One of the biggest hang-ups for new course creators is their fear of teaching an online course. They visualize their college professors and their children’s online classrooms during the pandemic.
But you can relax: be yourself, and focus on sharing your knowledge. There’s a world of people who want to learn from you. In this guide, we explain how to teach an online course that your students will love.
If you’re already a Kajabi member, awesome! We’re here to help you get the most out of the platform, improve your teaching skills, and take a more systematic approach to course creation. (Also be sure to check out all the amazing training in Kajabi University. It’s included with your membership!)
If you’re still teetering on the edge of becoming a digital entrepreneur, you’re in the right place. We have all the tools and resources to get you started on the shortest path to success. It’s easier than ever to grow a business online thanks to robust business and marketing tools like Kajabi.
Read the 2022 State of the Creator Economy Report to get the latest data on industry trends and growth for knowledge content creators.
Why teach an online course?
Before we get into how to teach an online course, we need to talk about why it’s such a great opportunity. What’s the big deal with online courses these days?
It has to do with the rapid advancement of technology and people’s endless hunger for information, knowledge, and even entertainment. These are the basis of what’s called the “Knowledge Commerce.”
What is knowledge commerce?
Knowledge commerce is the practice of charging customers for access to knowledge you have. This could be through an online course, an e-book, a membership site, or any other digital product designed to share knowledge.
The modern knowledge economy has grown from the rapid advancement of technology and the changes it has brought to society. And it’s always changing!
For example, we’re all able to communicate with huge numbers of people compared to just a couple of decades ago. And technological advances are rapidly impacting the job market.
The knowledge commerce market is booming. It means big opportunities for small businesses and independent entrepreneurs like you!
Why NOW is the time for building an online course
The incredible pace of technological changes, the constant flux of the economy, and the impact on jobs puts pressure on people to adapt. Many of today’s common jobs probably won’t exist in a decade or two. The skill sets needed for success are always changing, so people have to keep learning to keep up.
Some people turn to traditional education sources to uplevel their skills and expertise, but those can be expensive and complicated to attend. Plus, university courses don’t always meet the specific needs and desires of the moment.
In many ways, traditional higher education hasn’t kept up with technological advances or the needs of a rapidly changing society.
That’s where YOU come in. People need to learn new skills to stay relevant and be successful in the modern world. And they will pay you for that knowledge.
Another factor driving the growth of online education is the pandemic. COVID not only disrupted the economy and people’s livelihoods, it also sent many more people online looking for both entertainment and education.
Demand for online courses is higher than ever, so it’s the perfect time to jump in. Right now there is a very big opportunity for individuals willing to share their knowledge and capitalize on it, and that means you.
How much money can you make teaching online classes?
Since the online education industry is growing so fast, the pie is getting bigger all the time. According to Global Market Insights, “E-Learning Market size surpassed USD 200 billion in 2019 and is anticipated to grow at over 8% CAGR [compound annual growth rate] between 2020 and 2026.”
At eight percent, that would put the market at over $315 billion annually in five years, and it will likely keep growing from there. That’s a lot of opportunity.
How much money you can make depends on several factors, such as pricing, your audience size, and your marketing know-how.
Online courses range in price from under $20 to thousands, so pricing alone makes a huge difference. And if you have an existing audience, it will be much easier to make sales. Assess where you’re at and adjust your expectations to match. But also realize that in many ways, how much money you make is up to you.
Online educator Justin Goff was able to build two 7-figure businesses on his own, with zero employees! Kajabi Hero Dan Baumann went from working 20-hour days to earning his $250k Kajabi Hero pin in just three years!
Beyond the money, teaching online also gives you the chance to make a big impact in the world. You get to be an influencer, sharing your knowledge and touching the lives of a limitless number of people. That can be intimidating for some people, but it can also be highly motivating if you truly want to be of service (which is what the Kajabi community is all about!)
If you’re an absolute beginner, don’t worry!
Start where you are, and build as you can. Need a little inspiration? Check out these 5 women Kajabi Heroes and their advice for up-and-coming online teachers.
Remember, we’re here every step of the way with the tools, resources (like this one), and support to help you succeed.
How to start teaching online classes
Okay, now that you understand the opportunity of teaching online, let’s dig into how to teach an online course and create the best possible experience for your students.
What you need to successfully teach online classes
Great news! Chances are, you already have just about everything you need to create and sell your own online courses. Let’s break it down...
Everyone has learned valuable things in life. We can’t help it! We wouldn’t survive otherwise. And with the abundance of information at our fingertips, it’s easy to gain new skills, knowledge, and expertise as needed.
Not sure what to teach? Focus on what you’re interested in and have experience in. Then find out how those topics pair with what other people want to learn. We’ll dig deeper into choosing a topic a little further down in this article.
Desire to share
Don’t hide your knowledge and gifts! You can make money, help people, and maybe even change the world by stepping up and sharing what you have. For many course creators, making a difference for others is the greatest reward.
A way to share
Fortunately, this part is easier than ever! Most people use a special teaching platform like Kajabi, which allows you to easily create and promote courses from videos, audio, text, and more.
With Kajabi, you get a whole lot more than just a place for your courses. From email automation to blogs and funnels, Kajabi does it all. And unlike some platforms, we do NOT take a cut of your course sales.
Equipment (less than you think!)
These days, you can make a course with a bare minimum of tech tools. You probably already have most of them!
- Computer or smart device – to use Kajabi (or the course platform of your choice)
- Internet connection – to upload and edit your files, check your stats, and more
- Camera – video is pretty standard in online courses, although not strictly necessary. You can invest in a pro camera, or simply use your smartphone or webcam. Filmora allows you to record with your webcam and then edit the recordings.
- Tripod/camera mount – you’ll need some way to position and stabilize your camera while you’re recording.
- Microphone – some experts say audio quality is actually more important than video quality. An inexpensive lapel (AKA lavalier) mic can make a big difference.
- Video editing software – Apple devices come with free iMovie software, or you can upgrade to Final Cut Pro. There are also many inexpensive options for PC and Android users.
- Screen-recording program – Screenflow, Camtasia, and Filmora provide great options for recording anything on your screen. These are great for creating videos of presentations and slide decks.
- Teleprompter – whether a standalone device or an app, if you’re going to read from a script, you’ll want to use some kind of teleprompter so you can look at the camera and not have to worry about scrolling down as you talk.
- Extras – lighting, green screen, camera stabilizer, to name a few. You don’t need these to get started. You can invest in them when you’re ready to up your game.
How do I start teaching an online course?
To start teaching an online course, you only need to create your digital course and start selling it online. So let’s take a quick look at what it takes to plan and create a course that you can teach online to your students.
Step 1. Decide what type of course to create
Deciding what type of course you want to create depends on your goals, personality, and topic. You can look at it in a few ways:
What’s the scope and purpose of your course?
First, think about your goals for the course. Here are a few broad categories of digital courses:
- Introductory courses give students a quick win and a specific result. They offer short, high-level training.
- Transformative courses are more in-depth. They help students solve a big problem or fulfill a major desire.
- Certification training teaches students a skill set and offers a certification that boosts their credentials.
How do you want to interact with your students?
Do you want to do group teaching or work one-on-one with your students? Both can be done over Zoom, with classwork and additional training available in your course platform.
What about a community? Do you want to make it possible for students to interact with each other?
Your course platform’s blueprints
Finally, blueprints can help you save time building an online course that your students love. In Kajabi, you can choose from a number of product blueprints to easily create the type of course you want:
Mini course: A short, narrowly focused course.
Online course: More in-depth, with multiple modules and milestones toward a bigger learning outcome.
Drip Course: Rather than giving access to students all at once, you set up Kajabi to provide them new chunks of information on a set schedule.
Coaching Program: If you want to personally guide your students, this set-up gives you the space to do it.
Membership: Similar to a course, you can add new content on a regular basis and charge recurring fees.
Community: Kajabi provides the perfect space for students to interact with and support each other.
You can customize all of the above templates to your liking. Or, you can use the blank course builder to start from scratch and design your online course.
2. Choose Your Topic and Niche
To decide the best topic and your unique course offering, get to know your audience. First, you need to decide who you can best help and who would pay for what you can teach them.
Consider these Kajabi Hero audience examples:
Niche: Music/Online Artists
Target Audience: Musicians who want to build a professional music career online.
Niche: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)
Target Audience: People who want to learn BJJ from home and reach their martial arts goals.
Once you identify an audience, you need to learn all you can about them so that you can offer them what they really want.
So how do you do that? Look at what people are saying online, and ask people personally.
Online: look at social media groups, book reviews, forums (yes they still exist), and anywhere else people are talking about your topic. Look for problems and desires, especially any statements that contain emotion.
Ask people: Interview people in your chosen audience and find out about their world. What makes them tick? What’s their day like? What motivates them to want to learn about your topic?
Also, look at related courses and books and look for gaps, what’s missing, or a unique perspective you can bring. That uniqueness is called positioning, and it’s what gets you sales.
3. Pick Your Price
Pricing can be difficult for many people. Consider the following in deciding what to charge for your course:
The value of the problem you’re helping people solve
Is it a must-have or a nice-to-have? What financial benefit might there be for people to gain this knowledge (direct or indirect)? How will their lives be better after they’ve taken your course? What is the cost of NOT gaining this knowledge?
The more valuable the information you share, the more you can charge for your course. If your course helps them earn more money or transform their lives for the better, you can almost definitely charge more.
Your comfort level
What are you okay with charging? What price point makes you feel like you’re delivering more value than people are paying?
This is totally subjective but very important for your mindset. If you’re confident your course is fairly priced, you’ll market and sell it more effectively.
The price of other solutions
What else could people do to solve the problem or gain the knowledge? What other courses, books, coaching, etc. are out there? How much do all of those cost? And how does your solution save people money in comparison?
These are your competitors. In a highly competitive space, you sometimes need to lower your price or add more value. If you’re the only one offering the information you teach, you can generally charge more for your course.
How much, if any, personal attention you’re offering students?
Information alone isn’t as valuable as information PLUS coaching. Coaching can often help students get better results. But keep in mind, it requires your time and energy.
Some online educators charge hundreds of dollars (or more) for information-only courses, or ones with minimal support. They charge significantly more for coaching courses.
4. Master Your Marketing
Start marketing right away, even if it’s just telling friends and colleagues what you’re working on.
Selling an online course can be intimidating, so build up a team of supporters around you. Get people engaged early, and update them along the way so they feel like part of the course-creation process.
You can even pre-sell your course before it's made! That’s a great way to fund the production and make sure you have sales before you put all the work in.
How to structure your course for effective teaching
Next let’s talk about what it takes to design an online course. It’s one thing to build a course. It’s another thing entirely to build a course that gives your students success and keeps them engaged every step of the way.
This is important, because you don’t have the instant feedback that a professor or speaker gets when they have a live audience. In a live class, you can read the room. If students are getting bored, you can see them pulling out their phones.
In an online course, you need to think in advance about how to create a fun learning experience. Here’s how to build an online course that your students enjoy.
Step 1: Consider the journey. Where are your students starting out, and where do they want to end up?
Step 2: Chart the path. Once you determine the starting and ending points, organize your curriculum to take the student from point A to point B in a logical sequence. Let them know when they hit milestones, so they can see their progress.
Step 3: Define learning outcomes. You’ve got your overall result, but what are the main topics or steps along the path? List these steps, so you can share them with your students. (You can use this same list to sell your online course, so phrase each outcome as persuasively as you can.)
Step 4: Create your outline. Those steps form the basis of your curriculum outline. One you start at that high level, all you have to do is go back through and fill in more details.
Step 5: Bring it to life. Make notes about interesting examples, stories, and stats that bring the concepts to life.
- What personal stories can you tell?
- Who have you helped in this area in the past? How? What happened?
- Who else do you know of who’s had success in your topic area?
- What interesting facts does the research show about your topic?
Step 6: Plan supporting materials. It’s a good idea to include worksheets and exercises that let your student practice what they’ve learned. You can use assessments to get feedback. You can also create quizzes to ensure your students understand and retain information.
You may or may not want to review people’s homework or quizzes. But they give students the chance to check their knowledge and make sure it doesn’t just go in one ear and out the other.
How to create your content
Once you’ve planned your content, it’s time to create it. This is where you actually teach your students.
When you teach an online course, you record your lessons. Then you upload them to your course platform, where your students can access them. Here’s a quick overview of how to do that.
Step 1: Create your course scripts (or don’t!)
With outline in place, if you want to create a full script to read from, just fill in the details.
Keep in mind you’ll need a teleprompter (physical or app) for reading from a script. Make sure you read through it a few times out loud before recording so you can sound more natural.
The other option is to talk from your outline. This can be a great way to ensure you sound conversational. You may still need to practice so you don’t end up with too many um’s and pauses.
Here are some tips on writing (or planning) your script:
Strive to make each lesson enjoyable and consumable. You don’t need to cover every possible detail. Teach only what’s necessary to achieve the learning objective.
And have fun with it. The goal is to be yourself, not a professor.
- Include stories and examples.
- Avoid jargon, unless you’re 100 percent sure your students already know it.
- Don’t edit out every mistake. Laugh at yourself and move on.
Use repetition. Introduce each lesson, deliver the content, and then re-cap what you just covered.
Keep lessons short. Bite-sized lessons in the 5- to 10-minute range usually gives enough time for teaching without causing overwhelm.
Note that if your audience is highly technical and/or super enthusiastic, they might prefer longer lessons. That’s where knowing your audience comes in handy.
Step 2: Create supporting materials
Give your students various ways to support their learning. This can include graphics, checklists, templates, worksheets, and more.
If you plan these before recording, you can mention them in your videos. Having them in mind will also help you be clear about what the students will need to learn and do to complete each lesson.
Step 3: Produce your course content
You know what you’re going to teach in each lesson. Now it’s time to produce your course content.
Set up your equipment: Set up your camera, mic, and other gear. Make yourself pretty. Throw back an espresso (or herbal tea if you’re teaching meditation), and get ready for action!
Record: Whether you’re using a script or an outline, hit record and deliver your material with a smile. If you make a mistake, don’t worry! Pause, take a breath, and pick up where you left off.
Note: Small mistakes are fine to leave in. Bigger mistakes can be edited out. So relax and enjoy the teaching process.
Edit: Use your video editing software to cut out mistakes and bloopers. (If you have some good ones, consider making a gag reel.) Add any text, images, music, or other effects you want.
To increase your brand visibility, you can add a “bumper” at the beginning of each video. This is a short, 3- to 5-second graphic animation of your logo or branding.
If you’re not comfortable doing your own editing (or you just don’t want to), you can find professional editors on freelance sites like Fiverr and Upwork. You might also consider hiring a student if you’re looking to save money.
Step 4: Upload course content and supplementals
Wherever you’re hosting your course, upload the completed files and post lesson descriptions so people know at a glance what each module and lesson is about.
If you’re using Kajabi, log in to your account and upload your files to your course in the “Products” section. If you’re not using Kajabi yet, sign up for a free trial, and at the end of your trial, you’ll be able to get a free walkthrough with a Kajabi support team member.
How to be an engaging teacher
Keeping students engaged in a class always presents a challenge for teachers, and teaching online makes it even harder. So we need to look at how to teach an online course in a way that motivates and inspires your students so they get the results they’re after.
Most online classes are “asynchronous,” meaning they’re not conducted live. Watching videos is simply not as engaging as knowing you’re watching and learning from someone in real time.
So incorporate these best practices to make sure your students have a good experience and want to keep learning from you.
Take the “EQ” perspective.
EQ stands for emotional intelligence. You need to understand your own and your students’ emotional state of mind before, during, and after each lesson. Then talk to them where they’re at.
Show you care about your students and give good value. Think about their reality, the thoughts and emotions they’re likely experiencing when they start your course. As they go through your course, how can you keep them motivated?
Show passion and expertise PLUS relatability.
Present yourself as authoritative but also human. Don’t firehose your students with so much information that they feel overwhelmed. Help them feel comfortable and give them just what they need to get results.
Offer encouragement and inspiration, not just knowledge. Again, make people comfortable.
It can also help to be vulnerable and human. One way to do that is to share your “why”:
- Why is this knowledge important?
- How is it valuable to the student?
- Why should they care?
- What’s in it for them?
Make it fun.
Use humor, everyday language, and comparisons to familiar and popular concepts. Bring the information and lessons to life with stories, analogies, and jokes (even bad ones).
Provide ways for students to get help, connect with you or each other, and feel like they’re part of something, rather than just learning on their own in front of a screen.
You could offer some kind of coaching or homework review, create a community (it’s easy in Kajabi), or host special live events for students. Also, invite feedback. You can do this with the assessments feature in Kajabi.
Throw in unexpected elements like guest cameos, music, effects, special bonuses, or challenges. When you offer customers unexpected delights, they’ll be more engaged and also more likely to keep working with you long-term.
Bonus Technical Tool Tips
Before we wrap up, let’s look at a few other popular features that make Kajabi the perfect all-in-one platform to build and launch your courses AND grow your knowledge economy business.
Mobile app awesomeness
Kajabi has a great mobile app where students can view all their courses on any Apple or Android device, on their own terms. We even provide an email template you can send to instruct your students how to get and use the app.
Gorgeous websites and blogs
Create a beautiful website and even a blog right in Kajabi. We make it easy to build a complete, integrated marketing platform for you to provide value to your audience and offer them great products and solutions.
Automated email campaigns add another layer of engagement. Send emails to students before, during, and after their online course experience, so they complete the training and give you a good review.
Here are some pro email tips:
- Check out the Email Deliverability FAQ in the Help Center to make sure your emails will get to your audience’s inbox without being flagged as spam.
- Schedule reminders to go out at regular intervals, so students remember to finish the course and ask questions if they have them.
- Use assessments to collect emails so you can grow or segment your list.
Create a product AND an offer
In Kajabi, your product is your course and your offer is your sales page. The offer serves as the entry point for selling an online course so people can learn from your genius. A great product and offer make up the essential two steps to success with Kajabi!
Re-cap: How to teach an online course
As you go about planning and building an online course, set up easy wins for yourself so you stay motivated. Use this article to make your own roadmap and take it step by step.
Remember, we’re always here to support you on your journey as an online course creator. If you want to start your teaching journey, try Kajabi. Not only do you get a world-class online course creator tool, Kajabi also gives you:
- A website builder that’s flexible and customizable
- A landing page builder
- Email marketing software
- A payment gateway to let people easily buy your courses
- And much, much more.
Best of all, you can try Kajabi for free for 14-days. Happy teaching!