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When it comes to creating an online course, you’re going to have to learn new tech tools.

Unless you’re going to outsource your course creation to a course designer…then it’s a given that you’ll be DIY’ing it.

And I get that it can be overwhelming and scary.

I mean who wants to learn how to use yet another piece of software, right? And how much will all the tools cost you? Is there a way to do it on the cheap?

You bet there is. I’ll suggest a few key pieces of equipment but as far as software goes, you don’t have to spend more than $15. Seriously.

Now, let me give you a rundown of the free and paid tools that I use to create course content and media.

tech-tools-online-courses

So what tools are crucial and what can you do without?

Bearing in mind that more and more people are entering the online course market, you need to set yourself apart. As a course creator, you need to up your game and deliver courses that are engaging, exciting and interactive.

Let’s take a look at the common forms of course content.

#1 Video

Video is the new black! It’s the most engaging method you can use.

By video, I mean you talking to the camera and teaching your students. Video’s are readily consumed and enjoyed by most people and also helps to creates trust.

But…

Video’s are also the most time consuming media to create. And I’m only talking about creating a semi-professional looking video. You’ll need basic equipment such as a DSLR or video camera (an iPhone can work too), a quality microphone and in some cases good lighting, depending on where you’re shooting.

Most of the hard work actually takes place after the video’s been recorded. I’ll admit that post production work sucks, for me at least. I’m not a fan but I’ll do it!

tech tools for online courses

Free video editing programs

Free movie editing programs such as Windows Movie Maker (Windows) or iMovie (Mac) are both great for beginners but you’ll need to watch a few tutorials to get you started. You can record short clips and piece them together or you can record your entire video and edit it in one go. I prefer the latter.

A few basic edits you’ll want to learn are:

  • Splitting or trimming audio
  • Increasing the sound of your audio
  • Record your voiceover
  • Adding background music
  • Fading background music in and out
  • Looping background music
  • Decrease background noise
  • Increase brightness or white balance of your video
  • Add transitions and animations
  • Add photo’s or slides
  • Stabilise shaky video

Paid video editing programs

If you’ve got spare cash, try Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects or Final Cut Pro (Apple). It’s what the professionals use and will require a steep learning curve.  

Alternatively, you can hire someone off Upwork or Fiverr to edit your video’s and leave the frustration to them. They’re probably quicker and better at it than you.

Remember, your reputation is always at stake. Poor audio and lighting can harm your video quality so spend your money on a good microphone and a lighting kit or just shoot outside in good light.

#2 Slide decks or presentations

An easier alternative to video is a slideshow presentation with narration. Some folk include a few minutes of introductory video within their slideshow which is a good way to still create a connection with your audience and let them see the real you.

Now let’s get one thing straight, when I say slideshow….I don’t mean a bunch of bullet point slides…and when I say narration, I don’t mean you reading the slide word for word. People get hung up on bullet points and think that’s the be all and end all of slides. Step out of that mindset and view your slide as a blank canvas.

Check out the basic slideshow I created below in Keynote, using very little text, visuals, a few animations and transitions. And imagine if music and audio were added to that? You wouldn’t feel as if you were just reading text from a slide.

Free presentation programs

The most popular free programs are PowerPoint (Windows) or Keynote (Mac). Don’t be fooled into thinking these are inferior products. The power lies in the hands of the user!

A few cool animation features that you can add to make your presentations stand out are:

  • Use hyperlinking to move between slides
  • Progressively reveal bullet points (if you insist on them), text or graphics using animations
  • Use motion paths to move images, shapes or objects across the screen
  • Use the artistic effects feature to blur images to create funky backgrounds

Check out this short demo I’ve created for a client using PowerPoint. It uses a few of the features I’ve mentioned above.

Online presentation alternatives include Prezi, Canva, Piktochart, Haikudeck or Befunky. However, many of these won’t let you add animations and transitions or record audio, which is a must if you want exciting and dynamic slides.

#3 Screen recordings

Screen recordings are great for tutorials and software training. You can record your face and the screen as you guide your students through lessons. Or use it to record video or audio.

All you need is a screen capturing software program, your webcam and a microphone. I’d recommend investing in an omnidirectional USB microphone rather than relying on your laptop or pc microphone so you’re guaranteed good audio. I use the Blue Snowball pictured below and am pretty happy with the results.

Free screen recording programs

If you own a Mac, then Quicktime is perfect for beginners. It’s pretty easy to use and lets you record your computer screen, shoot video’s and record audio. You can import your QuickTime file into iMovie and edit it to your heart’s content.

WIth Quicktime you can also record your face and screen at the same time.

Unfortunately for Windows users, there isn’t a free equivalent but you can download Jing, which is a free online screen capturing tool.

Paid screen recording programs

The cheapest tool I’d recommend and the one that I love is Screencast O Matic. It costs $15.

If you want a (slightly) advanced program and don’t mind forking out the cash, there’s Screenflow or Camtasia. I’ve used Camtasia and it’s super easy to use and the results are pretty good so I don’t see why you’d pay more for Screenflow when this does the job. But hey, each to their own!

#4 Audio

Audio can be recorded easily on both Windows and Mac pc’s.

Free audio recording programs

Windows users can use the Screen Recorder program while Mac users are blessed with Quicktime. The key to good audio relies on your microphone so the program isn’t as important as the sound quality.

Another super powerful and free online audio recording tool is Audacity. It looks scary but it’s a professional audio editing program which you’ll need to download to your pc.

If you’re a beginner and tech is not your thing, skip Audacity for now.

You can easily embed your audio files within your course using Soundcloud. Sign up for a free account on this audio platform and share your files using the share feature. There’s no need to create separate audio recordings either, use iMovie to detach the audio from your existing video’s and offer this as a separate learning resource.

So whatever delivery method you choose, make sure it suits your audience. You’re creating this course for them so make it an enjoyable one. While video takes a lot of time to produce, presentations and screen recordings…a bit less and audio or PDF’s even less time…it’s all relative to the price and value you’re offering. 

What tools do you use to create course content and media? Or discovered a cool free tool? Share it here with the rest of us?

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