Do you want to start an online course school? If YES, here’s a complete guide to starting an online course school with NO money and no experience. Education shouldn’t be hard labour and boring, this is why delivering education or training should be a lively experience to make it worthwhile. To start this business, all you need is an idea of the course, and the nature and context of your education.

It is never advisable to go for subjects you like but have not yet really studied. You need to think simple and build on what you are good at and which could benefit you and others as well. Starting this business is not as easy as it seems, there are a lot of factors you need to consider when creating your own branded online course school. It depends much on the goals, mission and values you are bringing with you. In this business you won’t have to spend money on training and you have little or no travel and physical training needs.

You need to understand that your brand affinity in the industry and the quality of work you create can affect your course value-offering. A course instructor could be earning from a few hundred dollars per year to a six-figure income and more.

With proper information and guidance, starting an online course school may be easier than most people think. If you feel you know a subject worth teaching and sharing, you probably have some abilities that others are looking for.

You only need to position yourself to solve problems for others, teach them something they don’t know and help them achieve their goals. If you have already been doing speeches and workshops, you can easily record and sell them online. This is indeed a priceless opportunity to earn more.

19 Steps to Starting an Online Course School In USA

1. Understand the Industry

According to reports, the global online education market is expected to witness a compound annual growth rate of 10.26% during 2018-2023 to reach a total market size of US$286.62 billion by 2023, increasing from US$159.52 billion in 2017.

Due to the advent of technology, platforms that organize learning through gaming are growing rapidly. Statistics have shown that the investment in IT, security and implementation of cloud based solutions has heightened the adoption rate of online education systems.

Now people can enjoy a smooth learning experience on safe online platforms. Experts believe that the progress in the field of artificial intelligence will aid to further boost the growth rate of this industry.

North America leads the online education market due to the high adoption rate of the technologies in the region, closely followed by Asia-Pacific which is bound to become a major market in upcoming years.

It’s very important to state that the key factors that are boosting the market growth are flexibility in learning, low cost, easy accessibility, and growing effectiveness by animated learning.

Also, the increasing number of internet users and growing access of broadband pooled with mobile phones with online capabilities are also boosting the market growth; while factors like change management, technology obsolescence and vendor- developer partnership are key restraints that are threatening the growth of this market.

According to reports, Content Providers segment of this industry is expected to witness the largest market share within 2018-2023 due to promotion of self-paced education among employees by organizations.

Also note that Asia-Pacific is rapidly taking over the market due to rising importance of education particularly in Asian countries with aggressive labour markets. Lack of trained teachers in schools and colleges resulted in the rise in adoption of self-reliant learning strategies among students in the region.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

Online education gives individuals living with physical disabilities, full-time employees, soldiers, those living abroad, and stay-at-home parents, among others access to accredited higher education.

The acceptance of online degrees has been encouraging in recent years. Although a lot to major online universities are regionally accredited, the public estimation of their quality is in dispute. Reports have it that nearly 3.2 million students took at least one online course in 2005 (a significant increase over the 2.3 million reported in 2004).

It has also shown that about two-thirds of the largest institutions have fully operational online programs. Also as at 2010, more than 6 million students were taking at least one course online.

Have it in mind that the students who will be paying for your services are doing real work to get their degrees, and educators preparing and teaching those courses need to spend real time in doing so.

This means that students meet a comparable level of academic learning outcomes and are evaluated through programs constructed according to standard university-level criteria.

3. Decide What Niche to Concentrate On

The niche you choose needs to be a subject you know and love. If you are not passionate about your topic, it will be very easy to note and will make your training not as engaging and exciting.

Cooking your favourite dishes, interior design, writing non-fiction, overcoming the death of a loved one… the list of possible course topics is endless. But also have it in mind that no one wants to spend weeks of their life creating an online course, for absolutely nobody to buy it.

When you must have picked your online course topic, it is advisable that you conduct a number of market research tests to see if you have potential customers or not. A lot of modern course creators make the mistake of thinking that if there is a lot of competition in their topic area, then their course idea won’t sell.

It might simply mean that there is a high chance of there being a strong market demand for that course idea and is therefore well worth investigating further. The three things you need to check during your market research include:

  • Do people talk about it?
  • Do people ask questions about it?
  • Do you see a gap in what the competition are offering?
The Level of competition in the Industry

The advent of technology has greatly stretched the band and possibilities within teaching and learning. Degrees and courses which before the digital era were only acquired through lectures, talks and physical objects, no longer have to be designed in that manner.

Teachers now have a digital toolbox to teach students online. Digital education is the term used to refer to all online educational practices. According to reports, the self-paced e-learning product market amounted to 46.67 billion U.S. dollars globally and it is projected to decrease to 33.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2021.

A considerable share of employers and educational systems worldwide has shown willingness to support less traditional and digital education models. People all around the world have shown willingness to embrace digital learning technologies (DLT) and practices.

About 92 percent of students worldwide are interested in personalized support on degree and external course progress. They also showed interest in other academic performance analytics. Students are also interested on the use of different devices in the learning process. As of April 2015, about 56 percent of students worldwide wanted their instructors to enable them to use their laptop more to learn.

As of 2016, the most common digital learning materials used in the United States were online educational videos, educational apps or software, as well as research websites. People all over the world are turning to online courses as well.

In 2015, 49 percent of students stated that they had taken an online course in the last 12 months. This share is slightly higher than 2013 and 2014 figures, when 46 percent and 47 percent of the students stated taking this type of course.

Note that even with this growth, 73 percent of the students in the world are not aware of massive open online courses (MOOC). As of April 2015, the share of students that took a MOOC in the past year was still low – nine percent.

From those global students who have interacted with MOOC and CBE, about 11 percent earned a competency-based badge, and about 19 percent said they would use competency-based digital badge on their resume.

4. Know the Major Competitors in the Industry

  • Adobe systems Inc.
  • Apollo Education Group Inc.
  • Cisco Systems
  • Citrix
  • HealthStream Inc.
  • McGrawHill
  • Oracle
  • Aptara
  • SAP
  • Microsoft
  • Saba Software
  • Skill Soft
  • Blackboard Inc.
  • N2N Services
  • Desire2Learn
  • Tata Interactive Systems
  • Articulate
  • Haiku Learning
Economic analysis

Indeed the online course industry has expanded rapidly and has the potential to expand more, especially for those least served by traditional educational institutions. However, in their current design, online courses are difficult, especially for the students who are least prepared.

Continued improvement of online curricula and instruction can strengthen the quality of these courses and hence the educational opportunities for the most in-need populations.

Agreeably, online courses provide the promise of access irrespective of where students live or what time they can participate, potentially redefining educational opportunities for those least well-served in traditional classrooms.

It also offers the promise of providing the optimal course pacing and content to fit each student’s needs and thereby improving educational quality. These promises are not yet realized and the best is yet to be achieved using online educational platforms.

Reports have it that one out of three college students now take at least one course online during their college career, and that share has increased threefold over the past decade.

Non-selective and for-profit higher education institutions have expanded their online course offerings. These institutions serve a majority of college-aged students, and these students typically have weaker academic preparation and fewer economic resources than students at colleges and universities.

This is why their ability to provide useful course work, engage students, and build the skills necessary for economic success is particularly important. Their use of online coursework is promising to the extent that it can reach students in need of it and serve them well.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

Most entrepreneurs in the education industry want to build an online learning program or full-time online course school just because the technology to make it possible are easily accessible.

One very critical question that needs to be asked before plunging into digital learning is: should you buy a franchise or start from the very scratch? You need to understand that buying a franchise in this industry is preferable to starting from the scratch.

Unlike starting this business from the scratch, buying into a franchise offers you the following benefits

  • Tasted routes and access
  • Integrated applications
  • Flexible and scalable
  • VOIP Unified Telephony
  • Security

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

Education right from its basis has always been a means of acquiring wealth –  educational and financial wealth. As long as schools show fairness, transparency, and flexibility in pricing out tuition and fees, online learning platforms can successfully make profits while serving the needs of students.

You need to understand that starting and running this business is not an easy task. This is why it is strongly advised that you start by writing a business plan, which will serve as a guide for your business.

You will have to face a lot of challenges in this line of business. Below are the ones that might threaten your success in this business;

  • Choosing the type of courses you want to offer
  • Capital
  • Writing a business plan
  • Getting your institution accredited
  • Searching for a partner
  • Creating a marketing plan
  • Purchasing necessary equipment

7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

You have a handful of legal entities to choose from when starting this business (Sole Proprietor, LLC, Incorporation, etc.), the more reason you will need to do your market research and decide which business model is right for the services and courses you plan to offer.

When starting your online Course School, you might be very tempted to form your business as a sole proprietor. Have it in mind that the legal entity you choose will rest on the number of courses you wish to offer and the number of students you hope to attract, but for the sake of this article, the LLC is the best entity for an online Course School.

The benefits of forming an LLC business structure is well known to the world, but the reason why it is the best structure for this educational business is because it provides security, flexibility and credibility.

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name from the ideas Below

The importance of choosing a suitable name for your business cannot be quantified. The name you choose for your online Course School will dictate the first impression people have about your institution. Below are things that can help you choose a wonderful name for your online Course School.

Course niche

If you specialize in a certain subject, you need to state it in your name so that those looking for that kind of institution can find you. This method will save you time in the long run from you not having to answer calls from people looking for a different kind of institution. Names like Eastern business school, online biological and physical sciences college etc.

Generalize

If you don’t have a specialty, you will still want to use general terms that will let people know what your business is. Like using the word University to express that you’re an online Course School.

Your name

Have it in mind that you can use your name as the business name. Be a confident and proud business owner, it is your business after all! Names like Damien university, Caleb college, Jonah Smith online college etc.

Alliterations

Alliterations are catchy and roll off the tongue nicely, there’s a few on the list, such as College Time, The Tutoring Teacher, and The Total University.

9. Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

Do not for a minute think that because your business will sell online, that you don’t need insurance policies to protect your business. As a business owner, you have to reduce the risk by making your site is as safe as possible. Note that no one should want your students to be safe more than you. Can your company withstand a multimillion dollar lawsuit?

  • Internet liability insurance
  • Business interruption insurance
  • Business buildings insurance
  • Business contents insurance
  • Professional indemnity insurance
  • General liability Business insurance
  • Advertising agency insurance
  • Creative insurance
  • Copywriters insurance
  • Business equipment insurance

10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

The world have been going on and on about intellectual property rights. Intellectual property rights are a business asset, and are often the most valuable business asset one can have.

Note that any business presently trading or considering trading on the internet needs to check what intellectual property rights it owns and make very sure that it is fully protected.

In this computer age, a lot of ideas can be protected in different ways, depending on how they were expressed. Intellectual output and the protection of it is known as intellectual property, a collective term for different types of asset including copyright, trademarks, patents, design rights and others.

These assets are intangible, but can be very valuable since they enjoy legal protection.

There a lot of intellectual property rights which exist in your website. Things like logos or branding are likely to be protected by registered trademark rights or the law of passing off. Also things like database rights in any database underlying your website can be protected too.

Most of your website, including the text, design, graphics, data, website layout and any music, broadcasts, software and images on your website, will be protected by copyright. In other to protect your intellectual property in the online course school business, you need to do the following;

  • Make use of Duplicate Content Detection and Monitoring Tools
  • Create preventive methods
  • Act immediately you find a Plagiarist

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

Professional certification puts your knowledge and skills against industry- and vendor-specific benchmarks to prove to customers that you have the right mix of knowledge and organisation to impart knowledge to them.

This educational sector has no pronounced professional certification, but you can make yourself relevant by acquiring general education industry certifications.

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

Not just in the United States but all over the globe, documents play a very important role in protecting the interests of the business and business owners. You need;

  • Social Security number
  • Tax identification number
  • Employer’s identification number
  • Insurance
  • Non disclosure agreement
  • Online privacy policy
  • Online term of use

13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

In the online education industry, donations and grants are two ways funds can be raised. When it comes to full-time Online schools, the willingness of the state to fund online learning sets a baseline for the budget.

We believe there are two primary ways states are funding Online schools: a direct appropriation or through a funding formula. The appropriation model is most common. But for a private online Course School, just like the one you are about to start, ways to get funds may include;

  • Personal savings
  • Business loans
  • Crowdfunding
  • Social investment
  • Partners
  • Credit cards

14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

Have it in mind that an online Course School doesn’t need a physical location, but if your online Course School at any point needs a business front, it’s advisable that you pick an attractive location in your city’s business district.

Choose tasteful, conservative furnishings; hire friendly and engaging educators who can set new students at ease. Customers will want quiet, free areas to go about their academics, so include cozy seating areas.

15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

The most important piece of technology when planning to start this business is a learning management system (LMS), which is the set of tools that houses course content and provides the framework for communication between students and teachers.

Understand that through the LMS lectures, students and administrators are able to recreate the bricks-and-mortar education experience online. This academic system allows lecturers to post announcements, organize course content and give online quizzes and exams.

Students can participate in threaded discussion boards and forums, as well as work on group projects. Specific accounts can be set up for administrators and parents, as well as teachers and students.

When selecting an LMS, it’s highly advisable that you choose an open source product, which is low cost and open to customization. Also you can license LMS software from a commercial provider, who will be responsible for the installation and insuring the product runs properly.

Another administrative tool that should be integrated with the LMS is a student information system (SIS). The SIS keeps all the basic information about students including their schedule, their academic performance and demographic details.

According to experts, this tool is also used for registering students and for creating reports such as progress reports and report cards. You will also need to determine the content you will need and whether to develop it yourself or buy it from a vendor.

The type of content you choose is connected to the reason why the online learning Institute is being created in the first place.

As a student’s success in a traditional classroom is greatly influenced by the teacher, so too is an online teacher very crucial for students in an online Course School. In online instruction, the teacher still uses the instructional skills and expertise in the course topic, as well as relationship skills, that he or she would use in a classroom.

But since technology is used to communicate with the students, teachers either enter the job with technology skills or they quickly learn them.

Like other steps involved in creating a full-time online school or online learning program, assembling a teaching staff involves a series of decisions. When it comes to recruitment, the question will be if they will be full-time, part-time or a mix?

The Service Delivery Process of the Business

Don’t underestimate the importance of learning outcomes. If you don’t do this for your online courses you could severely risk your reputation. Would you hand over your money to someone for a product you don’t understand and you have no idea what it will do for you? Of course not.

Just because you know what your course will give your students, it does not mean that they will know. Experts believe that learning outcomes clearly explain, with measurable verbs, what the learner will be able to do, know and feel by the end of your course.

Establishing clear learning outcomes also ensures that only the RIGHT students are joining your course – which means higher completion and satisfaction rates and lower refund requests. Below are the various key points of this business.

Choose and Gather your Course Content

Note that this stage is where many course creators start to risk business failure. The key reason why they get stuck here is because of the sheer volume of information that is available all around us in books, on our hard drives, in our notepads and so on.

The art at this stage is not just about what you need to include in our course, but what stuff you need to leave out. At this point, the research you conducted in the market testing phase and your learning outcomes, now come to serve you again.

Create Your Modules and Course Plan

At this point you now have to take a look at all of your content and start grouping together similar themes, tips and ideas into modules and then ordering the lectures within those modules into the most progressive and logical manner so that they form a flowing sequence of lessons.

Know the Most Engaging and Effective Delivery Methods for Each Lesson

To succeed in this business you need to be conversant with the different principles of adult learning, learning preferences and all of the different ways that you can deliver your training to really make sure that your training is as engaging as possible.

You will need to decide if you will have videos, reading content, activities, audio content. You also need to decide the type of visuals you will have and if you will have community learning areas.

It’s advisable that you make sure you have a balance of visual, audio and practical methodologies so that everyone is engaged and provided with the optimum learning experience.

Filming, Recording and Editing your Online Course

Before this particular point you must have a thorough course plan, and know exactly how you are going to deliver each element of your online course. Note that how you deliver your training is entirely dependent on what your audience will prefer to engage with and what method delivers your learning outcomes most effectively.

At present, the most effective method of delivery is video. This could be ‘talking head’ video which is when you are on camera. You could also have ‘green screen’ talking head videos.

Here, you will be recording with a green background behind you – where you have a green screen, you can have anything behind you in the editing process. It could be a video behind you, animations, or just a still image.

You can also use screen casting which is when you are recording your computer screen – you can choose to include a webcam type video of yourself on top of this.

Setting up your online school

The very first thing here is to recognize that there are three major ways to sell your online courses.

  • online course marketplaces
  • learning management systems
  • plugins or software on your website.

Also have it in mind that there is a very big difference between online course marketplaces and learning management systems. A learning management system is your own Course School that you can link to your website and fully brand as your own platform.  It makes online course creation simple and easy to sell your learning products.

16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies

Most entrepreneurs make the mistake of not understanding the basis of marketing. Marketing is not something you do just once in a year. When marketing is continuous and targeted, business gets easier. If prospects have a positive view of your products and reputation, you’re that much closer to getting a sale. You need to;

  • Combine business with pleasure – charity
  • Create a destination
  • Be an expert
  • Don’t let customers slip away
  • Take steps to make customers feel special
  • Create standard admission requirements
  • Stop servicing break-even customers
  • Develop an electronic mailing list and send old fashioned letters
  • Boost your profile at conferences

17. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win

Anything you do in this business to overtake your competitors will require everyone’s collective effort. The task of innovation and staying ahead of your competitors is not just a task for the marketing department or top management; it’s everyone’s responsibility.

This is why it is very important that you enlist the support of the whole organization once you’ve agreed on the strategies to adopt in dealing with your competitions.

Enlarge your horizon

You can conduct webinars, MOOCs, online training events, private courses, professional development webinars – cater to the needs of your learners. Enable them to ask for private and paid courses, access to class recordings, audio, videos, content library, courseware etc.

Be innovative

Try to make optimum use of educational services that your rivals don’t provide – interactive audio/video, interactive e-book, infographics, social learning. Build your brand as an innovator in the field of online teaching.

Connect with learners

Immediately you have your online course/courses in place, reach and connect with learners across the globe, offer easy-to-understand curriculum, make them participate in the activities on virtual classroom and chat box, keep them engaged, convert them to loyal learners – ones who keep coming back to you to fulfil their ever-increasing learning demands.

Sell more than your courses

Even though education remains your primary goal, don’t forget the business aspect of your online teaching endeavour. It’s advisable that you take to social media, organize fun quizzes, online tests, start online campaigns, write a blog, place advertisements, offer supplementary services, provide certifications.

You can also study the market, explore advanced analytics for identifying trends and needs, build personalized learner relationships by offering teaching support and guidance outside the virtual classroom.

Grow your online appeal

Experts advice that you enhance your educational content at regular intervals to keep pace with the ever-changing demands of the industry. Treat each online class as an opportunity to create an impression on your students.

18. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers

To retain a client, you need to provide an experience that keeps the customer coming back, keeps you top of their mind, and gets you into discussions with their friends. Most times marketers spend all of their attention on the chase and the sale and not enough on how to retain and create remarkable experience. Ways to do that in this business may include;

  • Make your clients happy
  • Follow them up
  • Provide some personalization
  • Choose the right tools
  • Make it simple
  • Protect their ideas and interest

19. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

The general online learning industry is very competitive and while running a web-based venture can be extremely lucrative, it needs a lot of hard work and a helping hand to ensure profitability.

Note that when it comes to finding success in an online business, the quality of your service can only take you so far, and to really thrive you must get noticed and earn respect.

This involves having a clean and well-performing website, a prominent position in search engines, a very strong social media backbone and a web-hosting provider that can help your business grow.

  • Create low cost flyers, and go to your local unemployment and job training centre and post flyers
  • Go to local coffee houses and distribute flyers
  • Get an astonishing website
  • Improved Search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Enter appropriate online chat rooms through Google and Yahoo and announce your courses.
  • Initially offer courses and not degree programs
  • Post certain courses on Craigslist classes section.
  • Go to every free online advertising source and advertise your school.
  • Keep your site safe
  • Fulfil your promises
  • Employ skilled expertise
Ajaero Tony Martins