Overcome the challenges of working from home

Costs of creating an online course

Published by Amanda Brown on

This blog is the fifth in the series of posts called Leveraging your Expertise.

In the previous post I wrote about How to Create an Online Course. In this post, we're going to take a look at the basic costs involved if you decide to build the course yourself.

An online course is a website which allows students to log in and consume lessons 24/7

1. Online course creation equipment

Once you have decided on your topic and outlined the modules and lessons, the first decision you have to make is how you're going to deliver your course. Is it going to be by video, audio, text or live on the internet?

The majority of online courses are video-based where the teacher records their speaking voice over a series of slides. Sometimes the expert will capture themselves in the corner of the video or will record themselves face-to-camera. You will have experienced these different approaches on YouTube.

So the first cost is capturing your screen or slides and your voice. There is:

  • Equipment
  • Software


The main expense in recording is a high-quality microphone. I use a Rode Procaster Dynamic microphone which connects to my PC with a USB connection. It's particularly good in at cancelling out surrounding noise. I have a pop filter to suppress explosive p's and b's and to reduce the sibilance (s sounds).

I use Sennheiser headphones which plug into the microphone which are useful for listening to the recordings when editing.

I have a microphone stand and a cradle which reduces interference and makes it easy reach. Here's my set up:

For in-screen video capture (the small face-to-camera in the corner of the screen) I use the Logitech C920

It has been superseded but this model is fit for purpose and is also useful if you use a webcam for Skype or webinars.

For face-to-camera, you can use a smartphone or digital SLR on a tripod together with some inexpensive lighting such as the Neewer 700W Professional lights on stands


I'm a Windows user and have chosen to use Camtasia which is the industry-accepted standard for PC users. There is also a Mac version of Camtasia but most Mac users use software such as ScreenFlow.

You can spend a great deal of time trying to evaluate different alternatives to these products but be quite honest I would make the Investment in one of these two. The cost of a single user licence for Camtasia is currently £235.75 plus an annual optional maintenance fee of about $50. Screenflow is cheaper at about $129.

2. Hosting your resources

Once you have created your videos you will be able to turn them into audio files as well. The mp4 and mp3 files will need to be hosted externally from the course website. The reason for this is that if you host these large files on your website loading time will rapidly diminish which detracts from the user experience.

Once again there are many alternatives for hosting your resources. Many course creators use Vimeo or a private YouTube channel for videos but my preference is to host all the resources in Amazon S3. Amazon S3 is a repository for data. You simply set up an account via your Amazon account and upload your files to your own “bucket” as they call it.

Once you have done this a few times the process is relatively straightforward. There is a charge to use Amazon S3 but it's not more than a few dollars a month. You can spend a lot of time evaluating the different places you can host your resources and this may well hold you back from actually getting on with building the course itself, therefore I would simply choose Amazon.

3. Setting up your website

Having created your course, the next decision is where to host it. Best advice is to have a separate website or subdomain of your existing website which separates your courses from the rest of your pages and blog.

There will be the cost of the domain registration and the hosting of the website which is usually an annual fee. In order to give your customers confidence you should purchase an SSL certificate which is a sign of security. This is registered to your website. In essence this means that instead of http://  the user will see https://.

I would be inclined to work with a local web developer to set up your new domain with efficient hosting, WordPress and SSL certificate installed. This should cost you less than $100. The cost of domain registration and hosting can very quite significantly. Bluehost comes highly recommended and I have a directory site hosted by them.

4. Themes and course plugins

There are three elements to a course website:

  • theme
  • course plugin
  • membership plugin

In simple terms – the theme controls the look, the course plugin provides the structure of the courses and the membership plugin protects the content. Even if you chose exactly the same three elements your course as someone else, they will end up looking very different from one another due to the ability to tailor-make the design.

There are so many different themes which are suitable for building your course website – too many to mention. Selecting a lightweight theme with course building software means you have complete control and autonomy for your course. If you host your course on a platform such as Skillshare you have less flexibility on the course design and you are subject to the platforms' rules.

Choosing the right theme and plugins can be extremely time-consuming. If you would like to know what I have used for the Homepreneur Productivity Course just get in touch.

The costs for building the course vary widely. A theme maybe free or $90+ and plugins also vary from about $190 per annum to several thousand.

The all-in-one digital course platforms such as Teachable charge a monthly fee and, whilst easier to set in the first instance, are more expensive and less flexible in the long run.

There will be other optional smaller costs associated with link shortening, security, back-ups, etc. These are relatively trivial.

5. Getting paid

Whether you choose to use PayPal or another payment processor, there is a cost associated with them collecting payment on your behalf. This is a highly competitive field and fees are very similar. Two main players in this area are Authorize.net and Stripe. Look for providers who don't charge a recurring monthly fee. Here's a review of the main providers.

In summary:

There are multiple moving parts when it comes to creating an online course. I learned from the experience of creating the productivity course that figuring them out from scratch is EXTREMELY time-consuming and can hold you back from the all-important part which is creating the content.

The equipment and software is an investment. You will use them in other parts of your business.

The design and development of the course website is time-consuming but not beyond the skills of most business professionals. There are few web developers who would know the optimal set up for your circumstances. So take control. In this case, learning how to build your own course will pay off even if you outsource it in the future.

Categories: Online learning

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