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How To Design an Online Course: Tips for Creating a Profitable and Irresistible Online Course


The demand for online courses is growing. It’s the fastest-growing segment of the education industry.

The Center for Education and New Learning Technologies projects that by 2025, nearly 50% of all higher education learners will be enrolled in some form of digital course.

Many people want to teach something but don’t know how to do it while some people want to learn but don’t know where to start.

However, thanks to the Internet, anyone now can take an online class on any subject they like.

This is why many experts have taken advantage of this opportunity and created their classes to help others and earn some money at the same time.

To stand out in this increasingly competitive field, you need to think outside the box and create a captivating, unique, and profitable course.

That’s where this blog comes in! Read on to discover our top tips for designing an outstanding online course that your target audience will love – and pay for!

The Big Picture: Why Should You Create an Online Course?

1. An online course: What is it?

An online course is a collection of educational experiences (lessons or learning activities) that are given online and have a predetermined learning objective. 

Depending on the course type, several learning activities are used: either instruction-led, self-paced, or blended. The majority of contemporary e-courses combine text, video, webinars, and other exams.

2. Who Can Design an Online Course?

Before we look at why you should create a course, let's evaluate first who can design an online course.

Everybody knows something, and by all means, what you know another person might not have knowledge or expertise on it.

For instance, you can be good at programming while another is good at graphics design. Both of you qualify to come up with courses for people who may be interested in them.

Therefore, if you are a tutor, well-seasoned freelancer, or business owner you can develop a learning course in your niche and sell it or give it out for free.

It goes without a say that sometimes, you may need to collaborate with someone in another niche and consolidate a course together if it fundamentally touches on two or more niches. E.g. SEO and copywriting.

3. Why Should You Create an Online Course?

You might think that creating an online course is a difficult task.

However, with the help of modern tools and software available today, you will realize that it’s not as hard as you think. Although it may be challenging at the start, it gets easier once you get your hands on it.

Asking yourself why you want to produce a course in the first place is a good idea before you even begin to develop an online course. There are a variety of benefits to creating courses, especially if you wish to monetize your skills.

They include:

  • Building an Audience and a Community - If you want to make money from your course, you'll need to share it with as many people as possible. Creating a course allows you to cultivate a loyal following that trusts you and looks to you for guidance on your subject matter. A good example of this case is Chris M. Walker the founder of SuperstarSEO.
  • Earning Passive Income - Many online course creators choose to make their courses accessible to the public. Making the course available to everyone is an excellent way to attract a large and committed audience.
  • Teaching Something You're Interested In - If you're interested in a particular topic, you'll enjoy creating a course about it and sharing it with others. Creating a course also allows you to inspire and assist others in learning about a subject that you are passionate about.
  • Helping Others Gain Opportunities - By producing a course, you can impart your knowledge and assist those who are drawn to your subject. You can assist folks in changing their lives, acquiring new skills, or locating employment.

Let’s have a look at the steps to consider when designing an e-course in the next section.

4. Identify Your Audience and Goals

The first thing you need to know is who your students are or, at least the audience you anticipate.

Think about why they want to learn, what their learning objectives are, their demographic, and how you can best communicate your area of expertise to them.

Here you can consider the following questions:

  • Does your course require preexisting knowledge or are students learning from scratch?
  • How many students will be in your classes?
  • What is your level of involvement? (Are you charging more because you plan on being involved in the community? Or is it a more independent learning path?)
  • What is the age of the typical student in your course?
  • Where and how will they be watching your online teaching?

By focusing on your students’ wants and needs, you can start to narrow down more effective ways to teach them.

Efficient course design is pivotal for student success. The process of designing a course can be complicated and time-consuming, with many factors to take into consideration.

Course designers need to think about the purpose, audience, scope, content, and other elements of the course to make it as effective as possible.

In the next section, we will discuss the main steps in a course design process, with an emphasis on course content.

5. Deciding What You Want to Teach in Your Course

Having defined your audience, it is time to create a content plan. The content plan will help you figure out what type of content you need for your course. You can use the following checklist when developing your content.

First, determine the type of information that will be included in your course:

What are the topics?

You should think about what topics are in demand both now and in the future before choosing the subject of your course. You'll find it simpler to sell your course if you pick a popular niche.

When selecting a topic, you should also take your abilities into account. You can't make a quality course if you're not at ease instructing on the subject. You should be enthusiastic about teaching your course.

Even a course based on your personal experiences is possible. You might want to impart knowledge from your area of expertise or lessons you've acquired from your career journey. Once you have a concept in mind, you can proceed to choose the subject matter for your course.

What is the format?

The next stage is to choose your course's structure after you have a concept for it. When designing an online course, you may pick between two popular formats: the first is the course-by-lesson approach.

This approach is very effective for teaching a skill, like writing or programming. In this structure, you present one-course lesson at a time to your audience, who can take as much time as necessary to complete each lesson. If you want to receive payment more quickly, this is a fantastic choice.

The course-by-topic format is the second format. For lengthier and more complicated subjects, like an area of study, this style works better.

In this approach, you present an overview of your subject at the start of the course before breaking it down into more manageable subjects.

This approach has the benefit of allowing your audience to jump around and select the sequence in which they wish to learn the course material. Google garage uses the same format in their course Google Digital Skills For Africa.

How many chapters/lessons per chapter?

Lessons and units are a great way to approach the development of your course. They are particularly useful for people who want to create courses but don't have the time or resources to put together a full curriculum.

Lessons are small chunks of content that can be used in any order. Units are collections of lessons that teach students a certain skill or topic.

The following steps will help you create effective lessons and units:

  • Brainstorm ideas for your lesson or unit
  • Brainstorm ideas for each step in your lesson or unit
  • Create an outline for your lesson or unit
  • Write out the content for each step in your lesson or unit

How much time should each lesson take?

The lesson plan is the backbone of your course. It outlines what you will teach, how you will teach it, and when you will teach it.

The lesson plan should have a timeline that allows the learner to know what they are going to learn and when they are going to learn it. The timeline should include any deadlines, milestones, or other expectations that the learner needs to be aware of.

What are the goals of each lesson?

After every session, include a call to action. E.g. Now that you have learned this particular skill, go and do an exercise and see the results.

You should also ask your audience to act in some way after each session. You can ask them to sign up for your email list, attend the subsequent lesson, or purchase your offering which may increase sales in the long run.

Include Audience Questions and Answers Sessions

Allowing questions from your audience is a fantastic approach to making your course more engaging. This will make your audience feel more involved in the lesson. 

Additionally, it will provide you the chance to gather course evaluations and make any necessary modifications. After each session, you can welcome questions from the audience, or you can use a Q&A section on your website.

To avoid having to respond to questions repeatedly, you can also videotape yourself answering them. Another option is to give the best question asker a prize. This will motivate your audience to participate more and ask questions.

Examples of Learning Content That You May Consider

Once you have a precise idea of the factors discussed above, your next move should be outlining a curriculum with respective activities that will see more course completions.

You can include the following engaging activities:

  • Problem-solving activities
  • Online discussions
  • Live sessions
  • Group work
  • Reading material
  • Video lectures
  • Assessments (exams and assignments etc)

This will enable you to come up with an effective layout and content structure. Having determined that, your next move is to fit the curriculum with the purpose, and the purposes might be unique depending on the objectives that you had at the start.

How To Design Online Courses For Unique Purposes

As highlighted in the preceding sections, there are different purposes as to why you want to create a course for your students, and this takes into account that needs do vary and one approach might not satisfy the purpose.

With that in place, you can consider the following three examples of courses for different purposes:

  • Coaching Course

The term coaching is not new to some of us, but what does it mean? This is a person (often called an instructor) who is more into guiding others in a particular area or skill, offering real-time solutions to their problems.

To create this course you need to be more problem-solving oriented, can reflect on others and interact with them, offering assessments that at the end of the day ought to create feedback that determines the next move. Remember that the learners’ goal always carries the day more than your interest.

Therefore when coming up with this course ensure your subject is best suited to working with individuals on a self-paced basis through live sessions or other means. 

  • Training Course

Unlike coaching courses, training-oriented curriculums are closely tied to learning objectives.

For example, it may aim to deliver:

  • Soft and Hard Skills
  • Competency or expertise in a given area

Having that in mind will help you develop an effective training guide, content structure, and learning units. Therefore before you get started ensure you carefully consider the goals, instructions given, and requirements needed.

This will enable you to deliver, report tracking, and or assess the course progress once you roll it out.

  • STEM Course

STEM stands for any program that falls under any of the following disciplines; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

In this approach, your main objective should be to inculcate skills that will promote problem-solving in your audience. Offering real-time problems to your learners at the end of each unit/lesson will enable them to become problem-solvers (a skill that is rare nowadays).

Here are some of the classic approaches under this type of course:

  • Case studies
  • Instructor’s notes
  • Mini-projects
  • Video demonstrations
  • Discussion groups

Before you apply any of the above approaches, ensure that it aligns with the basic demographics of your learners such as level of knowledge, age, and goals. 

Finally, let’s look at some of the areas you can create a course in:

  • SEO
  • Writing
  • Graphics & Design
  • Programming & Technology
  • Internet Marketing
  • Video
  • eCommerce
  • Business
  • Audio Services
  • …and many more.

Tools You Can Use To Design Your Course

At the start of this article, we mentioned that designing courses can be seen as a difficult and tedious exercise.

And by now, you are set to design a course soon but wondering which tools to use to make it a reality.

Worry no more, in this section, we will discuss some of the best free tools (that feel illegal to use) that experts are using with tremendous success and an example of an online course at the end.

  • Free graphics programs and resources

Creating beautiful charts, infographics, or visuals for your online course is very important if you want to make an irresistible offer. And making it online is as easy as ABCDE…even if you don’t have experience.

Such tools include:

Canva: Create collages, charts, marketing posters, presentations, thumbnails, or infographics with their easy-to-use web-based software.

Easel.ly: This enables you to design and share visual infographics online

Gliffy: Create up to five public diagrams, flowcharts, or organizational charts a month free of charge.

Google Charts: This powerful tool enables you to turn your data into powerful charts and graphs.

Piktochart: Customize ready-made templates and design elements to create your infographics

Pixlr: It allows you to edit any photos or graphics for free and turn them into customized designs.

Venngage: Allows you to present your data through infographics

Free Word Cloud Generator: Create word clouds to illustrate different themes or idea clusters.

Unsplash: Find beautiful freely useable images

  • Free audio software tools

If you are going to use audio in your course, your next plan is to find the right tool to enable you to record audio.

Free audio tools allow you to record segments or full parts of your audio, and then edit it, mix, and organize them to use in your online course.

They include:

Ardour: Record, edit, and mix your audio files on all PC and mac devices.

Audacity: This is a fantastic open-source, cross-platform recording and editing software.

Voki: This tool allows you to introduce speaking characters into your presentations, with customizable avatars.

vozMe: It turns written text into downloadable spoken mp3s

  • Free animation and video tools

Some online courses might require you to use animations to present your lessons to the audience. It is therefore imperative to select the best tools that can help you come up with animations or videos for the same.

Here are some of the stunning software:

Camtasia: Use their drag-and-drop video editing software to finish your videos by adding special effects, music, or motion graphics.

Screencast-O-Matic: It allows you to record up to 15 minutes of on-screen activities for short presentations and lectures.

Snagit: Create and edit screenshots or videos, or turn them into animated GIFs

Canva (discussed above) can also be used to design animations and videos.

  • Tools to create eLearning interactions and assessments

There are so many options for creating surveys, polls, quizzes, and other assessment inputs for your course.

Our best options include;

Easy Test Maker: It allows you to create multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank spaces, true-or-false, or short answer test questions

Formsite: Get over 100 customizable templates and 40 question types to create surveys, quizzes, and forms for your assessment.

Google Forms: This allows you to create a survey with a simple online form with results directly organized and sometimes analyzed into a spreadsheet. 

SurveyMonkey: The world’s leading survey platform, with an easy-to-use interface.

  • Free eLearning authoring tools

There are some of the world's leading tools that can enable you to create your course.

They provide you with tools to design screens, embed videos, add graphics, and interactions and compile your lessons into a course.

iSpring: Here you can take your current PowerPoint presentations, add quizzes, and publish them directly to your content management system (CMS). 

Easygenerator: The free fashion allows you to create up to ten courses, with pre-packaged interactions and cloud publishing.

Other tools under this category include; SmartBuilder, Udutu, and LCDS by Microsoft

While the tools can help you script, gather and organize learning materials for your course, you may want to hire an expert to help you design a professional course instead.

If you are not sure how to create a course, consider checking this course as an example.

How To Assess Your Learners

In any form of learning, assessing your audience to determine their knowledge after administering a lesson is very important.

This should be in your plan because it enables you to evaluate your goals against those of your learners and forge the way forward.

Assessments can be placed in-between course activities or as final tests in the course. Ideally, you may want to give out certificates or recognitions for the achievement and that will motivate learners even more.

How To Evaluate The Effectiveness of The Course

In this section, we will discuss how you can determine whether your course has been effective or not. This is because the quality of work means a lot to the community that you want to build.

The following ways can help you evaluate:

  • Look at Learning outcomes
  • Issue Evaluation surveys
  • Ask for Reviews
  • Check on Course analytics

Leverage on Feedback From Your Learners

To finish off with this section of steps of designing an online course, the last and most effective tool to determine the success of your course is leveraging the feedback you get.

At times, feedback might discourage you if it always becomes negative (I’m not saying you’ll get that), but one thing you have to know is that “a creator's work is never done”. Therefore use the feedback to better present your work and improve future results from your course.

So bear that in mind as you plan your course from initiation to launching (lol, we’ve not even touched on how to launch your course—but we’ll be there in a few). 

There are many actions you can take to improve your learning course try to consider:

  • Adding relevant instructor interactions
  • Shooting a premium quality video/presentation or animations
  • Adding clear instructions to all learning units, or 
  • Updating your materials regularly.

Finally, listen to your students as much as you want them to listen to you and work with them within the course and after if you want to establish a strong community that believes in you.

Pricing Your Course

In this final segment, you need to know that the cost of your course directly affects almost every aspect of your online teaching business, including the kind of marketing you can use to promote it, the kind of students it will draw, how much support and attention you can give them, and, of course, how much money you can make from course sales.

Assuming that is good, how can you determine the cost of your online course:

  • Don't base the cost of your course on how long it is.
  • Look at who you are competing with.
  • Try out several price ranges.
  • Think about your authority and credibility in your industry and the value your learners can get.
  • Think about how much your customers' choices might cost.

That’s pretty much it about designing an e-course—however, stay tuned because the next segment is going to reveal a gem that you cannot get anywhere!

The Last Step - Launch! Marketing your Course and Getting Students' Completions!

A course launch is the first step to getting students or an audience and making money with your online course. It’s important to have a plan in place on how you will market your course before you launch it.

There are many ways to get students and make money with your online course. Some of them are free, and some of them require some investment from you or your students. You can focus on one strategy at a time, or combine them all for maximum impact.

In the next section, we will discuss one of the surest ways of hacking your way through promoting your course online.

This Works Even If You Are a NEWBIE. Join Us in Our Mission…

Your course can be promoted in a variety of ways once it has been created. Your website, social media accounts, and even YouTube can all be used to advertise your course.

For over 4 years, we’ve been on a mission: to help everyone in the world learn how to do anything, help freelancers bring the best out of them and business owners get more stuff done.

Now that you know how to make an online course, you can use your expertise to benefit others while also making money. This is a fantastic method to teach others, motivate people, and earn money.

Today, you are on the verge of making one of the greatest breakthroughs in online business and marketing, we’re asking that you join us.

You can upload your course to Legiit Courses so that others can take it, start by following the above guidelines, sign up for Legiit, and start your journey.

This will give you a competitive advantage in marketing your course because at Legiit you have an opportunity to promote it to freelancers and other internet users. 

We have a fantastic community of like-minded individuals that you can leverage as a resource and one of the best support systems ever dedicated to helping our community.

See you at the other end!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you design a course?

Understanding your subject and your students is the first step in course creation. After that, list the course's learning objectives. The course's structure has to be documented after that. Using storyboards to organize your course is a terrific idea.

How do you assess students?

You can grade your students differently depending on the subject or the activity.

Informational content is best suited for structured quizzes or examination-style tests. They are a useful tool for determining if pupils have learned the material and retained it.

Open-ended questions or assignments make it easier to evaluate learners' understanding of the material and their capacity for critical thought.

When students create their own goals through coaching or unstructured learning, self-assessment is more effective.

Students may use evaluation forms as a means of reflection or self-evaluation.

How do you evaluate the success of a course?

There are several ways for instructors to determine whether a course has been successful:

  • Last examinations
  • Rating various actions
  • Completion of courses
  • Self-assessments
  • Personal assessments Assignments
  • Mini-projects

How to accommodate different learning styles?

Offering several different learning exercises that repeat themselves in different ways is the greatest method to accommodate diverse learning styles.

Offer a reading resource and an instructor-led video that explains a subject, for instance, followed by a quiz or assignment to gauge the learner's understanding of the subject.

By doing so, you can cover the subject in several ways, allow for repetition, and facilitate real-world application.

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