WordPress is a top tool among content creators for building websites. After all, it’s used by 63.1% of all websites that use a content management system (CMS).
If you’re already familiar with this popular CMS, then you might find it convenient to use WordPress plugins to create an online course.
And if you’ve never used WordPress before, don’t worry! It’s a cheap, scalable and customizable option for anyone interested in building an online course.
Read on to discover tips for each stage of the course launch process.
Why use WordPress to create an online course?
WordPress is a widely used content management system (CMS) that offers good functionality and is easy to use. Plus, it simplifies online course creation in the following ways:
- Vast plugin library: WordPress boasts over 59,000 free plugins, many of which are dedicated to online education. This helps course creators efficiently manage websites even with little technical knowledge.
- Cost-effective: WordPress itself is a free-to-use CMS. With free plugins and good-quality hosting services, the tool helps beginners create a budget-friendly website.
- Multimedia support: WordPress supports all types of media, especially images and videos, which are integral to online courses.
With features such as drag-and-drop uploading and a centralized media library, you can easily create online course materials on your website.
- Design customization: Whether it’s a minimalistic website or unique brand colors, WordPress allows you to customize the design of your website through pre-built themes. The CMS currently offers over 11,000 free themes to choose from.
- Integrations: WordPress seamlessly integrates with third-party tools such as community management tools, marketing tools and payment gateways, which are necessary to sell online courses.
WordPress has several features that simplify website creation, even for beginners. But how can you use these features to create a successful online course?
Let’s break down the process step by step.
How to create an online course
Building your own online course is not only about creating content but also about researching, marketing and promoting it to ensure your course reaches the target audience.
Learn how to create an online course using WordPress with our 10-step strategy:
It’s important to choose a topic that has high demand. However, due to the vastness of the internet, a course on any subject can become popular.
You can teach essential skills such as cooking and time management or create tutorials on your favorite hobbies like crocheting and painting. Here’s a list of the top 20 educational topics that are in demand among learners:
While topical popularity is crucial, you also need to have some authority over the subject to create an online course. If you’re unsure which topic to choose, try answering these questions:
- What’s a subject you have considerable knowledge about?
- What do people around you want to learn?
- Which topics do you like to teach or talk about?
- Which topics are trending in your favorite subject?
If you already have content that’s popular, elaborate on and monetize it. For example, if your social media posts about digital marketing have good engagement, consider creating a paid digital marketing course to share with your audience.
Otherwise, think about evergreen topics that will continue to be popular in the long term to make the most out of the course content. You can add niche topics later to keep up with trends.
Once you’ve chosen a topic for your new course, determine what kind of content works in that niche. For this, you need to research top-performing content, social forums and trending topics to understand what your target audience wants.
Some of the best ways to research your target audience are:
- Online tools: Use tools like Google Trends and BuzzSumo to simplify content analysis to create an online course. These platforms use factors like search queries, media mentions and viral trends to identify popular topics in real-time.
- Social media: Join niche Facebook groups, LinkedIn pages and subreddits to get insights about the queries, trends and types of content your potential audience engages with.
- Surveys and interviews: If you already have an audience, use surveys for first-hand insights into course creation. You can also interview experts in your chosen niche to understand what kind of content to create.
If you can’t find direct competitors in your niche, look for courses that solve similar problems. For example, if you’re creating a course on public speaking, you can also research courses for storytelling and voice training.
Preselling is a marketing strategy where you sell the course before you’ve created it. Instead of creating an online course initially, you can simply create a WordPress landing page with the course title, specifics and payment options for people who want to enroll.
Many course creators build a sense of urgency during preselling using words like “Limited slots available” and “Deal closes soon.” Apart from this, here’s a list of strategies you can use to presell the course:
While you should reserve slots for later enrollment, preselling can be a great strategy to gauge interest in your course.
Firstly, you get a rough estimate of the number of sales you can expect once the course goes live. If the initial response is low, you can either modify or avoid creating the content altogether. This gives you better control over the time and resources used for course creation.
You also get early feedback, which helps tailor the course according to the audience’s requirements. For example, if people show interest in a certain topic outside your course outline, you can add it before making the course live.
A well-designed course is not just packed with content but also has a good layout. If you want to create an online course that’s popular among learners, you’ll need an outline that is easy to follow.
To create a course outline:
- Divide the course material into subsections based on difficulty, such as beginner, intermediate and advanced.
- For each subsection, create modules that are dedicated to one topic of the entire subject.
- Add lessons in each module and supplement them with reading materials, questionnaires and quizzes.
Here’s an example of how to divide a course into multiple sections:
Ensure that each lesson is short so as not to overwhelm your students with too much information. However, you can add multiple lessons to each module to create a lengthy course — something that’s popular among learners.
According to Class Central, the average course duration on Udemy was 7.7 hours. But the courses over 20 hours saw a higher enrollment level.
If you’re unsure, you can start out with a mini or introductory lesson to test how the lessons work with your audience.
Once you’ve created an online course outline, it’s time to fill the course with useful content.
Start by collecting materials from around the internet, including YouTube videos, webinars, social media posts, podcasts, Canva presentations and templates. Additionally, use books and notes and rely on your own expertise to source unique knowledge for learners.
Next, organize the materials according to the outline and determine the best way to deliver the content. You can use a mix of different formats, such as videos, text with images, audio and written materials to keep your course fun and engaging.
You can also add interactive elements such as pop quizzes, experiments, surveys and seminars to keep learners hooked during online learning.
Ensure that there is sufficient subject matter in the course to meet the learning objectives. A lesson titled “The basics of video making” should cover all the fundamentals needed for making a video.
At the end of the course, a student should’ve learned everything that was included in the course outline.
The business model of your online course determines how you price and collect payments for it. Depending on how involved you want to be in running the course, you can choose from these popular e-learning models:
- One-time payment model: The learner pays for the entire course at the start and receives the complete course material.
- Subscription-based model: Learners pay a monthly fee to keep accessing the course material. Along with the course, they may also get access to perks such as a member-only community as an incentive to continue subscribing.
- Ad-based model: The course content is accessible to everyone for free and is supported by ads.
You can quickly compare the three business models using this chart:
The one-time payment model requires the least involvement after content production and is an excellent strategy for creating an online course for a passive income. However, subscription-based models are more scalable as you can keep adding content and incentives every month.
To know what works best for your niche, conduct competitor research. Specifically, look at the type of business model your competitors adopt and what incentives they offer to keep their audience subscribed.
Once you’ve analyzed these factors, it’s time to set an initial price for your course. But don’t use price as the only competitive differentiator.
If you set the cost too low, you won’t justify the course value and end up having minimal profits, even with high enrollments. Keep the price too high and most people will choose a competitor course that’s priced more realistically.
If you’re unsure how to price your course, consult this online course price benchmark data.
Once you’ve written the course content and decided on the pricing, you can determine what WordPress setup you need to create your online course. To simplify this process, follow the steps below:
If you don’t already have a WordPress website, create one using WordPress.org. While you can also choose WordPress.com, WordPress.org gives you access to more features, plugins and customization options that are necessary to set up a profitable online course website.
You can refer to our WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org guide to better understand the two platforms.
While creating your WordPress website, choose a simple domain name related to your course. This helps learners easily recognize and navigate to your website. Use our domain checker to know if your desired website name is available.
Choose a hosting service
If you choose WordPress.org, you’ll also need a third-party hosting service to set up your website. Make sure to do your research to find a web host that provides a reliable service at a price you can afford.
Also, look into what type of hosting plan makes the most sense for your e-learning website.
A learning management system (LMS) plugin adds features required to create an online course. This includes things like content delivery, analytics and communication tools.
When choosing a plugin, look for past user reviews and ensure it’s compatible with your requirements.
Once the LMS plugin is configured, you can easily add and update course content to create your first online course. Most LMS plugins support all types of content like video lessons, quizzes, interactive assessments and audio recordings.
Some plugins also let you include digital products like e-books and printable templates as add-ons for the course.
Irrespective of the content format and products you choose, ensure that all the content in the course is in-depth and high-quality.
Payment gateways are necessary to provide a safe and secure payment option for all course buyers.
WordPress integrates with all major payment gateways like PayPal, Stripe and Amazon Pay. It also has plugins to allow payments through bank transfer, credit and debit cards.
Add multiple payment gateways when creating an online course platform to help more learners enroll. Also, include different currencies if you want to reach an international audience.
You can enhance the learning experience by customizing your course website using WordPress themes. The CMS has several theme options dedicated to websites for online learning.
Choose a minimal theme that has easy navigation and is highly responsive. The right theme will not only boost website aesthetics but also help with content presentation, page load time and SEO.
After setting up your e-learning website, conduct a beta test by running the course by your friends or peers. Ask for feedback not just on the content but also on the website layout, functions, features and value of the course.
Once you work on the initial feedback, launch the course to potential customers through social media platforms. Use the presales data to identify platforms with high demand and choose them to conduct your pilot launch.
Promoting your course helps you attract a wider audience and boost sales and profit. If you already have an online community that likes your content, promoting your course becomes easier.
You can create an online course and send updates on it through your email list, post course sneak-peeks and host webinars to build awareness around your content.
However, if you’re just starting out, you can still successfully promote your website using other strategies:
- Use guest posting: Many websites that have an established audience allow budding entrepreneurs to write for them. Use this as an opportunity to create informational content and promote your course.
- Join niche communities: Participate in community discussions and forums revolving around your course topic and leverage opportunities to pitch your course among like-minded people.
- Visit podcasts: Make guest appearances on podcasts to share your knowledge and establish yourself as an authority. The audience will identify you as an expert in the field, increasing enrollment in your course.
- Introduce sales boosters: Offer early-bird discounts and incentives to create a sense of urgency and leverage the fear of missing out (FOMO) to boost course sales.
Ensure that you have a well-drafted landing page where the audience can buy your course once they are interested.
If you want to become a full-time content creator and grow your online business, you won’t stop at launching a course and promoting it once.
Instead, automate your systems, such as sales funnels and payments, to continue making revenue on a larger scale. Outsource administrative and technical work and focus solely on content creation to make the most out of your expertise.
Collect feedback and continuously improve the course content by introducing mini-courses and masterclasses. Build an online community of students and provide incentives for referring and promoting your course.
Creating an online course is easy with the right content and a robust WordPress website. However, you’ll also need a reliable hosting service to ensure your website always runs smoothly.
With Bluehost’s WordPress hosting services, you’ll get 75% faster performance along with access to top themes, store analytics and daily website backups for the first year. We’ll take care of the backend so you can continue focusing on creating valuable courses.
And if you’d like to have expert WordPress support at your fingertips, check out Bluehost’s Pro Design Live plans today.
How to create an online course (using WordPress): FAQs
Online courses require considerable time, resources and effort to set up. They will also require continuous marketing and updates to keep them relevant for the long term.
However, once you have an established website and a tested marketing strategy, it can be a good source of passive income, especially if you choose the one-time payment business model.
Almost every online course topic has an audience on the internet. However, some of the more popular online courses include data science, cryptocurrency, personal finances and investment, digital marketing and entrepreneurship.
The best way to identify and leverage content gaps in competitor courses is to look for comments and feedback from learners. What questions are most of them asking? Is a concept unclear to the majority of students? Use these topics to build course content and provide more value to your target audience.
Lessons help you deliver information through bite-sized content pieces. You can include as few as two lessons or as many as 10 lessons in each module. However, ensure that the duration of the lesson itself isn’t too long to avoid monotony in the course.