building and promoting online course

A Novice’s Guide to Building And Selling Online Courses

With the recent boom in ed-tech, taking a class online has never been easier. But what about making one?  Building and selling an online course may seem difficult if you’ve never done it before. You may wonder how to create a site for your course?? Not to mention how to manage the course or even what you’ll teach.

This article will share with you interviews with people who have done all those things. We’ll give you all the information you’ll need if you are planning to develop your own courses. (And check out our followup article on marketing and promoting online courses.)

Use a platform or host your own course?

The very first step is to make a decision whether you are going to market your course by yourself or with a help of a service whose job is to do so. Sites like Skillshare and Udemy can put your courses on their sites. While providers like Skilljar provide people with an opportunity to sell via their own platforms using their course-making tools.

This may work best for the technologically-challenged, who may feel that they need extra assistance when it comes to putting the actual site together. Or simply for people who just don’t have time for the background work it takes to get the courses up and running. Instead, they want to focus all their attention on the content.

Diana Graber, a co-founder of Cyberwise, a website aimed at teaching parents and children about safe online use, says a service to integrate with her site was the answer to her prayers.

“I joined Skilljar because it was going to be the easiest way for me to get my content out in the best possible way,” says Graber. “And I can concentrate all my hard work on the content itself and keeping it up to date.”

Choosing the right service might be difficult at first. However, once you find the one that suits your courses the best, the decision may come easier than you think.

Steven Pettit, an online instructor for ThePharmacySchool, which sell classes to aspiring pharmacy techs, says his choice of Udemy came easily to him.

“Udemy was simply the first site I bumped into. Their instructor payout at the time was simply the best in the industry,” says Pettit. “I studied what would work best for me and Udemy came out on top.”

The instructor payout at Udemy has changed in the last year, to much controversy. How much of the total revenue and how much marketing benefit you get from your host is also an important part of the decision.

Recommend: An Instructor’s Guide To Online Course Hosting Options

Building and developing a course

The most important step is to make sure there is a clear subject aimed at a specific audience.

Stella Grizont, founder and CEO of  WOOPAAH, a personal and career coaching consultancy aimed at helping people and businesses find their inner happiness, says that narrowing down her ideas own was one of the most important steps towards making her course.

“I think it’s really important to create an outline of the information you’d like to share,” says Grizont. “Start with larger themes and then narrow them down to fit into small classes. Shorter lectures appeal to most people, so making sure you take out the time to do the research and put the most important information into your course is the best way to make it successful.”

Depending on the subject of the course, the work hours that go into developing the website will vary. For some creators, the work that they use on the course is research from their specific background.

For Katrina Mayer, an author and health and wellness expert, the research used in her course is information she has perfected over the years with scientific facts and her own personal experience.

“My course is centered on teaching people to find their biological age,” says Mayer. “Not how many years they’ve been alive but their DNA and how their living choices, i.e. eating habits, exercise, family history impact how old the body believes them to be. These are my tips on how to achieve the best possible you. And it is something I’m very passionate about.”

The challenges of making a course

Don’t have a strong technology background to time constraints during production? Every author faces their own unexpected challenges when trying to compiling their courses.

Grizont says that “if there is a video to be taken, then you need to set aside triple the amount of time you think you would need. Think about the noise around you, the background, your personal comfort in front of the camera and the knowledge you have of the subject you are trying to explain.”

Mayer also says to expect delays: “People always promise a time frame to have the project finished and it rarely happens within the time suggested. I was told one month and it turned out that by the time everything was finished, we were eight months in.”

Running a course isn’t always easy, either

With the responsibility of teaching courses comes the work of having to manage the course and evaluate the assignments students submit.

For Jack Zerby, who sells e-commerce software and site design on and Goodsie, the hardest part of being an online instructor is giving feedback on the tons of projects that are submitted.

“I make sure I’m easily accessible through email though,” he says. “That way if students have questions they can reach out.”

Even the most experienced person in their field may find unexpected hiccups while building and developing courses. But if the topic is clear enough then there will always be people willing to learn about it.

Advice for beginners

To succeed with building and developing your own online courses, keep several points in mind during production.

For example, Graber says to “make sure you know your topic well and be creative and unique in how you present it. We live in such a visually rich culture. We need to make it interesting and short for viewers so they can do the work on their own time.”

Be prepared for missteps, the work will never be perfect right at the beginning.

Work with something you love and have a passion for. Immerse yourself in the topic and think about what you can offer to other people.

With these tips, anyone can start building and developing their own courses with enough passion for the subject.

How to start developing your course:

  1. Pick a subject you have experience with.
  2. Research to make sure your topic is up to date.
  3. Organize what should be covered in the course.
  4. Create slides to share your research and ideas throughout.
  5. Reach out to others in your field for feedback on your course ideas.


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