How Much Does It Cost To Develop An Online Course?
There are a lot of things to take into consideration when it comes to creating an online course.
These include factors such as:
- Your online course platform
- Domain name
- Hosting program
- Course plugins
- Recording tools,
…and much more.
In this article, we’ll look at two different ways of how you can go about producing your digital course and the estimated costs you can expect.
Who This Is For
If you’re running on a low budget, then creating your course by yourself may be the most suitable option for you.
This is how we started. It will take a lot of time and effort.
Another alternative is you can outsource this work to content creators on Odesk for a fixed fee.
That’s if you have the budget to do so. This will definitely speed up the production of your digital course.
However, this is not the case for everyone.
If you want to keep your costs low, doing the work yourself is our recommended route.
Again, there is no definite answer to how much the development of your digital course will cost.
But through reading this article, you should be able to get an estimate for your project costs.
Your Online Course Platform
The first thing that you need to suss out is your course platform. Where you can upload your course content and students can go to learn. You have two options. You can either:
– Build your online course on WordPress
– Or, leverage off course platforms like Kajabi and Udemy.
For now, let’s start with the first one.
Option #1: Build Your Online Course With WordPress
In this part, we’ll cover the essential tools you’re going to need to get your course content into your WordPress website.
1). The first thing that you’ll be looking at is Hosting. Somewhere where you can store all your website files. In this case, you’re more likely to look at Bluehost which is $5.95 per month ($115 per year).
2) Second, is a website theme. For those who don’t know, a theme is how your site looks. It includes your font-style, website colors, content layout, design, etc.
The most popular WordPress themes range from $30-$100. We use Thrive Themes (Ignition) to build out our sites.
3) Third, is a domain name. One that is easy for clients to remember and spell i.e Netflix, Google, OnlineDimes. There are a lot of places where you can go to buy domain names. For the cheap domains, we recommend Namesilo.
Depending on which extension you choose (.co.nz or .org or .io), you could be looking in between $15 to $25 per year. Dotcom domains (.com) cost $8 per year. Alternatively, you can go to the likes of GoDaddy or Namecheap.
4) The next thing you’re going to need is an SSL certificate. This lets customers who visit your website know that you are a secure and safe site. This also helps prevent Google from killing your rankings in search engines. Most hosting platforms usually include this feature in their plans. However, if you’re signing up with GoDaddy, then you’re going to need an extra $60.
At the moment, that is all you need to get your WordPress site setup.
- Hosting platform (Bluehost) – $115 p/y,
- WordPress theme – Free / $30-$100
- Domain name – $8-$25 per year,
- SSL Certificate – usually comes free in Hosting platforms
But that doesn’t end there. We are yet to talk about your course tools and how we’re going to run it on WordPress.
This is where plugins come in. This is where the majority of your money will be spent.
The biggest advantage that WordPress has over its competitors, is the ability to customize and design your course to how you want it. But for you to do that, you need plugins….and a lot of them.
They call these plugins “Learning Management Systems” or LMS for short. You might have heard of this before.
Online Course Plugins
There are plenty of plugins you can use. Most of the top course plugins are paid. If you want a simple, easy, and modern interface for your students, then you’re best to invest in one of the following plugins. Here they are:
- LearnPress ( FREE )
- WPCourseware ( Basic Plan $129/year with 30 Day Free Trial )
- ZippyCourses (Basic Plan $199/year)
Many of these plugins provide you with the same functionalities, such as:
Customization & Control
This is a key feature in any online course.
As the course creator, you want to be able to build and organize your course material with ease. There’s no point in continuing to use a platform that’s holding you back on the technical side. Not only that – but your members must have a good learning experience too.
Track Student Progress
From a teacher’s perspective, you want to track your student’s progress. See how many students have gone through your lessons, and where have they stopped.
From a student’s perspective, a progress bar will let them know how far they are in your training. This then will let them know what to expect ahead.
Analytics & User Reports
It’s always important to see the overall stats of your online course. This includes knowing:
- How many members have joined
- Where they are at in your program
- How frequent do they log back in
This also applies to your sales and revenue numbers.
Check how many sales have you made over the course of XYZ. And at the same time, identify areas where you can improve on.
Badges & Certificates
As a student, gaining a reward gives us a good feeling to continue to learn. So by giving your students certificates for completion, you are congratulating them. These completion certificates can either be rewarded for the completion of a quiz, lesson, module, or entire course.
This is a basic functionality you will want to know about. Having the ability to integrate with other tools. The main integrations will be your email marketing autoresponder and payment processor.
Summary: Building Your Course On WordPress
If you want the easiest, user-friendly WordPress plugin that can get you up and running, we recommend LearnDash.
If you want something with zero cost, then LearnPress is the plugin for you.
Having said all that, I do recommend you check out the other plugins to see which one will best suit you and your course. We all have different preferences and different needs.
It took us a lot of time and testing before we found the right platform. There’s no doubt, that it will be the same for you too.
Option #2 – Host Your Course On Course Platforms
If you don’t want to get caught up building with WordPress, you can publish your course on online course platforms instead.
Before we dive into what these platforms can do for you, there is a bit of a difference you should know between Udemy and the other three sources.
Udemy VS Others (Kajabi, Teachable, Thinkific)
Udemy is an online course platform and marketplace.
It’s where you can buy online courses from other people and learn.
It’s also a place where you can create, upload, publish, and sell your digital course.
The other three platforms are third-party platforms where you can only host your online course. They have pre-built course pages, lesson pages, homepages and all you need to do is fill in the gaps. In regards to your marketing pages, you will have to create them elsewhere. It’s usually on your WordPress website or you can use tools like Clickfunnels.
That’s the only difference between these platforms.
They all have their pros and cons. They also have different levels of control, features, ease of use and pricing.
Which is the best one for you – is dependent on what you want, what your budget is, and which is suitable for you from a technical point of view.
It will pay for you to spend some time to find the right one. But I wouldn’t dwell on this too much. Your main focus should be on the creation of your course content first.
For the sake of this post – I’ll give you a brief recommendation based on a couple of important aspects.
If you’re just starting with a minimal budget, you’ll probably want to choose a platform with little to no costs upfront. In this case, your choice would be one of Udemy (FREE), Thinkific ($49/month basic), or Teachable ($39/month basic).
Now – as stated before – there is a difference between Udemy and the other two.
If you want to host and sell your online course all from one platform – Udemy is your most recommended option.
However, if you just want an online course platform that has every lesson page pre-built for you, and you want more control over your course material as well as your marketing – Thinkfic and Teachable are your preferred fit.
Kajabi, on the other hand, is a little bit more expensive – their starting plan is $149 a month. This would be suitable for anyone who wants more flexibility and additional features than Thinkific and Teachable.
Kajabi will give you themes, landing pages, and lots of website designs. This will allow you to customize the look and feel of your online course layout even more. They also give you more marketing functions such as integrated email marketing and pre-built landing pages where students can register straight into your course.
Your Technical Knowledge
From a technical setup perspective, Teachable, Thinkific, and Kajabi are the easiest platforms to work with.
Mainly because these platforms were developed for tech-savvy digital entrepreneurs. They take away the headaches of you having technical difficulties.
As a sidenote:
We personally use another platform called “CoachZippy” which we bought for a one-time fee of $67USD.
They’ve now changed to monthly payments, with their beginner’s level plan starting at $19/month.
In regards to how you use this software, the user experience is quite similar to Udemy.
In terms of how your course looks, you’ll find that it resembles the design layout in Thinkific.
The features, functionalities, and all the moving parts within Coachzippy are just the same as what you get from the other course platforms we talked about in this article.
So the choice is yours. It’s up to you to decide which one is more suitable for you, based on the technical aspect or based on affordability.
The Tools You Will Need To Create Your Online Course Content
In this section, we’re going to talk about the resources you are going to need to create your course content.
And there are a few things for you to consider yourself.
Your answers to the following questions will determine whether you’re going to need any of the tools we cover in this block, or not.
- What type of online course content are you planning to create? Is it videos, text, audio, or all 3 types?
- If you’re going to create a video online course, what type of videos will they be? Live teachings in front of a camera? Presentation slides? Or on-screen recordings?
Take some time out to think about your answers.
In this post, I’ll list down the things you will need and their pricing costs. Of course, you won’t need all of them to get you started on your journey. But I advise you to use this as a guideline to help you make your estimates and decisions.
Let’s start with your course content type.
If you’re going to create a text-only online course, you’re going to need:
Any Word Document Processor
This is Microsoft Word, Google Documents, OpenOffice, or whatever word document software you prefer. The cost is free since all computers have a Word Processor.
- (OPTIONAL) A Proof-Reader, Editor, or Freelance Writer
You don’t necessarily need this unless you don’t have time to create the content yourself and you wish for someone else to do it for you.
If you’re going to create videos, you’re going to need:
You will only need this if you’re going to stand in front of a camera to show something or teach on a whiteboard. Don’t worry – you don’t have to get a special professional camera. If you want to keep your costs low, you can use your phone camera.
But if its got poor quality, then I’d recommend you borrow a camera from a family member or friend. If not, go online and buy a low-priced camera. Video quality is important. If you can find a camera that has good enough quality and can get the job done, go for it.
High-quality audio is as important as a good-quality video. Whether you’re filming yourself or your computer screen, you’re going to need a microphone.
If you’re going to front the camera, we recommend the Rode smartLav+ Lavalier Microphone. This is approximately $60-$70 on Amazon. Once you receive it, all you have to do is plug this straight into the headphone jack of your phone or camera.
If you’re going to record your computer screen and PowerPoint slides, we recommend getting Logitech H390. This is what we also use. It’s a headset microphone and quite easy to setup. The cost for this is usually around $20-$30 on Amazon as well.
Video Recording & Editing Software
If you’re going to create on-screen tutorials or PowerPoint slides, you’re going to need recording software. One that can do the job too.
Recording-wise, there are lots of programs you can use. Free or paid.
Now you don’t have to use any of these if you don’t want to invest any money. There are free programs you can use such as Screencast, CamStudio, or Freecam. The only disadvantage is that they watermark your videos.
For editing videos, we use Camtasia Studio 8 ($440NZD one-time fee) or Wondershare Filmora 9 ($60 USD one-time fee). If you choose to record with Camtasia studio 8, you can then edit your video straight away. If you make in-front-of-camera videos, you’re best to use Wondershare Filmora.
Out of the two, Camtasia is easier and faster. Wondershare is more towards the professional look. Whatever you choose, remember that time is of the essence and you do not want to spend hours editing one video.
The last thing you’re going to need is good lighting. This will only matter to you if you’re going to be in the camera. Lighting is important. In this case, from a minimal spend perspective, we recommend you use natural light as much as possible.
That could mean setting up in a bright room with plenty of sunlight shining through. Or position yourself in front of a big window.
We’ll save the more complex and expensive lighting setups for another time.
So how much does it cost to develop an online course?
The answer depends on what resources and tools you decide to go with. As mentioned at the beginning of this post – use this as a guideline. Make your estimates and decisions. From there, you’ll get an approximate cost.
It’s possible to create an online course with zero dollars. This is if you’ve got the time to put into creating the course yourself and also if you’ve got the things you need already.
If you want to get away with this for free, you can use your camera to film yourself. You can use the free version of Screencast-o-Matic, to record your computer screen. You can use your voice recorder on your phone as your mic. Then use WordPress.com or Udemy to upload and publish your online course content.
You don’t need to have the fanciest gear to get started. At least you have the essential tools to get you up on your feet and on your way to your first online course.