How to create an online course with WordPress

To say that WordPress has taken the world by storm would hardly be hyperbolic. What was a blogging platform in its inception – one that by all means continues to thrive – has evolved into a very accessible, extendable CMS of unquestionable capabilities. At the time of writing this article, WordPress powers around 30% of all sites, in no small part due to its massive flexibility – and it coming free with most website hosting packages only helps further.

As such, WordPress has become a popular, valuable asset in creating online courses on a multitude of topics. Delivering valuable, actionable content that can disseminate your knowledge on your field has never been easier, especially with ever more learning management system (LMS) solutions for it. That said, however, “easier” does not mean “easy” if one is unprepared or uninitiated on this subject. With that in mind, we have compiled this guide to creating an online course with WordPress that should help you plan ahead.

Your own online course

Starting from the fundamentals, you are an expert in something. Your knowledge is valuable, and sharing it can be profitable. Online courses are naturally the first solution towards marketing your knowledge, presenting a clear possibility of generating passive income through your content.

Passive income undoubtedly also requires work – it is not an easy endeavor, nor is it destined to succeed. But it does provide very notable perks, such as location independence and a flexible schedule. It is working from home on your own terms, with all the pros and cons that come with such arrangements.    

Selecting a topic

Proper topic selection is the first and most vital step of this process.  You may have multiple hobbies and pet projects, and you may indeed be highly knowledgeable in all of them. However, the topic you decide to work on will require tremendous effort and many work hours to be invested in it – you simply cannot risk wasting such resources on the wrong choice.

Therefore, it is essential that you consider these three factors;

  1. Is your topic of choice popular with many other people?
  2. Is your topic of choice truly your area of expertise and the topic you would like to work on long-term?
  3. Would other people be willing to purchase your knowledge on this topic?

Once an informed, a calculated choice has been made with those factors in mind, it is time for the next step.

Validating your topic of choice

The logical next step is equally crucial; ensuring that people will indeed pay for your course. As mentioned before, it is of paramount importance to make sure that your resources are not wasted working on a topic that will not produce a viable digital product.

With this in mind, the following steps can be illuminating;

  • Analyzing your topic of choice in Google Trends and search engine volume,
  • Researching existing course offerings and materials on your topic, such as e-books, and
  • Researching the relevant internet landscape, such as social media and other platforms.

This course of action will help gauge interest in your topic, and thus marketability. If your research meets your criteria, it should be safe to proceed – if not, perhaps you should reconsider your previous step.

Setting learning outcomes and resources

Your choice now made, you will then need to consider how your students will benefit from your course; what skills they will acquire.

A person sitting on a Macbook, watching an online course where a teacher in black writes on the blackboard.

Having pinpointed them, you can begin gathering the resources your course will require; articles, papers, links, anything and everything that is relevant to your topic. As you do, keep in mind that students will likely also opt for your course through smartphones and other mobile devices, so your material will need to be optimal for them as well. You may even use such devices yourself as you create your course – fortunately, WordPress does not disappoint there, since a working mobile version is crucial nowadays. How you store and manage your material is entirely up to you, of course, but remember that those resources should be within immediate reach when you proceed to the next step.

Setting an outline and a delivery method

At this point, you have identified what your course will offer to your students, so you will then need to outline how your course will serve its purpose.

Your online course will need to effectively serve its concept and offer skills to your students.

As you do, it is important to keep the following in mind;

  • Keep your language simple – the outline needs to be practical.
  • Determine how you’ll reach each milestone with as few steps as possible – efficiency is key.
  • Outline the steps and knowledge you’ll need for each step.
  • Summarize the lessons.

Having completed those steps, you will likely have settled on your preferred form of delivery for your course. The vast majority of course creators primarily rely on video, but that is by no means the only viable option. Having made this choice, you can then gather the equipment, hardware, and software your method of delivery will require.

Creating your lessons and building your course

With all this much-needed preparation out of the way, now comes the most time-consuming process; creating the content. It’s here where WordPress will become invaluable, but a clear outline will inform how exactly you can best utilize it.

An open WordPress page displaying a media tab that reads “add new post”.

As mentioned previously, WordPress boasts immense flexibility; the choices you have made thus far will need to be facilitated, and that it can most certainly do. Website hosting services will most often provide it for free, and thus let you customize your website and content presentation to your liking. Incorporate relevant plugins, enrich your website with new pages, set the best themes, or embellish your course with complementary blogs. Structure your course as you wish with learning management systems (LMS) for WordPress, and charge for it as you wish – be it one-time fees through PayPal or subscription options through WordPress membership plugins. None of these functionalities require code knowledge, rest assured.

Setting a price and launching your course

When all is said and done, the price must be set!

It is important to note that the overwhelming majority of first-time course creators undercharge for their first course. While that is likely only natural from their perspective, and it may make sense at a glance, it is vital to keep in mind that lower individual prices will inevitably mean higher workload demands.

Most course creators begin with a set income goal, which will be easier to meet with higher prices – and thus fewer students, which in turn means a less demanding workload. Therefore, pricing your course appropriately – while not overpricing it – is vital; consider your intended students’ average income, the value of your knowledge, and pricing trends as you make this choice.

With this final choice made, all that is left is launching your course. This is where all your work will pay off, so launching it and marketing it properly will determine if it returns the investment.

Launching your course is an incredibly complex topic to tackle here, but fortunately, a plethora of resources on this crucial step exist. Still, to cover the basics, it would be best to consider the following as you prepare your launch strategy;

  • Consider your existing promotional options – lists, social media, blogs, and so forth.
  • Decide if you will reach out to influencers and prominent figures in your field for promotion.
  • Decide if enrollment will always be open or not – and if not, how often you will open it.
  • Decide whether you will conduct free webinars.
  • Consider if you’ll offer the course for free to closed feedback groups before launch.
  • Consider the ways you may attract online leads, such as social media ads and free offers that will help build an email list for promotions.
A person sitting on a laptop, as they write a WordPress post that reads “How I promote my new blog posts”.

In conclusion

As simplified as this guide was, it hopefully provided some insight into how you may create an online course. Research, work, and action are your best assets towards turning your knowledge into income, as most course creators can undoubtedly attest to.

About the author

Kurtis Johnson is a freelance writer and web designer. He values few things as much as the sheer power of the internet and how it shapes business and the economy.

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