Four Steps To Create Your First Online Course | Dean H. | Skillshare

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Four Steps To Create Your First Online Course

teacher avatar Dean H., the accidental educator

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (23m)
    • 1. Intro - Four Steps to Create Your First Online Course

    • 2. How to Pick Your Topic

    • 3. How to Set Goals for Your Course

    • 4. How To Plan Out Your Course

    • 5. Producing Audio

    • 6. Sourcing and Producing Visuals

    • 7. On Video Editing

    • 8. Thanks you!

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About This Class

Online courses are a great way to extend yourself professionally. They enable you to reach new audiences, and when done right, they can create a very sound income stream.

There is no better time to take advantage of this opportunity than right now. But like every opportunity, a lot goes into making the most of it. 

Hi, my name is Dean, and in this class, I take you through my process for creating compelling online learning experiences.

The main areas are:

  1. Picking your topic
  2. Setting your course goals
  3. Content planning and we round up with a few sessions on
  4. Producing the course

Although I have a finance background, I have had the opportunity to work in the education space - creating business courses and producing professional conferences. This experience translates beautifully into creating online courses. 

In this class, I share practical insights and hacks that I’ve applied to my course-creation workflow. 

At the end of it, you will have both the tools and the confidence to create your first online course. 

Shall we?

Ps: I'm working on a shortlist of mics so you don't have to spend your precious time searching for it. Will drop it soon. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Dean H.

the accidental educator


Hello, I'm Dean. 

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1. Intro - Four Steps to Create Your First Online Course: Online learning has revolutionized how we transfer knowledge and ideas. As an optimist, I believe it's still has a lot of transforming to do. Hi, my name is Dean, and in this class, I take you through my step-by-step process for curating online learning experiences will be covering themes you need to succeed as a course creator. These include picking your topic, setting, your course goals, content planning, and we'll run up with a few sessions on producing the course, diving into how to aspects of things. At the end of it, you will have the tools and the confidence to create your first online course. Shall we? 2. How to Pick Your Topic: The first thing you need to decide on when creating an online course is your topic. What is it about? Your about to spend a ton of time making this course so you wanna make sure it's worth your while. But how do you know? I have a few simple choke points I've used to validate course ideas that have worked for me. Here they are. Number one is interest. How much staying power or how sticky is the topic. Some ideas just come to me and I dismissed them almost immediately. But a few ideas are special. The more I think about them, the more pieces of the puzzle I become aware of. I think these are great ideas because they've remained interesting to me. It's okay to go out and do a survey of ideas to see what gets the most traction. But that would take time and effort. You can do this if you want your choice of topic to be evidenced-based. If I'm genuinely interested in an idea, I believe other people, much like myself, will also be just as interested. So don't discount what interests you in validating course ideas. Give a time. And if it sticks, stick with it. Size and substance. As a rule of thumb by asked myself, Can it all fit inside an article? If so, it probably isn't enough to present as an online course. You want your topic to be beefy enough to feel complete and well-rounded. This is really out of respect for your audience. You don't want them feeling short changed at the end. This typically happens when a course lacks the breadth and depth required to deliver on its promise. A good size topic can be subdivided into a number of parts, where each part is useful in and of itself. That brings us to our third relevance. Ultimately, each course has to fill a specific knowledge gap, enabling students to do something new or have a different perspective after taking it. But as everything that's teachable, fair game. The short answer is no. Not all topics are created equal. Topics that transfer a particular skill. By far the most popular online courses. That's because they're easy to translate into an outcome. Examples of skills include writing, video editing, budgeting, coding, studying interior design, and staying organized to name a few. People like taking these courses because they already have a vehicle to attain. And the skill is a stepping stone towards that goal. But what if you don't want to learn a new skill? Maybe you just want to learn about a topic of interest like politics or geography. Knowledge-based courses will increase your general knowledge, but there's no clear application for them. They're not very popular because most people don't like to acquire knowledge for the sake of knowing. Hot take though, there's a subset that's gaining momentum or notoriety depending on how you see it. Self-improvement or self-help courses promised the TQ essentially how to be better at life in one way or another. These types of courses may or may not be a forte, but they are an option. To summarize everything, you want to pick your topic very carefully. My approach to picking topics as three-pronged, does it genuinely interests me over a period of time? If so, it probably will interest my audience as well. Is it a big enough topic to warrant an online course? If I can put everything into an article, it probably isn't. And finally, my teaching people something that they can apply. Ideally, I want to say yes to this question. In the next session, we'll talk about setting your course goals. 3. How to Set Goals for Your Course: Sudden course goals is a crucial part of creating an effective online course. It does two things for you. Firstly, it keeps you on track and ensures that your effort is focused on key outcomes. This is hugely important because it does take a lot of effort to create an online course. It's good to have something that brings it all together. Think of goals as your guiding compass or true north, if I may. Secondly, it helps you communicate the value clearly to your audience. Have you ever started? Of course. And partway through it, you just went back to check what the course title was because it wasn't quite what you expected. This only happens when the value is not clearly communicated upfront and it can be frustrating. Having goals will help you identify and articulate the value to your audience. At this point, I think it's worth stating that the course goals should be understood from the viewpoint of your audience. These are not your personal goals for creating the course, but rather the outcomes your audience you'd get from taking it. As an academic writer, I've had to articulate course outcomes for several business units. These are the same as course goals. And this process really forces you to put yourself in the position of your audience and think about what value would look like from their point of view. This brings a lot of clarity to the rest of your process. And if you can take the time to articulate this value, it'll give you audience that extra bit of confidence that the course has been well thought out. Now in the online space where content is being generated at an alarming rate, this confidence can be an attraction, so you don't want to skip over it. Now while we're on the topic, let's take a look at the course goals for this class and have a mini discussion on what your course goals should read like. How to pick a topic to set course goals, how to plan the course, and how to produce the course video, audio, and post-production. At a glance, we can see that the goals neatly split the course into sections. Each one sort of makes sense on its own. Importantly, if someone wanted to skip to the section that's more relevant to them, they have that option. You may also know that there's a clear order to how the sections are laid out. This is the order in which things should happen. You pick a topic, you set your goals, you plan your course, and you execute on the plan. So there's a flow to it. That's all about setting course goals. Next up, we discussed the planning phase. 4. How To Plan Out Your Course: We use the analogy of a car to represent the entire course. It's safe to say planning is the engine. It's really that important. In the planning stage, you take those course goals you've set and map out sort of a blueprint to achieve them. And like every plan, the more time you spend here, the easier things will be afterwards. Some might say the goal setting phase is an integral part of planning, which is arguably true. But for purposes of this discussion, will keep them separate. When I plan, of course, I'm working out exactly what I'm going to say. You could call this scripting. The reason why I choose to do it this way with seemingly exacting precision is because it allows me to get a better quality course overall. I turned to switch between scripting on my phone and my desktop. So I want to have a document that sits in the Cloud to give me this flexibility. I'm currently using the notes app on my iMac because it's things to my iPhone. And I can continue when I'm away from my desk. Now to great alternatives to this are Microsoft's OneNote application, which is free. And of course, Google's very own Google Docs. Now if you don't want to script every last word and you just want to talk a bit one actually, you can use bullet points. These could be on a Word document or simply handwritten notes. They have the advantage of keeping the overall structure of your message while enabling you to reach for words that best suit in the moment. So it feels a bit more like a conversation. Of course, you get to pick and choose what works for you. And that's it for the audio side of the planning phase. Now, since the course is going to include some visual aspect to it, the planning phase for me also involves coming up with ideas to illustrate everything I'm saying throughout the course. This helps me in two ways. Firstly, it helps me determine exactly what visual content I need to put together for the entire course. And secondly, it helps me map of visual ideas to the relevant sections of the course, which is crucial when I bring the content back into a video editor and start putting it together. The trick here is to ensure that you're able to link the visual idea, the relevant audio. Here's how I approach it. I create a list of complimentary visuals for everything I say. Each entry will help me visualize something specific. I have a basic referencing approach to capture the content type and its location, which is important because I only have one list for the entire course. For example, by looking at this entry here, I can tell that the content type is a screen recording from the first three characters, SCR. The first number 2 indicates that this will be the second video in the course. And the second number 4 indicates that this is the fourth illustration in this video. It's rudimentary, but it works for me. The text provides a bit more information about this visual. It's really meant as a reminder of what I was thinking when I wrote it. So that's the planning process. For me. It's a way to map out all the moving pieces of the course and how they fit together to create a complete and well-thought-out learning experience. Now that that's done, the next thing I have to do is to create all the audio and visual elements based on this plan and put them together in separate videos. I call this the production phase of the course, and we'll discuss it in the next few sessions. 5. Producing Audio: At this stage, the detailed planning is out of the way and you want to execute to use that proverbial DINKLE. You could say this is where the rubber meets the road. That's because what you do here graduates your idea into a reality. The first thing I do is to record the audio content for the course. Next, I create the visuals to go with them. And finally, I bring it all together in a series of videos using a video editing software. Let's start with audio. Haven't already scripted the entire course. This part is really about finding a decent audio rig and recording myself. This is voice over work. There's a few things you want to aim for when it comes to audio. Firstly, a quiet space. Background noise can affect the quality of your work. And because I live in an apartment unit where I can hear traffic, I have to record late in the evenings when it's not too busy to reduce the noise. Good etiquette. Some habits will get you better audio overall. Taking regular breaks will ensure that you're not sounding tired at any point. Being close enough to the microphone will ensure that you're getting as much of your voice into the mic without overloading it. Also, if you can get to takes of each audio segment, you can pick the better sounding one afterwards. Finally, you wanna make sure you pick a space that has some furniture to absorb the sun so you're not getting an alkyl. A good quality microphone. When it comes to microphones, the inexpensive ones will do the job most of the time. But you quickly find that you get what you pay for. Of course, we're not aiming for studio quality sound. That would be overkill for most online courses. That being said, you can get much better audio quality by stepping up from the inexpensive microphones if you have the budget for it. I'm currently recording on a GALEX 2200 made by cat. It gets the job done for a decent price. I get a much clearer sound than my iPhone and the cheapen legs. I do have to pair it with an audio interface, mainly because this microphone needs to be powered for it to work. That's my setup. But if you're interested in a plug and play solution, a USB mic will do the job. In either case, there's a plethora of options out there and it can be overwhelming. The truth is, you only need one Mike. I've included a link to a shortlist I prepared as a guide. If you need a new microphone and have no idea where to start. Good software and editing. I've been recording and editing sound using a free open-source software called Audacity. It doesn't take much to get up and running with it. For the most part. I'm cutting out on 12 parts that I don't need, including extended periods of silence. I'm normalizing the audio to ensure that the peak loudness is consistently the same. And I'm lightly filtering out background noise. If you do this aggressively, the audio starts sounding like a Skype call over poor internet connection. Not good. A final touch up is equalization. This is light touch up to achieve a full Asana while still presenting a natural voice. One last recommendation, especially relevant if you are changing the sound profile is that you use studio monitor headphones when playing your recording. Back to yourself. Why do you want this? Headphones and AirPods have a sound profile applied to them out of the box, usually to boost the base. If you use one of these, you won't get a true reflection of what you sound like and that might affect your judgment. I've had and used audio technicals AT hedge M3 x for the last couple of years. They fit well and have lots of cushioning. So I can work for a long time without any discomfort. In the next session, we'll discuss creating the visual content. 6. Sourcing and Producing Visuals: Production, getting video right? With audio out of the way, we shift gears to the video side of the course. I go back to my video planning notes, which you'll recall is a long list of visual aids I've prepared to be efficient. I generate visual content and batches based on type. So I might social screen recordings using the entry type SER and generate these all at the same time. Mocking each entry is complete as I go along. Staying organized. Now this was a good time to talk about organizing media. You'll quickly find that there are so many faster manage and it can get overwhelming. As I generate and source media, I use a naming convention that sort of mimics the planning stage. This just means that when I'm ready to edit, I'm not spending unnecessary time trying to locate media assets. Patients. This all takes time and it should. By now you realize that producing a course is not a one-day project. And if you're doing it in your spare time while holding down a job, it could take weeks. You'll need to be very patient with yourself. As I generate media for visual aids, I keep certain things in mind. An important decision is the resolution. I'm looking to produce the final course videos in. At a basic level, resolution is the image quality and it's expressed in pixels. What are pixels? These individual squares that make up your screen. And the computer creates an image by coloring the squares. Just like Legos, resolution is expressed in vertical by horizontal pixels. And the more pixels you can fit on a screen, the sharper your image will be. Here's a YouTube video by Peter McKinnon to illustrate. I'll put this in full screen mode to use up my entire screen. But currently viewing this in 400 and ATP, which means 480 pixels in height. You can see the image is a bit washed out here. We'll use the five red ball as our reference. Notice the blurred edges. Now we have just to 10 ADP, a much higher resolution. The difference here is like night and day. The edges and noticeably sharper. If we go up to four K, which is 2160 pixels in height, the edge of that Red Bull is even more defined. The reason why it's important to start thinking about resolution at this stage, because the visuals you source and generate will affect your options when creating the final product. As a rule of thumb, you can't produce a high-resolution output with a low residue input. Although for K is very popular right now, 10 ADP is more than enough for me and I generate the output. My work in this resolution. 7. On Video Editing: Production on making the video. Video production is one area where I see a lot of people dropped the ball. And I can understand why it is tedious, especially if you're new to it. I have good and bad news. I'll start with a bad. Video editing is an advanced skill that takes professionals, us to master fact. But wait for it. Here's the good news. A lot of people don't know this, but the level of video editing skill required to produce an online course is very minimal. If you're aiming for that level of skill which I recommend for starters, you should be confident with your use of a video editor in a matter of days or weeks, at most. A lot of how-to content you see on YouTube around video editing often has to do with getting a specific look or transition, like the zoom transition, color, grading, masking, etc. That's because the creators, filmmakers, you don't need to know any of this to edit an online course. It's overkill. Focus your time on how to navigate and work with your preferred video editor. Everything else will sort itself out. But which editors should I use? You ask? Now if you don't have any veins here, I'll give you a few recommendations based on what's out there and what I've used myself off the bat. I've never paid for video editing software. Nothing wrong with paying for software. But the thing is that I don't need the advanced features in the paid versions to produce my courses. And I doubt you will either. Here's my top three. The Vinci Resolve. I currently used a venture resolve as my main editor. I like the intuitive layout and the overall user experience. I think the software is very well built and it's incredibly capable. Two things I especially like that I haven't seen in other video editors are firstly, a fully featured audio editing suite that integrates seamlessly into the video timeline. And secondly, support for multiple edit timelines would support for multiple timelines, certain things that made it possible. For example, you can use part of one timeline inside of another. More importantly, the workflows a lot more integrated and easy to manage with multiple timelines, all the others for the entire course can be stored in a single project file. Hit Go Max press. Before I started using resolve, I've edited videos in the free version of hit film called Hit Film express. This is another very capable video editor with loads of features targeted at filmmakers. Although it took some time to get used to the interface, I was able to produce work to my liking once I got comfortable with it. Much as I appreciate working with HD film, I moved on from it because I needed something that's more in sync with my preferred workflow. From my research shortcut is a video editor that focuses on the very basics you need to produce a video. It's not as feature packed as Hit Film and resolve, but it's definitely no slouch either. I'm mentioning it here because it's lightweight so you don't need the most capable PC to run it. This is important because video editing is a painfully slow experience. If you don't have the right computer for it. I know this from personal experience. Now that brings us to a rather crucial question. Which PC should I buy? Now's a good time to talk about hardware. We've covered off the software side of video editing, but the hardware is just as important to discuss. Video editing demands a lot of processing power. This is why video editing PCs are far more expensive than standard PCs and laptops. I recently bought an iMac to help me create videos faster. This was not a cheap machine and I waited almost a year before I bought it. Part of my justification is that I have every intention of producing many videos and courses in the future. So please consider if buying a high-end machine would be right for you. If you don't plan to produce videos or courses regularly, consider hiring someone to edit your videos or just make two with your current PC for the moment. It's really a trade off between your time and the expense. If you choose to hold onto your existing PC, try using a lightweight editor like shortcut and not loading it with extreme projects like a 4k video file. 8. Thanks you!: Well, there you have it. This has been an in-depth discussion of how I produce online courses and more importantly, how you can do the same. I want to thank you for sticking around to the end. You really do make it worth the effort. I created this course because I couldn't find it when I need it to. So I stumbled along while fine tuning my process at the same time. To be fair, I'm still fine tuning it, but I've come a long way. Producing a course is a very tedious process. But when it comes together at the end, it's even more gratifying. If you enjoyed this class, please review it and leave a comment to help others find it. Also, feel free to let me know if there's any improvements you'd like me to make to this course. Thanks once again for your support.