Want to Create an Online Course? Do This First.

What is the number one thing you could do if you want to create an online course?  It’s not brainstorming and selecting your topic, and not thinking about your target audience or deciding on format and delivery method or choosing an online platform.

It actually starts with a simple step – look at other online courses out there!

I have made a silly assumption that just because I’ve taken several dozen online courses before I decided to create my own, everyone else must have done the same.  Wrong!

I’ve spoken to many people recently who are thinking about creating their first online course, and what struck me is that many people haven’t taken enough online courses to see what they look like.  Perhaps one or two.  Some haven’t take any.

It’s no wander you might be feeling overwhelmed by what goes into creating an online course, what your students could be expecting and how to make sure they get the best experience.

Of course, it’s not a pre-requisite that you sign up for hundreds of courses to check them out.  Besides, some of them could be very expensive.  But it certainly would be extremely useful to go through a few before venturing into creating your own.

And as you do, notice things you enjoy and don’t enjoy about the courses you take – this will help you develop your own delivery style and you will pick up tons of ideas for your own course.

Where to find FREE courses?

So where do you go to check out online courses without breaking your bank?  Here are some good online course marketplaces to get you started and most of them offer free courses.  You can also see feedback and ratings from students and see what courses are popular and well-rated and which ones get poor reviews.  This is an excellent way to research popular topics and student preferences on course delivery.


Probably one of the most popular marketplaces for courses.  Boasting over 10M registered students – wow!  They offer thousands of courses on every topic imaginable: from graphic design and computer programming to art, cooking, spirituality, marketing, psychology.  You name it – it’s there, and someone’s teaching it.


Skillshare is another popular platform.  They also offer a handful of free courses, and their pricing model is different from Udemy: you pay a monthly fee instead of paying per course.


They offer a free trial (currently for 10 days) to try out any of their courses, so sign up and check them out.


Mostly university courses.  They also have a wonderful feature that most platforms don’t have – many courses have start dates, so you would expect that they’re not self-study but instructor-led.  Also you can view all courses for free, and only if you want to have your assignments reviewed and graded, then you pay for a course.  Some courses also offer certificates at the end by the institutions offering them.


This is another platform similar to Udemy, but they focus almost exclusively on tech courses, programming and similar skills.

There are hundreds of other course marketplaces out there, some go broad and offer courses of every topic under the sun.  But most are specialised in a niche – e.g. courses on art, or courses on cooking.

A word of warning: many free courses tend to be shorter and often lower quality than what you’ll find in a paid course.  Some free courses are plain marketing materials for a larger, more expensive course.

But the list above should get you started and give you more confidence in what online courses look like today, what students generally expect of an online course, what topics are popular, and what delivery styles and formats get good reviews.

Are there other great online course marketplaces you found that I haven’t listed?  Share them in the comments below!