Who Should Create an Online Course and Why?

There are platforms for online courses everywhere

It doesn't matter where you look, platforms for online courses are everywhere. When you visit some of these platforms – like Podia, Teachable, Thinkific and more – you discover that each of them have 20,000 – 50,000 customers. It begs the question – is everyone creating online courses. And that takes us to today's question: who should create an online course and why?

I know you likely think that I'm going to tell you that everyone should create a course, but that's not true. I'm not going to do that. A lot of people will tell you that, and when you're a couple months in and figure out how hard things are, they're nowhere to be found.

So let's start with a tiny bit of history. The condensed version.

A quick history of online courses

The first wave of online courses came from universities like MIT, Stanford, and others. The courses were free. And anyone could take them. It was new. It was novel. And it was pure.

What do I mean by pure? It was a system for people to register and then watch and read content. That's it. Professors who took courses online didn't do anything but teach.

The second wave of online courses came when non-professors were invited to bring their knowledge and information to the world using all sorts of hosted platforms (like the ones I mentioned above and others).

Now, people who had something to teach could do so, and even turn it into a full time job. But things got harder.

Teachers didn't only have to know about their subject. They also had to learn marketing, sales pages, long form sales letters, marketing funnels, creative design, Facebook ads, Google ads, and more.

And students, more than ever, were signing up. Only to discover that it takes discipline to watch and consume all that content. So people were dropping off like flies.

Today, we're seeing the start of a third wave – more focused on the students and their ability to learn and succeed. I know of at least three different new platforms being built around cohort-learning. Where students work together to make things happen. It's not just the teacher that does the work. Students do peer reviews and challenge one another. And the community dynamics help students complete courses.

So is it still worth it to create online courses?

I didn't mean to scare you when I started listing all the work that goes into a course that isn't really about the course. But yes I did.

I'm not suggesting you have to be perfect. Not at all. But I don't want you to think that recording your content is enough. If I had to estimate it, I'd tell you that the videos you record may represent about 45% of your course content. You'll still need workbooks, handouts, and summaries – all of which is course content.

And then when you have all your course content, you still have marketing and sales content, along with onboarding content. So now your course content looks like that 100% was really only 50% of the total content you had to create.

Is it still worth it to create an online course? Absolutely.

Because all that work is still going to pay dividends with your second, third, fiftieth and two thousandth student. It scales incredibly well.

And who should create an online course?

But we still haven't answered the core question: who. Who should create an online course today?

My answer is simple and comes in three parts:

  1. Anyone who has their eyes wide open. You have to know the work that goes into this stuff. I'm currently recording a new course on blogging, and it's work. There's no two ways about it. But that takes me to my next point.
  2. Anyone who delights in watching others learn something new. I love learning new things. And the only thing better than learning new things is watching others learn new things. It's why I love coaching too. I get to see people have their “aha” moments. The other day I got an email from a student of one of my old courses and they explained how one lesson shaped their entire business. One single lesson.
  3. Anyone who wants greater impact than they're having today. If you have your eyes wide open, if you love helping others learn, and you want to have more impact than you're having today – there are few things that are more enjoyable than watching people learn from you (even while you're asleep). Your impact goes global – which is something you likely wouldn't experience if you were doing things in person.

And why should they create one today?

The last part of the question is the “why” part. Why create an online course today? And my answer is that it's literally never been easier. Even as people are working on new platforms, you can get started with platforms that are incredibly powerful today.

I recommend three software products that each run on WordPress and can be hosted at Nexcess (designed better than any other WordPress host for concurrent users). Here they are in alphabetical order – they're all awesome!

  • AccessAlly – Stands out because of its support for funnels, offers, and more
  • LearnDash – Stands out for its focus on learning
  • LifterLMS – Stands out for its all-in-one solution with high customizability

You can't go wrong with any of these three. Go check them out and get started working on that course material right now!

Stuck figuring out what your course should be about? That's what we'll look at next.

Already have a course and need help launching it and marketing it? Talk to Janelle Allen.

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Chris Lema
Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.