Sell online courses from your WordPress website

The online learning industry is huge and selling online courses is only getting bigger with the industry predicted to exceed $240 billion in 2023. Wow!

A huge majority of the world’s websites are now powered by WordPress, so using it as a platform to sell online courses is quite easily achievable.

We’ve got experience designing and building WordPress websites that sell online courses, so if you read on we’ll show you what you need to get started selling online courses with WordPress, how you can come up with ideas for topics and give away our top tips for what works best regarding course content…

Let’s get going:

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Why should I create an online course?

Because it has big benefits for you and your business.

First of all, you can use online courses to position yourself or your company as experts and an authority in your industry, which is going to attract more business.

Secondly, if you chose to sell your online courses, you can add another revenue stream to your business that has huge growth potential.

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Tips for coming up with online course ideas

Hopefully you’re beginning to think of ideas already, but if not…

  • Jot down the top five things that people already ask you questions about or ask for your advice on.
  • Try speaking to your staff too and see what they come up with.
  • What things do your clients and customers struggle with the most regularly?
  • What pain-points do the majority of your customers have that they want solved?

Essentially, if your course solves a pain point people have, it stands a great chance at selling because people buy courses that resolve issues.

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What if you’re not sure your online course idea is a good one?

Actually creating the content for an online course is time-consuming – there’s no way around that.

If you’re worried your idea won’t be popular DON’T waste time creating your course only for it to flop when you promote it – pre-sell it first.

You could pre-sell your online course by asking your web designer to create a simple “Apply to Buy” page on your WordPress website, outlining your course idea and asking visitors to register their interest if they’d like to be notified when your online course launches.

Hook this form up to MailChimp so you can capture their details and then when you’re ready to launch you’ve got a list of potential learners ready and waiting.

We’d recommend promoting this “Apply to Buy” page to your existing customer base first, because it’s free and if you want to go a step further, you can even try driving some traffic to it with Google or Facebook ads.

Doing this will take a small fraction of the time it would take to actually create the online course itself and it’s a great way to gain confidence that your online course will sell.

Okay, so you’ve settled on your idea? Here’s how to use your WordPress website to sell it:

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How do I sell online courses from my WordPress site?

If your website is already powered by WordPress great! If your site uses Woocommerce too (perhaps you’re an online store) then you can also sell your online courses using that platform too.

The additional plugin you need to purchase, install and set up is called Sensei, it’s $129 USD and it gives you everything you need to provide courses confidently online.

If you want to actually sell your courses online, you’ll need to integrate Woocommerce with your WordPress website as this gives you the ecommerce functionality you need for people to add your courses to their basket and actually check out and pay for it.

Here’s a quick look at Sensei and its features:

Feature list;

  • Seamless WordPress integration
  • Easy content creation
  • Quick user registration
  • Charge for courses (integrates with Woocommerce)
  • Course analytics and reporting
  • Easily customisable theme
  • Quizzes to test your students
  • Ability to grade quizzes automatically or grade manually

With extensions you can even do things like; drip feed content to your learners, create certificates and let them share their quiz results on social media to help promote your course.

I’ve downloaded Sensei, how do I create my first online course?

Firstly you’ll need to add and activate the plugin. To do this;

  • Login to your WordPress site
  • Click Plugins in the sidebar
  • Click Add New at the top
  • Upload the Sensei plugin
  • Once uploaded make sure you activate the plugin

Next, you’ll need to create an actual course, so click “Courses” in the sidebar and “Add new”.

Adding lessons and modules

Next, you’ll need to add the content for your online course. Before you do this, it’s best to know how Sensei structures online courses. It structures them like this:

  • Course
  • — Lesson
  • —— Module

So if you were a photographer, the structure of your first online course might look like this:

  • How to get started photographing weddings (the overall title of your course)
  • — Course introduction (the lesson)
  • ——- What you will learn on this course (module 1)
  • ——- How to get the best results from this course (module 2)
  • — Golden wedding photography tips and techniques (the lesson)
  • ——- Getting to know your clients (module 1)
  • ——- Visiting the venue before the big day (module 2)
  • ——- Making guests feel at ease (module 3)

… and so on, you get the idea. You can, of course, have as many modules and lessons as you’d like.

Adding your content

Now you know the structure in which your content must fit, the next best step is to go to old fashioned pen and paper and plan out your course.

Once you are ready to add your content, use the “Lesson” and “Module” links in the WordPress admin area to build out your content.

Be sure to make it engaging, use video, use images and break the content up with headings so it’s easy for people to digest.

Adding quizzes

Quizzes will help your learners retain the content they’re consuming. Consider creating quizzes every one or two modules.

You can even make it mandatory to pass the quiz before letting the user move to the next module, but that’s totally up to you and can be configured in the settings.

Styling the templates

Sensei obviously creates extra additional templates on your WordPress site to deliver the course content and to let your learners see what courses they’ve signed up to.

You’ll need to make sure that you or your WordPress web developer have styled the following templates so they seamlessly match the look and feel of your main website. There are also hooks that your developer can utilise too to help display content.

Course archives

The course archive page is handled by the following files:

  • archive-course.php
  • loop-course.php
  • content-course.php
Lesson archives

The lesson archive page is handled by the following files:

  • archive-lesson.php
  • loop-lesson.php
  • content-lesson.php
Single course

The individual course page is handled by:

  • Single-course.php
Single lesson

The individual lesson page is handled by:

  • Single-lesson.php
Learner profiles

The learner profile page is handled by:

  • learner-profile.php
Course results

The course results page is handled by:

  • course-results.php
  • course-results/lessons.php
My courses

This page shows a list of the user’s active courses as well as their completed courses;

  • user/my-courses.php
Error notifications

If a user tries to access something they don’t have access to, then the file below handles that;

  • no-permissions.php

Once you’ve ensured all these pages are displaying correctly and match the look and feel of your main WordPress site, you’re nearly there!

Finally, review Sensei’s settings

In the WordPress admin area go into Sensei’s settings and make sure you are happy with how it’s all configured.

For instance, do you want to be notified every time;

  • A new learner signs up
  • A learner completes the entire course
  • A learner completes a quiz
  • A learner submits a quiz for grading (if you’ve chosen to grade quizzes manually)
  • Etc etc…

This is the great thing about using Sensei for your online courses – it’s really configurable.

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So, now that you’re familiar with the plugin and how to add course content, how can you ensure your first online course is a success?

Tops tips for an online course people rave about

It’s one thing finding people to actually sign up to your online course, but it’s quite another to create raving fans who will review your course and tell others about it.

Here are our tops tips for creating top quality course content;

1) Use video

Your online course content is probably going to include text, but make sure to break it up with video as people are visual learners.

This might be you or a staff member(s) talking to a camera, stills with narration over the top, or animated explainer videos. If you don’t want to get in front of the camera yourself, you could hire someone to do a voice over for you and use a video editor from a site like UpWork to help you put the videos together.

We would recommend getting in front of the camera yourself if at all possible. It helps position you as an expert and makes you more credible. For your first online course you could even buy a simple tripod from Amazon, a lapel microphone and shoot the videos on your smartphone.

2) Use quizzes

Throughout your online course, you should test people’s retention. Quizzes break the content up and give your learners something interactive to do and test how well they are retaining the information you are teaching.

You can choose to either grade the quizzes automatically by telling Sensei which answers are correct or you can have your learners submit quizzes for you to manually grade as their tutor.

3) Provide downloadable content

Another way to make your learners feel like they’re getting huge value from your online course is to provide downloadable material to accompany your lessons or modules.

You could even go all out and create a printout or workbook for someone to use whilst working their way through your online course.

4) Provide a certificate

Luckily an extension does this and can be easily configured. Providing your learners with an e-certificate that looks great and is signed by you will give them a real sense of achievement and help cap off their online learning experience.

5) Price it right

If you are going to use your online course to generate revenue, rather than provide it for free to create leads, then you need to price it right.

We would recommend talking to your existing customers again for this. What would they be prepared to pay if they could have problem X, Y, or X solved?

We’ve seen online courses work at £30, £150 and £1000 plus. It’s all about perceived value and how much of an expert you have already positioned yourself or your company to be.

6) Make it easily sharable

People are social animals and like to share positive experiences that make them feel good.

Make it super-easy for people to share your online course and it will help promote it with minimal effort.

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Launching your online course successfully

Test, test and test again. We can’t recommend this highly enough.

The best way to do this is to create a dummy account on your WordPress website and have a go at purchasing and signing up for your online course as if you were a customer.

Try navigating through the content, watching all the videos, and testing the quizzes.

You’ll also want to successfully complete your own course to check that all the relevant emails are coming through to you – e.g. when a learner successfully completes a quiz and when a learner completes the whole course successfully.

We would also recommend that you select two or three of your most trusted customers and give them your course to try for free. Why?

This way you can get real-life feedback from actual users – they may uncover issues you might have missed.

And the added bonus? You can also ask them to review your course once they completed it, which provides you with some testimonials to use when marketing your course after it’s launched for real.

Feeling excited and nervous about this opportunity?

It’s okay to feel a mixture of excitement and nerves. Online learning provides a massive opportunity for most businesses. Having said that you might be feeling nervous because it does mean putting yourself out there.

If this is the case, remember, you are likely to be in business because you’re an expert, or the company you work for is an expert in a particular field.

If this is the case, then that there is the main reason why you should create an online course – you have valuable knowledge you can share which will genuinely help people.

Most of the time we find the main roadblock preventing businesses creating an online course is not having the confidence to do so. If you can get over this go for it, and you can open up a huge additional revenue stream for your business.

Even if you chose not to sell your online course(s) the exposure is very likely to generate more leads.

Would you like to get started with WordPress and online courses?

If you feel inspired and want to get started but need help partnering with a web design and development company that has experience using WordPress, Woocommerce and Sensei to deliver online learning, then get in contact with us.

Even if we don’t work together we’d love to help point you in the right direction.

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