nline learning is one of the most popular - if not the most popular method for sharing knowledge and upskilling today. It’s also very popular with businesses looking to improve their onboarding and compliance processes.
It’s no wonder why. Online training has a huge number of advantages. Online courses can be three times quicker to complete than face-to-face courses, and are accessible any time, anywhere. They’re also cheaper to deliver, and easier to scale up for more learners.
So, if you’re looking to create your very first course, whether you’re part of a business or looking to launch a course to sell online, we’ve put together a handy guide to creating your very first course.
Step One - Find a platform
While this step could come a little later in the process, making sure that you start with the right training platform can actually save time down the track. That’s because different platforms are built with different features that may help to speed up later steps in the process.
When picking a new platform, it’s important to understand how different platforms serve different purposes in the market, to ensure you get the features that you need.
If you’re an individual looking to turn your knowledge and experience into a course that you can sell, you’ll want to find a platform with inbuilt ecommerce capabilities. Some examples to check out include:
If you’re a part of a business (or a freelancer helping a business) looking to create an online course for employees for onboarding, upskilling or meeting compliance requirements, you’ll want to focus on platforms that are built for businesses and prioritize quality of learning.
Some other features to look for include the ability to publish to an LMS, assessment options, device compatibility and level of accessibility. Some examples to check out include:
Check out our full guide to the top training platforms in 2022.
Step Two - Identify your audience
Understanding your target audience is the critical first step in beginning to create your online course.
Why is it so important?
Because taking the time to define your ideal audience will help you to understand what they do and don’t need from your course. A common trap that online course creators fall into is over-stuffing their courses with too much information that is nice to know, but is ultimately a distraction or waste of time.
Identifying the audience for your course can also help you to use the right language and tone for your course. Your audience might be experienced in the topic and expect formality, or they might be brand new and hoping for something a little more casual.
A methodology for defining your audience is by writing a learner persona.
Step Three - Define your learning outcomes
A learning outcome is a statement about what you want your learner to be able to do or know by the end of your course. A short course might have 1-3 learning outcomes, while a long course might have as many as 4-7 learning outcomes.
Learning outcomes are another tool for refining your course as you create it. As you begin to pull your material together, you can check back and ask yourself “Does this information help my learner to achieve the learning outcome(s)?” And if it doesn’t - save it for a different course!
You can also share your learning outcomes with your learners at the beginning of your course. This gives learners a helpful map to understand how the information they’ll be learning fits together into a big picture, and whether it’s the right course for them.
Check out our complete guide to writing learning outcomes.
Step Four - Create a storyboard outline
With your target audience and learning outcomes defined, you have a clear destination to work towards as you create your online course. Now, it’s time to start putting it together!
The first step is to create an overview of the structure of your course, including the main topics of information.
Here’s where it is helpful to know what platform you are working with. For example, HowToo has a drag-and-drop visual storyboarding tool that allows you to see each page of your course as a block. This allows you to quickly and easily build your course storyboard directly in the platform, instead of trying to use a different program and then transferring it.
Different platforms also offer different options for your course structure. Many platforms only offer linear structures, where learners must progress from one page to the next with no options for branching. While this can be fine for short and single-topic courses, it is not ideal for longer and multi-topic courses.
Some platforms, like HowToo, also offer the option of non-linear, branching courses. These courses have a central home page featuring different learning pathways. At the end of each pathway, the learner returns to the home page to begin a new pathway. This is ideal for longer and multi-topic courses.
Step Five - Plan for engagement and retention
When creating an online training course, two of your biggest goals should be engagement and retention.
That is, you want your learners to be focused on your course, enjoying the content, and remembering it long after your course is finished. These are critical for your course’s success!
If you’ve defined your audience with learner personas and written learning outcomes, you’re already on track to increase your learner’s engagement by keeping your content focused and relevant.
Other ways to boost engagement include:
- Telling meaningful stories throughout your course,
- Including media such as videos and audio, and
- Avoiding cognitive overload.
Increasing how much of the course your audience remembers in the weeks following completion can be a big challenge, as humans quickly forget the majority of what they have learned.
The AGES model offers four science-backed ways to improve learning retention for training courses.
Step Six - Create your content
This is it! With all the groundwork laid to set your course up for success, it’s finally time to put the details together of your course.
As you dive into the nitty-gritty of each page, there are two more important things to remember.
First, don’t neglect the appearance of your course. Courses that appear ugly, dated or incoherent can lead learners to assume that the course content is also low quality, which may cause them to reject the information in the course.
Some platforms, such as HowToo, offer in-built media libraries, allowing you to access royalty-free, high-resolution stock images to quickly and easily add to your course. You can also try tools such as Canva to create high quality infographics and diagrams to add to your course.
The other important thing to remember is digital accessibility. Digital accessibility is about ensuring that everyone can learn from your course, including people with disabilities.
There are many small things you can do to improve the accessibility of your course, such as including alt text for images, closed captions for videos and clear instructions. However the biggest thing you can do is ensure you choose a course creation platform that is WCAG 2.1 Level AA accessible or higher.
Step Seven - Publish & Refine
Well done! You’ve created your very first online course. Now it’s time to share it with the world.
How you share your course will depend on why you created your course in the first place (see Step One), but you can also read our guide on the best ways to share your training course.
Once you have shared your course and learners have begun to complete it, you have the opportunity to collect feedback and refine your course. You may be able to do this by observing statistics about how your learners interact with the course, or by issuing feedback surveys, or by simply growing in experience as a course creator and realizing what you could have done better.
Whatever your method, the best course creators always use their new knowledge to refine their courses to achieve better results than ever.
Start creating online courses for free today
Now that you know how to create an online course, why not get started right now?
With HowToo, you can begin creating courses completely free on our Starter account. Then, when you’re ready to publish, you can explore our plans to find the one that’s right for your goals.