Table Of Contents
1. Pick A Topic For Your Online Course
2. Outline Your Online Course
3. Structure Your Online Course
4. Create A Production Schedule
5. Outline Your Lectures
6. Script Your Lectures
7. Film Your Lectures
8. Edit Your Lectures
9. Publish Your Online Course
10. Promote Your Online Course
11. Rinse And Repeat
The online education industry could be worth $375 billion by 2026. Because of COVID-19, I can imagine that stat will become true sooner, as people are getting forced to adopt online learning.
I've created over 30 online courses, which more than 200,000 students have taken. In the process, I've earned multiple six-figures. And, created a system for efficiently producing courses.
I want to share my system for producing online courses with you. I hope it will help you to streamline your course creation process. I'm sure that you have a skill that somebody else would like to learn.
Pick A Topic For Your Online Course
Before creating a course, you must decide what you want to teach.
It's easy to forget, but the purpose of a course is to help students achieve an outcome. You don't need to be a professor to teach. But, you must have sufficient expertise to guide students towards the outcome.
There are a few ways to validate your course idea.
If you're considering creating a Udemy course, then Udemy's Marketplace Insights will be of value to you. The tool gives you an approximate demand for a topic in Udemy's marketplace.
Keep in mind that Udemy is a volume marketplace. Don't expect to sell your course for $199. The average selling price for a course on Udemy is $9-$19.
If you're considering creating a self-hosted course, survey your current audience to understand what they'd like to learn. Perhaps, you could pre-sell your online course to validate the demand.
Once you've decided on a topic, you can outline your course.
Outline Your Online Course
Begin by creating a Google Sheet. Display the outcome of the course at the top. Then, dissect the steps towards achieving it. Each step represents a separate lecture in the course.
As you're outlining, next to each lecture, write the 'type' of lecture it'll be. Online courses include different types of lectures. Common types include:
- Talking head videos
- Screencast videos
- Text (PDF)
Once you've exhausted all of the steps to lead students towards the outcome, move onto structuring your course.
Structure Your Online Course
Now, you'll want to structure your course to guide students towards the outcome. The structure of your course should follow a logical progression.
Continue working in the same Google Sheet, but in a new worksheet. The new worksheet will house the logically structured curriculum of your online course.
While you are confirming your online course's structure, pay attention to the 'type' of lectures it will contain. Generally, the most popular online courses get weighted towards video lectures.
Once you've structured your course, you can estimate its length. Udemy recommends that each lecture within a course should be between 2-6 minutes. Of course, that isn't possible with some topics. But, by using that calculation, it does give you a rough estimate as to the running time.
One thing to keep in mind is that longer courses don't equate to better courses. Many people fall into the trap of thinking that longer courses deliver more value. That isn't always the case.
On a marketplace, like Udemy, longer courses have a higher perceived value. But, don't feel that your course must be tens of hours long to be impactful. Your course's goal should be to help students achieve the outcome efficiently.
Once you've structured your online course, you can move onto outlining your production schedule.
Create A Production Schedule
A production schedule will help you to break the course creation process into manageable chunks. Therefore, you should create a schedule before you begin creating your online course.
You don't need to use a sophisticated tracking system for your production schedule. You can use a simple calendar. And, if you want, you can use it in combination with a project management tool like Asana or Notion. I use Apple Calendar and Notion to create my production schedule.
Your schedule will serve one purpose. It will list all of the tasks you have to complete, from outlining your course to hitting publish.
Here's an example of what your production schedule could look like in a calendar. You'd have portions of your day blocked to create your course
Envisage the production schedule as taking your online course through a production line. Ideally, your schedule should move in the following order: (1) Outline. (2) Script (unless you prefer to work with bullet points). (3) Film. (4) Edit. (5) Publish. (6) Promote.
Here's an example of what your production schedule could look like in Notion. Once a task reaches the end (after it has got edited), it gets moved to 'done'.
Creating a schedule will help you to systemise the online course creation process. As a result, it will help you fight the feeling of overwhelm, which often creeps in towards the middle of the creation process.
Upon creating your production schedule, you can begin outlining your lectures.
Outline Your Lectures
With a structured curriculum and production schedule in place, you can begin outlining each of the lectures in your online course. I recommend using a single Google Doc to outline all of the lectures.
You don't want to overwhelm your students. Hence, each lecture in your course should have one learning outcome. And, each lecture should guide students towards the course's overall learning outcome.
In terms of a ballpark figure for each lecture's length in your course, Udemy recommends that each lecture be between 2-6 minutes. But, of course, that isn't possible in topics such as programming.
Outlining your lectures involves making bullet points of what you'll discuss in chronological order. You don't want to jump around in your lectures. Students are paying you for efficiency, over watching YouTube tutorials.
As you're outlining your lectures, gather the resources that students may need to reference. Add any lecture specific resources to that lecture's outline.
Once you have completed your outline, you can start scripting your lectures.
Script Your Lectures
The outline that you've created will help you combat writer's block as you begin scripting your lectures. You can continue working in the same Google Doc. Converting your bullet points into scripts for your video lectures.
Remember to write as you would talk while you're scripting your lectures. Your script doesn't need to pass all of the checks in Grammarly. Reason being, you don't want to sound like a robot on video. I recommend placing a picture of your ideal student in front of you as you're scripting: it could be a friend. Then, as you're scripting your course, imagine you're teaching them the subject.
Many instructors don't script their online courses because of the added workload. They jump straight from the outline to filming. That's fine. Everybody has their approach. After all, you can remove any mistakes in editing.
From personal experience, I recommend that you script all of your lectures. You'll gain four advantages by scripting your lectures: (1) It will help you embed the topic further into your mind. (2) It will help you to avoid rambling in your lectures. (3) There will be less editing to do. (4) You can repurpose the scripts to create additional content, i.e. articles.
Once you've scripted your lectures, you can move onto the fun part - filming.
Film Your Lectures
You'll need some equipment before you start filming your course. You may already have much of the equipment. Hence, it need not be expensive.
Below is a lot of equipment I use to film online courses:
- Camera - (1) Canon 80D (2) Rode VideoMic Pro
- Laptop - (1) MacBook Pro 2015 (2) Rode NT-USB Mini
- Lighting - (1) Selvim Selfie Ring Light (2) Newer 18 Inch Ring Light
- Phone - (1) iPhone XR (2) Parrot Teleprompter App
- Second Screen - Aztine Portable Monitor
- Software - (1) Adobe Rush (2) Camtasia
- Teleprompter - Parrot Teleprompter
- Tripod - Newer 70 Inch Tripod (you can use books and tables)
Once you have all of the equipment, you'll want to select a filming location.
After much experimentation, I recommend opting for a natural background which exemplifies your personality. However, ensure that your background is not too distracting.
If a natural background is not possible, you can use a green screen: Elgato produces a high quality collapsible green screen. A green screen allows you to change your background in editing. However, using a green screen does introduce more work into the editing process.
On selecting a filming location, ensure that your environment isn't too echoey. Bad sound can ruin an otherwise polished video. Hence, if you're filming in an expansive room, purchase some acoustic foam tiles to reduce the echo. Alternatively, you can use pillows.
The first type of lecture you will likely begin filming are talking head videos.
Below is an example of a talking head video in my course (after editing):
Here is what the filming setup looked like (I filmed the course in an Airbnb):
I would recommend that you create a test video before ploughing on. You don't want to film several videos, then find out something is not right.
The second type of lecture you'll likely begin filming are screencast videos. You'll need to use software to record your screencasts, such as Camtasia.
Below is an example of a screencast video in my course (after editing):
Here is what it looked like behind the scenes (I filmed the course in an Airbnb):
Again, I would recommend that you create a test video before ploughing on.
Once you begin filming your lectures, work according to your schedule. Don't try and film too many lectures in a day. Reason being, you'll get tired (it's not easy being in front of a camera all day) and your students will notice. You don't want your lack of energy to dissuade students from continuing with the course.
Oh, and if you make a mistake while filming a video, don't scrap it. Clap once or twice to create a noticeable sound wave in your video's audio, then correct your mistake and continue filming. Any mistakes that you make in your videos can get removed in the editing process with ease.
Edit Your Lectures
There is an essential step before publishing your course, and it's editing. You'll want to polish your videos, which may include improving the picture quality, editing the sound, removing mistakes, and adding visuals (if appropriate).
You'll need to use software to edit your videos. You can use Camtasia, with which you can film screencast videos. Or, opt for dedicated editing software like Adobe Rush: it's a scaled-down version of Adobe Premiere Pro.
Be mindful of over-editing your videos. For example, if including a visual adds to your point, add it. But, if you're adding visuals for the sake of it, don't. You're not aiming for a Hollywood finish: you're aiming for good enough.
When you've decided on how to edit your videos, keep it consistent. For example; use the same intro and outro for every video, and use the same export settings (1080P should suffice). You don't want to confuse your students.
You can hire a freelancer if you find editing tedious. If you hire a freelancer, creating an SOP (standard operating procedure) will be useful. With an SOP, you'll be able to onboard an editor to edit your videos in a consistent style.
Publish Your Online Course
You'll be ready to publish your course once it has gotten edited.
Suppose you plan to publish your course on Udemy. In that case, you will need to upload your course and complete the necessary information on your course's landing page.
If you are self-publishing your course, there are many platforms to choose from; Podia, Thinkific, Teachable, etc. The process for uploading your course on a self-hosted platform will be similar to that of Udemy.
Promote Your Online Course
Now that your course is live, the hard work begins. You must actively promote your online course if you want it to be a success.
Here are a few ways in which you can promote your online course:
- Create paid advertisements on Facebook (and other platforms)
- Create an email course
- Publish a portion of your course on YouTube
- Partner with influencers
- Run webinars on your topic
- Send a promotional announcement on Udemy (existing audience)
- Set up an affiliate program
That's not an exhaustive list. But, I hope it gets your mind working on the various ways you can drive traffic to your course once it's live.
Rinse And Repeat
That's my ten-step process on creating an online course. To summarise:
- Pick a topic for your online course
- Outline your online course
- Structure your online course
- Create a production schedule
- Outline your lectures
- Script your lectures
- Film your lectures
- Edit your lectures
- Publish your online course
- Promote your online course
As with many things, it's best to adopt a systematic mindset. Hence, when you're ready to create another online course, rinse and repeat this process. You'll become more efficient in the process each time.