If you are wanting to build an online course in the easiest way possible for free this is the article for you. I will show you all the tools you can use to create your content and where you can host it for free. Use my years of experience to save you some time.
How to create an online course for free? There are 3 easy steps that you can do to create an online course for free:
- Outline your course
- Create training content
- Host your training online
Now that you know the simple steps lets dive deeper into them and see what free tools will help you create your course for free and then host your course without paying a cent.
Outline Your Course
Before you create your course material you should think about the following:
- Who is Your Audience?
- What Will They Pay?
- How to Pick a Course Title?
- Create a Course Outline
Who Is Your Audience?
First let us discuss why you are making the course? There are many reasons for creating a training course online so let us discuss a few of them:
- As part of a formal qualification
- To train my staff
- To train my customers
- To train my volunteers
- To train hobbyists
There are obviously more audiences than this, but it should start you thinking about who you are creating the training course for.
The wider the audience you reach in a market that has a high need for training with low competition will relate to how much money you will make. That is if money is the motivating factor for you. If you are training your own staff maybe the completion rate and grade are the most important for you.
What to consider when picking a topic for maximum income:
- Is my audience only English speaking?
- Does the course have pre-requisites?
- What demographic am I aiming at?
(Age, Sex, Background etc)
- How do you reach that audience?
- What is my customer acquisition cost?
- Now what is my total market size?
- How competitive is this market?
You should then understand the audience that you can reach with your course after starting with the whole English-speaking world and drilling down to who would be interested.
What will they pay?
If you are supplying your course for free as part of a non-profit or for your own staff you can skip this section but you may want to think about the budget you will need instead. The budget you will need is the price for creating and hosting your training course.
For most people here you will be creating a course to sell online. This means you will have to decide how you are going to charge for your training. For the purposes of this article so you have no out of pocket expenses we will host your content on one of the 3 third party online training websites.
Once you host your training there you will get a percentage of the sale of the training course cost or an hours viewed style revenue depending on the hosting provider you pick.
If you pick your price for the course you need to think of the following for price:
- How many hours of training is provided?
- How specialised is the training?
- What is the current price for other similar courses?
- What value do you add to the training?
- How have you added value to the training?
- Is there a lot of competition?
- Are you selling on perceived value or cost-plus percentage?
- How many people are you expecting to enrol?
A couple of things for you to consider with pricing is that most courses online are priced at around $10 to $20 USD. They limit the training hours to match that cost. When you get to over $100 USD in cost the purchase is not an impulse buy and you will have to warm up your audience.
To warm up your audience you need to provide value to them after you get them on your email list or through free YouTube videos where they start to buy into you and the product. We will discuss this more in later courses.
How To Pick A Course Title?
Now that you understand pricing and market size you are now ready to pick a subject to create your course on. Once you have selected your subject you need to pick a title for your course in that subject area. The title should be catchy and draw in students which is where you marketing skills will come into play.
Say you chose Cooking as your subject. Ignore for a moment that this and travel are the two most competitive markets online. Now in that subject you need to find a fairly low competition area with a big enough audience to sell too. Your first course will probably be an introduction to something as your first course..
Let us say we pick French Pastry and specifically “How to make a croissant?”. So now we have the title and subject for the course. The next step would be to make a catchy title to separate yourself from the other courses out there and provide a hook for potential students.
I would review the training hosting you chose for other topics in the same area first to make sure your title sounds more appealing. But an example course title may be “Butter Butter Butter how to make a perfect croissant every time in 3 minutes”. If you haven’t done any marketing before look at this article on creating catchy course titles.
ARTICLE: Catchy Course Titles
Create a Course Outline
Now that you know your market and have a catchy title lets look at the course outline. This is one of the most important things you will do with the course. This will determine how much you are offering your student for the price you put on the course.
We need to break the course down into easy to digest 30 mins or less byte sized pieces and that starts with breaking your course down into topics. This will use a simple pedagogy or process of learning is building block where you just introduce one concept or topic at a time in isolation and build them to a finished goal.
So if our course title was the croissant one above here is what you might do to break your course down into topics:
Butter, Butter, Butter, how to make a perfect croissant every time in 3 minutes
- Introduction to making Croissants
- Step 1 – Gather your Ingredients
- Step 2 – Make the Pastry
- Step 3 – Preheat the Oven
- Step 4 – Fold the pastry
- Step 5 – Cook the Croissants
- Final Thoughts
Remember deciding what to leave out is just as important as deciding on what to put in. And try to only introduce a single concept or topic in each new section to not confuse the student in your course. They can however build on each precious concept to a larger overall result.
I personally find this is where most of the course designing is done and after this it is just filling out the rest of the content. The rest is quite easy when you have defined your outline and now have direction to where you course will lead students to the learning outcome.
Create Training Content
The training content you will create with each topic of your course will come in many formats such as:
- Offline tasks
For a full list of Content Types check out the article below.
ARTICLE: The Ultimate Guide To eLearning Content Types
Now that you understand some of the content types let us look at the tools you can use to create these content types for free.
Text is the most used but least engaging content you can use for your training material, but you will still use a lot anyway due to being easy to create and maintain. It is also good for explaining assignments and showing marking sheets.
There are heaps of free tools to create your training content for free such as:
- Google Docs
- Editors in Content Management Systems
- Open Office
- EditPad Lite
NOTE: Both Google Docs and Open Office also have spreadsheet tools. And Google Docs also allows for collaborative editing.
A picture says a thousand words, or so the saying goes. When you are trying to explain a complex topic you nothing beats a simple graphic.
You can use graphics for heaps of things like:
- Graphs and charts
- Plans & Instructions
- Info Graphics
- And much more
To manage images used as training content, you can use a wide variety of photo editing software solutions. While Photoshop is the market leader in 2D graphics you there are heaps of free alternatives you can use like:
GIMP is the most used for 2D graphics as it is commonly referred to as the free version of photoshop. It has similar features and it totally free.
Graphs And Charts
When you are trying to show large amounts of data in a simple way a Graph or Chart is perfect for that.
Here is some free software you can use:
NOTE: In Open Office you can create charts as well if you are looking for an alternative to the above tools.
Maps are not only good for geography they are great for general use throughout your lessons when you are trying to provide instructions to a location. They can be used to help students find real world resources and there are many layers you can include on Google Maps as well as making your own.
The most popular software solutions used to manage maps:
Being able to create instructions or training material for anything you do on a computer is invaluable for student learning. The ability to take screen shots and have them sequentially numbered in the order of your steps as you create them is also great.
Whether you capture the whole screen or part of it you can then build your training material from those steps.
Some free screen shot software you can use is:
There are heaps of reasons you may use audio in your training material from lectures, interviews, news, and updates.
- Offline tools
- Online tools
- Mobile Apps
- Voice Recorder
- Easy Voice Recorder
- Many more
Be mindful when recording your audio that the quality of the microphone, the room your record in and the noise cancelation are all important to quality sound. For the suggested sound recording device see the Recommended Tools page at the top of the page.
Video has literally taken over the internet and there is kind of an expectation that your training material be mostly video these days. There are heaps of screen cast style training courses and people trying to plaster their faces across their training to make their material be less of a commodity.
There are heaps of ways you can record video from Webcams, Mobile Phones and Tablets, Real Cameras and Professional Video equipment. All of these options come with free software to record with so you don’t need a third party software package.
Once you have recorded yourself speaking and want to overlay your bullet points or include screen casts or other multimedia you will need video editing software.
For Screencasts you can use the following software:
- OBS Studio
- Active Presenter (free edition)
- iMovie (Mac)
For editing your video together for free you can use:
- Windows Movie Maker
- iMovie (Mac)
- Davinci Resolve (free edition)
There are heaps of interactive elements you can add to your training, but it all depends on the hosting you choose at the end of this article as to what you will be able to include. There are heaps of free software packages that simulate almost every type of situation. There is a huge amount of free games on the web that you can include for students to reinforce learning.
What you choose to use will depend on your subject area and these can also be included as parts of your assignments and teamwork for students to complete these tasks.
If your subject area is something more hands on you can get students to complete some task and record themselves doing it with a Go Pro style device or to take photos of them completing each task. Or maybe it is to go and interview someone from the industry they are in to get feedback on what they are doing.
These tasks could be to also visit a certified professional they are using as a mentor and getting them to sign off they have completed a certain task. The possibilities are endless, and it comes purely down to your creativity. The access everyone has to a mobile phone with a camera and audio recorder only increases those options.
Host Your Training Online
You don’t need to wait until you have your training material to sign up to one of the popular online training content hosting providers. I would suggest the opposite and that you sign up to the platform first. They have training videos that will help you create your content and they also have quality standards and guidelines to put your course on their platforms.
The most popular platforms used by online teachers are:
- Other Hosting Options
Every hosting solution is different in what rules they have and how much they will take as a percentage of your course cost. Udemy has become the worst at this as they will often discount your course down to 80% or $15 USD no matter what the original price was. Just be careful to read their payment terms before selecting your platform.
Remember with each of these platforms they are not University or Vocational certified training courses. This means that while you get a digital certificate of completion it does not mean much in a job interview. What the courses are great for are to learn skills to add to the qualifications you already hold.
Udemy is one of the most popular hosting solutions designed for online teachers that want to share their skills. It allows the teachers to create online courses and helps them find students willing to learn. It is basically an online course marketplace where different teachers provide different teaching services.
Paying for an online course on Udemy grants you lifetime access to its materials. This means you can repeat the course as many times as you want to. Another critical aspect of Udemy is that it provides a 30-day money-back guarantee. This guarantee applies if the student is not happy with the course material provided by the teacher.
Why Choose Udemy To Host Your Course
Udemy features a lot of important functions for the teachers conducting online courses. Among these functions, the most noteworthy are:
- Schedule flexibility – you can make your own schedule
- Exposure – over 130,000 active students
- Student analytics – relevant information about your students (age, sex, location, etc.)
- Student Community Tools
However, there are also major drawbacks related to this hosting solution, such as:
- High fees & Discounting
Udemy Fee Structure
- Udemy Owns The Audience
- No Subscription Model
SkillShare is an alternative to Udemy and they work on a subscription model for students. This makes how you are paid based on how many minutes the premium paying student watch your training material.
Any teacher can publish different classes. The classes include up to 60 minutes of pre-recorded video content. This content is broken down into a series of shorter lessons (up to five minutes per lesson). Apart from the video material, every class includes a project that helps the students make the training real for them.
The two methods you can earn money are:
- Referring students – for every student you bring to the platform that pays for a Premium membership you get $10
- Royalties – every minute your classes are watched by premium students brings you money
Why Choose SkillShare To Host Your Course
The most important functions related to the SkillShare platform are:
- Massive exposure
- Small Student Fees
- Free for teachers
On the other hand, the most important drawbacks of SkillShare are:
- Limited Payment Options – Paypal only
- Huge Competition
- Subscription Only for Students
- No control of pricing
Other Hosting Options
There are other hosting options for you for free that you could use as an alternative from the above two options. You could start a free WordPress blog and use a free LMS plugin to host your training material. This is only available in certain countries and can be found at:
If you already have your own web hosting for free or paid for you could also use the free version of Moodle to host your training as well. You can find the download for the free version of Moodle here:
The advantages of even paying a small amount for hosting say at Blue Host that you will find in the Recommended Tools page are:
- You own your audience
- You have full control of pricing
- You receive the full training fee
- You can make any changes you like whenever you like
The downsides to hosting your own training:
- You must build your own audience
- You will have to set it up yourself
- You will have to spend some time on admin