When thinking about creating a video course, there are a number of key considerations to be aware of first. These mostly come down to the kind of impression that you wish to make on the visitor or buyer of the video course, the ease with which the video course can be set up in the first place, and what features need to be provided to the students on the course.
Own Studio vs. Professional Studio
Depending on whether you wish to manage the video creation and editing aspects yourself or to use a professional recording studio, there are different approaches to take.
A professional studio is a local arrangement where one hires a studio for a number of hours or days at a stretch. The studio will already have their own professional-level equipment, including top-of-the-line digital cameras, green screen and other backdrops to make image editing easier. There will also be studio-quality microphones and good lighting arrangements.
The cost of hiring a studio is expensive on an hourly basis, especially if the studio is also providing video and audio editing services as part of the package. Certainly, purchasing a package deal is a better idea than paying by the hour because the time it takes to professionally record even a one hour video segment is much longer than one would imagine. If you consider that the filming of a 44 minute TV episode can easily take a week for a team of professionals, this provides some idea of the time demands of professional-quality recording.
For location independent entrepreneurs or digital nomads wanting to create products in between travelling to different countries, using professional studio services requires planning around being in locations where they can access studios and hire them for recording purposes. Dealing with the language and cultural barrier when trying to get professional results will be more of a challenge when attempting this; recording a video course in your home country is the ideal solution.
When developing a recording studio to record from an office, a home location or even from abroad, the amount of equipment and software needed varies depending on what level of quality is required.
Ideally, a separate soundproofed room should be set up as a studio. For people who don’t have this option, they will either need to record at a quieter time of the day for less ambient background noise or use clip-on microphone that focuses audio reception mainly from the microphone source which reduces the external sounds picked up in the recording. Editing can also help to remove ambient noise later.
A common setup is a DSLR camera like the Canon EOS 700D / Rebel T5I Digital SLR camera. This can be fitted with a camera tripod, so that the presenter can stand in front of the camera and teach their video course. This type of camera has a viewfinder that can be turned around so that the presenter can see whether they are lined up properly for distance, height and overall frame composition. Other accessories can be an added like a microphone that sits on top of the camera to pick up audio at a distance.
The Canon cameras tend not to be the best at picking up quality audio from a distance. Many presenters choose a clip-on microphone that can be connected to a digital recording device, a smartphone with an audio recording app, or another type of wireless solution to improve the audio quailty. This creates a separate audio track which then needs to be merged with the complete video recording in the initial editing pass. However, typically, the audio recording quality is far superior with a clip-on microphone which can do an excellent job of picking up vocal audio track while not recording ambient sounds.
A light box, or two, is also useful. These are free standing boxes with lighting rigs that help to light up the area of the room where the recording will take place. Digital recording is susceptible to low light conditions, so adding additional light makes a big difference.
On the software side, Audacity can be used as an open-source, multi-track audio editing software package. With video editing, some of the popular choices include Final Cut Pro X, Final Cut Studio, and Adobe Premiere Pro CC. For successful video editing, an Intel i5 Core or faster quad-core processor with 8GB or 16GB of RAM memory installed is recommended. Whilst 720p video clips can be edited smoothly on a basic PC, editing and rendering 1080p or Ultra 4K video (especially the latter) can turn into a stuttering, stop/start frustrating affair when doing a considerable amount of editing on a low-end PC or Mac (even a Macbook Air tends to have problems with 1080p and 4K video video content editing).
Outsourcing Video Editing
It is, of course, possible to record your own presentation for a video course and then outsource the editing of video and audio to other people with the right software and experience. This can be done via Fiverr.com gigs or through other freelancing sites.
Creating a Video Course: The Basics
Create a Video Course for a Specific Audience
With a video course, it is a good idea to have an existing audience in mind. If the audience is already a follower via an email list or even in a private or public Facebook group, then why not canvas their opinion on what courses they’d find most useful?
The responses received back will likely be all over the place (showing the diversity of the group of followers) but quite often one or two repeated suggestions will pop up. These can be around pain points or issues that people in the group are finding difficulties with and would benefit from some teaching on.
Decide on the Structure of the Course Segments
A video course is made up of segments. These may be called segments, modules, or use another name, but it’s all the same thing.
Each segment can include audio, video, workbooks and other materials to help teach the subject of that segment in the most effective way. Do bear in mind that people learn best in different ways: some learn better by reading, others visually, and still more people learn better through audio. For this reason, a mix of teaching materials can help all types of learners feel right at home.
Break down the subject matter into natural subjects for each segment. This can be simply a series of questions that regularly come up about a problem that is being covered as a course, or it can be a planned logical step-by-step approach. Whichever is most effective is perfectly fine.
If you’re thinking that you can simply stand in front of a camera for the first time, talk to the lens and teach off-the-cuff, you’re probably mistaken. We’re not all natural teachers or presenters. Many of us are camera shy even in these days of endless selfies.
Due to the difficulty in presenting well, it is important to work on the material to know what you will say on video, where the emphasis on the material needs to be to get the point across powerfully, and plan it out fully.
Students need a logical, step-by-step course that they can understand in their mind and following along. If the course is disorganised, repetitive or doesn’t successfully teach the core concepts properly, the course will be poorly reviewed.
For many course creators, they may benefit from working with a writer to help turn initial scribbled ideas into a workable script that they can speak. Alternatively, being able to bounce ideas off a friend or a colleague, and even to present to them and see how they react, can be helpful.
Be careful with well-meaning advice from good friends who tell you that you’re doing well when really your presentation skills still need some work. If you’re finding it too challenging to present, you may wish to take a short public speaking or a digital video presentation course to become more comfortable speaking to a camera.
Whether you’ve decided to work with a professional recording studio or to go it alone, you’ll need to present to a camera. It is a good idea to record in 1080p or even Ultra 4K wide-screen video formats even if you plan to distribute the course in a lower resolution as it provides some future proofing.
Once recorded, the audio streams will need to be merged with the video streams. Following the sync up, the video will need to be edited into segments for easier consumption. The editing process can be time-consuming, but the rendering of the completed edit into a final video can take a number of hours per video, depending on each video length, the amount of cuts in each edit, and how powerful the computer is that will be performing the task.
Rending to video is a subject in itself. If you plan to host the video online, then unfortunately more than one video format will be needed as most modern web browsers can only display certain video formats (with the major exception being Google Chrome). This subject is covered more in the video course hosting section further down in this article.
Intros, Title Cards, Graphics, and Music
For those of you who wish to edit the video yourself, it may still be advantageous to outsource the creation of video title cards or intros to introduce each segment in a professional manner. Graphics that can be used on a website relating to each segment, or even a musical backing track, can add to the video, depending on the niche being taught.
Website & Hosting: What Are The Choices?
With an online course, there are several choices for how to offer the course to customers over the internet.
The first option is to have your own website. This can either be a part of a larger site or with a separate domain and hosting, i.e. thecustomercourse.com.
The second option is the use a commercial video course solution that makes it much easier to get a video course up and running quickly. This will be better suited to you if you’re not technically savvy or prefer an all-in-one solution.
Having your own website is an excellent way to have complete control over how the course is offered.
Consider Hosting Accounts Very Carefully
With your own website, you are responsible for arranging a suitable hosting account. These may run from shared hosting accounts where hundreds of websites are hosted on a single, typically under-powered server. There is also the option to use a dedicated server or cloud server hosting which provides greater bandwidth capacity to handle sudden bursts of traffic when a product is released.
If you’re planning to do a launch for a product, you will need to think seriously about what hosting account is required to avoid the possibility that the site will fail on the launch day due to the traffic volume or the web host deciding to terminate the site hosting due to exceeding bandwidth limits. This could cost a fortune if handled improperly.
WordPress Is An Excellent Software Platform
Whilst there are many different ways to approach having a paid membership site, the most popular option is to use the WordPress content management system as a front-end. This enables you (or a developer) to add in WordPress plug-ins which dramatically increase its functionality.
These plug-ins are either free or premium. The premium options allow customers to purchase a plug-in that offers many additional features at a fraction of the price of what it would have cost to hire a developer privately to create a similar standalone website.
Premium WordPress Plug-ins
For a video course site, it is possible to either use a premium membership theme to create an educational feel to the site or to use a premium plug-in like OptimizePress or LeadPages in combination with a membership plug-in like WishList Member.
The cost of these types of plug-ins can be around $200-300 for a one-off purchase. The main difference between OptimizePress and LeadPages is that the latter requires a monthly subscription which gets expensive over time whereas OptimizePress is a single purchase.
Learning Management System
There are also many Learning Management Systems (LMS) WordPress themes that offer a single solution to create a WordPress site that looks like an educational site. These types of themes are useful for video courses, schools, universities, online teaching sites, and more.
Many of the themes integrate a number of WordPress plug-ins to add additional functionality like coursework plans, class calendar, payment processing, and more.
Hire Out For The Tricky Bits
It is possible to install WordPress, purchase these WordPress plug-ins and set about configuring your website. However, even if you have a reasonable amount of experience working with the basics of WordPress, it is an uphill struggle to create a video course due to the complexity. For this reason, it would usually be a better idea to purchase the software and pay a web developer to implement the solution for you.
Bear in mind that with the purchase of plug-ins, you should talk with developers and decide on a developer before purchasing the WordPress premium products. The reason is, each developer will have experience working with a different collection of plug-ins. Therefore, you want to let them work with what they are used to or what is commercially popular.
There are other membership plug-ins available, but finding a developer to help later with urgent changes can be a real problem when few developers know anything about the little known plug-in. For this reason, it’s also a good idea to stick with tried and true plug-ins where there is a deep pool of developers who know how to set up and optimise the software correctly. WishList Member is a good example of a membership plug-in that many web developers know how to configure properly.
Video Hosting: Self-host or Outsource?
Video hosting is a topic unto itself. Whilst you may have a YouTube channel and believe YouTube is an ideal way to have videos hosted, it is important to consider all the options. It is also possible to host your own videos with your current web host and some people are comfortable with that option.
It can seem like a good idea to self-host a collection of videos. Perhaps you have successfully done so on a small scale before and believe this will be no different with a video course. Let’s look at some of the issues.
The server bandwidth may be insufficient to handle multiple people trying to access, buffer and play the same video clip at the same time. The web host may have a file size limit for hosting files or storage size restrictions which prevent storing many larger video files on their hard drives, partly to avoid customers trying to host videos. Web servers are also not naturally configured to host videos successfully.
A larger problem is a technical issue with HTML5 and Flash. Flash content which people still often use via a Flash video player is not generally viewable on a Mac or iOS device and with a PC it can often crash the web browser. The number of security updates with Flash makes users not want to use it. The latest video player standard is HTML5, but it’s not working in a uniform manner…
The HTML5 standard doesn’t specify which video format is required. As a result, Firefox plays WebM and OGG videos, but not MP4 (H.264). Internet Explorer and Safari play MP4 (H.264) videos happily, but not OGG or WebM. Only Google’s Chrome browser plays nicely with a variety of video formats. The net result of this is when self-hosting videos, they need to be encoded in several different video formats and uploaded individually to the server for every video segment on the course.
Video playback quality also looks different depending on the web browser, platform, video file format, and video player. There is no uniform experience for customers looking at videos on a video course.
As you can tell, self-hosting your videos almost always is a bad idea.
Videos can be hosted through a dedicated video hosting provider. This is a situation where your website is still hosting with your own web host connected to your business domain name, but the videos themselves are hosted on other servers and simply embedded onto your site. Depending on how this is handled, it can make life much simpler and in many cases avoids a situation where bandwidth is exceeded or the server is unable to handle the number of customers wanting to play a video at a same time.
What are the better outsourced video hosting options?
YouTube has the option to host videos on their servers (YouTube is owned by Google) but not include the video in its main directory. The video is essentially hidden from view from the main visitors to YouTube. The idea behind this approach is that viewers will need the exact URL of the video location to know it’s there and to access it. However, this can usually be discovered fairly easily and the video downloaded; not ideal for a paid membership video course where you want the videos to stay private and protected.
Amazon S3 is a cloud-based storage system for content archiving, file storage and hosting requirements. Some membership sites use the robust Amazon S3 data storage solution to host their videos. The bandwidth costs to stream gigabytes of data is inexpensive.
There are specialist membership plug-ins that can handle using Amazon S3 for video hosting. There is also a script, S3FlowShield, which can be used in conjunction with WordPress and may be able to hide the path to the videos stored in the Amazon S3 cloud. This helps to stop them being downloaded and given away for free elsewhere.
The system can work for some people, but this is a specialist solution that is not the easiest to implement for users. It requires deep knowledge of how to correctly configure the S3 hosting via a “bucket system” in the cloud. Hiring a web developer who is familiar with hosting videos on Amazon S3 and setting it up on a membership site is the way to go here.
Vimeo PRO has emerged as perhaps the best provider for truly private video hosting geared towards membership sites.
Videos can be added to a Pro account while being excluded from the public Vimeo directory. Videos may also be restricted so that they can only be embedded on a particular domain which prevents thieves from offering the videos for free on competing websites. Passwords can also be added to videos to provide further protection from illicit access.
The bandwidth is unlimited which removes a lot of worry over excess video hosting costs. Statistics can easily be accessed to see which videos are being viewed the most. A single video (MP4 H.264 AAC format is best) can be uploaded and the Vimeo service will also take care of the conversion to support all web browsers which use different video formats.
Overall, choosing to manage a video course website and deal with the hosting of both the site and its videos is a challenge. Whether you’re up for the challenge will depend on your previous experience with web development, WordPress, site hosting and video hosting systems. If you’ve barely gotten any experience in each of these areas, then it is highly suggested that you either hire a professional web developer to create the site for you (check that they’ve produced video course websites before) or use a third party video course solution like ones of those discussed below.
Third Party Video Course Solutions
A third party video course solution is a hosted option where you can pay to access a pre-configured system. There will be a procedure to follow step-by-step instructions that explain what to do. Pre-designed templates can be selected to take the fuss out of choosing how the site will look. Videos can be uploaded and converted for you quickly. Payment systems for payment processor sites like PayPal can be integrated easily.
The idea behind these services is to make it easier for non-programmers to publish a video course online quickly without needing to hire a web developer to do so and avoid all the fuss surrounding video hosting at the same time.
The cost varies from video course solution provider to video course provider. Usually, though, there is a monthly fee that is ongoing and the service will often take a cut of the sales in the region of 10 percent.
With these fees, which can seem higher initially, it is important to bear in mind that you cut out the time spent creating a solution yourself or outsourcing the task to a web developer. The ongoing cost of video hosting, the purchase of the web site software and other either one-off or ongoing costs can all be set aside when opting for a third party video course provider.
Who’s The Big Daddy of Online Courses?
The current answer to this question is Udemy. The team at Udemy has stated that they wish to disrupt education and want to enable anyone to acquire knowledge from experts.
Udemy Courses Can Have A Little Bit Of Everything
With Udemy courses, they are quite flexible. A course can include videos, PowerPoint slides, PDF documents and other elements to make up a complete course.
The number of current students in the course can be seen by website visitors and there is a rating system that buyers actively use to gauge and report on the value of courses being sold on the Udemy platform.
Udemy Fees & Udemy Affiliates
Udemy do take a big chunk out of the sales. There is also a Udemy Affiliate program, which offers up to 60 percent commission to affiliates who refer a website visitor over to Udemy.com and the visitor subsequently purchases a course. These two factors can eat heavily into potential earnings.
Flash Sales, Reduced Proceeds, Higher Sales Numbers
Whilst course prices can be anything from $5 up to $200+, the company frequently offers flash sales with steep discounts down to $19 or $29. This boosts the sales, but doesn’t pay particularly well for course creators. Buyers are able to strategically wait for the next flash sale before buying a course to avoid paying full price.
There’s also a curious thing going on with Udemy presently. Udemy tracks the amount of traffic that you personally generate, i.e. people visiting your course page from your own website, which leads to sales. The more people that you personally refer, the more traffic Udemy tends to send to your courses which in turns helps sell more.
Essentially, the company seems to reward participants who promote their own courses because it helps bring in more customers to Udemy overall. For this reason, good self-promoters tends to fare better on the Udemy platform than course creators who want to put up a course and just hope for the best.
The statistics that Udemy provides to its course creators breaks down where sales originated. This can be from organic traffic, i.e. traffic from Google and other sources, referrals from affiliates, traffic that the course creator provided themselves, etc. The data provided is extremely useful to help understand how well courses are performing week to week.
Teachable is an up and coming online learning site, that is gaining some traction. The likes of Joanna Penn, The Next Web, And Ryan Holiday have successfully launched digital courses on this platform.
The team behind Teachable grew tired of the limited control and access to student data when selling courses on Udemy and decided to hang out their own shingle.
Easy Import to Create Courses Quickly
Their platform lets customers import images, text, video, and audio content from many locations including Udemy itself, Box and Dropbox cloud accounts, and other places.
Access Customer Data to Build Email List from Course Buyers
Course owners can hand over the video hosting and payment processing chores, but get to build their mailing list with customers who bought their video course. This is a crucial aspect to using Teachable and one of the main reasons it is catching on fast with digital marketers.
Use of the platform is free, however, each transaction incurs a 1% transaction fee and 10% charge. There is also a monthly recurring fee option, which eliminates the $1 transaction fee and reduces the 10% charge to reflect what’s already been paid in the monthly fee. There are four account types, with only some allowing full white label courses to separate completely from the Teachable platform in the eyes of the course students.
Thinkific looks quite similar to Teachable in many ways. There is the option to self-host a course under the white label course system when buying the Business course subscription.
For the more technically minded, Thinkific integrates with SumoMe, Segment.io, Lead Dyno and Zapier.
There is also a nice feature where content can be released on a schedule rather than everything being available from day one when paying for a course. This will be a popular feature for internet marketers with courses.
Thinkific looks to be taking on Teachable head-to-head with their pricing plans. Several of the plans are significantly lower priced and offer similar features like PayPal integration with white label course access. There is also a $0 starter plan which takes a 10% cut of the sale in the same way that Teachable does.
Deciding which path to take with your video course largely depends on how much work with you wish to put in and what your budget is. Presently, the route for many online entrepreneurs seems to be offering smaller video courses on Udemy and other quick learning platforms and hosting larger teaching products on their own websites. This blended approach offers good exposure to the large number of people using sites like Udemy looking to learn something new, but also helps to bring new visitors to their main business site later on.
Like with many online ventures, the success rates are not always the highest. Several online course platforms boast the number of courses sold, revenue generated and students taught. With some quick calculations, this often reveals that the average course fails to generate more than a few hundred dollars on average. This revenue is also skewed heavily by the courses that are hugely successful which pushes the average revenue up artificially.
Launching a video course on either your own website or a site like Udemy is not a “set it and forget it” solution to lifelong income. Even before a video course has been created, smart teachers look at how they will drum up initial interest in the course even before it has been created. Then, when it’s launching and in the months thereafter they understand that ongoing promotion is necessary to keep their courses selling well. In most cases, courses simply won’t sell themselves in sufficient number to make it worth the time to create them without promotion.
With that said, courses don’t take a hundred hours to create (in most cases) and so they can be great sources of (mostly) passive income for those people who are motivated to create and promote them.