If you are passionate about something, or you love teaching other people, virtual learning will be beneficial for both parties involved, all done inside with just a computer/laptop at your disposition. You can teach/learn school subjects, cooking recipes, heck you can even teach/learn how to play golf online.
You might think that setting up a website where you can virtually provide online courses is complicated or exhausting, but all there is to it is some hard work and effort. Here we will give you a step by step procedure on how you can arrange a highly functional online class.
Here to your service, we have provided some simple and easy steps on how you can create an online class or start an online course all with the help of WordPress.
The beauty of it is that you don’t have geographical restraints, you could be teaching/learning from all over the world, all you need is a good connection. You can choose to hold courses live or record them and use them as materials. You can use online classes to run your business, you can even turn online classes into a business. All is possible in today’s world.
In the past few weeks, we have witnessed a major change in our mundane lives, where all our in-person activities have been transformed into virtual ones. So if you are looking to take your skills to the next level and share your knowledge with others, now would be a perfect time.
Join us in this article as we will give you a handbook typish editorial on how you can set up an online virtual classroom in a few easy steps.
Steps you need to take to create an online class
As I have mentioned before setting up an online classroom will not be a challenging task and we will make sure to provide you with the best tools possible, it just requires commitment. Let’s start breaking down the scheme into smaller particles that when combined will give you the results needed.
- First off, you will need a platform where your students can reach you and your lectures, meaning, first you will need to create a website
- A sign-up platform where students can have access to lectures and classes
- You will need tools to communicate with your students, email would be a great example
- There are two types of online classes you can provide, you can pre-record your lectures and hand it to your students, again you will need a sharing platform for this
- Or you can handle live video streaming and live chat for synchronous sessions
- A way for you and your students to interact with each other
- You will also need an LMS (Learning Management System) and/or Membership Site, in our case will be a plugin
- And technical gadgets like camera or microphone
Now that we went through our list of must-haves it is time to get into action and get ready to set up your online class. Follow our lead.
Creating a WordPress website
First in our to-do-list is most certainly is building an online platform where you can enter and execute your tasks and materials. WordPress is a perfect choice since you can create anything you put your heart to with the right plugins, that add functionality to WordPress.
Here are some benefits of WordPress:
- It is an open free source, you can download it without paying a dime (although you will need to pay for hosting and domain which we will cover later on this section)
- You can create any kind of website without having to write a single line of code
- With the help of plugins, you can integrate highly functional features (those too can be pricey, some of them, but they also offer free basic features that will get you running on your first steps)
If you wish to learn more about WordPress or other CMS you can check out this article.
If you have established to go for creating your own website, instead of third-party platforms then, it is time we roll in and see what we need to do. The entire process is actually very simple, it is built for people of all categories, meaning it doesn’t require any technical heavy-lifting.
First off, start by coming up with a domain name and choose a reputable hosting company. Depending on your budget, we would recommend Bluehost. Why? It is is a well-known web host that’s optimized for WordPress so it will make sure your website runs smooth, you can get a domain name for free for 1 year, it is easy to use and beginner-friendly and it comes cheap – you can start your plat at €2.68/mo*.
An alternative option for Bluehow can be SiteGround which is another great hosting provider, very popular and offers cheap basic plan or WP Engine, a hosting provider solely for WordPress but comes a bit pricey starting from $30 per month.
WordPress installation is easy peasy and fast, being the most used CMS software WordPress has its perks with most of the hosting providers having a built-in one-click install process.
Bluehost has an automatic WordPress installation and will perform the task for you, it will provide you with an easy to use wizard that takes you through the process of installing WordPress on your hosting setup, you won’t have to worry about that.
If you want to install WordPress by yourself you can follow this guide.
Upon installation of WordPress, you would have completed the first and most important job, now all there is to do is add some layers of functionality with the help of plugin to get your website working and start running that online class. Let’s get moving with other steps.
A platform where students can sign up to your online class
As we said WordPress usage varied from a simple personal blog website to a multi-paged complex store, all of them have their own special requirements, features, and functionality. If you are looking to create online classes then a sign-up plugin would be first on the list.
A sign-up plugin is perfect for understanding crucial information on your prospective students, you would want to know how many of them will follow up with the course, and you will be able to prepare your material accordingly, you can carefully organize the new users on your site and collect added information about your students by creating custom fields.
WP Forms Lite is a powerful user registration and login plugin that allows you to create sing up forms from which you can register your students, all you need to do is install the plugin from you WordPress Dashboard, you can see our article on how to install a plugin for more details. This plugin offers a premium plan as well, with lots of high-end features for payment procedures.
Another alternative plugin for creating a signup page for your online classes would be User Registration. Again you will need to first install the plugin from the WordPress Dashboard and get started, once over that you can navigate to the plugin in the left sidebar, and click Add New. This plugin offers a drag & drop user registration profile builder within WordPress.
Communicate with your students via email
It is of vital importance to be able to communicate with your students while you are setting up your online class and after, no matter what kind of courses you provide.
With so many online platforms at the palm of our hands, you would want to make the best choice, one that you will be able to reach all of your students, no exception.
You can opt for Facebook, Twitter or any other social platform but email has been and is continuing to be the reigning means of communication among all ages. Besides you just implemented a user registration plugin where students will sign in using their email addresses because it would be weird to ask them for their twitter account.
Instead, focus on finding a reputable email service that will provide you with the tools necessary to send out and receive emails. Starting out you would want to head off with a welcoming and supportive manner from the beginning with a personal and course introduction, an approachable syllabus, and an interactive introduction discussion sets the tone for the class.
In the light of these facts, a respected email service plugin would do the trick, which is why we recommend WP Courseware for ConvertKit. Once the plugin is configured, you can begin to attach courses to forms, sequences, or tags.
Simply, when a student enrolls in a course attached to one of these elements, the student will become a subscriber and be subscribed to a form, a sequence and/or be tagged. This is an automated feature that will be of enormous help when running multiple online classes.
Online classes have the opportunity to either be held on a live platform or you can pre-record your materials and hand them out to your students.
Recorded lectures will give you the flexibility to run an asynchronous online class where you could include a wider group of people, students aren’t all together in class at the same time due to geographical reasons or working schedule, and class activities don’t take place in real-time.
You can schedule your lectures and let students learn at their own pace with an unlimited replay option to revise the information as many times as they need.
Therefore, start recording your own video and post it online. Depending on your course topic you could record a lecture explaining a topic in front of a white simple board just like you would do in a real class.
You could also record your screen where you structure your presentation content and show your PowerPoint slides to enhance your key points. An excellent choice to create and edit your videos online would be Hippo Video which is an all-in-one online video tool for education and online classes.
It takes care of the entire life cycle of video, from creating, editing, hosting, sharing to tracking your videos. Best of it is that you can save and share video lectures to your Google Drive, YouTube, Vimeo or Google Classroom.
When using WordPress you can easily embed your videos on your website via YouTube or Vimeo. With Hippo Video you can choose between webcam, screen record, and an audio option to start recording. Or import your videos from anywhere and start off with video editing. You can also make use of the Chrome Extension to record and narrate over your screen.
Audio-visual conference platforms for live lectures
Structured classrooms taught live by an instructor for some will have advantages over pre-recorded lessons. Virtual online classes will create inspiring, interconnected learning experiences and deliver a more personalized learning experience for students.
Of course, in order to create a fully professional learning experience via audio-visual conference you would have to gather any resources needed, establish a meeting time and tell your students aware of how to connect to you/your room in a certain time.
But this kind of online class will give students the ability to create interactive connections and give them that classical, typical classroom experience.
In order for learning to happen synchronously, teachers and students must be able to interact in real-time. Using video-conferencing software such as Adobe Connect, Zoom, or Google Hangouts allows participants in the class to see and hear one another, thus fostering community and genuine back-and-forth discussion.
Google Hangouts offers an excellent free choice of video conferencing for multiple people usage. However, if you plan on having more than 20 people at the conference their free plan won’t support that, you will have to upgrade to a plaid plan, Hangouts Pro is just at $9 a month and can accommodate up to 50 users at once.
Zoom is one of the most widely used platforms among online class proteges, and for good reason so, since it provides a place where groups of people can meet and chat with each other, share content like texts, web links, video and audio files, pictures and a presentation, the opportunity to record meetings so that students can watch parts of the session again later or the videos can be shared with students who missed the session also chat rooms where students can communicate with each other.
Zoom is an easy-to-use platform and the interface is relatively intuitive. You can integrate Zoom with WordPress easily, you can create your Zoom meetings from the WordPress dashboard and conduct meetings directly on your WordPress site by simply using a shortcode using Zapier.
Student Interaction with each other
One important task you must remember is to allow interaction between students in an online class. Use virtual collaboration among students that involve meeting specific goals – such as selecting a topic for an assignment, or define the research responsibilities, tasks for each team member and build rapport through frequent contact.
There are many online free sources you can get help from, one being Slack, which is an A-class communication platform where you can create a chatroom, or channel, for each topic that you address in your online course.
In addition, you can have channels for introductions and off-topic discussions, which should help to keep course-related channels focused on the course content.
Zoom also offers chat opportunities that can be used by students to communicate with each other and interact on different topics between one another, use the platform to conduct research together or to help out each other when one is staggering in a lesson.
Another option for online chat program can be Discord a communication channel offering conversations over voice, video, and text.
And when running a WordPress website a plugin would be the obvious choice, you can go for a forum plugin such as BuddyPress a go-to solution for online communities.
It is perfect for special groups like sports teams or schools, with this plugin your students will be able to discuss hot topics and topics related to learning materials. It’s like a social network or online community, where users make profiles, join groups, and send private messages.
Learning Management System LMS and Membership Website Plugins
If you are serious about creating an online class that will last longer or you want to create an online course on a subject you are fond of then an LMS – Learning Management System is not to be overlooked at.
It is a necessity for a better workflow in this type of online class. An LMS WordPress plugin will make it possible to overcome the barriers of online classes and hand the best user experience for your students and you as well, with its functional features.
The features available allow you to create online classes, share coursework, enroll students, and evaluate the students with quizzes. There are many great examples of successful online courses one being Lynda.com that offers WordPress expertise for students who wish to obtain such knowledge.
You can even sell your video courses and materials and market them for companies to use for training materials. Depending on the plugin usually, LMS offers an all in one place solution, so the features you should be looking out the most might be
- The one LMS plugin that offers Course Builder to simplify course creation processes.
- Student enrollment management system where you can analyze and see how many people will attend your online course/class and adjust the materials accordingly and also payment procedure.
- The tools to create interactive content such as quizzes
- Automated emails
- Gateway payment support
- The ability to reward students with credentials or badges
- And most importantly, would a course be considered one if it did not have the homework option and make the submission and grading process easy.
After carefully examining the best LMS plugins by taking these factors into consideration you will be able to make a clear judgment and a perfect choice for your course.
One plugin we would recommend using and it is fairly popular among WordPress users is LearnDash, a fairly costly option but if used properly can be rewarding.
It has a high-end set of features where you can create multi-tier courses where you break up the courses into more advanced experiences, drip-feeding your content based on a schedule, market your courses with several monetization tools like a shopping cart, memberships, subscriptions, course bundles, and course licenses, gives you an automated process of email notification, is mobile compatible, and offers the possibility to run LearnDash on a network.
LifterLMS is another great plugin for learning management systems and offers a free plan alongside its premium packages. This is a plugin that makes it easy to create, sell, and protect engaging online courses and training based membership websites. LifterLMS is an intuitive course builder.
Technical tools to help create an online class
Lastly, we would like to share some insights on tools you can have to create the best quality content lessons for your students, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get the most expensive gadgets to win over your students, but it sure can help to sound more professional.
A good microphone can be the bridge between you and your students in your online class, don’t overstep it, it is important for them to hear you loud and clear, especially if you are making video lectures so you could sell them, investing in a good quality microphone would be a wise move. You have to be able to communicate smoothly with your lessons so your students will understand.
Next on the list would be a camera, if you are recording your self-teaching or even combine screen recording with slides presentations and then changing back and forth to you a good quality camera would be handy.
If you have in possession a smartphone with a good camera on then it would be a great less expensive choice because we need to emphasize that sound quality is more superior than image quality, you want your students to understand the message you transmit.
A screen recording platform is most certainly useful and imminent, you could go for the options we mentioned earlier, like Hippo Video or Zoom which are free platforms that allow you to record and share your screen videos, or you could go for high-end products like Camastasia which is a great tool for creating videos as it allows you to record and edit them to look like professionally filmed videos.
This would be the end of this article, hope it became a guiding light in these dark times, where you have to adapt and adjust to new, obscure circumstances. But from the wrecks, we shall arise. Except that, online classes have seen an increase within this ever-evolving world of ours where technological changes impact our lives to the fullest extent.
For a recap, to create an online class you would first need to install WordPress, choose a hosting provider, we recommended Bluehost, then set up a signup page with the help of plugins WP Form Lite and User Registration.
To integrate email services to keep in touch with your students and share materials with them, something like ConvertKit.
If you wish to record your lectures in advance to give students access to your lectures at different times or use audiovisual conferences to teach live with huge platforms like Zoom.
Or you could give the students a chance to interact with one another via social platforms of forums integrated like BuddyPress plugin, and use the advantages of an LMS like LearnDash to take your online courses to new levels, where you can profit from them.
We would love to hear from you and alternatives you might have for these steps we presented here. Give us some thoughts and insights on the best practices for online teaching.