Are you looking to create an online course for the general public or for your existing students, and you have a (VERY) limited budget? If that is the case, then this post is for you. 

I’ve written this post to describe my experience of launching an online course hosted on my website and show you how to easily create a course with a very small investment. In fact, no investment at all, if you already have your own teaching website. 

Global online education statistics reveal that people are increasingly accessing online courses. This means that teachers should stay busier and come up with their online courses to meet the increased demand. 

supply & demand

Source: Clipart Library

In this post, I will focus more on the technical side of creating an online course. As others have said, content is king, everything else is just technical fluff. However, ‘technical’ fluff can be a strong demotivator and hold you back from creating an online course.    

What do you need to build an online course?

First, you need to design a course – choose a topic, create a learning plan, write all the content/units/modules, record accompanying audios or videos, if needed, and create visuals. And then you need to find a learning management platform (LMS) to host your course.

My idea was to create a free project-based course (‘Sprint’) for teachers wishing to launch their teaching websites. The course included a few steps with a number of project assignments to achieve the main objective of the course – create a teaching website and populate it with visual and interactive learning content. However, I wanted to make the course as flexible as possible – no login/enrollment requirements, no fixed deadlines, a flexible self-paced learning path – start from any lesson you want – without any ‘properly targeted’ promotion, i.e., bombarding teachers with tons of promotional emails advertising ‘other top-notch’ courses you should do NOW, and email reminders every single hour, AND all that on a limited budget. So if this isn’t a challenge, then what is?

To self-host or not to self-host? 

You have basically two options: either to publish your course on a marketplace or handle things on your own. The first option seems like a piece of cake, with giveaways and a huge marketing push from the platform. However, this is usually a costly option – you need to be really sure that your course will garner enough profit to cover the costs and make your efforts worthwhile. We all know that there is no such a thing as free lunch so a ‘free’ plan oftentimes translates into higher costs later. In addition, in many cases, you have to follow very fixed course design rules and pre-designed templates of the LMS platform/marketplace. Handling a flood of promotional emails is another long story, for another time.   

The second option – self-hosting – gives your more freedom and flexibility.

‘It’s all for nothing if you don’t have freedom.’  

I explored quite a number of platforms, read numerous tips from course creators on where to publish a course, and chose to step into the unknown and go for self-hosting (freedom costs -$0) to see how (and if) it works in practice.    

So, what do you start with?

STEP 1 – Create a website*

*If you already have a website, skip this step and go to Step 2.

I thought it would be quite interesting to record all the website creation steps and use them in the course I was designing – Create a Website to Show How to Create a Website. So the Sprint for Teachers walks teachers through the steps I took to create the course website, except an LMS setup.   

If you don’t have your own teaching website, join our self-paced Sprint for Teachers: Launch Your Website, or learn more about it here.

STEP 2 – INSTALL an LMS plugin & CREATE your course

If you have never worked with LMS solutions, choosing the right LMS plugin can be daunting. There are many plugins available, and all of them have their own cons and pros.

I used Tutor LMS for the Sprint course. This pocket-friendly LMS solution offers enough functionality and flexibility, and its freemium version has nearly all the features as paid versions of other LMS solutions. The setup process is quick and easy. 

To install the plugin, head over to Plugins>Add New in your Dashboard.  Search for Tutor LMS, install, and activate. 

Once you activate the plugin, you’ll be taken to an onboarding wizard that will walk you through the steps to configure the LMS. 

In addition, you can also watch quick guides from the Tutor LMS Academy to learn how to create a course, add lessons, create various types of quizzes, and integrate payment & membership options.

Tutor LMS has a very neat design. At the same time, it gives you full control to customize the platform as you want. You may change the colour palette, typography, layout and design of your course pages, and remove or add elements/blocks to some individual lesson pages, including the course landing page. This can easily be made with WP page builders or block editors such as Elementor (it has a special plugin for Tutor LMS). With Elementor, you can create your own custom layout and styling. 

It probably took me an hour or so to set it up and make it look the way I wanted.

Adding new lessons to the course is pretty much like writing blog posts, and if you have your content and lesson templates ready, the process will take just a bit of time.  

The Tutor LMS quiz builder comes with 10 question types to test your learners’ knowledge in the topics you have taught. 

You can also add your own quizzes or interactive activities created with other plugins. This is very handy if you have a set of e-learning modules that you’d like to integrate into your course.   

All in all, the freemium version of this LMS has pretty much everything you’d expect from an LMS: a course builder, lessons, a quiz builder, video embed, Zoom integration, payment/woocommerce integrations, and a number of great add-ons. 

You don’t need to be a programmer or tech-savvy to create and manage your course. If you’re just stepping into the world of e-learning course design, this might be a good way to try and build your own course.

Key takeaway: If you want to build an online course, then don’t let technical fluff stop you and go do it. 


These resources may come in handy.

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