There is a basic and free way to launch your course, to trial it, rather than investing in a swish new website. I’ll share exactly how I did this. Then we’ll look at deciding a price; price point is really important. Next, how you’ll collect the course fees and the legal stuff: T&Cs, privacy policies.
But you might also like this blog post we wrote on ‘The best online course hosting platforms for 2021‘. It covers the pros and cons of the main course-hosting platforms.
My first online course
For my first online course, when I was testing the waters, I launched it on The Early Hour, my WordPress website. I created a new post for each module. It was a four-week course, with a start date, and each week I’d send an email to the course participants with a link to the course materials.
In WordPress – but also Squarespace, Wix and most other platforms – you can create a password for a specific post so that only people with the password can access it.
You simply go to the right-hand ‘publish’ section when you’re creating a post, click on ‘visibility’ and select ‘password protected’. Here, you can choose a password. One you’ve written and published the post, it will appear on your website but no one will see the content unless they put in the password.
And you can get the link to that particular post by selecting ‘shortlink’ from just under the header, when you’re in editing mode.
So for that first course, I emailed the course participants on the Monday morning at 9am, when the course had begun, saying this:
Subject line: Welcome to week 1 of your online course
Welcome to week 1 of the DIY PR course. I’m really excited to get started and hope you are too. This week is all about finding your PR story. I’ve made a short intro video, and written out a load of examples, tips and ideas for you to read through. Then you’ll find your first exercise.
To access this week’s materials, please follow this link: https://wp.me/p6DFqR-2NV. The password is: XYZ.
I’ve also attached the notes and exercise as a PDF, so that you can keep it once the course has finished. You’ll be able to log in to the above page until the course ends (in four weeks).
If you can’t access the page, let me know and I’ll look into this asap. Any questions about this week’s materials or the exercise, send me an email. The first exercise is due by 11am Friday and I will feed back over the weekend. If I receive it later than this, I’m afraid I won’t be able to give you any feedback.
They could then login and read/watch the course materials in their own time. It was important for me to give a deadline for the homework to be submitted and to be clear that if I received it any later, I wouldn’t be able to give feedback. You can decide on your own rules, though.
They then emailed me their homework, I marked it in a Word document, adding in comments, and emailed it back to them. This was a very basic way to run the course – with emails and Word documents and using WordPress – but it was fine. No one complained. It was about offering value through the content and feedback.
Once the course was a few months in, and still selling, I had a new website built. This website that you’re on is a WordPress website too, with woocommerce providing the ‘shop’ elements and LearnDash for the course set-up.
I paid a web developer £1000 to set it up – including the plugins – and it was well worth investing. But only once I’d seen this was now a business that was going to continue growing.