the options that we discussed in the previous section for community groups.

Look for better known partners to help you get the word out. Consider reaching out to other people that you know of who are interested and think about places in the community where advertisements might draw attention. Consider doing this kind of fact-checking before you actually pay for software or even start designing your course. That way while you drum up interest you can be holding focus groups and user testing. But we’ll talk more about that in the next section.

What Will Your Course Material Be? Where Will it Come From?

Once you have an audience you can start thinking about what you want to include in the course. Or, maybe you did that already. Anyway, it can be more complicated than it sounds.

Once again, if you’re making a training course for a business, you probably have a good idea of what needs to be included. If you’re an educator, you may already have a lesson plan or at least know a thing or two about making one.

If you’re in any other sort of circumstance, you should think long and hard about the information you want to include and where it should come from. You don’t want to include too much information or so little that it doesn’t seem worth it to the people taking your course.

Similarly, you should think about where your teaching materials come from. Will you be writing the curriculum yourself? What about sources? If you’re going to be using websites, read through their terms and conditions or reach out to their administrators to be sure that that is a legal use of their content. That’s especially important if you’re charging for your course.

As mentioned above, this is something that you can talk to early students about or mention in focus groups and bring up in user testing before you launch the first actual round of your course. You can always change things along the way as well.

How will I manage registration for my online course?

Finding a good course management software is key to successful applicant management.

You’ll want a platform that allows you to collect registrant data online, with integrated payments and automatic billing, so you don’t have to manage building your course AND ensuring you get paid.

If you plan to grow in the course space, you’ll want a system that automates many of the administrative tasks you will need to manage registrant data, payments and beyond. A course management platform that provides reporting tools to view rosters, understand your demographic, and send emails to registrants with incomplete applications and a balance, are key to streamlining your management tasks.

Creating your first online course is a big deal! Make sure you have the business tools and a plan in place to execute a successful course!

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