How To Launch Your First Online Course - The Step By Step Guide(2020)

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

Being able to teach others what you know is a rapidly growing industry. No matter what your niche is, there is someone out there who wants to learn what you have to teach.

Courses are a form of passive income, since creating a course is something you do the work for once, and then it sells over and over again on its own, forever. From simple online lectures to intensive bootcamps, you’ll find courses that charge anywhere from a few hundred dollars to nearly $20,000, depending on the topic. And online courses allow you to pursue any specific topic you can imagine, without asking you to take extensive certified courses you might not be interested in.

In today's post, we're breaking down the basic process that will help you get your first course launched successfully. 

1. Select Your Niche

Your course topic must be something that you LOVE! Choose a topic that you enjoy learning about, a topic that interests you the most. It could be your favourite subject in school like Math, Science, History, Foreign Language, Programming Language, or something that you enjoy doing in your free time like fixing things in your house, vacation planning, writing non-fiction or health & fitness. Don’t feel like you have to teach a university-level profession.  Think about your skills, talents and life experiences that you have been through. The list of possible course topics is endless.

2. Know Your Audience

Students follow extraordinary instructors wherever they go and whatever topic they decide to cover. That's why before building community, you have to discover your intended audience and promote yourself. You have to create a genuine connection with your students. So, the fundamental step towards meaningful learning material development is to identify the learners. Analyze your audience. Answer a few questions before you start building an online course.

» What motivates them?

» What capabilities do they have?

» What do they lack?

» What eLearning format will be best for your audience?

» Are your learners senior-level managers?

» Are they stay-at-home moms looking out for learning new skills?

» What are their demographic profiles?

» How will they apply knowledge learned in your course?

"The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself." - Peter Drucker

3. Define Your Course Goals

Learning goals are broad, general statements of what we want our students to learn and provide. Setting goals gives us a real road map to where we want to go. These goals are the core of a course design and need to be made precise and clear at the planning stage. An instructor can use these goals as a roadmap to prepare an online class.

» Brainstorm a list of all the possible things you want to teach and might include in your course.

» Write at least 2-3 goals to shape your ongoing course design.

“In this course, I will emphasise on…” “The main topics students will go through are…” “What I want to promote through this course is…”

» Each learning objective should target one particular aspect of student performance and be expressed with a single action verb.

For example - with your first lecture video "Students will be able to discriminate the program’s peculiar features."

» Consider developing 2-3 learning objectives for each section of your course.

Once you have a fair idea about the course goals, prepare a draft topical outline.

Topical outline template (Course subject)

– Main topic 1 – – Subtopic – – Subtopic – – Subtopic – Main topic 2 – – Subtopic – – Subtopic – – Subtopic – Main topic 3 – – Subtopic – – Subtopic – – Subtopic

What is most important is to know what exactly you want to teach and the impact you want to create.

4. Build A Project Plan

Building a project plan is extremely important for the success of your eLearning project. You decide the learning strategy, delivery platform, content and visual strategies, timeline, and so on. Draft an initial project plan. The plan may not be fixed, but it is good to have structure.

5. Create Content

The next step is to create the actual content. Based on the course plan and the activities you have planned, you will probably have to create a variety of media productions for your course. This is the stage where many course creators start getting stuck. The main reason we get stuck here is often because of the volume of information we have in our heads, on internet, in books, on our hard drives, in our notepads and so on.

As you are sorting through the piles of content, throw out anything that you feel is not required for the course and is not directly related to the objectives and outcomes you have defined for the course.

Only include content that answers your audiences questions, or fills gaps not met by your competitors.

6. Upload Your Content

Next step, is choosing the right place to host your academy and upload your course. There are multiple options for you to upload your courses online. First is Marketplace options like Udemy, Khan Academy, Udacity, Lynda or Skillshare are great places to find a lot of students. Second alternative is Learning Management Systems like Thinkific. While the learning marketplaces are like Amazon or Ebay for online courses and they take care of your brand, pricing, marketing and data of the students, learning management systems are your own Academy that you can link to your website and fully brand as your own platform. Third alternative is to have plugins or software on your website and host your courses and videos from your own site.

7. Getting the perfect pricing

The price of your online course has a direct impact on virtually every aspect of your online teaching business – from the type of marketing you can do to promote your course, to the type and number of students your course attracts, the amount of support and attention you can provide to your students, and of course, the amount of revenue you can generate from your course sales. Don't price your course based on its length. As a starting point, my recommendation is to analyze and benchmark your idea against competing products within the marketplace – have a look at what your competitors are charging and what for, then find out how yours can be different and better. When you’ve made yours better, then price yours slightly higher.

8. Plan Your Launch

If you think that your work is over now, rethink! The real work begins now. Any new product in the market needs a good marketing strategy to attract more and more customers. Same goes with the online courses. Make sure that you have at least an 15-month marketing plan for your online course and remember that the second you stop marketing is the second you stop selling.

Even before you launch your product you need to make sure that you have good database of email list.  If you've read anything about online marketing, you know that your email list should be the backbone of your business. It's how you gather a group of people interested in your course topic. From webinars to giveaways, there are several ways in which you can grow your email list rapidly and once your course is ready, you have your audience to reach out to.

Other ways to attract customers are :

» Running an early bird discount promotions

» Running ads

» Partnering up with influencers

» Running an affiliate program

» Social media

Hopefully, these steps give you a good idea of what to expect from the journey of creating and marketing online courses. If you have any questions, leave them in the comment section below!