Side Hustles

How to Create an Online Course – Step-by-Step Guide

Are you thinking about creating your own online course?  

eCourses are one of the hottest side hustles for online marketers right now.  Many course creators have reported earning anywhere between $1 – 5k/month.  Some even go so far as to make $10k – $50k per month!

If you’d like to learn how to create your own online course with WordPress, then here’s how you can do it the easy way.

how to create an online course with wordpress

Plan Your Course

No matter how you plan to create your online course, there are a few major questions you’ll want to consider before you get started.

  1. Market need – What issue or problem would your online course help people solve?  It’s very important to establish this upfront because it will be the basis of all your marketing efforts.
  2. Competition – Look around the internet and ask yourself how many other courses are available that would be just like yours.  Is the market saturated?  How could your course be better or more appealing?
  3. Your passion for the project – What’s your level of interest or knowledge in the topic?  Writing an online course will be just as big of a job (if not more) than writing a book.  Do you think this is a subject that you won’t get tired of talking and writing about?
  4. Course outline – What’s the best way to break down your course into specific topics and sub-topics?  The material should flow like chapters in a book or a classroom syllabus with one lesson leading into the next.
  5. Validation – Run your idea or even your course outline by the people you trust.  What’s their honest feedback?  Should you proceed with the project, or are there major questions you’re leaving unanswered?   

Assuming all of that goes well, its time to get work on your WordPress course.  Here’s what to do next.

Setup WordPress For Your Online Course

If you don’t have one already, you’ll want to purchase a domain name and hosting plan for your new online course.  Once this step is complete, you can install WordPress on your new website (usually from your hosting service dashboard).   

You could also just create your online course as part of your existing WordPress site.  However, keep in mind that if your content has a lot of large files (such as videos) or receives a lot of traffic, it could significantly eat up the bandwidth and create an unfavorable experience for both your e-course students as well as your regular blog readers.

creating an online course with wordpress

For the remainder of this post, we’ll assume that your online course will be built into a new WordPress site specifically for this purpose.

Install The LearnDash LMS Plugin

WordPress comes standard with a ton of great features.  But e-courses are not one of them.  In order to build a proper online course, you’ll need to install what’s known as a “learning management system” or LMS plugin  

The most popular LMS plugin available is LearnDash.  This is a powerful add-on that will give you all of the look and functionality you need to turn your WordPress site into a fully operational e-course.

Some of the key features that make this plugin a must-have include:

  • Multiple course creation
  • Separate sections for lessons and topics
  • Special course extras like quizzes, tests, and competition certificates or badges
  • Content drip-feed options
  • Secure payment center with options to refund and send out reminders
  • Helpful resources such as quick start guides, video tutorials, and community forums

LearnDash is a premium plugin that will cost $159 for a 1-site license with 1 year of support and updates.  Depending on the price you set for your course, the revenue from as little as one student could cover the entire cost of this plugin.

Install A Theme

In addition to an LMS plugin, you’ll also need an attractive theme for your new WordPress site.  This is the program that manages the look, feel, and layout of the entire website (including the online course portion).  

If you’re looking for one that caters to online courses, BuddyBoss for LearnDash is a theme that works great with LearnDash.  Licenses start at $228.

Create Your First Online Course

With the LearnDash plugin and theme now activated, the next step you’ll want to take is to create your first course.  Start by clicking the “Add New” button and then giving it a name.

Under the Settings tab, you can also fill in some important information about the course such as the:

  • Description
  • Price
  • Status
  • Etc.
online course learndash course

Lessons and Topics

Now comes the hard work!

Within each course, you’ll create a series of modules and lessons based on the outline you wrote earlier.  Modules are the groups of lessons (they are also sometimes called categories or units) while lessons are the specific topics that will be covered.  (Not to make things more confusing, but LearnDash calls modules = lessons and lessons = topics.)

online course learndash lessons


Your lessons can be constructed using any combination of mediums you’d like. 

  • Videos are great because you record yourself speaking as if you were up in front of a classroom teaching.  They’re also usually more interesting and engaging to watch.
  • Presentations with audio over top are also a good option because they’re easy to create and you can stuff a lot of content as well as mixed media such as images and other videos.
  • Screencasting can be really useful if you’re making a “how-to” tutorial showing how to use specific computer programs and you want to record your movements on the computer screen.
  • Audio is okay, especially if you’re interviewing an expert.  Podcast businesses rely on good audio; but for an online course, if it’s just you talking, then you may want to pair it up with a presentation.
  • Written content is okay if it supplements other types of media.  But its probably not the best choice if that’s the only form of content for your online course (otherwise your students could have just bought an ebook).

There are definitely a lot of pros and cons to consider here.  As we said, instructional videos, for example, might be very engaging and relatively easy to film.  They would require the right equipment, adequate space and lighting, and a solid on-camera performance, though.  

My advice would be to work with whatever medium you feel the most comfortable.  If you really wanted, you could always hire a freelancer to assist you in the production.

Using Drip Content Functionality

One more cool feature to LearnDash: You don’t have to make all of your lessons available all at once.  You can opt to “drip” your content to your students by pre-setting how long they must wait for it to become available.

Dripping your content can be a useful strategy if you don’t want your students to binge on the material and instead spread it out over several days or even weeks. 

Setup Your Payment Method For Your Online Course

In addition to creating your course content, you’ll also have to do some administrative work by setting up your method of receiving payments.  LearnDash already has an integrated “PayPal Settings” tab where you can enter your PayPal info and start receiving payments.  Or if you prefer, you can also get addons for the Stripe and 2Checkout payment gateways.

online course learndash payments

Other WordPress Online Course Plugins

If you’d like some more WordPress plugin alternatives to LearnDash, then you could check out:

  • LearnPress – If you’re looking to make an online course for as little money as possible, then you’ll love the fact that this app is free.  However, remember that you’ll get what you pay for.  Many of the features and functions that you’d want from a premium plugin won’t be present.
  • WP Courseware – Very similar in functionality to LearnDash.  However, you’ll need an extra membership plugin and an e-commerce platform before you can start selling.  Packages start at $125.
  • Sensei LMS – If you’ve already got WooThemes running on your site, then Sensei will work seamlessly with it.  It has a lot of the same features as LearnDash but has been criticized for not having as many updated features.  Packages start at $150. 
how to create an ecourse with wordpress

WordPress Alternatives

If it turns out that you’d rather not build your online course in WordPress, there are two other popular ways you to do this:

  1. eCourse sites such as Udemy, Skillshare, etc. – ECourse sites such as they are generally free and easy to use.  Plus they already have an established audience so there is generally less marketing needed.
  2. Hosting platforms such as Teachable, Thinkific, LearnWorlds, etc. – Similar to creating an online course in WordPress, using a hosting platform will still mean setting up a domain and paying a monthly fee.  However, because these services specialize in online course creation, most of the hard work with formatting and setup is already done for you.

Conclusions: How To Create An Online Course

If you have knowledge and you want to share it while possibly making money too, then creating an online course is a great idea. WordPress is a wonderful option to get your online course up and running, especially using the LearnDash plugin. You’ve learned all you need to know on how to create an online course, now all you have left to do is get your course made and selling! You can do it!

Kevin Martin

Kevin is an ambitious entrepreneur that is obsessed with all things related to finance. From a young age, Kevin has always been involved with side hustles ranging from online selling to freelance work. Over the years, Kevin graduated from side hustles and started launching multiple online and offline businesses. Kevin is a serial entrepreneur who loves starting new businesses and exploring all things related to business and finance. He is constantly looking for new ways to save money, invest money, and create income streams.

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