How to Create an Online Course

Today, course creation is not just the privilege of professors, corporate trainers, and instructional designers. Anyone with expertise in an area and the desire to share that expertise can teach a course online. If the course is good, you might even be able to make some money off of it.

Here are eight steps for how to create an online course.

Step 1: Pick a topic

What will your course be about? Ideally, this will be an area where you have not only a high level of knowledge, but also a high level of passion. Don’t choose too broad of a topic that would take you a year or two to do justice. Instead, narrow down your topic into something that can be distilled into a six or eight week course (your course can be longer or shorter, but these days the tendency is toward shorter). For example, rather than “Communication,” try “Oral Communication,” “Written Communication,” or “Business Communication.”

Step 2: Identify the goals of your course

What will learners be able to do after they have completed your course? Will they be able to explain the causes and effects of World War II? Paint a picture? Communicate better in writing? The learning outcomes you identify will guide you as you develop the content.

Step 3: Do your research

What will be the course content? This is the step where you should plan to spend the most time. Research your topic thoroughly to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of the topic. It is better to start with too much content and have to cut your course down for size than to not have enough content to justify a full course.

Step 4: Determine the course order

How will learners navigate through the course? If you are creating a history course or a tutorial, the order is probably obvious. But for most courses, you will have some decisions to make. One popular organizational strategy is to start with the most general information in the early part of your online course and then drill down to the specifics in later sections.

Step 5: Create the content

This is the fun part! Course content can be delivered in many different ways—videos, pdfs, podcasts, multimedia presentations, websites. Fortunately, with the technologies available today, you can create all of these types of content using just a computer and free tools you can find online. As you create your content, keep the 10-minute rule in mind: whether it is a video, a presentation, or a reading, each piece of content should take only about 10 minutes for learners to complete.

Step 6: Organize your content into modules

Online courses are typically organized into modules. Each module contains all of the content and assessments related to particular topic. For example, your course on the history of American theatre would probably have one module dedicated to Broadway musicals and another on Post-World War II theatre.

Step 7: Put your course online

You have now done all of the work and planning necessary to put your course online. Believe it or not, this is probably the easiest step all. Using an online course authoring software, you can quickly turn your various materials into a complete course. You can even create quizzes and tests.

Step 8: Distribute your course

Now that your online course is ready to go, it’s time to distribute it. If you used online course authoring software, you will have a link that you can distribute via email or other channels. You can also sell your course on an online course marketplace and make some money for your work.

With free online course authoring tools, it’s easy to create an online course. What knowledge would you like to share with the world?