I'm a Customer Relations Specialist at a startup called Kapwing, and I lead efforts related to Customer Education. We recently launched a free Udemy course to teach new creators how to make videos for social media. Over the course of two months, I led our effort to make a free Udemy course from scratch and market it to potential students.
Before making Kapwing's Udemy course, I didn't have any experience creating curriculum or videos. In the early days of the project, I was overwhelmed by the number of platforms, formats, and techniques to consider.
My coworker Grace and I did everything - planning, lecture videos, promotion - in-house on a shoestring budget without any prior experience, so I made plenty of mistakes that I hope to help other course creators avoid. In the end, our course has helped hundreds of our customers get started with our product (a free online video editor) and furthered our mission by making content creation more accessible to everyone.
In this article, I wanted to share my process and learnings about creating a digital course from scratch. This is how I went from knowing nothing about hosting an online course to creating one for Kapwing from scratch.
Why Make a Course?
I started at Kapwing as a customer relations agent at the tail end of 2019. In my role, I interact with Kapwing users who reach out to us with questions or requests for additional support. One thing the team and I noticed was that most of our tickets came from users asking for tutorials on specific tasks like creating posts for social media, creating personal projects, or virtual learning projects.
In the summer of 2020, we started discussing creating an online course to help creators get started with the Kapwing product. The online course had three goals:
- New user onboarding and retention: While Kapwing already has a YouTube Channel, a Help Center, and a Resources Blog, new creators still get intimidated by the power of our Studio and lost in the options they have for creating videos. We decided that a structured course may offer a focused and guided format that creators could leverage to feel comfortable with Kapwing's tools. People could aspire to complete the course as a credential and vote of confidence that would enable them to express themselves creatively. The course would also help people pick up new professional skills who were recently out of work and at home due to covid-19,
- Reduce help center volume: The course would also help reduce the amount of addressable questions that our support team receives by educating new users, reducing email ticket volume.
- Marketing: Having a free public course available on Udemy allows anyone to discover, enroll in, and take your course. Someone could browse Udemy to find a course on creating social media content, as a small business owner or a social media manager, and find the one I created that walks through common social media content creation on Kapwing. So, the course also serves (in a small way) as a marketing channel for user acquisition. We've noticed a handful of users who discover the course through Udemy or other forums, even though our publicity strategies have been focused mostly on people who already know about Kapwing.
So, we set an OKR at the beginning of Q3 2020 to get 1000 people to complete the Udemy course by the end of quarter (3 month timeline). This goal ended up being too ambitious; a goal of getting to 500 course completions by the end of the year (6 month timeline) would have been more reasonable.
With zero knowledge of how online courses work, how to create one, and where to host one, I started with research. The first one question: what course platform should we use?
I looked into courses about other video editing tools and the differences between different course platforms. Our ideal platform was one that would allow us to put up a course for free and offer our course to users for free.
While researching, I found that while there are a ton of online course hosting platforms, not many of them allow for people to create their own curriculum. Other big name platforms like Coursera, Lynda, EDX and Khan Academy only partner with universities and industries to create and offer courses.
Other platforms I found that allow individuals to upload and create their own courses are Teachable and Skillshare. But Teachable had publishing costs; course creators must pay to host a course there. Skillshare didn’t have the student experience we were looking for.
Udemy was the platform that ticked all of our boxes. The site was easy to learn and credible enough that most people looking for an online course would recognize it.
Planning the Course
As a student, there are customization settings that allow you to take a course at your own pace.
On Udemy, most courses are made up of a sequence of lecture videos that you can pause and fast forward as needed. Some courses will offer assignments, quizzes, and timed practice tests to put the skills taught to practice. A course can also offer a wide variety of supplemental resources, like appendixes, equipment guides, URLs, and more.
Students can change the playback speed while viewing each video. Most videos also have closed captioning with the option to view a transcript as the video plays so that you can watch lectures without the audio and skim through the contents of a video.
The course is not considered complete until a student has watched every video completely.
To try it out and learn from other course creators, I enrolled in a few free Udemy courses. One of these courses was an introduction to photography, because I wanted to see how information was presented to someone with little to no background on the subject. Like many other courses on Udemy, this intro to photography course only offered video lectures (no supplemental resources or activities).
Once I got a sense for the structure of a Udemy course, I moved onto outlining , which I did in tandem with Grace from our content marketing team. We wanted to make sure the course encompassed everything that a user would need to know about creating social media content with Kapwing. We also wanted to give them the confidence to do many different tasks, so we broke the course down into specific tasks and projects.
Recording the Lecture Videos
When we had a general idea of how the course was going to flow, we wrote script outlines for the lecture videos that needed to be recorded. Then, we split up the recording work and started creating detailed scripts to help make the recording process easier.
The hardest part for me personally was recording the videos for the course. I wasn’t used to sitting in front of a camera and recording myself, it was something I’d only done a handful of times for Kapwing’s YouTube channel. However, with a detailed script, the recording process got easier after the first two videos.
We all worked remotely for most of 2020, so I set up my course recording Studio in my home office. I used a DSLR camera on a tripod to record. If you don't have a nice camera, you can use Kapwing's video recorder feature that's built into the editor to record yourself. I recommend setting up an area for filming with the microphone placed in the same position the entire time. The consistency allowed me to create my videos with the same lighting and audio volume, so editing was easier after the fact.
We spent about two months planning the video, leaving only one month to record and edit the videos for the course if we wanted to meet our 3 month project deadline. To speed up the process of making lecture videos, we bulk recorded the footage and edited in Kapwing. Unfortunately, however, this didn't leave much time to show the team and get feedback as we progressed. Spacing out the video recording might have helped us incorporate feedback earlier.
Publishing the Course
After we had created all the lecture videos, we uploaded the videos one by one to the "Curriculum" section of Udemy's course editor. Then, we had to create the framework for the course in Udemy so potential students would have more information than just our video lectures. This portion of creating the course consumed more of my time that I had originally planned. I created an instructor profile with an instructor image and bio, wrote a summary of the course, put together a short promo video, and wrote course messages that would be emailed when students enroll in and complete the course.
All of this content was required to have your course considered by Udemy’s quality guidelines.
Before the course could go live on Udemy, it had to be submitted for review. Udemy generally has a two day reviewing process, but this became six days due to the influx of courses during the pandemic. The Udemy review team will look over all of your course content to ensure that it meets their quality guidelines. We received the feedback review from Udemy after a few days, and the course was live.
Iterating and Improving the Course
To gather feedback about the course before releasing to the general public, I sent the course out to the rest of the team and to new hires that were going through onboarding. We started a Google Doc with everyone's feedback, both high level and detailed specific feedback about the lectures.
Unfortunately, each time you re-upload a video, your course goes back into review. So, if you're on a tight timeline, I would highly recommend uploading all of the videos for your course in one go. With the feedback we received from our teammates, we made a few edits to the existing videos and re-uploaded them.
Then, we released the course into the wild! If you want to check it out yourself, enroll and take the Kapwing 101 Social Media course yourself.
Publicizing the Course
The goal was to get our course out to a wide audience, so I looked into ways to organically grow the number of enrolled students without paying for advertisements. Most experienced Udemy course teachers said paying for publicity is never worth it, and we're a small startup so we can't afford to purchase ads.
Instead, we made a list of organic growth channels and started trying things to see if we could reach more creators. These were the most common suggestions I found in my research:
- Getting positive and organic reviews - Encourage the people who take your course to leave reviews when they are finished.
- Consistently promote your course on socials - Post about and link to your course on different social platforms to let people know that the resource exists and is a click away.
- Send emails about your course to your audience - Add a subtle announcement in a newsletter with related content or add the link to your email signature.
- Find relevant Facebook group or forums to post in - Posting in a Facebook group announces your course to users who may find it useful. Posting in a forum is another form of “subtle” advertisement. Try findind relevant forums, add the link to your course in your signature, and then leave posts that add value in relevant conversations.
- Adding icons and banners to our blog and other resources - Make use of resources that you already have to publicize your new course.
- Create a second course - Having a second course makes it easier to cross promote the two courses by using Udemy’s promotional announcements and creating bonus lectures.
In the few months that we’ve had the course out, I’ve only been able to incorporate a few of these strategies. After releasing to the public, we got quite a few reviews organically. It definitely helped that the completion email sent to students after they’ve completed the course encourages them to leave a review.
From our Udemy analytics, we can see that most students find our course through a direct link. They may have found the URL on social media or through a link in our customer support agent's signature. We also socialized the Udemy course link with an email blast to our Pro customers and creators who have emailed us with tutorial requests in the past. Some customers replied thanking us for creating the course, and others emailed us back with support questions.
The second most popular referral source was Kapwing's YouTube channel. Grace created a YouTube video and published it for Kapwing's Youtube community. It's gotten a few hundred views and referred 41 visitors to our course page.
There were some strategies that we weren’t able to try yet, but would like to attempt in the future. We weren’t able to invest time into finding relevant external Facebook groups or forums, and the banner that we planned on adding to our resources blog and help center didn’t come to fruition either. If we do decide to create a second course in the future to cater to a different user group and cross promote, I’d definitely like to try these additional strategies out.
The biggest accomplishment was just getting the course out. It was a great learning experience and validating to see the positive comments from the people who completed the course. Nearly all of the feedback from users was positive.
We currently have 383 students enrolled in our course and 23 students who have completed our course. The hope is that more students will continue to find and enroll in our course, and that we’ll be able to create that second course for Educators in the near future.
One of the values at Kapwing is “done is better than perfect”, and we definitely followed this mantra throughout the course creation and marketing process. We're proud of the Udemy course and feel that it's added value by lowering the barrier to entry for new video and audio creators.
Looking to better understand content creation, video editing, and Kapwing? Enroll in our free social media content creation course today and learn what our online content creation tool can do for you!