Online courses are booming.
We love online courses because we have a thirst to learn and grow. I do lots of online courses because I want to learn the shortcuts and not have to painfully figure out every lesson the hard way. Doing courses helps me move faster than overthinkers, who are still wondering if now is a good time to start.
I’m not here to brag about success or rub numbers in your face. I’ve launched multiple online courses that have made more than 6-figures. I say that only so you understand I’m not giving you advice on something I have no idea about.
Here are the tools I use. Copy/borrow/steal.
Loom to record videos
I am terrible at video. Recording a moving picture of myself makes me want to vomit. My face looks weird in the camera. My big ears stick out. There are a few too many wrinkles showing their ugly lines on my face. Oh, and my ability to operate software is worse than my ability to obey orders at a corporate conveyer belt that produces winners in suits.
Loom records my screen while I show students how to use various tools and think about different concepts. Once the recording is done, it uploads to the cloud and gives me a link. I then send that link to my co-teacher who adds his video next to mine.
- Easy to use
- No learning curve
- Videos can be shared without any fuss
- Requires a fast, stable internet connection
- If the internet drops out you lose the recording and have to start again. This has happened to me a few times. I solved the problem by getting faster internet.
- Software constantly updates. When it does, they move everything around.
- The countdown before recording is long and you can’t change it.
- The free version is useless. It’s paid Loom or nothing.
There are lots of learning platforms to host a course. I bought a Linkedin course recently via the Gumroad marketplace. As soon as I handed over my hard-earned money, I got a link. The link downloaded a zip file. The zip file contained a bunch of poorly labeled videos and some random PDFs.
This is what happens when you don’t use a proper eLearning platform.
An eLearning platform managers student support, the collection of money, all the sales pages required to sell your course, the checkout page, and communication with your students. It allows you to set up a school, where students can log in and see information in an organized manner.
There’s a subtle difference between recorded videos people download and eLearning. But the difference allows you to charge decent money.
I use Teachable. It’s one of the most popular platforms.
- Easy to use.
- Fast response to support requests. And detailed answers to support requests that don’t say dumb stuff like “did you check the FAQ?”
- Nice looking sales/landing pages.
- An intuitive menu system to access features.
- Killer dashboards that show you the growth in students, revenue, and the completion rate of your courses.
- All up it costs me 16% of every course sale and $129 USD per month. That’s bloody expensive, mate.
- Teachable requires users to login to do various functions like purchase or view courses. This confuses both the students and the teachers.
- There’s zero integration between Teachable and common email software like ConvertKit or Mailchimp. This means you have to market your courses outside of Teachable and try to work out who is interested and who isn’t.
- There are loads of bugs. For example, student credit cards often decline for no reason.
- The login situation is confusing. There is a login for your school and a login to Teachable. The course can sit under either login, so this generates unnecessary support requests.
- It’s not simple to pre-launch a course without uploading the full curriculum worth of videos beforehand.
Whenever you’re using an eLearning platform, you have to be always selling courses. The moment you stop selling courses, you still have to pay the high monthly fees. If you cancel the eLearning subscription, then the existing students lose access to the course and will likely be pissed off.
Workflowy is mind maps for dummies … and it’s free.
It’s where I go to lay out the course. The layout of a course is a lot like a blog post. The title of the course is what you’re teaching and how it helps people. The curriculum of the course is like chapters in a book. Each lesson is a chapter, and every chapter is a blog post.
Within each blog post are a series of dot points. At the end of the blog post is a list of takeaways. The transcript of the recorded video is a student handout. The bonus course materials are PDFs, checklists, a list of resources, links to cool stuff, etc.
Once a course is written out in Workflowy, it begins to come alive. The Workflowy becomes the script you read from when you start recording the videos for your course.
Some courses feature communities. This is because some of the best learning comes from students interacting with each other.
The problem with online communities is they can quickly get out of control and either die or become toxic. That’s why I use Slack to manage my course communities. It’s free and allows me to have a community manager monitor and help where needed. Students can also contact me if any of the lessons don’t make sense.
A community is also a great place to collect wins. Students’ wins become testimonials for the next course you want to offer. Tracking students’ wins means your course isn’t just information — it’s generating results and that’s the holy grail.
Anyone can sell a course. But not every course can produce results.
Slack is pretty simple to set up. You create a group and then add channels. One channel for questions, one for general discussion, one for wins, and one for sharing each other’s social media posts.
I chose Slack because I hate anything owned by Facebook. They abuse our privacy and sell it to advertisers. I found early on that students also hated Facebook and refused to join a community on there. Slack is neutral.
The beauty of Slack is a large number of companies use it as their app for employees to talk to each other. So your online course ends up accidentally becoming part of your student’s workday. Huge win.
- Logitech Bravio. This camera will change your life. I found the standard camera in Apple products is 720p and garbage. A good camera is needed to film pre-recorded course content, and for monthly Q&As. The superpower of the Bravio is that even with no lighting, it really brightens up the picture. Even on a dark morning I look like I’m in full sunlight.
- 2 x LED lights from Amazon ($10 total). Lighting helps make your videos look pro. Basic LED lights are good enough. Light is light.
- Snow Microphone. It’s cheap and USB, rather than requiring audio cables and a fancy soundcard. You simply plug it in without any software and your computer automatically makes it the default. The sound quality is good, and you can easily fold it up and put it in a draw when you’re done.
- Bose wireless headphones. I need to hear my co-teacher while we record. I use the same headphones to write and block out the world.
Let’s cut to the chase
If you write non-fiction you should definitely have an online course.
Even if you don’t write online or create content for social media, an online course is a way to take your 9-5 job skills and experiences, and earn extra money from them. If you don’t know what to teach, show people how to use your favorite piece of software.
The trick to online courses is to not overthink it. An online course doesn’t require fancy tools. What you have to teach is far more important than the eLearning platform you select. All the eLearning platforms have bugs and huge flaws. So, choose any of them and launch your course.
A course allows you to share your skills and experiences with the world. That has enormous value you’re probably underestimating.