6 Essential Tools for Creating an Awesome Online Course
Instructional Design

6 Essential Tools for Creating an Awesome Online Course

You think you have what it takes to create an online course, huh? It won’t be easy. Creating courses takes skills in videography, instructional design, animation, screencasting, video editing, and that’s to say nothing of the skills needed to deliver or promote a course to students.

Luckily, there is one aspect of creating online courses that’s simple: Getting the equipment. In fact, you may be surprised how far you can get with the online course creation tools you already own.

Let’s start with the video camera.

The two things to look for when buying a video camera are the display resolution and the frames per second (FPS). The display resolution is the number of pixels that display on a screen. The more pixels a screen can display, the better quality the video will appear.

The second consideration should be the frames per second (FPS). Videos are comprised of a series of consecutive images. Each individual image is known as a frame. Shuffling quickly through frames give the illusion of movement when played at a high frequency (known as the frame rate).

Think of it like a flip book. If you don’t flip the pages fast enough, the movement is robotic and unnatural. It looks jagged. That’s because the number of pages you’re flipping (or “frames”) per second is too low.

For a video to be HD, it needs to have a display resolution of at least 720p and a frame rate of at least 24 fps. Yet, I’d recommend opting for a camera with a display resolution of 1080p, as the difference in quality is noticeable on bigger monitors.

What video camera is best for online courses?

I started creating courses using the Creative Vado Pocket. (It’s comparable to the Flip Video Camera.) These cameras are common and affordable. However, this type of camera makes it trickier to record solo, as you can’t flip the screen to position yourself.

After the Vado, I upgraded to the Toshiba Camileo (1080p/30fps). It’s easy to use, allows me to record myself, and produces a good quality video. Note that most cameras in this price range are going to require you purchase an SD, or memory card as well. Be sure to factor that into your budget.

While the prices might be intimidating, the good news is that your smartphones may suffice instead. For example, my iPhone 6 can record 1080p videos at 60fps.

You could also use a standalone webcam or the one built into your computer assuming the quality is sufficient. My Macbook Pro, for example, can record 1080p resolution at 60 fps.

Next on the list is a teleprompter.

Whether you plan to read from a script or use notes, you’ll need something like a teleprompter. Personally, I go for the tape-paper-to-the-wall-behind-my-camera method, but I’ve heard good things about iPad teleprompters.

Next, get a lighting kit.

A lighting kit is a great way to significantly increase the perceived quality of your course. There’s nothing like poor lighting to make a video look amateur, which distracts from your course content.

I use the Triple Lighting Kit from CowBoyStudio. If you decide not to spring for a kit, you could try collecting different light sources in your house: Lamps, desk lights, or the flashlight on your iPhone will help.

Let’s move on to microphones.

The next piece of kit you’ll need in your online course creation tools arsenal is a mic.

When a student enrolls in your course, they’re dedicating the next few hours to listening to your voice. Nasality can’t be easily fixed, but feedback, background noise, and fuzziness when recording your voice can be reduced with decent microphones. Depending on your selected lecture format, you’ll need either a desktop microphone, a lavalier (or “lav”) microphone, or both.

Desktop microphones are those, believe or not, that sit on your desktop. These are perfect for recording voiceovers. All modern computers have built-in microphones and you could pick up a headset at more affordable prices if you really want to bootstrap. Yet, I feel it’s worthwhile to splurge on a good microphone if you’re serious about course creation.

My desktop microphone of choice is this Audio-Technica 2020 USB Microphone. Another great option is the Blue Yeti USB Microphone that you can pick up for a little less. The Blue Yeti has a few more features than the AT2020—different recording modes, for example — but I like the way I sound on an AT2020 better.

A lavalier microphone is what you might have seen a news anchor wear on their collar. This type of microphone is critical for any “talking head”-style. I use an Audio-Technica Lavalier Microphone.

If you plan to record screencasts, you’ll need a screencast software.

I really like Screencast-O-Matic. It costs $15 per year for the full-featured product, which has the watermark in the corner removed. It records in HD and exports to all common video formats. It doesn’t, though, have any advanced features like animations, or editing capabilities beyond cropping the beginning and end of each video.

Camtasia is an industry favorite screencast software with all of the previously-mentioned features. It will cost you, but it’s a must-have, and one the online course creation tools which successful course creators prefer. The full-fledged version is only for PC users.

Lastly, you’ll need video and audio editing software.

If you have a Mac, iMovie is feature-filled and free. Filmora is another great option for both Mac and PC users. Both of these programs allow you to import the footage you record, splice-and-dice your video, and layer on voiceovers and music.

To improve audio quality when using these programs, you could consider a piece of audio editing software like Audacity. It will allow you to import your audio and increase the volume, remove background noise, and edit out filler words like “um” and “uh.”

The more programs you use in the production process, the more tedious the process will be. To save time, I use Adobe Premiere Pro for assembling and editing videos. It integrates well with Adobe Audition for audio editing. It’s not the cheapest piece of software, but it eliminates the need to constantly import-export between Audacity and a video editing software.

There you have it: The essential online course creation tools you need! You can learn more about the other aspects of creating awesome online courses at Instructory.

Author Bio:

Evan is the creator of Instructory, an online course about creating online courses. Instructory consists of a growing number of video lectures that walk students through every step needed to affordably launch a profitable online course.

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