Online Course Creation Software: What to Know Before Diving In

The right online course creation software can make all the difference. Here are features you should be looking for before making a decision.

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Kelli Pease

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Like every good product on the market, creating a popular and profitable online course begins with a great idea. From sharing your expertise and knowledge in your industry to helping individuals and businesses solve a problem, creating an online course gives you the opportunity to serve your customers and build your brand at the same time.

In order to successfully launch and sell your online course, you’ll need the right tools and a platform to host and deliver your course.

Whether you’re looking to revamp old courses, bring new ones online, or you’re just looking for a better platform, there are many options available to help you reach your goals.

When picking a platform to build online courses on, you need to make sure that it has a robust feature set that can support your — and your clients’ — goals. Here’s what to look for in a learning management system.

Online Course Creation Software: How to Design an Engaging Course

As online learning and e-courses become more popular and attention spans get shorter and shorter, the success of your online course depends on using the right tools and designing your content in a way that’s interesting and engaging enough to keep your students interested from start to finish.

Even with a great idea and the best content for your online course, presentation and delivery are everything. To create a profitable online course that will deliver value to your students (and your brand), you’ll need the right tools.

A good online course consists of a mix of text, audio, video, and collaboration tools that allow students to communicate with each other and create a dynamic learning community.

Presentation is Everything

The process for creating an online course is similar to building a website (by the way, you’ll also need a website to host and sell your course, but more on that later).

Unlike the mostly static content that makes up blogs, books, and other digital products, online courses are layered and have many moving parts that have to fit and flow together seamlessly.

While you can get started organizing and writing your content in Google Docs or Microsoft Word, you’ll eventually have to upgrade to some type of course creation software to make the content interactive.

Online learning and education software tools are like website builders for an e-course: they let you create a professional, finished product without having to code or have extensive technical or software development experience yourself. Anyone can build an online course with the right software, even with little previous experience.

Authoring content is just the first step in creating an online course. You also have to consider factors like design, user experience, security, tools to create video and audio files, testing to track student progress, analytics and reporting tools, collaboration tools, security and troubleshooting, and e-commerce capabilities to sell the course and manage payments.

With so many options to choose from, narrowing down and picking the best program for your needs can be overwhelming. The best course building software program for your needs depends on a number of factors including:

  • Type and complexity of your content
  • Course building tools
  • Size and scale of your business or organization
  • Geographic location of your students/where will the course be offered
  • Platform students will use to access the course
  • Course administrator tools
  • Your tech skills/level of expertise
  • Your budget
  • Plans to edit/expand course content in the future
  • E-commerce tools
  • Marketing needs and capabilities
  • Hosting and file storage

If you’re not sure where or how to start, a course outline can help you figure out how much functionality you’ll actually need in the beginning, so that you don’t spend too much time or money on software tools that you don’t really need.

Essential Features and Functionality for an Online Course

Every online course is different. You want to create unique and exclusive content that will give your students the most value for their time and money, and that will also distinguish your brand or organization in the marketplace. However, there are a few things that successful online courses have in common.

Global Access

One of the greatest benefits of creating an online course is the opportunity to reach a global audience and deliver a great learning experience to anyone, anywhere in the world. With a few exceptions, e-learning is borderless and delivers educational material that students or clients can access from anywhere at any time.

The course building software and platform you choose to host and administer your course has to account for the fact that your students will most likely be purchasing and accessing your course from various regions around the world, on multiple devices, and with varying degrees of connectivity depending on where they live.

The content and all of the tools in your course have to be available 24/7, and guarantee uniform access whether your students are working from a co-working space in Los Angeles or New York during business hours, or late at night in Singapore or India.

Analytics and Testing Capabilities

Sales are just one way to measure how well your online course is doing. Unlike selling a book or a podcast, an online course is an ongoing transaction.

In order to know how well students are retaining the material and progressing through the course, you’ll need reporting and testing capabilities to measure progress (especially if you’re offering credits or credentials with the completion of the course).


There are several layers of security involved with selling an online course. In addition to the standard security concerns that come with hosting a basic website, you’ll also need to be sure that your course content is locked down.

Your students’ course registration and payment information also needs to be secured, so you’ll need course management software that can handle every layer of security to ensure that your company and customers are well protected.

Responsive Design

You might not be familiar with the phrase, but you are absolutely familiar with what it is. When you build an app or a website that’s responsive, that functionally means that it will dynamically update to look good on any screen — regardless of if it’s your laptop, an iPhone, any Android phone, or a tablet.

This is important for a handful of reasons. For starters, you don’t want your users on different platforms to have drastically different experiences. Likewise, it’s impossible to account for every device — so instead of designing custom pages for everyone, responsive design lets you cover a wide range of users without having to create something custom for every possible screen combination.

According to industry data, almost 70% of students were using mobile devices to access and complete their coursework in 2018. As more people work from home and perform more and more essential tasks remotely, responsive design is critical to making your online course available to a diverse global audience.

A platform that is responsive will allow you to accommodate more users, regardless of if they’re on their phones or computers.

Paced Content

Every course is different — as is the pace of every course. Sometimes, you’ll want to give enrollees everything they need to complete the class immediately. Other times, however, you’ll want to slowly drip content to them.

In the case of the latter, you’ll want precise control over when students gain access to information. You might want them to have a week to focus on one specific lesson, but only a few days for another.

Customization is key — you want to really be able to tailor your courses toward the individual needs of the people taking them.

Customization/Brand Integration

Online course building software makes it possible to create and sell professional and beautifully designed courses with little to no design and programming experience. Even first-time course creators can design and sell highly profitable online courses by choosing and customizing a few templates.

However, the last thing you want is to end up with a generic or cookie cutter product. The software and platform you choose should come with the tools you need to create a great product according to your skills and comfort level, with the flexibility to customize and integrate your content with your own branding and existing website and marketing materials.

Accreditation Support

Maybe you want to add an extra incentive for taking your course — or maybe you’re specifically building it with accreditation in mind. Building around CECs, CEUs and CMEs should be easy with the right course creation software. Administering and assigning credits and certificates should be a breeze — it shouldn’t be something you have to think about.

To support accreditation, you’ll likely also need thorough and robust testing modules to meet program requirements. Once again, that should be something you don’t have to think very hard about with the appropriate course creation software.

(Our guide on creating an online fitness certification program might be able to give you additional insight here.)

Good UX

Even tech savvy students who feel comfortable with technology and online learning platforms demand smart, intuitive design. That means that if you want to keep your students engaged, your course materials will have to be well designed, be easy to navigate and understand, and have a logical and intuitive flow.

Your course materials should be multifaceted and challenging, but you don’t want to overload students with more information and material than they can possibly digest, or make the navigation and access so complicated and confusing that they get overwhelmed and give up.

Tech Support

From tech glitches to customer service and payment processing issues, you’ll need access to a good tech support team as you build and sell your online course. Make sure that you choose a software package and program that can provide the level of service and support that you’ll need, especially as your course offerings grow and expand.

Learning Management Systems

A learning management system (LMS) brings all of the tools you need to create and sell an online course under one umbrella, to make the process as seamless and cost effective as possible. Rather than paying for and learning a range of different software tools, an LMS can provide all of the tools you need in a single interface, from the templates you need to design and publish your course content, to website hosting, analytics and reporting, branding and marketing, accreditation support, and e-commerce tools.

Our learning management system can take your online course from an idea all the way through to your first sale and beyond. For more information and to get a firsthand look at our platform’s features and functionality tools, contact us today or request a demo to get started.