How to Teach Online & Create a Course: A Guide for Beginners

With thousands of new courses going online every day, it’s clear to see online teaching is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to share knowledge and expertise. 

If you are interested in breaking into the fast-growing and potentially lucrative world of online education, you’ll need a course that delivers on its promises, and knowing where to start can be a challenge.

To start teaching online, you’ll need to create course content that resonates with potential learners. 

This demands strict preparation, skill, and an understanding of how you promote yourself. 

If this sounds daunting, don’t worry – you’ve come to the right place! 

In this ultimate guide to online teaching and course creation, we’ll provide a step-by-step tutorial on everything you need to know to break into the world of online education and build a high-quality course from scratch.

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Source: Pexels

What is Online Teaching? 

Online teaching is, very simply, any form of education delivered over the internet.

Instead of communicating in person, there are a variety of tools and teaching methods you can use online, including (but not limited to):

  • Face-to-face live lessons.
  • Downloadable resources. 
  • Video content. 
  • Presentations (such as webinars). 
  • Podcasts. 
  • Tests. 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, online teaching saw a huge increase in popularity. 

The necessity for schools and higher education institutions to carry out the majority of their teaching online contributed to huge development in the online learning sphere, both in terms of technology and knowledge.

This was reflected by an increase of 92% in the number of hybrid and distance-only students at traditional universities in 2020. 

While this growth was largely triggered by the pandemic, teaching online is here to stay, with the online education market forecast to grow to $350 Billion by 2025.

Most online teachers create and deliver their content through an LMS (Learning Management System).

That’s an e-learning platform that allows teachers and other educators to host courses, manage course content, and scale their online teaching business while concurrently dealing with the admin side of things, for example, enrollment, student progression, and income.

The Benefits of Teaching Online

Online teaching provides a range of benefits to both the educator and the student:

  • Affordability – In comparison to face-to-face education, online teachers can save money in a range of areas, including reduced classroom costs, travel costs, and more.
  • Accessibility – As students can access resources from their homes, there is no need to learn in a different setting, and the variety of courses means a diverse range of tutors catering to different learning styles, so students can find the right course and tutor for their specific needs. 
  • Efficiency – The efficiency of online courses is a big draw. Face-to-face teaching can only be delivered in real-time, meaning if a student misses a class owing to illness, for example, it is more difficult for them to catch up.

    On top of this, as online classes don’t have the same space constraints as in-person learning, tutors can deliver their course material to unlimited students at once.
  • Environmental benefits – Online learning has no travel requirements, and online courses are paperless, both of which contribute to online courses producing 85% fewer CO2 emissions in comparison to face-to-face learning.
  • Passive income – Creating online content removes the requirement for you to physically deliver every aspect of your course.

    You can pre-record videos and create e-learning materials ahead of time, allowing you to generate income passively – you can even earn money while you sleep! 
  • It works! – Online learning has been shown to produce equivalent or better course performance – research indicates that high-quality e-learning courses have benefits for learners’ motivation, satisfaction, and progress.

As you can see, breaking into the world of online education holds a whole host of benefits. 

To ensure your courses are effective and lucrative, however, it’s critical to create e-learning materials of the highest quality and distribute them through the right online teaching platform. 

We’ll take a look at how to do both of those things next.

How to Prepare for Creating Your Course

In order to start teaching online, you’ll first have to create a high-quality course that will resonate with potential learners. 

This can seem a daunting process, particularly when you are creating your first course, but once you break it down, step by step, it is very manageable. We’ve covered the main steps below.

Gather Resources and Materials

Ensuring you have the correct resources available will be crucial to delivering an online course that is both engaging and useful for your prospective students. 

Depending on the course you are intending to offer, these resources will differ, but some things you may want to consider include:

  • Past exam papers – If you intend to offer a course that provides any form of accreditation, providing past papers for any exams will give students greater insight into the level of knowledge they are expected to have and the kinds of questions they will encounter.
  • Accredited learning materials – Accredited courses will typically follow a strict syllabus, which will frequently be covered within learning materials specific to the course. You’ll want to ensure that your students have full access to these materials to provide them – and your course – with the best chance of success.
  • Additional learning resources – While your personal teaching experience will be crucial in delivering an effective learning experience, supplementary materials such as books, television shows, and other online content like podcasts or TED talks can be invaluable resources when it comes to teaching online. 

Detail the Course Structure 

In order to encourage people to sign up for your online course, you’ll need to have a structured outline in place to ensure prospective students know what to expect. 

Outlining your course structure early in the creation process can also help to give you direction when preparing your e-learning materials. 

Ensure you create clear learning objectives for your students, as this will help you to create course content that teaches students succinctly without straying into unnecessary sub-topics.

Create the Course Content

Your course content can cover a wide variety of formats, depending on the type of learning experience you want to offer to your students and the nature of the course material. 

Below are some of the different types of course content you may consider creating: 

  • Workbooks, which can be downloaded in PDF format. 
  • Images.
  • PowerPoint presentations.
  • Bite-sized tests.
  • Video content, especially when teaching a subject that demands audio-visual elements – for example, languages, fitness, or presentation skills.
  • Interactive content, such as gamification, where game elements are used to motivate students. Such elements include leaderboards, badges, and other digital rewards.

Researching Online Learning Platforms

Online courses are a hugely competitive market, and it can be tempting to sell your courses on a popular hosting platform like Teachable, Thinkific, or Udemy in order to get maximum exposure and drive sales. 

Before you make a decision about which platforms to use, however, you’ll want to ensure you do the following: 

  • Understand your competitors – Familiarize yourself with the types of courses your competitors are offering, the platforms they use, and how they appeal to their target audience. When considering your competitors, take note of what works, what doesn’t, what aligns with your personal teaching style, and any opportunities for you to improve upon what is already out there.
  • Fine-tuning your pricing strategy – Your online course’s pricing strategy will influence what type of course platform best suits your needs. For example, some platforms pay per minute of content watched, while others require an upfront payment for the entire course, which is generally more lucrative. Make sure you have a good idea of how you want to price your course – something that your competitor research will help to inform – before you choose a platform.
  • Understanding the features you need – Your online course platform will be central to the creation and distribution of your course content, so it’s vital that it fulfills all of your needs in terms of functionality. Rather than integrating and managing a series of disparate plugins, the best course creation platforms will have all the features you might need built in.

AccessAlly is a perfect example of an all-in-one platform that combines all the features and functionality you need in one place, including payment integration, a flexible course builder, a dedicated membership plugin, community management, gamification features, an affiliate plugin, and more.

You Might Change Your Mind About What Features You Want, so You Need a Platform That’s Flexible.

Get your own free demo sandbox account so you can experience the flexibility AccessAlly has to offer.

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Built for WordPress, AccessAlly is designed to meet any requirements you might have when it comes to creating and managing your online courses, while giving you total control over your course content, branding, and payment structure.

Annabel Kaye, founder of Koffee Klatch, uses AccessAlly to power her one-stop shop for digital businesses looking for a strong legal foundation. 

Annabel explains why AccessAlly is a natural choice for anybody looking to start teaching online:

“As I change my mind about how I want to deliver things, like all good entrepreneurs do, I don’t want to have to keep changing my platform. I can do everything within AccessAlly, but I also don’t have to do it all if I don’t want to.”

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Source: Unsplash

How to Create a Course With AccessAlly

As we’ve touched on, creating online courses with AccessAlly is straightforward as the platform comes with all of the functionality you could require built in. 

In the following step-by-step guide, we’ll cover the main stages you should follow when creating your first online course.

Step 1: Create your mockup

Creating a detailed mockup for how you want to present your course will help you to determine exactly how many pages you will need for your course content and how you want to present them. 

At this stage, you should also consider how you want to enable access to your course – you may choose to drip-feed your content to students in stages, in which case you’ll want to decide which modules should be grouped together, or you may choose to release everything at once.

Set up a progress-based course release with AccessAlly

You can then set up your membership program to allow recurring payments and customize settings based on your needs, after which you can create your team center to enable admins to start inviting team members.

Once you’ve decided on your course structure and how people will access your content, draft a mockup like the one shown below to plan how each page of your course will be laid out. 

You can use a template to get started, or create your own structure from scratch.

This can then act as a basis for you or your web designer to create all of the necessary pages for your course.

A course page mockup

Step 2: Add registration forms

With AccessAlly, you can choose from a variety of registration forms, including opt-in forms and paid order forms. 

You can even incorporate multiple paid access forms and create your own coupons and discounts.

Add registration forms with AccessAlly

Step 3: Automate the process

If you are using your own customer relationship management system (CRM), you might want to consider linking everything together with automation, so you can send emails, collect payments, and create unique logins automatically. 

Note, however, that AccessAlly doesn’t require you to use an external CRM, and you can automate these processes within the plugin itself.

Step 4: Check and edit your member dashboard

Your member dashboard is where you can courses available to your members, and it also enables learners to track their progress and make purchases. 

Choose from one of three different dashboard styles depending on the level of customization that you need, and then make any edits that you need to the dashboard directly, 

Step 5: Review your content

Before you start teaching, make sure you review your content using AccessAlly’s built-in test mode to ensure everything works together seamlessly.

Marketing Your Course

Once you are happy with your course setup, it’s now time to start promoting your course. Here are some things you’ll want to consider:

Identify Your Audience and Set the Price

Your target audience is critical, so you’ll want to take some time to identify the demographics that your course content resonates most with. 

Start building user personas based on factors like age, location, income, and job role. 

Then, once you’ve identified the target audience for your course content, you’ll want to work on establishing how you can market your content to them. 

This will inform everything from your teaching style and course materials to your course pricing and style of promotion.

It’s critical to remember that when you are setting your price, it must reflect the value of the course you are delivering. 

Many people undersell themselves – it’s important to remember that just because a competitor is charging a particular price, it doesn’t mean you can’t charge more if your course delivers greater value.

It’s also important to think about how your customers will want to pay – if you are running a high-value course, offering a payment plan might be a sensible approach. 

You should also consider offering various payment gateways, such as Stripe or PayPal, to give customers a range of options and minimize cart abandonment at the checkout.

Promote Your Course

Promoting your course effectively is critical to driving sales, so you’ll want to ensure that you are targeting the right channels, including social media, email campaigns, and content on your website.

Your marketing and competitor research will give you an indication of the channels that your target user personas favor and are most likely to respond to. 

For example, if you are targeting corporate decision-makers in order to advertise access to your programs for their employees, a platform like LinkedIn might be a good fit.

Whereas if you are looking to sell one-off courses to millennials, Instagram might be more suitable.

By using the relevant channels to build credibility and showcase proof of your expertise, experience, and qualifications, you’ll demonstrate to your target audience why they can trust your course content, which in turn will help to encourage sales.

Other promotional tactics, such as short-form free tasters of your course content, can be a great way to encourage engagement with your course content and gather some early reviews to provide social proof of your course’s quality, but they are also useful for gauging interest and getting feedback so you can improve your offering.

Overall, it’s important to take a holistic approach to your marketing strategy, ensuring that you target each stage of the marketing funnel effectively in order to nurture potential leads into sign-ups for your online courses.

Utilize Social Media Platforms

Social media is a versatile solution for attracting customers and one of the best ways to build awareness of your course. 

Below are just a few examples of ways you can use social media to help promote your course content:

  • Connecting your e-Learning platform with social media platforms like Facebook. For example, with AccessAlly, you can connect to Facebook groups to increase engagement. 
  • Post regular content, for example, articles from your website, to increase organic engagement. 
  • Use paid ads, for example, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads that will reach your target audience, including users that have already engaged with your brand. 
  • Use social media to grow your email list
  • If you already have a loyal following, start an affiliate marketing program.

Managing Your Course

Creating your first online course and promoting it effectively are only the first steps in building a successful online teaching business. 

Once you’ve established your first students, you’ll need to encourage continuing engagement by keeping on top of the following: 

  • Regularly updating and improving your course content. 
  • Engaging with your online community
  • Managing digital memberships for your course content and website. 
  • Creating and sharing regular supplementary content on social media platforms. 
  • Developing an affiliate marketing program help market your courses. 

Fortunately, AccessAlly makes all of this simple because it provides all of the tools from one central hub so you can manage your course effectively. 

Even so, you’ll still need to commit time to making your online teaching business successful, especially in the early stages. 

Some other aspects of course management that you’ll want to be mindful of include:

  • Monitoring student progress This will help you support students who are struggling with the subject matter, improving customer satisfaction and increasing retention. Fortunately, AccessAlly’s built-in tracking features can help to ensure that you keep on top of where all of your students are up to. 
  • Engaging with students – Regular communication with your students via email newsletters, regular social media posting, and private notes will help you to build a loyal following and increase retention. Using AccessAlly’s community features, you can even encourage your students to connect with each other. Another easy way to boost engagement is to gamify your courses to make learning more fun and encourage course completion.
  • Collecting and analyzing course feedback – Encouraging people to sign up to your courses is a great start, but it’s important to remember that you can always improve your offering. Surveys emailed to students can help get feedback you can use to make improvements to your course content and also serve as a useful means of gathering testimonials to promote your courses.

How to Be a Better Online Teacher 

It’s important to remember that as an online teacher, your expertise, teaching style, and manner are all key selling points for your courses. 

Here are some ways that you can offer the most value: 

Build Rapport

Building rapport is critical to encouraging engagement with your course content, but can be difficult online. That said, some strategies you can utilize include:

  • Showcasing credibility, for example, by offering testimonials. 
  • Actioning feedback regarding both your teaching style and course content. 
  • Nurturing relationships with students, by providing unique offers, content, and referral programs. 

Encourage Interaction and Collaboration

Great teachers understand that a classroom is not a collection of individuals, but a community. 

Building a community will help to encourage engagement and collaboration while also increasing retention, and is made straightforward using AccessAlly’s community features.

Don’t Stop Learning

The best teachers are still students. 

You will find yourself evolving the more you teach. 

Developing your expertise, improving your online teaching style, and keeping up-to-date with the best LMS features will keep your course content appealing and competitive.

Online Teaching Made Simple

How to Teach Online & Create a Course: A Guide for Beginners - Laptop Image

Online teaching is a great way to share your expertise with a wider audience and provide real value to your students while also making money. 

Starting your own online teaching business might seem daunting at first, but by following the actionable steps laid out in this guide, you can start your journey toward crafting and selling your first online course today.

AccessAlly is the perfect partner for creating and selling online courses. 

The platform is designed to fulfill any needs you might have as you start your own online teaching business, with all the built-in features you could require to make online teaching as simple as possible, all in one place.

Try AccessAlly today to take your first steps toward teaching online.

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