How to create your first online course

In this article we take a closer look at the online education industry and how you can be a part of this as a course creator. The online course creation industry is growing rapidly and is set to be worth around $350 billion by 2025. For many people it’s a great opportunity to share their skills with like-minded people and earn an (additional and/or passive) income. The growth is being driven by the increasing availability of online resources and platforms, as well as the growing popularity of distance learning.

Online courses offer a flexible and convenient way to learn, and have been shown to be effective in increasing learning retention rates.

In this article we will talk about some definitions first, for example what is a course and what’s the difference with a tutorial. But you can also skip to the part why you are here in the first place: How you can start to create and sell your online course.

What is an Online Course?

An online course is a type of class that is taught over the internet instead of in person. They can be taken on a computer, tablet, or phone, and they are generally conducted through a learning management system (also known as LMS).

Online courses are becoming increasingly popular due to the flexibility and convenience they offer students. They typically follow the same curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, but may be delivered in a more asynchronous format, allowing students to complete assignments and interact with classmates on their own schedule. Many online courses are self-paced, which means that students can work at their own speed and complete the course when it is convenient for them. So without interaction with the creator of the course or fellow students.

There is a wide range of online courses available that cover a variety of topics. There are a lot of types of online courses available, from courses that teach you how to use specific software to courses that cover more general topics. For example, you can learn how to use Photoshop, learn how to master Instagram or learn how to paint.

Why Create an Online Course?

There are many benefits of createing a course and selling it online. You can reach a global audience with your course, and you can create it at your own pace. Additionally, you can build an online community around your course, and you can easily update your course as needed or expand it with additional modules.

Follow an online course
Learn anything online – Pexels – by Antoni Shkraba

If you have something valuable to share, creating a course is a great way to do it. If you are a great artist, writer or expert in social media promotion, why not educate, inspire and help others with your talent? Besides that, creating and selling your own course is also a great way to generate (passive) income, especially if your course doesn’t require a lot of engagement or class management.

What is the difference between a course and a tutorial?

The main difference between an online course and a tutorial is that an online course is typically much longer, and covers a wider range of topics. A tutorial is usually much shorter, and focuses on teaching you how to use a specific piece of software or complete a specific task. Earlier we mentioned the Photoshop course as an example. A tutorial could be the part where you explain how to use masks in Photoshop. Usually you show someone step by step, using a video recording, how it works and what someone needs to learn that skill.

A tutorial is a great way to learn about a new subject, but it’s important to remember that it only covers a few aspects of that subject. For example, if you’re learning how to use a new software program, a tutorial might only show you the basics of how to use it. If you want to learn more about the program, you’ll need to do some additional research or buy a course.

For you as a feature course creator, tutorials can be a great addition to an online course, because you can use free or cheap tutorials as an introduction to your courses. Creating tutorials could also be your start as a course creator, because it’s a great way to learn how to create a lesson.

5 steps to follow to create your first course

Okay, so you want to share your knowledge with like-minded people. You have many ideas going through your head. But where do you start and how should you proceed from an idea to publishing it? Let’s start with step one, what will you be teaching in your course?

1. How to Find Perfect Course Topics

Mural Mindmap example for creating a course
Example of a mindmap, using Mural

You may be wondering, “What course should I create?” or “How do I pick the perfect course topic?”. Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it might seem at first.

First, consider what your audience wants. What topics are they interested in? What problems do they need help solving? You could create a mind-map and visualize everything that comes up. A mind-map is a perfect way to visualize your ideas and to help you during this process. You use the free version of Mural to create a mind map.

Once you have an idea of what your audience is looking for, it’s time to get more specific. Pick a topic that is narrow enough to be covered in one course, but not so narrow that there aren’t enough resources or people interested in it. You can also browse the net and see what courses are already available in your niche. You could even use it to check out how these topics are doing, because many platforms show how many students have participated.

Finally, make sure you are passionate about the topic! People don’t like to watch to someone who is only covering the contents. It’s so much more fun when it’s told with passion and interest! Besides that, for the next step you’ll need to write a course outline and it will be a lot easier if you have affinity with the topic.

2. Write a course outline

The course outline provides online instructors a framework for their entire course. A course outline is the structure of the course. It helps you to define the course goals, what is needed to complete the course (lessons, content), documents / reading material, software and when assessments will occur along with what the criteria is. You could compare it to the index of a book, or a roadmap. You can use an incredible tool like ContextMinds to help you generate the course outline using AI.

ContextMinds content ideas generator
Use the ContextMinds content ideas generator to help creating the outline of your course

Creating a course outline can be done by using a variety of different methods. The most important thing is to make sure that it is clear and concise.

The following tips will help you create an effective course outline:

  • First decide the level of the course? Is it for beginners or is it for experienced users?
  • Start by creating an overall structure for your course. This can be done by breaking down the topics you want to cover into smaller sections.
  • Additionally, create topics and subtopics, then narrow it down further.
  • Make sure each section has a specific focus. This will help keep your course organized and prevent students from getting lost.
  • Include all of the essential information in each section. This includes the goals, objectives, and key takeaways.
  • Use clear and concise language throughout the course outline. This will help ensure that students understand what they need to do in each section.

By following these tips, you can create an effective online course outline that will help your students succeed.

3. Creating the course content

Creating the course content can be a daunting task, but there are a few things you can do to make it easier. You have already done the most important thing in the previous step: creating the course outline.

During this step you write down the content of what you want the students to learn. For example, you wouldn’t start your Photoshop course with how to use masks and advanced functions. You would usually start at the basics, like explaining the user interface and where you can find the basic tools. The next thing you will learn is how to adjust your holiday photo’s and enhance their quality and a next step could be that you learn how to use the text tool to add text to it.

If you’re struggling filling your course outline with content, you can use the mind-map method again. Write down each section in the mind-map and then think of everything you would like to tell about it.

Next step is to use the course outline and work out the contents in detail. Use additional resources, like books, websites and so on if you think that is necessary to add more depth to the lessons. Also think about assignments or quizzes. It’s not a must have, but could be useful if you want your students to engage or pass to move to the next lesson. Use a tool like Canva to create your presentation, handouts or other visuals.

Canva course templates
Use Canva to create the documents and design for your course

4. Filming, Recording, and Editing your Online Course

There are several methods to present your online course, a few examples:

  • You can create an animated PowerPoint-like presentation, where you show the content sheet-by-sheet.
  • You can create a presentation with a voice over, so the presentation supports the spoken content.
  • You can record yourself and present the course. We would definitely recommend this, because it’s the most appealing.
  • Additionally you can use screen recordings (showing what you are doing in Photoshop) or video recordings of what you are doing (like recording the process of you painting)

If you’re planning on recording and filming your online course, there are a few things you should keep in mind. A few tips that will help you create incredible results:

  • Use a high-quality microphone. This is important for getting clear audio.
  • Speak clearly and at a steady pace, there’s no need to rush your story
  • Try to use natural lighting or use good studio lights
  • Use a quiet recording environment. This will help reduce background noise and make it easier for people to hear what you’re saying.
  • Record in short takes. This will help you edit the video more easily and ensure that you don’t make any mistakes.
  • Use a tripod. This will help keep the camera steady and improve the overall quality of the video.
equipment to record a course
You don’t need high-end equipment to record a course – Pexels – by George Milton

You can use advanced software for the editing, like Adobe Premiere or After Effects, but there are a lot of affordable tools available, like CreateStudio or Invideo. All the mentioned software allows you to add video fragments (for example if you first show a video of yourself in a lesson and then footage of you painting, or a screen recording) or add overlays for additional information, or to highlight things.

Once you are done recording the videos, make sure to edit them and check them. Give your videos names that make sense (for example: introduction, section1-lesson1, section1-lesson2 etc), this will make your life so much easier when you are ready for the next step, uploading the course.

If you would like to know more about how to create effective course videos, make sure to read our guide.

5. Hosting your course on an online course platform

Now that you’ve completed your course, it’s time to find a platform to host your course. You’ll need to find a LMS platform to upload your course content and manage your students. There are many options available, so be sure to do your research to find the best fit for you and your course. Once you’ve found a platform, it’s time to get your course online and start teaching!

A few important features that we think a course platform should have:

  • (Free) video upload: Some platforms allow you to upload the course videos to their platform. This is helpful because you can easily manage and share the videos with your students. Learn more in our article where we cover video-hosting for courses.
  • An Easy to use course builder: Building your course should be simple, so drag-and-drop to create resourceful courses is almost a must-have.
  • Quiz and Assignments: Add quizzes and assignments to your courses. These allow you to measure student progress and determine whether they’re meeting the learning objectives. This is helpful because it allows you to measure whether the course is effective and provide feedback to students accordingly.
  • Content Drip: Get full control over the learning path with content drip! With content drip you decide when lessons will become available for a student.
  • Analytics and Reports: You will want to keep track and assess the effectiveness of your courses. You’ll also want to be able to track the performance of individual student progress. But also you’ll want to keep track on how your courses are doing and check earning statistics.
  • Google Meet / Zoom / Google Classroom: Engage with your students and share classroom posts or make your students attend live classes right from the lesson page. This is beneficial because it allows you to connect with your students on a personal level and provide support throughout the course.

You might not always need all the above features, but it shows the importance of taking the time to think about the features you need to create your course.

Xquissive offers all of the above. Xquissive is a course marketplace for creatives to create and sell their online courses or tutorials. The platform is free and it gives you a lot of freedom to create the perfect course for you to manage and for your students to follow. You can either host your courses and tutorials on the platform.


The above steps should give you a head start on creating your first course or tutorial. If you have additional tips, let us know! If you’d like to give the Xquissive Academy LMS a try, make sure to sign up here.

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