We are MOTORING through this series on the questions you really should be asking yourself when you decide to embark on creating an online course.
(If you want to start from the beginning click here!)
If not, let’s just jump into the next 2 questions. Both are tech related and may just be the 2 most pressing questions you have…
Q12. What course platform will you use?
There are basically 4 types of course platforms you can choose from:
#1 – Drip Email
THE most basic course platform is really no platform at all. It’s your email marketing system. (You know, the system you run your email list from.)
Could be MailChimp. Could be ConvertKit (my fav). Could be even something that’s solely set up for drip campaigns, and yes, that would be Drip. Whatever it is that you’re already using, just set up a drip sequence with your course content in it.
Note that these systems work great for text. If you want video you’re going to have to host those somewhere else (e.g. Vimeo or Wistia). And likely you won’t be able to embed those videos in the email messages but will have to screenshot them and link out to your video hosting service.
I’m assuming you’re familiar with what I’m talking about here. If not, drop me a note with your questions or comments below and I’ll go into this more fully.
#2 – Self-hosted
For WordPress users:
If you want total control (within bounds of the design of the plug-ins you use) and a one-time, highly affordable cost, host your course on WordPress with the rest of your site . In this case, you or your developer, installs the software and tinkers with it until it looks and acts like you want.
It’s common for people to have to patch several plug-ins together in this option. So, for example, you might need to have a separate e-commerce site interacting with your course and you may be running your drip campaign outside of the course. You might also need to host your video somewhere else, like Amazon s3 (or Vimeo or Wistia like I mentioned earlier).
It seems like new products are constantly hitting the market. Here are some that my clients or others I know say work well: Learndash, Memberium, Zippy, Wishlist, Optimize Press, MemberMouse, and Kleo.
I know, that’s a lot. And there are more I didn’t even add on the list!
#3 – Done-for-you
Okay, this is the easy one. Choosing a hosted platform means you don’t have to update anything or tinker with anything or cobble things together. That means you can focus on content and get going.
They’re elegant and look professional, but… These platforms can really cost you. Every month. If you’re rolling out a high-priced course or going to have many courses, it’s likely worth every penny.
If you’re just dabbling with e-courses… If you’re not sure this is the route you really want to go down with your business…
Choose a platform that allows you to host your first course for free. The company will eventually get paid on a percentage of your sales but not up front. Then, if your course is successful and selling well, you can consider an upgrade for your next course. Take a look at Thinkific and Teachable as great examples.
These kinds of course platforms (like Thinkific and Teachable) rely on you to drive customers into your courses. They are not an open marketplace like Creative Live or Udemy. I have a lot to say about these open marketplace options. Bottom line, if you have either not built a name for yourself or if you do not have a make-money-quick course, I’d avoid them.
What do I mean? Let’s say your course teaches people how to use Photoshop and you send them to Udemy. Udemy then shows them all the other courses that teach people to use Photoshop, some of which have thousands of students and great reviews. And then you lose your potential customer to a competitor So sad, right?
In these well established course marketplaces competition is very fierce. I typically advise people to stay away although with some exceptions, including the one I made for one of my own courses!
On the other hand, if you send a potential customer to your own website (say, hosted on Teachable) and they get pulled in by your fabulous copy, then Boom! You’ve got ‘em! You can even create an entire school with multiple courses and sidesell and upsell to your heart’s content! Nobody else is going to butt in and entice your potential customers away.
Okay, there’s one more course platform option!
#4- The Whole Biz Solution
This is a whole other category of done-for-you course platforms that are integrated into what is often called “your total business solution.” Yep, everything you need to run your online business in one, amazing tool.
These make me salivate. Imagine it:
E-commerce, email lists with drip campaigns, hosting for all your digital content, landing pages, webinar capacity, easy one-click upsells, amazing tracking, AND a great interface and management system for your e-courses. What could be better?
Yes, you pay. But you drop all the other services you have and in the end, guess what? You may actually save.
Check out Rainmaker and Kajabi. And the one I’m most excited about? ClickFunnels. I’ve seen some great stuff done in there to upsell and side-sell and basically make your funnels tick like a clock. AND the course platform looks great.
There you have it – 4 options. Which one will you choose?
But we’re not done talking about tech stuff yet. Next up?…….
Q13. What technology do you need to develop your course?
What do I mean by develop? I’m talking about what you’re going to use to create components of the course – the video, the audio, the worksheets, the slides, the handouts, the cheat sheets…. I’ll focus on the video and audio here.
The good news is that basic technology has gotten so good that it’s made course development very affordable. You will be able to pull together everything you need for around $2-300 TOPS, depending on what you have already.
If you wanted to prioritize your investment, first make sure you have a good audio source. Poor audio is a course killer. Second, invest in decent video. Usually, this means using what you already have, but tweaking some things a bit to make it the best possible. Third, invest in editing software if you need to.
Let’s get into this a bit more. Below are some scenarios with my tech recommendations.
If you’re teaching directly to your students – in other words, you’re what’s called a “talking head”:
Is the video cam on your computer fairly recent (less than 3 years old)? Good, use that. If not, I recommend picking up a Logitech camera for under $70. What I love about mine is that I can situate it at a slightly different angle or clamp it to something else and not be tied to where my computer webcam is pointed. (You know how when you watch someone give a webinar you sometimes end up looking up their nostrils and admiring their ceiling? Yikes. Don’t let that happen to you!)
Don’t use the mic on your computer! This is where your investment will pay off. Take a look at the Blue Yeti. It’s kind of spendy, but if you think you’re going to be creating more courses in the future it may be worth it. But if that’s just too high a price to pay for something you don’t think you’ll be using much, check out the decent lavaliers I mention next. Or, find a local entrepreneur friend and see if they’d co-own it with you to make it more affordable for both of you.
Do you need to get outside or somewhere where you won’t have your laptop? In this case, use your camera or your iPod/tablet camera. Those lenses have gotten SO GOOD in the past few years that you’ll be shooting really nice, HD video. Just make sure you’re using the good lens on the back of the camera (not the selfie lens!). I put mine on a little stand that I got for under $10 on Amazon.
But what do you do about audio in this case? Again, do not use the mic on the camera or tablet! (Never, never, never!) I use a MOVO lavalier that works just great and only costs about $20. A professional videographer I heard speak recently recommends this Audio Technica lavalier mic which is a little bit more expensive.
It’s likely that the majority of your course will not be you talking to the camera but rather slides you narrate with written guided exercises and worksheets.
If this is the case, that Blue Yeti is going to look like a stronger audio option for you than the lavalier mics I just talked about.
What about recording software for your slide narration?
Screenflow on the Mac and Camtasia Relay (now called “TechSmith Relay”) on the PC are the tools I use. There are also a bunch of free options like Screenr, CamStudio and Jing. SnagIt also can do this.
Once you’ve recorded your video and audio you’ll need to edit it. I’ve found the movie making software that comes on Mac and PC computers are fine. Personally, I use Adobe Premier Elements which costs around $70. I like how easy it is to split out the audio from the video track and lay in “fade to black” and other media objects.
But I recommend simply starting with the video editing product you have on your computer for free before investing.
You can always do your fancy audio editing in the free Audacity software. There’s a bit of a learning curve, however.
Don’t forget you can always outsource your intros and outros on Fivrr.com or other outsourcing sites.
But you don’t need to get all fancy. I’ve never heard of a e-course customer complaining because the video didn’t look fancy enough!
I was a video and film major in college and there’s more I could share, but I think this will get you started.
Just 4 more questions left!
We’re nearly at the end of this series! The launch questions are the only ones remaining! WOOT!
If you need to catch up, here’s what’s come before:
And next – the launch!!!
And if you just want a list of all the questions (no explanation, but at least the questions!) get the handout:
Best of luck to you!!