Filter by Category Filter by Category

How to sell courses online


There has never been a better time to enter the world of selling online courses.

In 2017, Globe Newswire, a market research company projected a compound annual growth rate of 7.2%, with the global industry expecting to reach $325 billion in 2025.

The online course industry has seen significant growth and given our current situation with Covid-19, virtual learning has become the norm for lots more people in 2020. Being able to access high-quality informational content online is an attractive proposition for people stuck at home with more free time than they planned for.

The skyrocketing cost of higher education also means students are looking elsewhere to learn new skills. The sketchy job market means that lots of people are looking to transition to a new career. Also, with an elderly generation that is more “tech-minded” than previous ones, a whole new sector has opened up for course creators.

But it’s not only about educational opportunities, people are also keen to indulge in hobbies and interests by taking online courses in a whole host of different areas from health and fitness to arts and crafts, and everything in between.

In this article, we’re going to take you on a journey through the world of online courses. We’ll give you some help to turn your knowledge into educational content as well as information on how to get it hosted, monetized, and promoted online.

What is an online course?

An online course is a way for people to access content around a specific subject. Instead of in-person learning, they allow participants to gain knowledge online.

Online courses can be provided by educational institutions or developed by an expert in their field.

Types of online course

People learn in different ways and there are plenty of types of online courses to reflect that. Obviously, the delivery and structure vary from course to course, but some of the more common types of online courses are:


The course creator publishes their content at a centralized online clipboard along with any additional material such as course work or tests. Students can access these files at any time and work through the material at their own pace. Direct interaction between teacher and student can be limited or non-existent using this type of online course, however, it is popular for independent learners.


Similar to a face-to-face classroom setting, except using an online classroom platform or tool. The teacher organizes online lectures for the students to attend. This type, of course, tends to be lecture-based, with little to no interaction during the delivery of the content, but there may be Q&A sessions or forums afterward.

Flipped course

Another common type of online course, which aims to flip the typical approach where most of the content time is spent with a teacher lecturing students on the material. In the flipped approach this is reversed, with significant time dedicated to the students directly interacting with the teacher.

Hybrid course

An approach that mixes both the traditional face-to-face and flipped approach. The creator tailors their course to the students’ needs and offers opportunities for increased interaction.


This type fuses web-based and live face-to-face courses. Students have allotted times where they can remotely access a teacher to ask questions and discuss key points of the course. But significant parts of the course are published online for students to access independently.

5 steps to making an online course

There is no single way to create your online course. But, to produce a successful course, you’ll need extensive knowledge of the subject matter as well as educational and interpersonal skills to convey this knowledge to your audience.

Here are 5 steps to help guide you through the process of generating an online course.

1. Choosing your topic

If you’re reading this you likely already know your topic. However, it’s important to think deeply about why you are the right person to create this course and what the specific goal of your course is. What special hook will you provide that will set you apart from competitors? Do you have a new angle on a familiar subject? Have you got the skills to target a particular demographic? Or are you tackling a subject that is underrepresented by online courses?

2. Research

Even if you are an expert in the subject matter, significant research is required to produce a successful course. You’ll want to get a full understanding to decide the approach, structure, and content of your course.

Outside of the course subject, important research is needed to identify your target audience and existing competitors. Unless you happen to be making an online course about market research this may be an area you need to delve into or find outside help. Some of the key questions you need to understand are: who are the people you want to take your course, what are they trying to learn? And why do they need to learn it?

3. Structure

Breaking down a subject into the different sections of the course is no easy task. You want to create a logical order for the educational material to be delivered. Think of how to take people on a journey from A to B, beginner to advanced, or intermediate to advanced, etc. What steps are needed?

Once you’ve planned a rough outline, it’s a good idea to sit down with someone who is at the relevant level to take your course and go through the structure with them. You may spot gaps or they may give you an insight into what people need to know to progress smoothly.

4. Format

What form will your course take? How do you want to deliver the content? Are you going to rely on pre-recorded video tutorials, live-streams, mostly written content, or a mixture?

It’s important to have a clear idea of what type of online course you are looking to create. Will there be significant face-to-face time with your students? Are you going to promote interactions amongst students?

5. Content

Producing the content is the actual nuts and bolts of your course. What material will the students receive? This means writing tutorials and lectures, producing engaging course material and resources, and delivering it all in an engaging way to convey your ideas to your students.

Make sure the content is pitched at the right level for your target audience and their knowledge base when beginning the course.

Do you have the ability to produce all the graphics and images your course requires? If you have the budget this could be an area to bring in outside help. You can hire freelancers to do some of the work for you fairly cheaply through a site like Upwork or PeoplePerHour.

How to make money selling an online course

There has never been a better time to make money by creating and selling online courses. There is a growing audience of people looking to invest in their education via online material.

This audience spans both young and old, as people weigh up the high cost of higher education, look to retrain for career transitions, or just want to learn a new skill.

More people want educational courses that they do from the comfort of their home as well as fit around their existing schedule.

When it comes to making a profitable online course the 3 key factors are – the content of your course, how it is marketed, and the pricing.


It goes without saying for your course to be successful you need great content that delivers results. Your content has to be compelling with clear objectives.

Whatever approach you plan to take in delivering your content make sure it is easily accessible for your students. Be sure to use files like PDFs that students will be able to access without requiring costly software.


We’re talking about the strategies and techniques you’re going to use to attract students. There are plenty of strategies you can apply:

  •       Build a social media presence, create dedicated pages on popular platforms where your target audience will visit.
  •       Try and get endorsements from trusted people or experts within the field of your online course.
  •       Create a dedicated website for your online course where people can find all the required information in one place.
  •       Blog about topics related to the subject of your online course. Learn about SEO techniques when blogging to get it seen by more people and drive traffic to your site.
  •       Stay in touch with participants who have completed your course. Get feedback and reviews, as well as highlighting success stories from past students.


Pricing your online course can be a difficult balancing act between ROI and growing student numbers. Too high and it may turn off much of your target audience, too low and you’ll be struggling to make a profit.

Factors to consider when pricing your online course are:

  •       The length of the course, how much material are customers receiving.
  •       The value of the outcome of the course for the students.
  •       What competition is there for your course and how much are they charging?

There are different business models to consider as well. Do you want people to pay a one-off fee or purchase a subscription? Will you provide some basic free content to entice customers to pay for premium material?

You will also need an easy-to-use eCommerce platform for customers to purchase your online course.

Where are online courses hosted?

After all this, you’re going to need to find a nice corner of the internet to host your online course. This is an extremely important decision. You need to be able to support all your functionality, deliver the content, interact with and amongst students, get exposure for new students, and provide easy access across devices.

Some of the types of hosting platforms are explained below.

Standalone platform

These are targeted for solo entrepreneurs or small businesses that want a simple way to build their own site. They can have limited functionality, but they offer a quick and easy way to get an online course up and running.

All-in-one platform

These platforms aim to provide a would-be online course creator with everything they need to generate, sell, and manage online courses. They provide inbuilt content management systems and customer relation tools. These platforms can come with a large price tag that may be prohibitive for some online course makers.

WordPress plugins

For people looking to use WordPress to create their online course, there are numerous plug-ins and themes available. They allow you to sell your online course from your own website but do require some technical skills and familiarity using WordPress.

Marketplace platforms

These offer a pre-existing marketplace for you to sell your online courses.

Another option is to build your online course using a community platform like Disciple.

The benefits of using a community platform

Community platforms offer numerous benefits for hosting your online courses. Disciple gives you access to a team of experts who will create a dedicated app and website that seamlessly integrates all the functionality you require.

You get complete control to customize the platform to be the way you want at every stage of the process.

Directly monetize your content in a space designed by you. Give students access to your course in whatever form with video, text, and live streaming fully supported. Create discussion and interaction between the student and teacher as well as amongst students.

Control every aspect of your online course from a simple to use hub and use Disciple’s analytics to gain a deeper understanding of how your students consume your material and interact.

Final words

Disciple believes creators and businesses should be able to create websites and apps that fit perfectly with their ideas. Online courses are a great example of how Disciple can take your content and build the technology around it to create success.

Get in touch today and we’ll share our expertise and knowledge you need to spread your knowledge far and wide.

Seb Abecasis in
7 min read

See how Disciple can fit your business needs

Seb Abecasis in Community monetization
Seb Abecasis in
Community monetization

More Resources

Create Your Own Forum with Our Easy-to-Use Software

Read more

Industry Leading Community Software

Read more

The Only Community Platform You Need

Read more
Community Stories

We’ve built beautiful apps for over 700 communities and helped them to engage over 2 million members. Find out how businesses like yours have used the Disciple platform to supercharge their communities!