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The best online course creation tools to record, build, and sell online courses

August 24, 2023


Melissa Guller


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If you’re thinking about selling your own online courses, you might be wondering which tools you’ll need to create slides, record videos, enroll students, and deliver a top-notch experience.

That’s why in this post, I’m excited to demystify the process and share my exact recommendations for the best online course creation tools for online business owners.

The 4 C’s of Course Creation

It takes more than one tool to create a great online course. So to start with the high-level essentials, I like to talk about what I call the 4 C’s of Course Creation, which are the four key pieces that make up any online course, separated by their purpose and the tools needed to create them.

1. Curriculum

Your curriculum includes any material that helps your students learn or take action. It includes slides, videos, worksheets, templates, etc. 

If you taught an in-person class, you would be able to show up with your prepared curriculum (ex: slides) and teach at the front of the room. But since we’re sharing our knowledge online, we also have to actually create the digital space where students can access and view our courses.

2. Classroom

Your classroom is the digital home for your curriculum. It includes things like your student login, a course library, and individual courses organized into sections and lessons. 

The tool you’ll use to build your classroom is commonly called your online course creation platform. These platforms are used to build and sell online courses directly through your own business.

💡 Key takeaway: You can’t create curriculum files (like slides or videos) using your classroom tool. You’ll need to use separate tools to create curriculum vs. build your classroom.

3. Communication

Your communication channels include any paths used to share information with students. There are traditionally three paths to consider:

  • Teacher → Student: How will you share information or updates with students?
  • Student → Teacher: How will students be able to ask you questions or get support?
  • Student ↔ Student: Will students be able to interact with each other?

Your decisions will vary widely based on your student needs, your course price point, and your personal preferences. But at minimum, you’ll likely need an Email Service Provider to send a welcome email and stay in touch with your students long-term.

4. Conversion

Conversion answers the question, “How do prospects enroll in your course?”

It typically includes a sales page and a checkout page to process payments, although some courses (at a higher price point) use an application process instead of direct-to-checkout.

Your course creation platform typically serves as your payment processor, and it allows you to set price points, create checkout pages, and enroll students into your programs.

Online course creation tools for curriculum

Now that we’ve differentiated between curriculum vs. classroom, let’s talk about the tools needed to create a great curriculum. 

Slide creation

Slide-based videos are the #1 type of video I recommend for course creators. Not only do they help you organize and share your knowledge, but they also help students learn because on-screen visuals (like text or images) boost retention.

When you record slide-based videos, you have the option to show your face in the corner, which is called a PIP (picture-in-picture). It’s up to you if you want to be on camera, but most of my students have reported that they prefer seeing an instructor since it feels more engaging and personable. 

In either case, the best slide platform you can choose is the one you’re already comfortable with. Here are some of the most popular options:

Rather than starting with a blank screen, you can check out our free Course Creation Toolkit if you’d like our recommendations on where to find free and paid templates for course slides.

Record & edit videos

Profitable courses don’t necessarily need high-budget video production or fancy editing. What students ultimately want is a transformation and the outcome promised by the end of the course, so what’s most important is to create videos that share value and help learners take action.

As I mentioned before, many students do report that they have a preference for seeing the instructor’s face in the corner of the video (the PIP). But it’s also not a requirement; you can do a short welcome video (to introduce yourself) and then stick with screen-only videos if that’s your preference.

For other course creators, you might need to shoot action demos, like cooking or painting. So the tools you’ll use to record and edit videos for your course will depend on which type of video(s) you need to create.

For those of you recording screen-based videos, a few of my favorite tools include…

Cameras & microphones for online course creators

A camera is a must-have tool for course creators. And depending on the type of videos you want to create, you’ll have a few options at different price points.

If you have a newer laptop, you might be able to use the built-in webcam. Or if you’re looking for an inexpensive upgrade, I used this $60 Logitech webcam at Wit & Wire for years as a slight improvement for course videos and Zoom calls.

Today, I use the Sony ZV-1 plugged into my computer for all of my course videos and YouTube videos. But any camera you already have and like should work perfectly fine, and I don’t recommend breaking the bank on a high-end new camera just for your online course. (If you like the way your webcam looks, I’d keep it simple.)

Aside from a camera, the tool I do recommend that all course creators invest in is a microphone. Crisp audio has a major impact on the perceived value of a course, podcast, or YouTube video, and as online business owners, we get a lot of mileage out of a good microphone beyond just course creation.

If you already have a microphone, I’d stick with what you have. But if you’re looking for a few recommendations, here are a few all-around good choices for course creators and online business owners: 

  • Shure MV7 (what I use at Wit & Wire, and my #1 all round recommendation)
  • Blue Yeti (a popular pick and the first mic I started with; a great choice)
  • CAD U37 (an alternate budget option)
  • Shure SM7B (the ultimate splurge; this is what your favorite podcasters likely use)

Create downloadables & course resources

Along with your video lessons, you may also want to include workbooks, worksheets, scripts, or templates to go along with your course.

I use Google Docs for a lot of my course material because that’s what I prefer to use in real life. Google Docs are digitally friendly and allow your students to type directly into the document, and they can still print them out if they prefer working with pen and paper.

Occasionally, I do create PDFs when my resource is more of a one-page cheatsheet or reference guide. To do this, I use Canva

Choose your course creation platform

Your course creation platform is the digital tool used to build and sell online courses directly through your own business.

It’s different from a course marketplace, where you’d contribute your course to a bigger catalog. At Wit & Wire, we focus on helping online business owners create their own digital products, so we focus on course platforms rather than marketplaces.

Depending on your preferences, there are two types of course creation platforms to consider:

1. All-in-one platforms

These platforms include all of the primary features you’d need to run an online business, including website creation, email marketing, and course creation. 

These platforms are a good fit for business owners who want to simplify and keep everything in one place. You might miss out on some specific customizations or features, but for the right business, the tradeoff will be worth it.

Our top recommended all-in-one platforms include:

2. Specialist course creation platforms

Many businesses already have a website (on WordPress, Squarespace, or ShowIt) and/or email marketing set up. So for you, an all-in-one platform might be overkill for what you’re looking for.

Instead, what many business owners need is a specialist platform, which lacks the full feature set of an all-in-one, but instead, really excels at course creation, payment processing, and product delivery.

Our top recommended course creation platforms include:

I’ve personally found that by offering a community element to my courses, my students are more successful because they have other people to connect with who are in the same shoes and understand what they’re going through. They’re then able to share questions and feedback with each other. 

That said, it won’t be the right fit for all audiences, and I don’t think it should be a default to include it in your course. I’d really ask yourself if it would benefit your students and help them reach their goals more effectively…or if it’s just a distraction (or unlikely to be used).

Choose your Email Service Provider (ESP)

You may think of email marketing as something that comes before students are enrolled as a way to market to prospective students. But it’s equally important to engage with students post-purchase and to help them take action and work towards course completion. 

At Wit & Wire, we use ActiveCampaign. It’s the most capable ESP I’ve tested, but it might be overkill for many business owners, so I also recommend ConvertKit (built for creators), Drip, and Moosend (budget option). 

Interested in creating your own online course?

Choosing the right online course creation tools is just the start. If you’re ready to take action and create your own profitable online course, I’d love to invite you to check out our program Course Builders, where we help online business owners create a signature course and enroll their first paid students in 60 days (or less).

Or if you’re looking for a downloadable summary of this post (including extra recommendations not mentioned on our site), don’t forget to download our free Course Creation Toolkit, which includes the exact equipment & software we recommend to create slides, record videos, and build a profitable online course in any industry.

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