How to launch an online course: 7-step checklist to success

Updated on August 22, 2023

Have an outline for an online course and wondering how to launch it to success? It’s easier than ever! Online courses are an excellent way to offer your knowledge and expertise to a wider audience. You can use them to earn a passive income, educate your customers, or grow your reputation in your field. It doesn’t take a lot of time to create an online course. It isn’t difficult to make money from it either. Get all the details in our 7-step checklist for launching an online course.

Why should you launch an online course?

Selling your course online can earn you a recurring passive income. For many creators, selling online content is a path to financial independence. You could start offering courses as a side income and, with recognition and sales, become a full-time course creator if you so wish. Earning potential is high in eLearning, a dynamic growth sector, which is poised to scale new heights as statistics show:

You can reach a wider audience through your online courses. Apart from the revenue they bring you, your online courses also help grow your business. For example, if you provide coaching programs, launching an online course can help with marketing and lead generation. Or if you sell an educational product, free online courses can be the entry point for your audience to ‘taste’ your offerings and decide whether they want your full product.

Packing your expertise within online courses to help your audience learn is a great way to build authority in your field. Last but not the least, sharing your knowledge online allows you to get feedback that you can use to improve your educational product or course material. If you’d like to collaborate with someone with complementary competencies, your online courses can be a tool to get help on your other projects or attract mutually beneficial collaborations.

How do you launch an online course? Here’s a 7-step checklist.

The success of your online course, in large part, depends on the profitability of your course topic. So, identifying an in-demand topic and researching to understand if people are willing to pay top dollar for it is a good first step. You can then give it shape and make it impactful. For best results, we advise this checklist for launching an online course.

1. Use the right platforms and tools

Apart from the profit potential of your course topic, the other aspects of a successful course are its design and user-friendliness. It’s easier for learners to engage with courses that are intuitive to use. That’s why we recommend using WordPress and installing Sensei LMS on it.

WordPress is known for its autonomy, flexibility, and ease of use. You can design your online course however you like, and use plugins and themes to customize it to your preference. Sensei LMS is a teaching and learning management plugin that integrates seamlessly with WordPress and WooCommerce. You can use it to create great-looking and easy-to-use online courses, lessons, and quizzes.

Launching an online course using Sensei allows you to:

  • Convert your blog posts into courses automatically. And it’s really simple too! Pick a name for the course, and choose the category of entries from which content will be converted into lessons.
  • Create engaging course modules by integrating videos, slideshows, image galleries, and other rich media into your lessons.
  • Create quizzes with different types of questions like multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, true/false, short answer, essay answers, file upload, sorting, and others.
  • Automatically generate downloadable PDF course certificates to award to students on course completion, a great incentive for students to buy your course.
  • Customize the look and feel of your online course to complement your brand’s visual identity and site theme.

Creating and launching an online course using Sensei LMS is easy even for non-technical users that wish to share their knowledge with eLearners. Adding course and student information to any post, landing page or sales page is by way of blocks. Displaying course expiration date – a crucial piece of information for learners – is just about specifying the end date or amount of time the course will remain accessible to them.

2. Find the right price point for your course

A good price is one that your customer is willing to pay and also protects your business interests. It should be reasonable – neither too low to affect margins nor too high to drive away learners. Some things to keep in mind when setting a price are:

  • The value you’re offering from the learner’s perspective, in terms of the course material, applicability of ideas, level of interaction, including assessment and feedback, and duration of course. Your course information should mention realistic and definite goals so that learners know what they’re getting and can correctly decide whether the course is for them.
  • Your credentials, such as your experience teaching that course or subject matter expertise as a result of your career experience. If you have books or ebooks to your name or an active blogging or social media presence where you’ve shared your insights – or what’s known as thought leadership in industry parlance – you should have no problem attracting learners.
  • An understanding of how your competitors have priced their products is necessary when launching an online course. It will help you identify the price bracket of your course based on similar or comparable courses from other providers. You’ll be able to avoid pricing your course too cheaply (creating doubts about its quality) or above an amount learners are unwilling to pay if lower-priced options exist.

For more tips on pricing your online course, read our article on the six questions to ask before you price your course online.

3. Support popular payment options

Offer multiple payment methods to make buying online easier for learners. Sensei Pro integrates with WooCommerce Payments, and so can support all major payment gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, debit and credit cards, Klarna, and Authorize.Net.

You can set up secure payment options and offer your courses via one-time payments, subscriptions, or memberships. To sell a course as a subscription with any payment gateway, you need to have both WooCommerce and WooCommerce Subscriptions installed and activated. To create a course for paid members only, you’ll need WooCommerce and WooCommerce Memberships. Setting up subscriptions or memberships for your courses takes a few simple steps.

4. Customize your course to fit your brand and improve student engagement

While content is the primary focus when launching an online course, design is also crucial to a great learner experience. A modern and visually pleasing design is more engaging for learners, helping increase their attention, optimism, and interest in going through online lessons. On the other hand, an outdated and dull design will fail to raise students’ curiosity and motivation to learn. It’s pretty much a sure-fire way to disengage learners, and cause disenchantment with your business or personal brand.

How do you make your online course engaging?

  • Make it interactive: Online learning becomes more enjoyable if it engages learners in practical activities. This way, they don’t feel as if they’re isolated from active learning, or need to put in extraordinary effort to stay motivated and self-directed. Using Sensei Blocks, you can add quizzes, hotspots, flashcards, and task lists, and these all help keep learning engagement high. Incorporate them in any place where they ensure meaningful interaction and facilitate learning.
  • Add media and attachments: Images and videos are the most effective website content and should be a part of your online courses. They create pictures in learners’ minds about what they read and aid a faster understanding of complex topics. Sensei lets you attach media files to your courses and lessons, which are presented as a link in a separate section.
  • Challenge students: Learners’ perception of an online course depends on myriad factors, including the learning path. They expect a fair challenge via assessments and feedback. When launching an online course using Sensei, you can use custom fields to make students submit work or take a quiz before moving to the next lesson.
  • Stay on brand: Be thoughtful about your color choices for your course logo, headers, images, and other assets. It makes sense to align them to your brand colors for consistency. Sensei allows you to customize the colors and design of your courses to match your site’s branding. You can insert blocks to add announcements, additional instructions, links, and other information.

5. Offer clear-cut value by certifying students on completion

A certificate of completion is now the norm for online courses. It’s a testimony to students’ efforts to learn their chosen topic and follow through on it.

Validating students with something tangible, such as a downloadable certificate, leaves them with a sense of accomplishment, keeps them motivated to finish the course, and gives them social and legal proof of being knowledgeable about the topic of your course. Learners also have the opportunity to add their online course certificates to their resumes. It may help them foray into a new field of study, land a job by upskilling, or set up a business.

A shareable certificate of completion is a marketing tool. Those learners who share it on their LinkedIn or other social media pages create awareness about your courses and pique interest in your business.

When you choose Sensei for launching an online course, you get the functionality to generate automatic certificates. They’re available for download after learners complete their course. You can customize the certificate to your design preferences. Here again, for the sake of a consistent visual identity, you’ll want to stick to your brand colors or the color scheme you’ve picked for your online courses.

Certificate template

6. Promote your online course

The eLearning marketplace is fiercely competitive – you’ve got to give your all to marketing your online course to ensure steady enrollments and sales. The good news is that you can promote your online courses on different online channels and get before target interest groups quite easily. That said, consistency is key – running Facebook ads and organic marketing campaigns with a long-term view of sales will increase your chances of earning residual income and achieving financial independence.

Here are some online marketing strategies to consider when launching an online course:

  • Email campaigns: 73% of people say that email is their preferred channel for engaging with brands. Email marketing is useful for generating and nurturing leads, cross-selling and upselling to customers, and increasing brand loyalty. Using email marketing software like Mailchimp and Sendgrid, you can create a series of emails to send automatically to your email list.
  • Social media marketing: The popular social media sites Facebook and Instagram are great for creating leads (with lead ads), making sales (with testimonial ads and limited time offers), and building lasting relationships through regular engagement on Facebook groups. Another tip is to use Instagram Q&As to let people ask you questions freely and turn the session into Story Highlights or engage with customers through Instagram comments.
  • Google Ads: Relatively cheap, measurable and scalable, Google Ads can help fill your sales pipeline. You’ll need to do keyword research, create ad copy, choose your target audience, and set your bid. You could outsource this job or learn how to set up and manage Google Ads campaigns. The knowledge will come in handy for your new courses or other online businesses.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): You want to be found easily by people searching online for courses on your topic. A good SEO strategy can bump up website traffic, helping bring in more leads and sales for your business. While ads are effective for a quick sales boost, SEO creates long-term revenue. You can use both to maximize your conversion rate.
  • Affiliate marketing: Explore the possibility of paying your customers a commission for promoting your course on their website or doing positive word-of-mouth that attracts new students. You can also consider barter collaborations with relevant brands and influencers or create attractive sponsorships to get before their large, highly active audiences.

7. Use tracking and reporting to optimize your course

Monitoring students’ progress not only allows you to see how each individual student is faring, but also helps you evaluate the effectiveness of your course. You can supplement what you’ve gleaned with students’ reviews and assessments of that course.

An advantage of launching an online course with Sensei is the ease with which you can keep track of students’ progress. Based on their performance data from assessments like quizzes or assignments, you can make changes, update your content for easier understanding, or add new material where necessary. There are three types of drill-down reports to track progress:

  • Students report showing learner stats like their name, email, date registered, active courses, completed courses, and average grade.
  • Courses report showing an overview of your courses with relevant stats.
  • Lessons report showing an overview of your lessons with relevant stats.

Students get a dashboard on which they can track the progress of lessons and courses. It also shows them the marks they’ve gained for open-ended questions requiring your review.

Create your first online course now

There’s never been a better time to sell courses online. The eLearning market, which has witnessed significant growth in the past few years, will keep growing and growing.

When launching an online course, a couple of things can improve your chances of steady sales and long-term business growth:

  • The profitability of your course ideas
  • A smart pricing strategy
  • A good learner experience
  • Effective marketing tools
  • Optimizing course content

Sensei LMS makes it easy to develop your online course from scratch on your WordPress or WooCommerce site. Using the course platform, you can:

  • Develop engaging course modules
  • Create visually appealing courses with on-brand styling
  • Enable students to track their progress
  • Use students and course reports to improve your course
  • Generate PDF certificates of completion

You can add blocks and use custom fields to build a complete course and convey information of importance to your learners. For example, you can mention the value of your course: help them get a job, provide foundational knowledge of a topic, assist in writing an assignment, or enable them to grow their business faster.

Sensei LMS is available with a number of free extensions that add more features and give you different ways to manage your course. The plugin is perfect if you’re launching an online course for the first time and/or your technical knowledge isn’t vast. It’s designed to be intuitive for non-technical users. Plugin set-up, course creation, grading and assessment are all easy to figure out and get right.

Use this Sensei demo to further familiarize yourself with the LMS. Or you can create an online course with the popular Sensei Pro which lets you ‘drip’ content in small parts to learners to provide ongoing value and boost learner engagement. Check out all Sensei plans and features now.

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