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  • Writer's pictureKayla Droog Consulting

Key tips for online course setup

So you’re creating an online course or thinking about it? Awesome!

If you’ve already planned out your topic and course outline, you might be thinking that all you have left to do is record some videos, put them online, add some PDF handouts, and you’re good to go!

Sadly, there’s a little bit more to it than that. 

Listen, if you’re just getting started and you don’t have any budget for fancy platforms or tech, there are tons of cheap and free options to get a basic course off the ground. 

But if you are ready to create a more professional looking course that doesn’t need major updates down the road, here are some key things you may want to consider:

An important note:

Before we dive into these areas of your online course setup that you might be overlooking, I just want to preface all of this by saying: 

1. You do not have to do all or any of these things if you don't want to. 

2. You do not have to have all of these things at the same time. 

These might be things that you work your way up to over time, and that's totally okay.

Optimize my online course video content

The first thing that I encourage you to consider when it comes to an online course is your video content. Now, there are many things that we are going to talk about under this umbrella. 

First of all, how you are going to record your video? You may record it through software directly on your computer, you may record it through your phone - that's how I record my videos - or you may have a video camera. None of these are right or wrong, and you can use whichever one you want to or have access to. You can always change it later.

Now, you probably are not going to record a perfect video in one take. Wouldn't it be nice if it worked like that! Instead of taking a bajillion takes to try to get that perfect video, you're probably going to need to edit it. This means you're going to need some sort of editing software. 

When you're getting started, if you already have editing software built into your computer (which most computers have), just use that. You can always get something fancier later. Especially when you're first getting started, you probably don't need a lot of fancy editing, graphics, etc. Don't worry about those things. Do what you need to do to get your videos together now. 

Do my videos need subtitles or transcripts?

Some things that go along with videos that people can often overlook are things like captions or subtitles and transcripts. 

I highly recommend having subtitles or captions on your videos. This can help make them more accessible and allow people to consume your content in a variety of situations. 

If you are uploading your course videos to YouTube to start, YouTube will automatically generate subtitles for you video (although you will need to manually edit them!). You can also copy this text and use it to create a transcript. Other video hosting platforms may be able to generate subtitles for you, or you may need to use another platform to generate them and then add them to the video file later.

If I just lost you, I’m sorry! I don’t want to go too deeply into how to create video captions/subtitles today, but I might go into it in a future post! If you have any questions, please leave a comment. 

If you have subtitles on your video, transcripts are secondary. This is a full copy of the text of your video that someone can download and read instead of watching your content. Again, this makes your content more accessible and helps to support multiple learning styles. This is always something that you can add later if you don’t have the bandwidth or tech right now.

Where should I host my videos?

Another thing to consider is where you are going to host your course video content. Depending on where your course is going to live, you may be uploading video directly to that course platform. 

If you are in your early days, you may not want to invest in a course platform at this time. So if you're doing a little bit more of a basic or DIY approach, you may be using a free platform that doesn't have a lot of storage capacity, or you might be using something like YouTube or Vimeo. 

If you are using some sort of hosting platform, I highly, highly, highly recommend, before you purchase it, you find out how much storage capacity your subscription gets you and the maximum file size for each file. 

I had a client who paid for a year's subscription to a specific platform to host their online course, and then after that purchase, and after the return date, they discovered that the platform's maximum file size for their subscription wasn't big enough for the course videos that they were trying to upload, even once the files were compressed. 

They basically had to absorb the cost of that subscription and pay for a completely different platform. I do not want that to happen to you! 

Please do your research. If the website is vague, reach out to them before you pick your platform. 

Choosing which online course platform to use is really not that important of a decision, because a lot of them are comparable and switching between platforms is fairly easy. But I do encourage you to look at the maximum video capacity, because most people’s course content is primarily video. So you definitely want to make sure that aspect of your platform works for you!

Branding my online course

The next aspect of your online course that you may need to consider is your branding. Depending on where you are at in your business, you may not have clear, professional, defined branding at this point, and that's totally okay! 

But you may want to think about the branding that you want for your online course, because if you throw something together and you're not happy with it, this could lead to a ton of work down the road. Just picture yourself 6 months or a year from now frantically re-recording everything because you don’t like the branding that you used on your original slides. 

Now, this is completely up to you, because yes, I want you to get your course content done in a timely manner and not spend time messing around on graphics and using that as an excuse not to record videos. But take a little bit of time now and think about the aesthetic that you are going for. 

It's not just your slides and your handouts that you have to think about. Some of the things that people forget that they need graphics for are video thumbnails and the branding on your course platform and your landing page. 

Don't spend a huge amount of time, but spend some time thinking about how you want these things to look. Again, they're not set in stone. You are not stuck with them forever. But if you can think about it just a little bit ahead of time, it might save you some time later. 

I know people who have spent hours and hours and hours messing around in Canva agonizing over colors, agonizing over shapes and graphics. And to be honest, this sounds like something I would do! This sounds like a great way to waste time! Don't do that! 

How does my online course connect to my website?

The next thing to consider is your website. How is your website going to connect to your online course? 

Depending on what platform you go with, there may be built-in landing pages directly in that platform. But chances are you are still going to be mentioning your course somewhere on your website, even if your full landing page is elsewhere. 

On your website, you may need a page that directs people to that landing page on that other platform. Or sometimes the landing pages on other platforms are not as sophisticated as what you could get on your own website, so you may want to bypass that and just have the landing page directly on your website. 

Either way, you are going to need a landing page somewhere to convince people to buy this course. I wish you could just tell them it exists and they would just start signing up for it! But, again, it does not work that way. You're going to need a sales page that convinces them. 

And if you don't like the term "sales page", I just mean a landing page that walks them through what it is, what the benefits are, and why they want it. No matter what level of salesy-ness you have, you are going to need that. 

This page is going to take time to design. You may need some more graphics. You are definitely going to need the language, the copy, that is going to be on this page. But don't overthink it. Don't let this be the thing that holds you back from launching your course. 

But definitely take some time to put yourself in the buyer's shoes. Think about what they are going to be looking for and the benefits that are going to convince them that your course is the thing that they need. 

Does my course need a community component?

The next thing that you might not have considered is something that is completely optional, and this is: is your course going to have some sort of community component? 

A lot of online courses are designed to be completely do it yourself at your own pace and there is no community component, and that is completely fine. But if you think you would like some sort of community component to your course, then you have to consider what that's going to look like. 

Again, this could be a thing that you add further down the line. Don't spend time on this right now if you don't want to or need to or have that time. 

This could be something as simple as a Facebook group. If you are concerned about ownership when it comes to social media, I completely understand. There are other platforms that you could use to have a community - something like Mighty Network - or there are so many options. 

This may also be something that is included in the course platform that you already have. For example, Thinkific has the option to have a community area or a membership area at a higher subscription level. So you'll have to weigh what you're looking for in terms of community capabilities with what's available in different software and what your price point is. 

It might be cheaper to upgrade the course platform that you already have rather than pay for a subscription with a completely different software, or it might not. You might have a free option somewhere, and that's great. Think about what's going to work best for you, your budget, and your users. 

You can always change this later. I'm in a membership that just changed from a Facebook group to a completely different platform, and they told everyone, showed them how to migrate over, and it was fine. You are not stuck with whatever you pick. 

How will people pay for the course?

The next thing to think about when it comes to your online course, and this is not optional, is how are people going to pay you? 

If you are using a course platform, there is likely a way for people to pay you through that platform. The platform is going to take a cut though. If you don't want people to be able to pay via credit card or you want to avoid the platform taking a cut, then there are ways that you can bypass that platform and have people pay you a different way. You'll just have to figure out how you give them access to your course content. 

For example, if people are not paying you through the course platform, you will have to give them access to the course material after payment has been made. Depending on your platform, this means you may need to add new users to your course manually. Having students pay you on another platform is likely going to create more work for you, though, so you'll have to decide if it's worth it. If you want to route them through somewhere else, maybe your CRM platform or something like that, then you'll just have to figure out how that works for you and your individual course. 

Another reason why you may want to bypass the course platform - I'm not necessarily advocating this, just giving you your options - is that you may want to have some sort of welcome automation. 

This could look many different ways, but you might have people enter a workflow where they pay for the course, sign a contract or agreement if you have one, and then after that receive a welcome email with access to the course. This is going to look different for everybody. 

Maybe what you really need is just to have the people who buy your course through your course platform added to your email list automatically. That's an automation that is easy to set up as well. Some of the more popular course platforms integrate directly with some of the more popular email marketing platforms, or you can use something like Zapier to connect them if they don't speak directly to each other. There are options to make your life easier and make things more automated. You know how excited I get about that! 

Online course sales process

The final thing to consider is your sales funnel process. Whether sales funnels make you feel icky or not, you are going to need some sort of funnel to get people from being a lead to actually purchasing your course. 

You may also want to create some upsells that you can offer them when they're on that checkout page to try to push them along even more and increase that sale. 

There are many options for what to include in a sales funnel, and if you're just starting out I recommend you start with something simple. 

Maybe a freebie to get their foot in the door, and then a sequence of emails to talk to them about who you are, what you do, and what kind of value they would get, and then offer them your course at the end of that. If you have maybe a smaller digital product or smaller offer that can be an upsell at checkout to encourage them to add a little bit more to their basket, add that as well. 

Again, your sales funnel doesn't have to be big or complicated. You can add more later as you grow. 

I hope that this checklist has helped you figure out if you are missing anything in your online course setup process. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and as I said, you do not have to do all of these things if you don't want to. These are just different areas that you might have overlooked. 

I hope that you have found this helpful. If you have any questions, please comment below or feel free to reach out.



Kayla Droog Consulting supports heart-centered small business owners with the back-end systems setup and updates they don't have time to do, so they can focus on serving their clients and growing their businesses!

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