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Everyone has heard the phrase time is money, but that saying is easy to forget when you start a business online. If you have limited startup capital your first concern is probably your budget. But this impulse leads many online instructors to seek out tools that are free but clunky or inexpensive and time-consuming.

A lean set of online course creation tools should include tools that you can use for multiple tasks or will make a repetitive task go faster.

This quick guide to lean online course creation tools will help keep your process streamlined. It will save you both time and money as you grow your business.

Let’s get started.

38 Online Course Creation Tools That Keep It Lean

Recording equipment
Video editing tools
Live session tools
Online course builders
Podcasts and audio recording tools
Editable PDF tools
Worksheet and quiz tools
eBooks conversion tools
Presentation tools
Infographic tools
Blog tools

In general, one of the smartest strategies for any growing business is to cut tiny steps and manual workarounds wherever you can. These tend to build up in any business facing rapid change. Schedule a process audit every few months to make sure that you aren’t wasting your time with micro steps.

The more all-in-one tools you can use to minimize these steps the more time you’ll have to reach out to new students who are revving to learn from you. 

In this article, we’re going to cover online course creation tools for every type of content. This way you can be sure that every aspect of your online course is effective, efficient and budget-friendly.

A man is learning on his laptop with online course creation tools like a webcam to sell online courses

Recording equipment

Creating an online course requires an initial investment in some equipment, but nothing too intense. It’s simple to create a tech set up in your home for less than $200. 

Webcam

If you’re not interested in the camera that’s built into your laptop or computer these webcams come highly recommended:

1. Logitech C922 Pro Stream  

This webcam includes a background removal tool and high resolution for both video footage and live-streaming.

2. Razer Kiyo

This webcam offers three important features in one, with an LED light ring and a built-in microphone.

Screen recorders

Next, you’ll want a tool for screen grabs. There are many tools that can offer more than your system’s built-in screen recording function. These tools can help you effectively record your screen or multiple screens to create online course videos.

3. Ezvid

This free tool allows you to capture your screen and also comes with editing tools.

4. Screencast-O-Matic

With this tool, you can record your screen, your webcast or your screen and webcast together. It also offers an option to publish your videos directly to YouTube.

5. Bandicam

This simple app offers high resolution and a one-time flat fee.

Lighting

Lighting is the difference between bland and beautiful for 99% of the videos you see online. Many beginners get lucky with natural light, but long-term success on camera can come from mastering light. 

If you haven’t thought much about lighting before, these articles can help: 

How to Get the Perfect Lighting for Video
The Seven Best Video Lighting Tips
Portable Online Classroom Lighting
USC professor’s DIY online teaching hack to engage students goes viral

These lighting kits are the secret online course creation tools you didn’t know you needed:

6. LimoStudio’s Continuous Lighting Kit

If you want to copy the three-light model for great video lighting,  this kit includes three lights, stands, bulbs, umbrellas and more for around $50.

7. Fovitec Lighting Kit for Photo and Video

If you’re not so comfortable on camera, chances are you haven’t seen yourself in your best light! This kit will give you the diffused light you’re looking for. 

Microphone

Another essential for online courses is great audio. If your student can clearly see and hear you online this will make them feel more comfortable and relaxed. This makes them more open and ready to learn.

These microphones are easy to set up and use. They also offer good sound quality at a reasonable price.

8. Meteor Mic – USB Studio Condenser Microphone

9. Q2U Recording and Podcasting Pack

Video

Now that you have the equipment you need, let’s talk more about video. 

A man waves to his class using a webcam, an essentail online course creation tool for ecommerce

Video is an essential part of most online courses. To keep your online course production lean, you’ll want to step away from most of the bells and whistles. This is because when you’re teaching online extra sound and graphic effects are more likely to distract your students than engage them. 

Instead, you want to select online course creation tools that make your video production efficient. This gives you more time to focus on the instructional content your students are paying for.

But simple doesn’t mean boring! A great instructional video will offer a delicious variety of visuals, sound and footage.

There are two ways to incorporate video into your online courses– live video sessions or edited videos. 

Video editing tools

There are so many free, freemium and subscription-based editing tools online that it’s hard to know which one will work best for your business.

And a little bit of everyone uses online video editing tools– 

  • Professional filmmakers
  • Social media mavens
  • Memers

The best video editing tools for online instructors recognize that you are short on time. They’ll help you make simple and functional videos. These online course creation tools make it quick to add and edit clips, add text and transitions and do some simple branding at a reasonable price.

10. Adobe Spark

This tool lets you save your branding, so creating and editing new videos goes much faster.

11. HitFilm Express

This software is free and simple to use.

12. Movie Maker Online

A simple browser-based way to edit video on the go.

Live sessions

You may also offer one-on-one sessions or live video streaming classes, so you’re looking for tools for streaming video. Most everyone knows about Zoom, Instagram Live and Facebook Live. Those tools have their pros and cons, so we’ve pulled together a few more live streaming tools that might work for you.

A woman looks to her camera as she shoots video for her online training course with Selz ecommerce for selling online courses

13. Twitch 

Like Facebook, YouTube or Instagram Live, you can’t control who has access to your live stream, but this platform could be good for lectures or getting the word out with a free live class session if it fits your niche. 

14. Dacast

This platform has a reasonable monthly price, with strong support, scheduling and player customization.

15. join.me

This is another simple and effective tool for one-on-one and group sessions online.

Online course builders

Once you’ve created your course materials you’ll need tools to distribute your courses online. Most online course builders are full of proprietary templates and complicated features. 

Most ecommerce platforms are for selling physical products online. They often need extra plugins to sell digital products like video, eBooks or live sessions.

But Selz makes it simple to sell online courses without coding or digital experience. The platform makes it quick and easy to add and securely deliver your course materials.

It’s the simple and inexpensive way to start and scale your online business. All you need to do is upload your course materials to start selling courses online with buttons or an online store. 

Check out this video to see how easy it is to add a button to sell from your current website or WordPress blog: 

Now, let’s talk about a few more online course creation tools that can make it faster and easier to create the rest of your course materials.

Podcasts and audio recording

If you’re using a podcast to promote your online courses or adding audio lectures to your training, online course creation tools for audio editing are essential.

Podcasting is so popular right now that beginner’s resources sound more like posts for experts. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of sound quality and audio file formats, even if that’s not what you need. 

Audio recordings are a great addition to any online course, so are podcasts. Also great for SEO!

If you want a simple tool to help you create clean and clear audio mixes for your online course, check out these options:

16. Audacity

This open-source sound editing software is an easy way to create quality sound for your online course.

17. WavePad

This is another popular freemium tool for sound editing. 

18. Reaper

This is another tool that gives you the option to edit multiple tracks, so if you want to layer in stock music or effects into your podcasts or audio recordings for your class, this is a great inexpensive option.

PDFs

PDFs are a popular format for course materials because they’re easy to make. PDFs are great for worksheets and quizzes because you can create and save a template. This means that your students can either print and complete or fill out your PDF online. 

If you’re planning to create editable PDFs you’ll need a tool to make sure your students can easily open and use your PDF documents:

19. PDFescape

This web-based PDF creator is simple and free to use.

20. Jotform

This tool also has a free option, and they also offer quiz templates

PDFs, apps and other software are digital products you can easily sell and market with Selz, ecommerce for business growth

Worksheets and quizzes

Over time you may find that updating and saving editable PDFs isn’t the most efficient way to create your worksheets and quizzes. 

While editable PDFs make it easier for your students to download all their course materials together, it can also become time-consuming after just a few updates.

It’s much quicker to change or update a link than to proofread, update and resave a document. 

So, this shortlist of form and quiz creators is another way for lean online course creation tools to save you time and money:

21. Paperform

This tool has 20+ templates to create online forms for your online courses.

22. 123FormBuilder

This quiz maker tool has a range of form options, making it easy to collect information from your students whenever you need to.

23. Typeform

This form creator also offers valuable tips if you’re new to designing quizzes.

24. Google Forms

In addition to a range of other tools, Google has an easy-to-use form creator. 

eBooks

Online course creation tools for eBooks vary depending on how you design your eBook. For example, a PDF might be a good choice for a picture book, but your students will have a hard time reading that visual PDF on some devices.

If you know your students will be mostly accessing your course eBooks on smartphones or other mobile devices, EPUB format is a better choice. 

These tools can help you convert your ebook to EPUB:

25. Online Convert

Convert other common doc forms like DOC, MOBI and PDF to EPUB with this tool.

26. Zamzar

A quick way to convert PDFs to EPUB files.

Presentations

Tools like Keynote and PowerPoint are crucial to creating online courses. Digital instructors often use presentations to show step-by-step instructions or introduce new information. 

It can be tempting to go with free software to create online courses or to use an old tool that you’re familiar with. With presentations, it’s important to consider the features that you really need for your online course.

A woman prepares a presentation, making presentation tools essential online course creation tools

If all you’re looking for is a standard presentation of words and images, a simple tool will do. But there are several scenarios where an advanced or premium tool is your best bet. 

For example, if you aren’t too good at design, presentation software with pre-made templates can be a life saver. If your students plan to view your presentations on more than one device, you’ll need a presentation tool that’s mobile-friendly for reading on smaller screens.

You’ll also want to think about presentation transition options. For some teachers, it’s easy to improvise when your internet signal drops. Others find it really helpful to have built-in transitions that give you time to regain your composure in the face of the unexpected.

These are some favorites:

27. Canva

This presentation tool is also a popular tool for editing images.

28. Slideshare

In addition to presentations for your classes, you can take advantage of the large audience on Slideshare to promote your online course with shared presentations.

29. Prezi

This is another cloud-based tool, which is helpful if you run your business on the go.

30. Visme

This is a good tool to use if you frequently include custom images in your presentations. It’s also a helpful tool to create infographics.

Infographics

People are 30x more likely to pay attention to quality infographics than text. So, if student engagement is your priority it’s a good idea to add infographics to your course materials.

Great infographics make it easier for your students to understand complex information. 

Memory retention is significantly better when you use images in your online courses

Infographics also make your instruction easier to remember. According to a recent study, memory retention is 550% better with images and text than with text alone. So, these infographic tools are also great online course creation tools:

31. Venngage

A great tool for making infographics, this tool makes it easy to personalize your original graphics to your brand.

32. Infogram

This tool is great for creating charts and making numbers more approachable for your students.

33. Piktochart

This tool has great templates if you’re new to infographics.

Blogs

Many online instructors use blogs as source material the same way that your high school or college teacher referred to your textbooks. 

Man reading a blog to make sure his online course is relevant and ready to add to the best ecommerce platform to sell online courses

You may want to use a popular search engine to find the right blogs for your course. That said, it’s often more helpful to use tools that will search for important keywords or topics as they pop up online. 

These tools can ping you when important news is on the horizon, making it easier to update your online courses.

34. Google Alerts

Add keywords or a company you mention in your online course to this tool, and it will email you with updates online.

35. SocialMention

This tool looks at blogs, videos and social feeds so you can always have the most recent and relevant news in your online course materials.

36. The Old Reader

This tool is handy if there are blogs you follow that don’t have an RSS feed.

37. Feedly

This tool makes it easy to check out the latest posts from your favorite blogs so you can catch up on everything in one simple place.

38. Feedspot

In addition to blogs, this tool lets you follow podcasts and YouTube channels for updates. It also has an option for email alerts.

Bookmark this list of online course creation tools and refer back to it when you’re downsizing your course creation process. You never know how much saving time can improve your bottom line!

About the author

Jana Rumberger

Jana is a writer and Content Manager at Selz. She has expertise in ecommerce strategy, selling products online, and small business solutions. Jana combines diverse experience in education, design, and manufacturing to craft engaging content.

In addition to her writing, she is a visual artist and foodie in Portland, Oregon.