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How To Create An Online Course: Equipment, Software, And Skills

Creating your own online course is an exciting prospect, but knowing where to start can be overwhelming if it’s your very first time building something like this.


In this article we’ll cover the essentials on how to create an online course – from the equipment you need for high-quality recordings to the software that brings your vision to life, and the skills required to engage your audience effectively.


*Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission when you purchase products through my link at no additional cost to you.



1. How To Create An Online Course: Equipping Yourself for Success


Person filming themselves for an online course teaching how to bake.


Cameras, Microphones, and Lighting Equipment

Depending on your course content you may opt for screen recordings, animations, graphics, filming yourself talking to the camera, or a combination of a few recording styles. Let’s walk through some of the basic pieces of equipment you will want to check out for creating your course.


Please note that the equipment ideas shown are suggestions only, be sure to do your own research on what will best suit your needs and budget. Current prices may be different from the date this article was published.



Microphone

Whether you’re recording voiceover presentations or filming yourself talking to the camera, good audio quality is a must. If you invest in no other equipment I suggest getting a decent microphone at the very least.



Camera

If you plan on filming yourself, you’re going to want a decent camera. Smartphones are a great starting point if a high quality, dedicated camera is a bit out of your budget. Here are some options to check out in a range of price points to suit your budget.



Tripod

After you purchase a camera, a tripod is a must-have accessory. You COULD get by with stacking your camera on a pile of books or leaning it on a ledge, but you can’t always easily carry those things around with you.


Consider what kind of videos you plan to film, at least starting out, and invest in a tripod. It’s your most important accessory if you want steady shots.



Lighting

Lighting is a great addition to your filming kit because it suddenly opens you up to be able to film at all times of day even in the darkest room of your house.


If you are filming something that requires demonstrations or visual elements, lighting is a must. If you want to enhance your talking-head style shots a simple ring light may be a good starting point. 


Here are some lighting equipment options to check out depending on your unique filming needs for your online course course.



The learning curve of a new piece of equipment can sometimes be a lot to take on, let alone for a camera, mic, lighting gear, editing software, AND course hosting platform.


I always encourage new video creators to start with what they have and grow over time. You don’t NEED all the fanciest or most expensive equipment, especially if you’re brand new to video creation.


If you’re interested in reading more about equipment ideas and options, you may want to check out YouTube Starter Kit: Equipment For Beginners.




2. Filming And Speaking To The Camera


Person filming themselves using their smartphone.


Choosing A Filming Location

When choosing a location to film, aim for somewhere well-lit, quiet, and comfortable.


There are also measures you can take within your environment to make audio recording a bit cleaner. Record in an echoless room or lay down rugs or cloth on hard floors to reduce echos.


If lighting is a bit out of your budget for now, use natural light and set up in front of a window.


A busy background can be very distracting and give off the wrong vibe. Try to reduce or very strategically organize your clutter, especially if you’re filming something like a cooking demonstration.



Confidence

If you don’t do it regularly or this is your first time doing it, talking to a camera can feel awkward. My biggest tip here is:


Practice. Goof off. Delete. Repeat.


No one needs to see your goof-ups, but you can laugh at yourself and lighten up. 


To be completely honest I make myself cringe all the time, but I also laugh at myself often. I am what I am and if what I am is a cringey millennial, then so be it.


What I have to share (and what you have to share) is still important and helpful and all we can do is send out this little snippet of ourselves into the world and hope the people who see it extract something useful from it. 


If they do cringe, I hope they at least find my cringiness endearing.




3. Presentation Design


Computer display with online course presentation.


If you're opting for a screen recorded course design either in-place-of speaking to a camera or in addition to it, there are a few things to keep in mind with regard to presentation design.



Contrast

One of the first things to think about is designing your content to be as accessible to as many people as possible.


Make sure there is enough contrast in size and color to ensure your text, images, and graphics are legible and visible.



Engagement

Powerpoint or slide-show styles of presentations are valuable, but can be done awfully. If your slides are walls of text. Stop.


Consider what portions of your walls-of-text could be simply stated verbally or what can be transformed into a useful visual.


Try to add visuals wherever possible. Add video clips (your own or stock footage if needed), images, graphics, graphs, bullet points, demonstrations, animations, etc.


Adding transitions between clips or slides can also offer visual cues about what’s happening next in a video.



Other Considerations

Consider the platform these videos will be viewed on.


Consider screen size and test-view how your videos will look on a phone and a desktop. 


Consider where closed captions will show up and whether any text will be covered if a user turns on closed captions.


Create a template that you use for all your slide decks so your presentations are consistent.




4. Editing Software for Polished Content


Online course lecture video timeline in editing software.


You will be able to create great video content no matter what software you choose. Many programs have a ton of features you’ll never even touch, so find one that has the main features that are absolutely necessary for the type of course content you plan to create.


Many software programs offer a subscription-based service so if you anticipate a short-term need, you can save money by taking advantage of free trials and then paying for the subscription only while you are creating your course.


Here are some basics of video editing:


  • Cutting or trimming clips involves removing sections of your video that you don’t want. For example, if you said something incorrectly, repeated yourself, sneezed, paused for a moment, etc, you will cut/trim these sections out.


  • Layering clips or graphics allows you to play additional footage, images, or graphics over top of another image or video clip. For example, having a clip of you demonstrating a step playing while a talking head clip of yourself is layered on top in the upper right corner explaining what it happening.

  • Audio editing may include things like increasing or decreasing the volume, adding background music, censoring, fading in or out, etc.

  • Text and captions can be added to videos. With the AI boom over the past few years, auto-generated captions have been a valuable addition to many video editing programs. Some software programs have been slower than others to roll out editable auto captions. Most programs also offer the ability to add your own custom text to your videos. This is useful for titles, lists, commentary, etc.

  • Transitions add a dynamic effect to videos. They are useful to visually indicate a change in topic, or signal the beginning or end of a video. Most software programs have a wide selection of built-in transitions to drag and drop into your video project.

  • Cropping involves cutting the boundaries of the video, for example, in my podcast I film in my garage, which has the water heater and furnace plus all the pipes behind me. In Final Cut Pro I crop in to hide the stuff I don’t want to show in the background. You can also crop in to add emphasis to something you’re saying or doing.


You definitely want to get some sort of editing software to create a polished and professional course. Choose the best editing software for you and your needs and don’t forget to take advantage of free trials to find one that works for you. Alternatively, you can always outsource and hire a professional editor.




Wrap-Up


Creating an online course involves more than just sharing knowledge – it's about crafting an immersive and engaging learning experience.


By investing in equipment as you’re able, developing your presentation and speaking skills, and utilizing editing software, you can transform your expertise into a dynamic and impactful online course.


As you get to work on mapping out your online course, remind yourself:


Perfection is a myth.


It’s okay to allow yourself to grow your skills over time.


You will create an amazing, valuable course!



Drop your course creation questions in the comment section below.




 

Cover of our Online Course Outline Template free download

And don’t forget to download our Online Course Template.



Inside you'll find a general template and an example outline for a 5 week course.

Hope it helps you move forward in your course creation journey!


 

About the Author


Sara Kerr, RDN, LD

Sara is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, artist, writer, and video editor. She holds a Bachelor's of Science degree in Nutrition from Oregon State University. In 2021 she founded The Kerrminator LLC, which specializes in creative services including video editing, graphic design, and content creation.


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