The Beginner’s Guide to Building an Online Course

online course

Open source education has seen phenomenal growth over the past few years, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) leading the way. Listed globally as the #2 University in the world (right after Harvard), MIT opened its course material to all in 2014 – for free. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make money from selling your own courses. Basically, MIT significantly expanded the market for online self learning, or e-learning. In fact, it was expected in 2016 that revenues from online courses worldwide would reach $51.5 billion. Keep reading to find out how to build your own online course – and get a piece of that pie.

People of all skill ranges can successfully create an online course using pretty much any medium, including video, audio, live streaming, PDFs, and the list goes on. If you already have videos, a blog, eBooks or other content, it can easily be transferred to an online course, even if technology is not your strongest suit. Platforms ranging from Udemy to Thinkific to WizIQ are available featuring strong support, easy to use interfaces, varied pricing programs and a myriad of marketing and integration tools.

We’ll go over the pros and cons of platforms that are perfect for beginners a little later. For now, let’s address some of the most common questions beginners have about creating their own online course:

Why Should I Create an Online Course?

Some people may feel like what they have to teach has been done a million times already. But the key here is that no course has been taught by YOU yet. Your uniqueness and individual style will come across in your content. A solid reason for creating a course for your business is that you not only reap the financial rewards, but you can also use your courses to enhance your brand and market other products that relate to the course. Finally, course content can fetch a high price, offering an outstanding source of passive income.

video courses

Don’t I Need Credentials to Teach a Course?

You don’t have to be a certified teacher or college professor to teach something to a student. What is your special talent? Where do your interests lie? What type of content has received positive feedback from your audience? Do you already have a successful blog or eBook? These are the kinds of questions to ask yourself in determining what kind of value you can provide to an audience. Everyone has value and vision, what’s yours?

Who Is Going to Buy My Course?

If you already have a following, say an email list or a large YouTube subscriber list, online courses give you a potentially profitable way to serve your audience. If you’re just starting out, most of the online course creation platforms can either market your course for you or help you with apps and tools to market your course yourself.

Udemy, as an example, has roughly 6 million customers already buying online courses and one of their features revolves around dipping into this pool to find customers for you. Worldwide, people are seeking more and more ways of self learning – they are hungry for online courses – so feed them!

For ways to engage your audience with a successful online course, check out these tips:


Can I Re-Purpose My Content in a Course – Or Is That Cheating?

Let me give you an example. Say you want to teach somebody how to bake bread. Maybe you already have a blog with different articles like, “Best Rising Techniques” and “When to Use Whole Grains”. Or possibly you’ve got a YouTube channel with videos about making different kinds of bread for special occasions.

Your ideal customer comes back for more, why? Because they like your content and they want to become an expert at baking bread. So what if you took all your snippets – the posts, the videos, the eBooks, whatever – and you organized them into an appealing and compact course that could offer incentives for learning, a virtual classroom, one-on-one time with an instructor (that’s you!), and quizzes to help students retain information?

That bread enthusiast is going to eat that up! They are not going to care that some of this info was free in a YouTube video. Instead, they will psyched that you put this together for them because it will help them learn what they want to know quickly, easily and in a fun way (and without distractions!).

Which Online Course Platform Is Best For Me?

Most platforms are going to offer multiple media options (video, PDF, audio, etc), membership or subscriptions, and integration with email list providers, analytics and other marketing services (i.e. MailChimp and Infusionsoft). Variable payment options for students are available and different pricing structures for creators exist within each platform.

There are dozens of online course creators and platforms. But if you’re just starting out and you don’t have a big budget, or you need a lot of help marketing your online course, you might want to choose from the following platforms:


Udemy – The average instructor on Udemy in 2014 was making $7000 per month selling online courses. They recently announced 10 million students have taken a Udemy course. So the biggest advantage to you is their community and the marketing opportunities they offer. This platform does take 50% of the sales driven by Udemy. But, if you bring in your own customers, you are only charged a 3% fee per sale.

The site is easy to use in setting up your course, but many find the platform’s pricing to be restrictive. With such a large community, they are able to offer countless deals and markdowns, making it difficult to price your course as you wish. As a result, the majority of courses in Udemy cost in the $20-$50 dollar range.


This is another good option for beginners. Its interface is similar to WordPress so it’s easy to use and familiar to many creators. Ruzuku also offers multiple and responsive support options, including chat, phone, email and social media so that you can get the support you need easily and quickly. One unique feature in Ruzuku is the ability to live stream course content and enable live chat during a course.

For all this, Ruzuku charges between $79-$149 per month, depending on your plan. Its biggest advantage is ease of use, so it’s a good choice for beginners.


Thinkific makes a great platform for beginners because basically, they offer it all. They have many pricing options for creators including free forever, where the only cost to you is a 10% fee for each course sold. What I like about this platform is that you can start with the free program and move up to a paid version with more options when you are ready, and when it is economically feasible for you. They have video course content down to a science, as you can tell by their 15 minute video about creating a course:

This platform is also super easy to navigate and offers many ways to get highly responsive help setting up and marketing your course. The free program (with a 10% fee per course sold) offers basic integration (like AWeber and ConvertKit). It also allows you to sell as many courses as you want to as many students as you can, plus it provides you with everything you need to create your course and start selling.

What Kind of Content Should I Use?

In 2017, video content is king. But that does not mean that written posts are dead. In fact, most courses will use a combination of text, graphics, audio and video. Students enjoy variety in their online courses because that’s what makes e-learning more enjoyable, and also because it helps them to retain information.

Videos will be an integral part of your online course. For those in need of videography and video editing services, Valoso is here to help you. Sign up below to gain access to an international pool of freelance video professionals, so you can find the right pro for your budget to create your first online course.