Platforms for Creating Courses

“Be a teacher to become a better student”, said none. But it is true to a large extent. It certainly helps the guru, if not the student :)

While I have created a few short courses in my lifetime, there was nothing substantial. I had been trying to investigate available options for an immediate requirement and my deep PhD level research is outlined below.

Trends of the Day

  • Structure your courses - students today are exposed to some really good platforms (Udemy, FreeCodeCamp, Datacamp, Coursera, Salesforce Trailhead etc.)

  • Video is big

  • Interactivity is highly preferred. Test students, grade on what they do in addition to what they answer

  • Mix content. Videos, reading material, Podcasts, Webinars / real-time interaction with a human

  • Link up to external content. You fail if you try to create an island

Do

  1. Think through what students expect and plan your course of action

  2. Start small There are plenty of options - just choose one, set a minimal budget and roll.

  3. Keep your options open to scale Consider paid vs. free options available today. Keep in mind that the platform can change its mind, get acquired, or go out of business.

  4. Decide the general direction, but don’t overthink. If you are a one-person shop and you have 4 hours to spend on the course - select Udemy or Udacity, and run. You can always create the brand elsewhere as you scale in the future

Don’t

  1. Don’t plonk money first and think later
    Although everyone is tempted to do this at one time or the other: don’t throw money at the requirement (or problem).
    You can start small, and scale later. You will be more capable of taking decisions about the business after the first two, five or ten courses.

  2. Don’t be afraid to mix and match There is no one perfect solution for everyone. You could host LMS, create private videos on YouTube, create a few more password protected videos on Vimeo - that should work just fine in the beginning while you are testing the ropes.

Your Options

We will divide this into multiple categories.

Self-hosted LMS

Choose this option if you have written content to host. Evaluate solutions to host videos separately (see below) and link everything up.

Moodle

Grand-daddy of LMS is still going strong. Moodle is known for its standards, has good UI, and a passable user experience. It also has regular releases and a helpful community.

You can create and manage courses, manage course contents, provide access to faculty and students, share teaching material, share students to share their work, grade students, and provide forums for everyone to collaborate.

On the flip side, you have a bunch of things to configure.

Chamilo

Actively maintained. Is a bit easier to manage, has comparable feature set and similar high standards as Moodle.

Advantages of Self-hosted Option

  • You are in complete control

  • Free of cost (and open source)

  • PHP based solutions. Provided by every cheap host out there. Cost effective infrastructure.

  • Seamlessly integrates with your website

Limitations

  • Not as “modern”

  • Configuration - not difficult, but not easy either

  • You should not host video on cheap hosting, external services may not be as seamlessly integrated in the application process flow

Video Platforms

Provisioning a video by itself for teaching someone may not make sense, but it is surprisingly viable.

You can create a series of tutorials, create one-off videos, or create other premium content. You can manually provide approvals for access, or provide a secret URL on Patreon or some such site that can be accessed by subscribers.

YouTube

Create public or private videos on YouTube is as easy as flagging a video as ‘private’. You can change the privacy settings at any time.

Vimeo

Next cost effective option. Upload videos and password protect them.

Zenler

Zenler allows you to create a custom domain, a basic marketing page, and host your videos.

This is better than just hosting content (especially if you don’t have a dedicated website), and completely white-label your offering.

Integrated LMS + Videos (+ Private Label in select options)

This is the ideal solution and best of all worlds. Provide video, which is the most preferred teaching medium now, and an integrated LMS. You can link to your domain at anytime and build your brand as well.

Teachable

A free plan at Teachable should be good to start with. Later you graduate to \$39/mo + 5% transaction fee at a minimum.

  • Widely accepted by tutors as a standard, easy-to-manage platforms

  • pleasant UX.

  • Ceate your entire site on Teachable - not just host tutorials. Or, integrate existing site as a link

  • ability to scale - any no. of courses (free courses do not cost anything), custom domains, etc.

  • drip course content

  • ability to provide quizzes

  • email & affiliate marketing

LearnWorlds

Starts at $24 + $5 per sale.

  • Has good UX, a good community of learners but not as popular

  • scale well - custom domains, affiliate marketing enabled

Eliademy

A full-blown MOOC, this is a good hosted alternative to self-hosted solutions like Moodle.

Create your courses, manage students, grade them, integrate external content (presentations, videos, etc.).

Eliademy charges a 30% of your student fee. If you go premium (~\$12/mo), that will be reduced to 10%.

They have a marketplace but not directly comparable to Udemy.

Udemy

A large captive audience keeps the fires of Udemy burning. The platform probably has millions of courses and thousands of instructors.

You can start for free, and remain free. Udemy fees varies from 3% to 75% depending on the acquisition channel.

On the downside, Udemy has lost quite a lot of respect due to poor quality training (attributed to the low bar of entry?), jacked up pricing, and sheer numbers can be a disadvantage here.

Udemy is really good if you are willing to work on your brand-building outside Udemy :)

Thinkific

Start for free. Graduate to a min of \$49/mo. Very similar in features to Teachable.

Advantages

  • Less admin overhead

  • Focus on course, not on administering the course and maintaining servers

  • Exposure to a large audience. Leverage learners and build an audience globally

  • Create entire websites through drag & drop. Build your business around the sites hosted on the platforms

  • Leverage marketing capabilities offered by platform. That may include discounts, paid ads for a better converting audience, and featured courses/instructors

Limitations

  • You will be one in another thousand instructors and courses - unless the platform allows white-labelling. More difficult to stand out as a brand

  • Discounts often devalue the course. Think Udemy - 90% discounts are the norm

  • Expensive as compared to the self-hosted options (but also provide significant advantages)

Recommendations of Integrated Learning Platforms

There is no one right solution.

If you are a one-person / small shop starting now:

  • Get on Teachable free plan
  • Get on Udemy
  • Release free videos on YouTube. Market yourself, build a brand, and link up to the courses.

Of course, everyone and their dog is also doing this. You can only stand out by building out quality material.

If you are a subject matter expert or a small-medium sized shop trying to create your own business around tutoring students:

  • Get on Teachable paid plan, and teach away

  • Build website and plan marketing on the Teachable platform itself

If you are a large-sized shop with 100s of employees:

  • Stop reading through articles like this, and get back to work. Marketing has made the decisions for you.

  • If you are the marketing person in a large shop, you will see these recommendations but not be serious about them anyway. Good luck.

Well, that’s about all I had to say. What are your plans to earn the next million dollars - which platform do you choose?

(PS: I have made this rule to minimize pictures and videos as much as possible on this site, sorry! Hopefully I could communicate what I wanted to tell you through good ol’ text.)

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Categories: Tools
Tags: apps
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