How to Start an Online School (5 Steps + 3 Excellent Examples)

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In the post-COVID era, virtual learning is a new reality for education. Many academic institutions such as schools, colleges, and universities are already using online courses to keep up with their curriculum. If you’re thinking about starting your own online school, there may be a few things to consider first. Implementing an eLearning platform, unlike an eCommerce website, is not simple. You must consider the long-term implications if you plan on making it work.

Why Start an Online School?

Before you start an online school, you need to understand why virtual learning is good at the present time. In addition, you need to understand your motives and ambitions.

Digital training and virtual classrooms were on the rise even before COVID-19. After the pandemic, however, it became more of a necessity for educational institutes and students to carry on with their educational programs.

In fact, the e-learning market is expected to witness a growth of around 110% by 2026. This is mainly because the virtual learning industry is undergoing a revolutionary transition from content delivery to language training, interactive learning platforms, proficiency testing, higher education pedagogy, functional skill development, talent management, video streaming of classrooms, and e-governance.

The numerous learning platforms and tools available online have made it easier than you think to start an online school. All you need is two or three courses for it to count as an online school. If you have the expertise, these courses can be highly specialized to attract prospective students who are eager to learn in that relevant field.

Your experience, skills, and knowledge can help others while earning an extra income. The initial effort you put in is an investment, particularly if you choose to go with pre-recorded lectures. If you prefer the experience of being in a virtual classroom, it is equally profitable.

If you like connecting with a diverse group of people, an online school can enroll students from around the world, from different backgrounds and cultures. This creates an overall enriching experience for both the students and the instructors.

Types of Online Schools

One of your first steps in learning how to start an online school is knowing which type of platform you want to create. Some choose to offer the courses individually, while others offer bundles of courses to provide an all-rounded learning experience.

Some platforms offer courses on every topic imaginable, like Udemy, and others are more targeted for a specific type of audience. For example, they can offer a course on coding or even a specific type of coding, such as Python.

For this, you need to choose your business model. Here are a few examples:

A Membership Based Platform

One of the most common ways to earn continuous money is to charge your clients a monthly membership fee for your online lessons. This type of model can require your students to register for a subscription to gain access to a set number of courses or classes at a reasonable cost.

You can offer incentives or additional perks such as regular promotions, exclusive payment packages, invite a friend for a month of free subscription, etc. You can customize your platform according to your needs and business objectives.

Pay-per-class Platform

This business strategy lets your students register in your specialized courses for a predefined fee. Pay per class is also a good revenue plan to use while you’re just getting started. When you first start out, your customers may want to take trials for a couple of your classes before enrolling in your subscription packages.

You essentially charge your pupils for the individual trial session they attend. You can even collect a premium fee if you’re providing online courses in a specific field, which would raise your overall earnings.

Certificate Courses

Granting certifications is another efficient way to commercialize your online courses. Certifications can be integrated with a pay-per-class or membership-based business strategy to cater to more dedicated learners.

Starting Your Online School

If you’re completely new at creating online courses, you might want some step-by-step guidance. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Figure Out Your Target Audience

To get a favorable response, you need to figure out who you will serve. This means you need to determine whether your courses will be aimed at a large, diverse audience or if they will be for a more specific market. You can figure this out by asking questions such as:

  • How old are your prospective students?
  • Are they qualified professionals or undergrads?
  • Where are they situated?
  • How do they want to implement the knowledge and skills they obtain from your course?
  • What is their area of interest?

This will also assist you in identifying members of your existing customer base who would be willing and able to pay to become paying members of your online school.

You will need to ask yourself, “What will be different about your school?” It is always nice to stand out, so you need to think about your unique positioning and branding. This might even relate to how you offer your courses, for example, in a membership bundle or individually, and the level of support you will offer. This can include coaching, a community within the training course, or simply independent study.

2. Figure Out the Different Courses

Any instructional program must always include learning resources. After all, you must first determine what you will teach before determining how you will deliver it.

To begin, it is necessary to simplify the topic in order to make it more specific and easier to comprehend, as well as convenient for you to begin with. You may, for instance, specialize in teaching French as a foreign language. However, developing a complete course for the full language could take quite some time. Limiting yourself to just “Business French” is a better option to create a more niche subject and a guided syllabus.

You can start arranging your lessons or what you’ll teach in your classes once you’ve established your business structure, area of specialization, and consumer research. It is a good idea to prep at least 1 session of your lectures before you begin your launch into the eLearning business.

3. Start Creating Your Courses

Define instructional goals when organizing your sessions. Your e-learning goals should follow the SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) in nature. Your online courses should also not solely focus on problem-solving. Students’ conceptual barriers should be overcome in your lectures.

Your material should supply your readers with useful information and advice. It should be focused on solving a specific problem or alleviating the key pain points that prompted them to join your class in the first place. It’s critical to deliver the teachings in a way that the students respond to, as well as providing them with the tools they need to put what they’ve learned into practice.

Allow your imagination to go wild by developing a vision and stating your purpose. The medium of the content (text, video, audio, computer game, etc.) should be appropriate for the topic and target demographic.

Rapid course creation will come in handy here, where you come up with a set protocol for course creation. You may need to hire subject matter experts or outsource some of the course creation in order to make it more professional.

Image Text: Creating courses requires you to know your audience.

Alt Image Text: Users prefer courses that are related to a specific area of interest.

Image Description: A girl using a laptop next to a pouch full of stationery.

4. Choose and Upload to Your Online Course Platform

Make sure you choose an online course platform that will allow you to create the number of courses you need. Some have limits, while others do not support the media you would like to incorporate into your lectures.

You can develop an online course using a variety of tools and platforms. The platform should ideally be built to assist the course creator in generating revenue. Choosing a course marketplace that already has a student database will enable you to build a larger community.  You can offer a free course on their platform, but you will need to donate a percentage of the course’s sales to them.

You can use course creation programs for a more personalized approach. They let you pick from a variety of multimedia options, develop your own personalized web pages, and give you the tools you need to promote your course. The platform you use will be determined by the nature of your course as well as your own needs and interests.

In any case, the online course platform you choose can guide you on how to start an online school. You should look for these crucial features in the platform:

  • Ability to play video, audio, pictures, and PDF files.
  • It should give you the choice of making a timetable for your class.
  • Include sales and payment solutions that are simple to use.
  • For advanced courses, offer a variety of payment options.
  • The platform should allow for meaningful interaction with learners.

Examples of some of these platforms include Thinkific, Teachable, Kajabi, Kartra, LearnDash, etc.

5. Market Your Online School

It could be a very lucrative venture if you know how to create and sell online courses properly. To get the online audience involved and mindful of your business, you’ll need to promote the content on a regular basis and drive attention to your webpage or social media accounts.

Having a strong pre-sale strategy will help you sell more of your courses in the longer term. This occurs when participants profit from the course, apply what they were taught in their everyday lives, and then serve as advocates by promoting it to others. As a result, more individuals sign up, more individuals benefit, and more users volunteer to be advocates.

Monitoring and keeping up to date with an email list might help you attract additional students. This is especially true if you offer a lot of online courses in your online school. Paid promotion, commercials, organizing regular seminars, webinars, and conferences, and gathering testimonials from prior students are all examples of other internet marketing tactics.

Self-promotion through a consistent social media presence is necessary to help bring you recognition and business prospects. You can even choose to market your school or courses individually. Digital marketing methods like paid ads, SEO, content marketing, social media marketing, etc all work, but all take effort.

Examples of Online Schools

When learning how to start an online school, it might be a good idea to learn from the best. Here are some online schools that have already established themselves in the marketplace. They can give you some inspiration on how you can start your own online school.

1. Interaction Design Foundation

Founded in 2002, the Interaction Design Foundation offers self-paced online courses designed by industry experts, particularly in UX design, UI design, and more. Users can take all of their online courses for a flat fee. Their courses are suitable for both professionals and beginners and offer an industry-recognized course certificate.

The Interaction Design Foundation is the world’s largest virtual design school, with approximately 111,151 graduate students. Industry players like IBM and Adobe use their courses to train their workforce. Their resources are used in the curriculum of universities, including MIT as well as the University of Cambridge.

2. Block Geeks

Block Geeks was founded in 2016 with the aim to become one of the largest blockchain education hubs available on the online market. They follow a subscription plan of six dollars per month.

Master Programs are taught by industry leaders who give in-depth guidelines on projects, protocols, and cryptocurrencies. Additionally, their premium course options give students access to some of the most knowledgeable people in the blockchain and crypto industries. This allows them to understand, ask questions, and interact with them.

They provide a variety of learning paths to assist people of all ability levels in achieving their ultimate learning objectives.  These lectures include extra materials to assist you in digesting and comprehending vital information. With knowledge of L+earn Blocks, as you progress, you can trade in cryptocurrency, avail yourself of membership discounts and other member-only benefits.

3. Plural Sight

Plural Sight offers courses in IT ops, software development, information, and cybersecurity, cloud computing, machine learning, and more. They have courses, skill assessments, hands-on learning, and virtual labs to help students build their proficiency and practice what they are learning. Each lab provides exercises with step-by-step guidelines and accessibility to cloud environments that have been pre-configured.

Their skill assessments allow you to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Your results will show you where to begin in a learning route. This will allow you to focus on developing the skills you require rather than wasting time on something you already knew.

They have standard and premium packages, starting from $105 per year, starting with a free trial. When you create an account, you’ll get instant access to tens of thousands of specialist courses, learning pathways, skill assessment tools, and hands-on materials, including exercise files.

Frequently Asked Questions on Starting an Online School

Are online schools profitable?

It seems like you can start an online school for just about anything. There are online schools for cooking, business, design, and even for becoming certified yoga instructors. We conducted a study on the most popular online course topics and found that driving was the number 1 searched online course topic in the U.S.!  There’s quite a bit of competition in this topic area.

But are these schools actually profitable? It depends.

Some online schools are run by large companies that have the resources to invest in marketing and advertising. They may also offer lower tuition rates in order to attract students. is an example of a larger company-run online school. They offer sales training and you can read more about them in our course creator interview. Uvaro earns well into the 7-figure/year range.

Other online schools are started by individual instructors who may not have the same level of funding. However, they may be able to perfect their marketing and still make a considerable profit.

Ryan Desmond of, which offers coding training online, earns 6-figures/year with a handful of staff. He travels around the world as he runs his company and his staff is all remote as well.

How much money can you make selling online courses?

Setting up an online school and selling courses can be a great way to earn some extra money. While there’s no guarantee of how much you can make, it is possible to earn a decent income from selling online courses. Just take a look at a few of our course creator interviews.

Several course creators earn 7-figures/year. Even more have earnings in the 6-figure/year range. I’ve personally been earning 6-figures a year from a course I started in 2001 so I know it can be done. On the flip side, many course creators do struggle to earn. You have to learn how to market your course effectively which can be a big roadblock for many.

How much does it cost to create an online course?

I put together a very detailed study on the costs to develop an online course.

The study found that on the low end, you’ll pay around $1,800 to produce an hour of live-action content; on the high end, you’re looking at around $3,300. These estimates include your costs in time as well as equipment.

If you already have the equipment and software you need, then the estimates go down. In that case, for presentation video production, low-range prices start at $750 per hour, while high-range prices begin at $1,975 per hour. Live-video production starts at $575 per hour, but high-range prices start at around $1,550 per hour.

How do you grow an online school?

Start by creating at least one high-quality course. Once you have at least one course created, you need to promote your school and get students to enroll.

The most effective way to do this is through digital marketing. You can use various techniques, such as search engine optimization and social media marketing to reach potential students and try to grow your school.

What online courses are in demand?

These days, there are online courses available for just about anything anyone might want to learn. Whether you’re interested in cooking, gardening, or even computer programming, you can find a course that’s right for you.

However, some online courses are more in-demand than others. For example, courses on digital marketing and web development are always popular.

Similarly, courses on topics like data science and machine learning are in high demand as the world becomes increasingly reliant on technology.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face when starting an online school?

Starting an online school includes a number of big challenges.

First, you need to find a niche or market that you can tap into. This can be difficult, as there are already a lot of online schools out there vying for students’ attention. Once you’ve found your niche, you need to build up a curriculum and start marketing your school to potential students.

Marketing your school is likely the biggest challenge. It can be difficult to get the traffic you need to see any sales and stand out from the competition. There are many people online who have successfully done that. You can take a look at our course creator interview to see the exact strategies they are using to draw in clients.

What are the specific steps that you should take in order to start an online school?

Starting an online school can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little planning and some effort, you can get your school up and running in no time. Here are the specific steps you should take:

  1. Decide on your school’s focus. What kind of students do you plan to reach? What subjects will you teach? Base this on what people are searching for and not just what you want to teach. The topics must be of value to others. Once you know your school’s purpose, you can start planning the curriculum and recruiting instructors or create the online course yourself.
  2. Choose a learning management system (LMS). This is the software that will power your online courses and allow students to access them. There are many different LMS options available as well as online course platforms which include more business functionality than a typical LMS, so do some research to find the one that best fits your needs.
  3. Promote your school. Once everything is up and running, it’s time to start marketing your school to prospective students. Use social media, email marketing, and other channels to get the word out about what you’re offering and why it’s worth their time and money.


Many people have been pushed to consider whether they can take their teaching methods online as a result of COVID-19. The success and management of their online course or online school are dependent on their organizational and time management skills, their adaptability, their use of multimedia tools, and their determination to make the virtual learning experience as seamless as possible for the learners.

When seeking advice on how to start an online school, make sure you work on the right skill sets and you’ll likely go much further.

Lisa Parmley
Lisa Parmley

Lisa Parmley is the founder of After gaining a Master's degree, she worked in research for about seven years. She started a training company in 2001, offering a course helping people pass a professional exam. That course has earned multiple 7 figures. She created SEO and authority site building training around 2007 which went on to earn well into the 6-figure mark.

She has 22+ years of experience in the trenches creating and selling online courses. Get help starting and growing your online course business here.

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