Everyone seem to be running an online course these days and rightly so. It is one of the most profitable passive online business model there is. You’ve heard of all the benefits and if you’re reading this, you probably don’t want to miss out either. But my guess is, you’re not quite ready to cough up a few thousand dollars to have one built for you. So what’s the alternative? Well, build it yourself of course.
Building an online course with WordPress is not that much different from building a normal membership site. You can use the same theme and even the same plugin. The only thing that would differ is the way you would arrange your content.
In the next few posts, I will share with you the process that I use to build simple online courses using WordPress. I’m making the assumption that you have at least some basic WordPress skills. So, you know how to add a post or a page and you know the difference between the two. You also know how to install plugins and themes. If you don’t, then I recommend you checkout the video tutorials at WP Beginner.
Ok, now that is out of the way, here’s what we’ll be covering in this series:
- Installing a theme and setting it up for an online course.
- Creating membership pages for the membership site.
- Installing a membership plugin and setting up content protection.
- Structuring your course content.
- Setting up menus to help members navigate easily.
Installing a Theme & Setting It Up For An Online Course
I like to start an online course membership site on a fresh WordPress install. You can add it to your existing site but I find it easier to minimize plugin conflicts when you have it on a separate install.
Many like to use exactly the same theme with exactly the same look and feel. With the same menu items, for example. But I like to keep the membership site clean and sleek.
The way I see it, our members have already signed up to our course. There is no need to impress them with fancy sliding images. What you need is an easy to navigate interface, so that they can find what they signed up for easily without having to comb through irrelevant content. Though you may remove a lot of unnecessary features from the site, It is important to keep your branding consistent with your main site, so that members know they’re in the right place.
Here’s my main site (left) compared to my membership site (right):
My goto theme, when building online courses, is Divi. I like it because it is easy to customize the site to match the main site and it has layout templates that shortens the building process whilst still leaving a professional look.
The only major downside to using the Divi theme is that it could possibly be a lifetime decision. Once you start using Divi, it will be hard to change over to a new theme especially if you use their proprietary modules and elements extensively.
I don’t worry too much about it though. ElegantThemes, the company behind the Divi theme, has been around for a long time and is continuously improving their products. So, you don’t have to worry about it going obsolete. It also has a big following, and you’ll find that if you want something done to the theme, someone else would have probably figured it out first.
Once you’ve installed your theme of choice, there are a couple of things you need to do. First, is to customize the theme to be consistent with your branding. As I mentioned before, the site does not have to look exactly like your main site. Here are just some things you can do to achieve this consistency:
- Upload your logo & favicon
If you’re using Divi, you can upload your logo and favicon from within the Theme Options. This will instantly make your membership site recognizable to your members.
- Choose an accent color and color scheme
Most themes would allow you to choose an accent color. Take a look at your main site and see what one color is used consistently across your site and set it as the accent color in your membership site theme options. With the Divi theme, setting the accent color will automatically be applied to 20 other elements in the theme.
- Choose your fonts
Choose your header and body font to match that of your main site. Again, this can be done in your theme settings.
- Add a footer
Once the theme has been branded, next I would go about changing certain WordPress settings. First, I would change the Homepage in the Reading Settings to a specific page. I would rename the Sample page, that comes with a fresh WordPress install, to Home and select it as the Homepage.
Next, I uncheck the option in Media Settings to Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders. Unlike a blog, your online course will contain less media items. Having them all in one folder makes it easier to find them if you need to work with them via other mediums such as FTP.
Finally, I would make sure that the permalink is set to Post name as opposed to /%category%/%postname%/ that is often used with blogs. You don’t have to do this but in the long run as you add online courses, it just makes things easier to keep everything organized.
In the next post in this series, we will start building the structure of your online course. So, stay tuned.