How to Create an Online Course

The three things you need to create an online course that's thriving and successful are all things you likely have right now.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you’ve thought at least briefly about what it would take for you to create online courses. 

Why am I going to create online courses?

Three obvious reasons jump out:

  • To share your expertise, experience, or passion with the world – whether you’re starting with an email list or social media following or not. You’ve got something important for people to master together in an online course.  
  • To launch a new revenue stream for your existing audience or build a new business to reach new people online motivated by your expertise, experience, or passion.  
  • To repackage and/or monetize content you’ve already produced in a form factor that people are now willing to not just pay for, but are willing to pay a premium for online.

What isn’t so obvious when thinking about creating online courses today are a few additional–and I would argue, awesome–benefits of creating an online course:

  • To meet and bring fascinating people together in a community mastering something interesting, where they can learn from each other and the community essentially runs itself. (Talk about a win/win). 
  • To generate more energy, joy, creativity, and passionate interactions in your own life and on your own entrepreneurial journey. Launching any kind of online business can be a grind, but when you create online courses surrounded by a thriving community, something magical happens. Mastering something together is the single best way to build quickly meaningful relationships. 

Sold, yet?  I hope so.

Create a Community-Powered Course

How do I create an online course? 

To create an online course, it’s actually not so much about what you’re teaching, it’s about what your students or participants are learning when they join or purchase your online course.

While this may not feel like much of a difference – aren’t teaching and learning opposite sides of the same coin? – people don’t actually learn by just watching your beautifully produced videos or reading your articles or posts. That might be what you teach, but it’s not necessarily how someone learns.   

People learn most effectively in an online course when you create a journey to master something interesting together…as a community. What do I mean by this? I mean first combine a concept with actions and results (think class topics and homework assignments), and then offer all of it in a community of fellow students (or members)

To take this approach to creating online courses, start with three things:

  1. A compelling topic
  2. Your ideal member
  3. Your story or the reason why you are the right person to create this online course

When you bring these three pieces together, you’re paying attention to not just the course content, but how you’re going to attract the right people and bring to life the thing that makes the biggest difference between a successful online course and one that falls flat–the quality of your community.

Create a Community-Powered Course

How to create an online course: start with a compelling topic

You may think it’s the most important element in creating an online course: your topic or what the heck you’re going to teach. And, don’t get me wrong, it’s important. 

If you have your topic picked out–perhaps because you already have a niche or an interest that people know you for–the next step is to move on to clearly defining your Ideal Student. 

If you don’t yet have a topic for your online course, here are three not-so-obvious questions that can help you pick a compelling one:

If you look at your life experiences, how have they prepared you to help others going through a similar thing? For example, consider how your circumstances, identity, cultural background, where you’ve been and why, what you’ve achieved and how, who and what you’ve taken a stand for, and who you’ve helped along the way.

One of the very best ways to create an online course is to start with your own personal experience. You don’t have to just build an online course around a business or entrepreneurial topic. People are experimenting with how to create online courses for a full range of life topics, too.

What’s an area you’re curious about or studying today? When you shift your thinking about how to create an online course from putting together something perfect in advance of offering it to others to a true journey to master something interesting together, you open up the possibility that your online course topic can be something that you’re *also* learning about right now. 

There’s no reason you can’t be a guide, sharing your own learning in real-time as you go. This is a live coaching model of creating an online course and it’s a powerful and effective approach.

Picture an existing community you belong to. What’s the most important thing for you to practice to achieve results? You don’t need to lead a community or group today to build an online course that’s valuable to people. You simply need to understand as a member, what is one important thing for someone to learn to master as part of that community. 

For example, let’s say that you are one year into a new career in finance right out of college. While there are people a lot more experienced than you who could teach an online course on succeeding in a career in finance, no one is as qualified as you are to guide the class behind you interviewing for finance positions in a live, just-been-through-it, peer-to-peer community-powered online course on “nailing a career in finance right out of college.” In fact, your recent experience is MORE valuable to those just about to go through the interview process. You’ve just lived it.  

When you take any of these three not-so-obvious approaches to finding your topic, you give yourself the best opportunity possible to get specific and be authentic. The more specific and authentic your topic is, the easier it will be to check off the final two steps of creating an online course.

How to create an online course: find your ideal member

A topic for your online course is only as good as the people it attracts and serves well. The most valuable online courses are those that deliver results and transformation for their students. Think about results or transformation as taking someone from “point A” to “point B” in pursuit of a lifestyle shift, a career move, an interest, a passion, or a goal. 

People are motivated by transformation and they are willing to pay for it when it comes in the form of an online course (delivered by the right instructor, as you’ll see in the next point). Therefore, it’s not just the topic or content of your online course that matters. It’s how that topic or content attracts the most motivated people to it. 

Your ideal member is the person who most needs your online course topic taught by you. They are motivated by what the topic will help them achieve and the way that your story makes it feel accessible and doable for them to achieve it.

The more specific you are with defining your ideal member when you create an online course, the better. Be clear about your ideal member’s demographics, cultural background, identity, circumstances, where they’ve been and why, what they want to achieve, and what’s gotten in their way.  

I can’t stress this enough. Clarity around your ideal member will mean the difference between creating a successful online course or one that never gets off the ground. 

Create a Community-Powered Course

How to create an online course: tell your story 

Now that you have a compelling topic and a clear picture of your ideal member, the last piece of the puzzle around how to build an online course is your story, or why you are the right instructor for this topic *and* ideal member. 

As we talked about in finding a compelling topic, you don’t need to have a fancy degree, a huge following, or online accolades to be the right instructor or mentor for your topic. You are an expert on your background and lived experiences, and, as such, you have the unique opportunity to not only see compelling topics that others may miss, but to make results and transformation accessible to your ideal members. 

It’s your journey that makes you the right instructor or mentor for this topic and your ideal member. You are showing people who join that it’s possible to achieve what they want. 

That’s more powerful than any highly produced video or snazzy website. It’s the difference between creating online courses that thrive and grow and those that fall flat on their face. 

Create a Community-Powered Course

What technology should I use to create online courses?

There are different online course platforms to choose from when creating online courses. There are some platforms that are dedicated to *just* delivering online course content alone. These include Teachable, Udemy, Skillshare, Kajabi, Thinkific, among others. 

They are each solid if you want to use separate software platforms (with separate fees, unfortunately) for your online courses, your course community, and how you sell and take payments for your online courses.  

When you choose these alternative course platforms, it means the online courses you just created are only available on the web. Unfortunately, this also means that getting your members to come back and engage with your online courses will be awkward, clunky, and nowhere near as habit-forming as if you were able to deliver your online courses via native mobile apps in addition to the web. 

An alternative to Teachable, Udemy, Skillshare, Kajabi, Thinkific, and others is a new and emerging way to deliver thriving, successful online courses via a “community-powered online course platform” such as the one offered by Mighty Networks

Choosing a Mighty Network as an alternative to Teachable, Udemy, Skillshare, Kajabi, or Thinkific means that:

  • You can have your online courses, your course community, and the technology for selling your online courses or membership all in one platform, all under your brand. 
  • You can offer your online courses and course community on both the web and native mobile apps, which means people are 65% more likely to engage with your online courses, complete your online courses, and buy more online courses from you. 

When evaluating your alternatives and choosing a software platform for your online courses, consider just how much more successful you can be when you bring your online courses, course community, and payments together in one place – ensuring you grow students faster, charge more money for your online courses, and generating more income as people get results from your online courses faster. 

That’s the impact of a “community-powered online course.”

What content do I need to create for online courses?

As you have probably noticed by now, I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about how you define your goals or objectives for your online course or building an outline for your online course or creating the course content or deciding how to market your online course or launching and promoting your course.

There’s a reason for that.

All of these areas are so much easier to navigate once you have a compelling topic, clarity around your ideal member, and your story. Most importantly, when you take a “community-powered” approach to creating your online courses, you can do something very specific around your course content.

You can create your online course live.

What do I mean by creating your online course live? I mean that you can organize it more like a live group coaching program where you take a “1-concept per week” approach. Rather than create all of your online course content ahead of time – risking time and energy building the wrong content – you can deliver your first online course live – bringing together your ideal members to tackle one concept per week, offering a case study, an action (or homework assignment), and a result each week that builds on each other.

It’s a powerful, simple model that’s SO MUCH EASIER TO DO and only possible when you choose a community-powered approach to creating online courses.

Is it easy to create online courses? 

From the outside, it may look like you need a ton of experience in building online courses to create an online course that works. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

In reality, all you need are these three simple things to create an online course: a compelling topic, a clear ideal member, and a story that makes people see how they can achieve results and transformation in their lives just like you’ve done in yours.

Create a Community-Powered Course