Life as we know it has changed forever. Social distancing is here to stay. People are talking about avoiding crowds and public places for the next year.
All the companies and businesses are scrambling to get online. But building a website is no small task, especially if you are a solo entrepreneur.
A lot of independent instructors and teachers in various verticals – dance, martial arts, yoga, music, therapy, exercise and fitness, and many others – are facing this problem of taking their classes online.
If you are such a solopreneur, fighting to overcome Corona and create some semblance of normalcy for your online classes, here’s how you can do it – in under $450.
Ordinarily, building an eLearning website costs north of $1200, at the very least. However, we get that you might not have that investment capital yet.
So, we’ll be seeing all the must-have elements that you will need for setting up your training website, on a budget.
Now, let’s take a detailed look at how these costs are distributed.
How to build an online training website?
#1 Get your hosting and domain ready
There are three things you need to start building your online training website:
- A unique domain name – this will be your digital address like ‘www.wisdmlabs.com’ is ours. Choose a recognizable domain name, for example, ‘www.yourbusinessname.com’, which will be easily recognized by your audience, is in line with the kind of website you want to set up and is memorable.
- A hosting plan – this is the home of your website, where all your courses and website content will be stored in the cloud.
- An SSL certificate – this is a security certificate to ensure that your website is seen as trustworthy by your clients. Having an SSL certificate is a must if you want to set up payments on your website. Since we are planning to do so for our training platform, you will need to get the SSL certificate.
There are several great hosting providers like BlueHost, WP Engine, SiteGround, HostGator, who have great hosting plans for beginners and solo businesspeople.
Choosing a hosting plan is a matter of deep consideration because it is going to be the foundation of your website. For the uninitiated, there are several types of hosting available, such as free, shared, dedicated, VPS, and managed hosting, moving progressively towards enterprise plans.
Since we are just starting a small website, shared hosting is a good choice.
We recommend BlueHost, which has hosting plans starting from as low as $2.66/mo.
Furthermore, as we are choosing to build our website on WordPress (more on that later), BlueHost is an excellent choice as it includes a free domain name and website security certificate for one year.
You can add your unique domain name while purchasing your hosting plan and then proceed to set up your website platform.
Total cost of domain + hosting + SSL certificate = $2.66*12 = ~$40.
#2 Choose a platform to build your website
Now that you have the basics in place for setting up your online training website, it is time to choose the platform for building it.
There are several ways to do so. You can choose,
- A managed website development platform like Wix or WordPress.com
- SaaS platforms like Teachable or Thinkific
- An independent open-source Content Management System like WordPress.org or Moodle
While platforms like Wix or Teachable can help you get your website off the ground pretty quickly, they have an inherent drawback that once you have your website on the platform, it is very hard to move away.
You are limited by the features available on the platform, scaling your website can quickly become pricey, and there is no scope for making independent changes to your site. You have to stick to their templates and design and features, making your website one of many similar-looking websites out there.
So, we recommend WordPress.org.
WordPress is a highly-popular, user-friendly, open-source CMS platform, which empowers you to build your own website and customize it as you please, even with little to no coding knowledge.
To give you some context, here’s a statistic. WordPress powers 36.88% of the world’s top 1m websites.
It is trusted by reputed organizations like the Harvard Gazette, Bloomberg, The New Yorker, BBC America, Microsoft News Center, Vogue India, and personalities like Beyonce, Katy Perry, Usain Bolt, The Rolling Stones, and many others.
Besides, WordPress, unlike the other platforms, is completely free.
Hosting providers like BlueHost even have dedicated hosting plans exclusively for WordPress websites, which makes it a breeze to set up your online training platform!
Cost of WordPress = $0
#3 Select a Learning Management System
With WordPress as the platform of choice for your online training website, a world of Learning Management System options opens up before you. WordPress has over 8 different LMS plugins that can be used to set up a training website.
Of these, we recommend LearnDash.
LearnDash is a full-fledged LMS plugin that has all the features you will need on your online training platform. This includes extensive course creation options, lessons you can create for your different training modules, video integrations for live and recorded sessions, even quiz options if you need to take a test!
LearnDash is trusted and recommended by some of the most popular websites in the world and the system is highly user-friendly, empowering you to set up your courses in a jiffy.
LearnDash pricing plans start at $159. If you want some extra administrative power, you can choose the Pro Panel-supported version which is for $189.
However, for your simple training website, the base plugin should do well enough.
Cost of LearnDash = $159.
#4 Set up your website’s theme for online training
Every WordPress website needs a theme. This is the skin of your website; how it will look, function, interact with your users, all depends on the theme.
Now that you have decided to use LearnDash as your LMS plugin, you can install a LearnDash-compatible theme even before you set up the plugin. There are several great training themes for LearnDash available in the market, each with its own set of features.
We recommend eLumine.
It is one of the fastest themes for LearnDash, and has a score of engaging course layouts for students.
A real-time customizer helps you see the changes on your site as you make them. In addition, it has distraction-free study modes like ‘Read’ mode and ‘Night’ mode, RTL support, and integrates well with other plugins that are necessary for your eLearning website.
eLumine also offers Neo layouts that hugely improve the look and aesthetic of LearnDash pages, creating a better UX and distraction-free design, which can significantly increase student engagement.
Each of these themes has its own USP, so you can try comparing them to see which one suits your requirements best.
Cost of eLumine = $100
Cost of eLumine + LEAP = $148
#5 Create all the classes for your online training website
We are now going to begin with the mammoth task of creating courses.
The flexibility of having an online training website means that you don’t need to create all the courses on your own, you have your instructors to handle that for you.
You can either eschew course creation completely or create a few on the subjects related to your expertise.
Creating courses in LearnDash is fairly easy.
There are four options you can use to add content – sections, lessons, topics, and quizzes – in descending hierarchy. The drag-and-drop Course Builder helps you rearrange these elements easily as well as visualize how they will look at the front-end in real-time.
You can refer to this LMS setup guide for a step by step walkthrough on how to set up courses, lessons, quizzes, assignments, and more.
#6 Integrate video lectures and create events (Optional)
As an online training platform, live sessions and video lectures are going to be a part and parcel of your curriculum.
LearnDash integrates with popular video conferencing software like Zoom, to help you schedule and conduct live lectures for all your batches.
The basic Zoom plan is free, as is the LearnDash-Zoom integration plugin, so here you have no additional investment cost.
Cost of video lectures = $0.
To conduct events, you need to set up a plugin like Event Espresso, which is a powerful way to create, organize, manage, and execute events online.
Event Espresso integrates with LearnDash as well, through a LearnDash-Event Espresso integration plugin, so you can display your event right within your course!
Cost of Event Espresso for event integration = $79.95
#7 Add your co-instructors
What’s a training platform without instructors, right?
Your instructors and teachers are going to be your biggest assets while building your eLearning website; you need to make sure that they have all the freedom they need to create and design great courses and efficiently manage your learners.
At the same time, you also need to have some modicum of control over the content being created, an eagle’s eye view so to speak, so you have a complete idea of what is happening on your platform.
Ordinarily, LearnDash only allows Administrators to create and manage courses. This means, you either have to create all the courses yourself or make all your instructors Admins.
Either case is not a viable option, for creating and managing all courses by yourself will be exhausting and neither can you afford to open your website completely to all your fellow instructors; that is a huge potential security threat.
So, what do you do? We recommend using the Instructor Role plugin for LearnDash.
Instructor Role is a plugin that lets you set up Instructors on your LearnDash website, i.e., people who have the freedom to create and manage their own courses, from the front-end.
For instance, say you are setting up an online dance academy. You can have multiple dance teachers as ‘Instructors’ on your platform, who can conduct their own classes, teach your students, and manage training sessions.
They can create and sell courses, enroll students, set up assignments and quizzes, and do everything a Course Author can, except that they cannot access the core website.
Also, all the content they create has to be approved by you, the Administrator, before it is published online. This ensures that you have complete control over the content that goes out at any point in time.
After you have added your instructors, you can set the commission that they will earn, every time a student purchases their training module.
There can be a flat amount or a percentage commission for every sale. Setting up commissions gives your online training platform a definite linear hierarchy and takes away your headache of paying instructors yourself. You can simply automate the payment and your instructors earn based on how well their course performs!
Version 3.5.0 onward, WISDM Instructor Role includes a professional and customizable Instructor Profile page that can be used to share all the necessary information about instructors on your site. Instructors can use this space to add details such as their photo, bio, expertise, qualification, courses created, ratings, and so on.
Profile pages give instructors credibility and help them showcase their personality. The profile page can also be used to share contact information.
This is one of the most crucial steps in creating your online training website.
Cost of WISDM Instructor Role = $80
#8 Set up your eCommerce platform to sell your training programs
After creating your training sessions, you will need to sell the Premium ones on your website.
For this, you need a strong, flexible eCommerce plugin that has all the features you need to create your training course marketplace.
We recommend WooCommerce.
Not only is it the best eCommerce plugin for WordPress, but it also has excellent support and a huge community. It is easy to use, offers a lot in terms of functionality, and has a score of developers who can assist you with building your eCommerce platform, should you need help.
In addition, it works seamlessly with LearnDash and supports several payment gateway integrations, so you can collect payments with ease.
The best part is, WooCommerce is free, as are its integrations with Stripe and PayPal. Also, since Stripe and PayPal have no setup costs, you can get started for free.
Cost of WooCommerce + payment gateway = $0.
#9 Create Home and Shop pages for your Online training website
When it comes to creating and selling courses, you need a few dedicated pages on your online learning platform, such as
- The Home page that will be the face of your website
- The Registration and Login page where students can sign in to the course
- The Shop page where all your courses are listed
- The Cart and Checkout pages users need while purchasing and paying for courses
- A Contact page where potential students can connect with you in case they have any queries
The layouts for most of these pages will usually be available in your theme by default, while the eCommerce layouts are available in WooCommerce. (If you are using eLumine, you have all LearnDash and WooCommerce layouts ready on-hand.)
You can customize these base templates to fit in with your brand style or create completely new ones that are more to your taste.
This wraps up the core functionalities you need for setting up your online training website.
Keep in mind though, this is a very skeletal structure, addressing only the more essential requirements, to keep it within a shoestring budget.
However, note that this process will be enough just to get a basic website up and running. Should you decide to customize it further, the development costs will increase.
Now, let’s calculate the total cost of building your training platform =
And that’s it! You have an online training website with WordPress, ready for under $450!
If you need more details on how exactly to set up your LearnDash website, here’s a handy guide you can refer to.
Besides, feel free to drop a comment in case you have any questions. Or you can connect with us if you need us to set up this website for you.
In the meantime, happy building!