Creating New Opportunities with Online Courses
The Coronavirus Shutdown has been devastating for many small businesses. After school classes, camps and other in-person enrichment programs have had to pivot to survive. We recently helped Tiny Chefs create a full online cooking course for kids and families in order to continue to offer their creative programming during a time when everyone is staying home. Not only has this new course proved to be a popular resource for current Tiny Chefs clients, but it is also a “borderless” offering which can be sold to people outside the existing geographic area.
Selecting the right platform for an online course
We did some research to help Tiny Chefs select the best software for their cooking classes. We have had a good experience with Lifter LMS, a Learning Management System (LMS) plugin for WordPress. We built an online instructor training course using Lifter LMS for Tom Dolan Swim School three years ago, so it had been a while since we used it. For Tiny Chefs, we tried out a variety of LMS options to be sure that we explored a range of options to offer the best fit for Tiny Chefs.
We looked at other WordPress plugins, including LearnDash and WPCourseware. We also tried proprietary, 3rd party options, including Thinkific, Teachable and LearnWorlds. See our comparison chart here.
We also looked at more advanced platforms, such as such as Kajabi, Schoology, Moodle and Class Dojo. These systems are designed more for schools and organizations that need more “Distance Learning” curriculum offerings versus single courses and enrichment programs.
After reviewing the options, Tiny Chefs chose LifterLMS. Since the main Tiny Chefs site is built with WordPress, it made sense for them to host their course there as well. Using a WordPress solution meant it could be customized if needed with additional plugins or custom coding. Additionally, for the long term, a WordPress solution for an organization who is already using WordPress makes sense because there is not an ongoing monthly fee. If you are considering these options for an online course, you may choose to hire someone to help get the software set up or if you are tech-savvy, you can set up Lifter LMS on your own (their documentation is great!). We helped install and set up the system for Tiny Chefs, and their staff was able to easily add the content for lessons, quizzes and activities. To make use of the features Tiny Chefs needed, we purchased the Universe Bundle, which includes the main features we wanted, such as payment gateway and custom achievements and certificates.
How An LMS Works
Whether you use LifterLMS or a platform like Thinkific, the basic configuration is similar. Users sign up for either a free or paid course. They have a login to the course content, which can include lessons and quizzes. Students can earn achievements and certificates to improve engagement and “gamification.”
The course “Dashboard” usually shows the student’s progress in the course. There is a often a sidebar with the progress bar and a list of lessons within the course.
Quizzes can be configured to require a certain passing grade and to limit the number of attempts allowed per student.
A key to successful course creation is to have your content well-planned before you start adding it to the system. Make a list of each course, lesson and quiz. Create PDFs wherever you want downloadable material. Create videos, and upload them to Vimeo (Plus plan for privacy that hides them from public view but allows them to be viewed in your LMS). Make sure you have your payment gateway account information (we use Stripe). This will make the process of building your LMS much easier.
Most of the LMS platforms we tried offered premium features or “add ons.” These include
- Groups (allows students to be part of a group, for example, a church might offer a course to its members and they can all belong to the same group where the group manager can track student progress)
- Social Community/Social Learning (creates a community on your website for students to interact with each other, similar to Facebook or social networking applications)
- Advanced functionality for Quizzes
- Custom Fields for Checkout/Registration Forms
- Commenting Platform integration (Disqus)
- Coupons and Vouchers
Check out our comparison chart for more details.
Once you have all your content added, test your system. Take the course yourself, including completing all lessons and quizzes. Ask a friend or co-worker to take the course as well and make notes about anything that doesn’t make sense or work properly. Make a list of things to be fixed, or features needed. Make sure that everything is working as you want it to before releasing it to your audience.
Get Ready to Sell
When your course is ready, it’s time to promote it! Consider coupons for loyal customers or early bird purchases and referrals. Lifter LMS has an easy-to-use coupon creation option (the other popular WordPress LMS, LearnDash requires a complicated process of adding WooCommerce and creating products in WooCommerce in order to use coupons).
Tiny Chefs has done a great john of promoting their new course on social media, with teaser videos and engaging posts to increase awareness and enrollment. We also created a popup message on the website to promote the course.