20 years ago, learning or training online seemed far-fetched and luxurious. Today, it’s almost a necessity.
Online learning has seeped into the very fabric of our lives. And, while the eLearning market is accelerating at the speed of a bullet, there’s never been a better time to kickstart your own online course platform and create a profitable venture.
So, if you’re an Instructor/Trainer trying to take your classes online or an entrepreneur planning to sell courses for passive income; you’ve come to the right place 🙂
Here, I’m going to tell you how you can go about building your online course platform to create a profitable business.
Now, are you ready to dive in?
How To Build Your Own Online Course Platform:
Before we dig deeper, let me quickly cover what online course platforms essentially mean.
So, an online course platform is your own eLearning website, where you create courses, hire teachers/instructors, sell those courses, and divide the revenue on a percentage basis.
On this platform, there’ll be:
- A variety of interesting courses on various subjects
- A kick-ass user experience that almost replicates learning in real-time for your students
- Handy tools and knick-knacks for your teachers to manage these courses
- Awards and certificates for your students to make your courses more engaging!
Think of it as your own Udemy, and you’ll know what I mean 🙂
But, of course, building this kind of an eLearning platform is no easy feat. It requires research, resources, and planning.
And, based on our experience of over 7 years in building online course platforms – a conservative estimate to set up a quality website will be an initial investment northwards of $1500, a team of 4, and about a week for actual setup.
Building an online course platform has a threefold approach –
Step 1: Select a solid foundation for your eLearning platform
Step 2: Pick a feature-rich LMS that satisfies your requirements
Step 3: Choose an eCommerce platform that empowers you to sell courses
Having said that, let’s move to the first and most important step –
Step 1: Choose a Foundation for Your Online Course Platform
To use a construction analogy, your house is only as strong as your foundation. If the base is weak, surely it’ll come crashing down in an earthquake.
Translation – your online course platform needs a strong foundation to sustain for a long time.
Now, you have lots of options available today to set up your eLearning website.
Some of your options are:
- WordPress (Open-source)
- Moodle (Open-source)
- TalentLMS (Cloud-based)
- Docebo (SaaS)
- Teachable (Cloud-based)
- Thinkific (Cloud-based)
- Blackboard (SaaS)
- Edmodo (SaaS), etc.
But, for the purpose of this article, we are going to use WordPress. This is because it is one of the most popular open-source CMS platforms and is extremely user-friendly.
In addition, it also has thousands of plugins and themes that provide you with all the tools you need to set up your online course platform.
But, there are several advantages of using an open-source platform like WordPress, as opposed to a SaaS model that only allows you to host, create, and sell courses. These include –
- User-friendly platform
WordPress is one of the easiest and simplest CMSs to use and has an intuitive Dashboard that makes it extremely straightforward to find your way around the website backend.
- Has tons of plugins and add-ons
It has over 45,000 plugins for functionalities ranging from eCommerce, event management, eLearning, payment gateways, to blogging, SEO, website security and many more. All of these plugins cumulatively help you set up a course platform that is precisely in line with your requirements.
- Strong community support
WordPress has a huge community. It’s honestly gigantic. And it has developers, bloggers, influencers, and enthusiasts from across the world who are keen to help out any newcomer in the industry. Google ‘WordCamps’ and you will know what I mean.
The advantage of such a powerful community is that should you find yourself in a fix, you will always find a person around the virtual corner who knows WordPress and can help you out.
- Availability of WordPress Experts
Building on my previous premise, given the popularity of WordPress, there are a lot of experts who can assist you in setting up your website and building your online course platform. This surefire support is very reassuring as it is like having your very own development team.
- Easy customization and management
WordPress is not just easy to set up, it is also very easy to customize and manage. If you are not much of a coder, I would recommend getting your primary website setup done with the help of professional WordPress experts and then maintaining the website later on your own.
WordPress also has a famous 5-minute installation process, which lives up to its name. Given the popularity of the platform, most hosting companies also have WordPress-ready hosting plans these days, or automatic tools that install WordPress for you.
Having said that, if you are setting up WordPress on your own, I recommend following this WordPress Installation Guide for the process.
Ensure that you execute all the steps mentioned in the same, so that your site is set up properly. If you have no experience with coding, take the help of a software developer who has worked with WordPress before.
Step 2: Pick a Feature-rich LMS
Remember, your LMS plugin is going to be your strongest ally in setting up a powerful online course platform.
And, when it comes to selecting an LMS, WordPress has a number of LMS plugins that offer good and great features for eLearning websites.
While you’re free to choose the one that fits your needs, however, we recommend using LearnDash – the most popular and feature-rich LMS plugin for WordPress.
Here are a few reasons why we prefer LearnDash –
- Great customer support for the plugin
At some or the other point during the installation, setup, and further customization, you are going to need help. LearnDash has a huge internal support system as well as in the WordPress eLearning community, which makes it a great choice for an LMS.
- Powerful features that make Course management easy
LearnDash offers a host of features out-of-the-box. Its drag and drop course builder, advanced quizzing modules, and drip-feed support for lessons make it extremely easy to create course content and control its distribution.
- Advanced Student engagement options
It offers several options to keep students hooked to your courses. These options are: Focus mode to enable distraction-free learning, live lecture support to recreate the authentic classroom experience, and many others.
- Gamification support
It allows you to award Badges and Certificates to students when they complete a Lesson or Course. In addition, you can also reward them with points to unlock new levels in Courses thereby, adding an element of fun and competition.
- Quick Course monetization
LearnDash supports all types of payments – one-time, subscriptions, memberships – to sell courses online. You can easily monetize the courses by integrating an eCommerce plugin like WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads.
- Ability to create Course bundles
The advantage of selling courses on an online course platform is that you don’t need to sell it individually, you can create a series of courses and sell them as a bundle too! Think ‘Specializations’ on Coursera; you can recreate that model on your course platform too.
- Membership setup support
If you plan to have a membership model for your eLearning platform, LearnDash supports several popular WordPress membership plugins. This enables you to sort courses by membership levels on your online course platform and charge your students a membership fee to access those levels.
- Extensive student management options
- Social integration
LearnDash helps you create Facebook-like profiles for all your students, where they can highlight their achievements, post their reviews, and other students can like/comment on the posts. In addition, students can even share their Certificates on social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.
- Various powerful add-ons and extensions
For everything that LearnDash doesn’t do out of the box, it has an extension. There are dozens of LearnDash add-ons that provide every single feature you need for your eLearning platform, across various applications.
Having said that, this just scratches the surface of what LearnDash can do. We have worked with the LMS for over 5 years now, and that is why we can confidently recommend it as a secure and reliable platform for your eLearning website.
Setting up LearnDash is like installing any other WordPress plugin. Purchase your license from the LearnDash website. Then log in to your WordPress Dashboard and install the plugin.
Step 3: Set up your eCommerce plugin and Payment Gateway
Since online courses are essentially digital products, you can use either WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads to sell them on WordPress and LearnDash.
We recommend WooCommerce.
This is because:
- It is easy to use,
- Comes power packed with features,
- Has hundreds of nifty extensions
- And most importantly, it has huge community support.
It might seem like I am stressing this point a lot, but that is because it is an important one. Since WordPress is open source, it is what it is because of its community. The plugins that are reliable, secure, and regularly updated are the ones that are supported by the community.
The second part here is choosing your payment gateway.
Given the niche you pick for your course platform, you can expect students from various regions in the country, even from multiple countries across the world. And, with this thought in mind, it is important to pick a payment gateway that supports international payments.
We recommend Stripe or PayPal.
This is because:
- These are the most-used payment gateways
- And support all the major credit and debit cards from the major countries of the world.
WooCommerce integrations for Stripe and PayPal are available so you need not worry about connecting them to your WooCommerce store.
If your audience is largely local or limited to specific regions, you can choose other payment gateways as well, that are supported in these areas. WooCommerce also has a native payment gateway – WooCommerce Payments – that you can use.
With that being said, just ensure that you go through all the compatibility details and integration procedures before installing it on your course platform.
This wraps up our preliminary on setting up an online course platform with WordPress.
To be sure, we have covered only the basics and there are many more aspects of website development that you need to focus on, as you set up your LearnDash website.
However, this article and the resources we have mentioned here are good to give you a head start towards building a strong, secure, and student-friendly LearnDash website.
Having said that, if it’s all too overwhelming, it’s always a good idea to get professional help in setting up your online course platform if you are not well-versed with WordPress.
It is like having your own development team that assists you right from choosing the hosting provider to setting up WordPress and LearnDash. Along with this, they’ll also recommend the necessary addons for your requirements and ensure you’re supercharged and ready to launch your course platform.
This gives you the complete website package, ready to use right away, without the hassle of developing it yourself!
So, feel free to ask us any doubt you might have, in the comments section below. We will do all we can to help you build a great eLearning platform.
In the meantime, happy building!