5 Tips to Structure Online Courses Efficiently in 2024

Updated on October 9, 2023

The online education market has been projected to reach nearly $170 billion in the short term, with this only expected to rise in the coming years. If you’re a thought leader or expert in your particular field, then putting together an online course is an excellent way to share your expertise, contribute to the field of online education, and generate passive income.

In order to launch and maintain a successful online course, your main aim is to create a quality learning experience for your students. By doing this, you will increase student engagement, improve course retention, and generate maximum revenue for your online business. 

Whether you’re a teacher looking to digitize your courses, or an expert in your field ready to create new content, we have collected together everything you need to know about structuring your course online. 

5 steps to structure your online course effectively

Structuring your course correctly is important to maintain a consistent and engaging learning experience for your students. Making sure the subject matter is clear and that they are aware of the learning objectives allows for more time spent immersed in each lesson. Time is valuable, and structuring your online course effectively allows you to use it wisely.  

Here are 5 steps for structuring your course material:

1. Identify the perfect course topic with high market demand

To be successful in the eLearning market, it’s essential to deliver content that provides real value to your target audience. You can only do that if you have existing passion and expertise in the type of content you’re publishing. 

So, to begin, consider your experience and knowledge, and come up with a course topic that makes sense for you to create. Your chosen topic must be in sync with your expertise – this will help to build your brand authority and enhance your credibility. 

You may be thinking about creating more than one course. In that case, it’s recommended to first identify one overarching topic. From there, you can dive deeper into all the subtopics you’ll make courses for, and then place them in order of priority. 

Once you have an idea for a course, it’s time to conduct market research. You might have what you believe to be a great idea, but if there’s no demand – or supply outstrips demand – then you’ll struggle to be successful. Looking at trending topics and trying to identify gaps in the market are both good starting points. You can use surveys, social media analysis, competitor research, and online tools to research the existing market and how you may fit into it.

It’s recommended to validate your course idea before going too deep into the development stage. It can save a lot of time, energy, and money. You can test the strength of your idea via pre-launch surveys, gathering feedback from potential students, and beta testing. Validating market demand can seem like a step you can skip, but it’s essential – without validating your idea, you’ll be at greater risk of low enrollment rates and poor course reviews.

2. Create engaging and effective learning outcomes

When students sign up for an online course, they are doing so to gain something from your expert knowledge. From this knowledge, you have to make it clear what students can expect from taking your course through learning outcomes. 

These are clear, measurable, and achievable goals set for each lesson of your course. Once you have these outcomes, you’ll be in a better position to create your course content. In your promotional materials, such as your course sales page, you should outline the specific knowledge or skills that your students will have by the end of the course. 

Creating learning objectives also helps during the assessment creation phase, and allows you to track student’s progress. With clear learning objectives, course creators can put together assessments (exams, essays) that evaluate whether or not students have achieved the learning goals. 

The lack of clear learning outcomes can result in a host of unwanted issues, including poor course completion rates, and dissatisfied students. Remember that people are more likely to sign up for your course if they understand what they’ll gain by taking it. 

Be sure to make your learning objectives as clear as possible, which will boost student participation and engagement with the course. Popular ways to make learning objectives more exciting include gamification – whereby game mechanics and design are used to test students – and creating user groups, which connect learners and create a sense of accountability. 

3. Outline the structure of your course for optimal learning

It’s not just the content of the course that’s important; how that content is structured counts, too. Solid online course structure makes learning easier and plays a pivotal role in keeping students engaged. 

The best way to structure your course is to break it down into modules, lessons, and units. It’s nearly always best to start with introductory/foundational lessons before slowly progressing to the more complex and in-depth aspects of the course topic. Lesson length varies depending on the subject matter and audience, so it is therefore important to always keep this in mind when planning. 

Your course outline will have a significant impact on the overall learning experience, including the use of supporting resources, resource allocation, and assessments, so take your time to get it right. Failure to properly outline your online course structure can lead to problems that can impact your success, including high dropout rates and disorganized content.

Need some help coming up with your course outline? Then give Sensei’s course outline AI generator a try. Sensei LMS is a powerful Learning Management System (LMS) plugin specifically designed for WordPress. 

As an LMS, Sensei provides you with an excellent platform to create, manage, and deliver online courses seamlessly. With the use of AI, and just a few details, it’ll propose a thorough course outline that you can easily edit and adjust depending on your specific requirements.

Sensei’s AI course outline tool makes the course creation process easier than ever. 

4. Choose a platform to host your course content

The right platform can make every aspect of creating online courses more straightforward. There’s a host of platforms available, so it’s important to take the time to identify and use one that’s in sync with your technical abilities, course objectives, and budget.

Course content platforms typically fall into three categories: self-hosted platforms, cloud-based learning management systems, and course marketplaces such as Skillshare and Udemy. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, so it’s a good idea to get a sense of what they can (and cannot) do before you make your selection.

Below, we’ll provide an overview of what self-host eLearning platforms, cloud-based LMS, and course marketplaces have to offer course creators.

Self-hosted eLearning platforms

Self-hosted eLearning platforms refer to learning management systems (LMS) and eLearning solutions that are hosted on an organization’s own servers or infrastructure rather than on external servers. These platforms provide full control over customization and branding and usually offer high levels of data security.

This is a great option for organizations that possess advanced, in-house technical skills and want to maintain complete autonomy over their eLearning environment.


Self-hosted eLearning platforms are powerful. They provide full control over customization and branding and usually offer high levels of data security. They’re a good option for organizations that have advanced, in-house technical skills. 


The power of self-hosted eLearning platforms comes at a cost – literally. Upfront costs tend to be high, and they typically have high maintenance demands and technical complexity, which increases the cost. They also require hosting and IT management. 

Cloud-based LMS

A cloud-based LMS is an eLearning platform that is hosted on external servers and accessible over the Internet. Unlike self-hosted solutions, cloud-based LMS operates on remote infrastructure, allowing organizations to access and manage their eLearning content and activities virtually from anywhere with an internet connection.


There’s much to love about cloud-based LMS. They’re easy to set up and highly cost-effective, scalable, and accessible – indeed, you can access them from anywhere. They also include automatic updates and are suitable for a wide range of users with varying technical expertise.


Some platforms only offer limited customization options compared with self-hosted platforms. However, that problem can be avoided by choosing the best LMS on the market. 

Course marketplaces

Course marketplaces are online platforms where course creators and educators can publish and sell their courses to a wide audience of potential students. 

These marketplaces serve as a centralized hub for course listings, providing exposure to a large pool of learners. Course creators can use these platforms to reach a broader audience and simplify various administrative aspects, such as payment processing and course distribution.


Course marketplaces provide wide exposure, allowing course creators to tap into a large base of potential students. There are also fewer administrative tasks, and tend to provide streamlined payment processing. They’re a good option for course creators without much technical ability. 


You have to relinquish some – or even a lot – of control when you host a course on a marketplace. There’s limited control over branding and the presentation of your course. Additionally, the cost of hosting on the platform can reduce profits and can be liable to change without much notice. There are also only limited opportunities for direct interaction with learners.

While there are advantages to all three platform types, using a learning management system is usually the best option for businesses. They are user-friendly, cost-effective, and offer sustainable revenue generation, all of which provide the framework for success. 

There are many LMS solutions available. Course creators should ensure that the one they select is easy to use, includes student management tools, and provides high levels of customization and integration. 

If you’re creating your course on a WordPress site, then Sensei LMS is the ideal solution. With the Sensei Pro Plan, you will have access to all the features available, including the monetization of your courses. Sensei Pro can either be purchased as a standalone plugin, or as part of the Sensei Bundle, which combines Sensei Pro with WordPress install. Here’s a closer look at some of these essential features and how they could work for you:

Sensei seamlessly integrates with WooCommerce, one of the most popular e-commerce plugins for WordPress. This integration allows you to monetize your courses effortlessly, manage payments, and provide a seamless shopping experience for your students.

  • Interactive elements

Sensei LMS supports interactive video content, enabling you to create dynamic and immersive learning experiences. Along with this, you can use interactive blocks such as Flashcards and image hotspots

What’s the name of this handsome fellow?

Why, it’s Albert Einstein!

  • Schedule and ‘drip’ lessons

Control the pace of your courses by scheduling and dripping lessons. This feature ensures that your students receive course materials gradually, promoting structured learning and preventing overwhelm.

Sensei allows you to organize your students into groups, making it easier to manage and personalize their learning experience.

  • AI assistance

Features like Tutor AI, Quiz AI, and Course Outline AI leverage artificial intelligence to provide personalized feedback, assess learner progress, and help you refine your course content.

It’s important to take the time to get the right platform. Selecting the wrong one can lead to a host of unwelcome problems that can derail or curb your success, including technical difficulties, expensive costs, and limited/no customization options. 

5. Craft compelling course content

The success of your course depends on your ability to provide high-quality, relevant, and engaging content. Your content must provide value to learners. If it doesn’t, then you’ll find it difficult to retain customers and get those all-important positive reviews and testimonials. Ultimately, it’ll be your content that’s the star of the show, and it’s in your interest to ensure it shines as brightly as possible.

The three pillars of compelling course content are: using a variety of different content types, presenting the information in an engaging way, and using a quality eLearning platform that your students enjoy using. If your course has all three of those things, then you’ll be well on your way to success.

Content types

It’s best not to be overly reliant on text content. It’s effective, but can become a little unengaging after a while – and very unengaging if it’s the only content type the course uses.

Look at mixing things up by incorporating videos and interactive content into your learning modules. Sensei offers an interactive video block, which makes it easy to insert videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and other platforms. Due to the vast amount of features offered by Sensei, creating interactive lessons has never been easier. Interactive lessons are a great way to spark engagement and improve learner retention. Research shows that interactive and game-based learning leads to more engagement from students

When it comes to your course content, enhancing its visual appeal is vital. This can be achieved through the inclusion of various elements, such as the use of storytelling, real-world examples, and multimedia components like infographics, images, and videos. To ensure a cohesive learner experience, it’s essential to complement your content with well-designed lesson templates and an attractive website layout. 

Next steps after creating your course

Creating the perfect course content is the most important step of your online teaching journey, but it is only the beginning. Once you have created the content, you can get started on the following steps. These include the launching of your site and the ongoing optimization of your course.

While the creation of your course content is important, you are going to want to think about launching it. Effectively launching your course will set you apart from other online lessons, as people will be excited to take part. 

While an effective launch is important, it would mean very little without a marketing strategy. This strategy can be an easy-to-follow way of getting your course out into the world and attracting as many eLearners as possible. This is a vital step for increasing your course’s popularity. 

Remember that your course is not set in stone. Continuously optimize it based on data-driven insights, eLearner feedback, and changing industry trends. Sensei LMS’s analytics and reporting features enable you to track the performance of your course and make informed adjustments to enhance the learning experience.

By implementing these strategies and utilizing Sensei LMS’s features and integrations, you can positively navigate the post-creation phase of your online course. 

Launching and marketing your online course

Once your well-structured course has been created, you’ll need to get ready for launch. A strategic launch and strong marketing plan will be crucial for generating buzz and attracting learners. 

It’s recommended to pre-sell your courses before launch, which will help to both generate hype and allow you to gauge demand for the course. If there’s limited interest in your course, then you’ll have an opportunity to review key factors such as the title, course description, target audience, landing page, visual elements, and so forth. Once you’ve made adjustments, you can try again.

The strength of your course description and promotional materials will also help to generate interest before launch. Be sure to use clear, concise language for the description, and consider offering a sneak peek of the first module, which will allow potential customers to see if the course is right for them. 

Once you’ve launched, you can ramp up to more direct marketing. Paid marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and SEO will all help to get your course in front of your target audience. 

It’s best to utilize all of these outlets, and to do them properly – over-relying on one channel could be problematic if it doesn’t perform as well as you need it to. It’s important to keep your target audience in mind when creating your marketing campaigns, ensuring your marketing collateral is relevant and more likely to perform well. 

For instance, LinkedIn would be suitable for courses that are aimed at professionals, whereas TikTok or Instagram would be better for courses targeting young creatives. It’s all about knowing where your target audience hangs out online and building a presence there.

For a successful course launch, Sensei LMS integrates with WooCommerce, meaning customers can choose from various payment options: one-time payments, subscriptions, or memberships. New learners are not bound to these choices alone, as the flexibility of the platform allows for exploration, particularly when it comes to alternative pricing models to best suit your course. 

Continuous improvement of your online course

You’ll have done a lot of work to get your online course ready for the public, but remember that the work doesn’t stop once you’ve launched. In fact, it’s just getting started. You’ll need to work to continuously improve your course relevance and quality to ensure student satisfaction stays high.

Student feedback will be key to helping you make informed decisions about how to improve your course. It can take time to get this feedback when you first launch since you’ll need to wait for students to complete the course. However, you can also ask students to provide feedback during testing and while they’re taking the course, which can speed up the process.

You can also make use of analytics to keep tabs on learner performance and identify improvement areas. With Sensei LMS, you can track and assess learner progress, provide feedback, and monitor learner performance via analytics that includes tracking of active and completed courses.

Overcoming the challenges of online course creation

It’s not easy to create a successful online course business. All too often, course creators run into issues such as technical difficulties, content creation problems, low student engagement, and difficulty in monetizing their courses.

There are solutions for all these problems. Creating robust learning modules that incorporate interactive elements will help, as will using user-friendly platforms such as Sensei LMS. An effective, well-thought-out marketing strategy will also ensure your course is seen by your target audience.

Sensei LMS comes with a wide range of features that make it as easy to create and run your online course as possible, including:

  • Easy course creation settings.
  • Interactive learning tools.
  • Seamless WooCommerce integration.
  • Community support. 

Take your first step in creating a successful online course today

Creating a successful online course is a challenge, but an achievable one. If you can identify an in-demand course topic, structure the course, and include valuable, engaging content, then you’ll be on the right track toward building a course that people love – and that generates a passive income. 

Ultimately, it’s all about thinking of the needs of your prospective students and then delivering lessons accordingly. In the process, you’ll be sharing your expertise and making a positive contribution to the online education field. 

If you’re ready to begin your journey toward creating a successful online course, then be sure to check out Sensei LMS, the best solution for online course creation on the market. 

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