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I'm Mara — I help creatives create and launch digital courses and profitable products. I love chatting about online marketing, design and goal setting!
So, you’re building an online course, and the time has come to film the videos (cue the dramatic music!) Obviously, if you’re launching an online course, the videos are a huge part of how you’ll connect with students and, well…actually teach them something. So, how do you do it?
I see people struggle with this part of the process all the time! It is, by far, the number one step in course creation that people procrastinate and stress out about. It’s completely understandable if you’re feeling a little psyched out by the thought of appearing on video or worried that your videos won’t look “professional enough.” It’s easy to overthink filming online course videos and make it more complicated than it has to be. But you can do this (and have it turn out well!)
With some prep work, filming goes a whole lot more smoothly, and you might even have fun doing it! After helping people create online courses for over ten years, I’ve learned a few tips to turn filming into a (mostly) painless process. Here are my best tips for planning and filming online course videos.
As tempting as it can be to wing it, planning your video content ahead of time can save you time and frustration in the long run. Prep work helps you remember everything you want to say, meaning you won’t have to film as much content or edit multiple takes together.
Make an outline, write a script, or take a few quiet moments to prepare mentally – whatever works best for you! At a minimum, think of what you want the beginning, middle, and end of each lesson to be before you press the record button.
Show your face to students in a quick introduction video, but otherwise, let slides make up most of the visuals in your online course videos. A lot of people feel the pressure to show up on camera throughout the entire lesson. It can actually be really distracting to students to have you on camera the entire time. Plus it makes it harder to film and edit your video when you’re actually on camera. There’s nothing unprofessional about talking over slides and it’s often the best way to help your students actually learn too!
You can use any slide creation tool (Powerpoint, Keynote, etc…) but I find Canva to be the easiest to make things well-branded and look good.
In general, keep slide text to a bullet point format; if you get too wordy, it can be distracting for students. Some people like to plan out an entire lesson script word-for-word, but most people prefer to look at the slides and use the bullet points as reminders for topics they want to talk about.
You don’t need a full-on professional setup to film online course videos! If you have a relatively new smartphone or laptop, their built-in cameras are high enough quality to film everything you’ll need. If you’re filming your face, sitting in a room with plenty of natural light should have you covered! The one thing I recommend adding if you want to up your recording game is a microphone that will help you get amazing sound quality. I also use this ring light on my desk if I need to record when the sun is in a weird position or I’m filming at night.
Filming is one of the longest steps in creating a course, so you’ll probably want to set aside at least one entire day (or maybe even two!) Ask other people in your house to leave for a few hours so you won’t have any distractions or extra noise.
If you can’t work out large chunks of uninterrupted time at home, try booking a night or two at a hotel or Airbnb to hold yourself accountable to recording. I’ve done this multiple times, and it’s really effective! It’s helpful to know in the back of your mind that you’re in a special place and only have a limited amount of time to work.
After you’re prepped and you’re ready to film, there’s nothing left to do but sit down and record! Even if you’re not filming in a professional studio, you can create a fantastic course with self-filmed videos. Here are my favorite low-effort, high-results tricks to getting the best quality recordings possible.
Whether you have your home to yourself or you booked that hotel room, make sure you’re filming someplace quiet. Silence your phone and laptop notifications, turn off any music or tv playing in the background, and close the windows and doors. If you replay your recordings and hear a lot of background noise, a microphone can help isolate your vocals.
My favorite way to film is with Loom because it’s super easy to use and has excellent video quality. Plus, there are some beneficial features that allow you to keep your face visible while screen sharing, pause recording, and edit videos right in the program. If you’re hesitant to spend money on another tool, then Zoom works just fine too!
It seems logical to film lessons in the order students will see them, and that’s what most people naturally gravitate toward while recording. It’s OK to step outside of the box and film your favorite lessons first. Starting with something you’re excited to share with people can help you get more comfortable and find a good rhythm for recording the rest of the course. You can always rearrange the lesson order later!
We’ve all seen online courses that were filmed in high-quality video studios with HD cameras and tons of lighting. Those videos are great, but don’t feel like you have to compete with them. Remember: you don’t have to appear on camera for most of the course. That’s what screen sharing is for! Most students find it more helpful to see slides or the program you’re using. If your online course videos only show your face speaking into the camera, it’s harder for people to concentrate and follow along with what you’re teaching.
My general rule of thumb is to keep each video to a 10-minute maximum. While it’s OK to occasionally have a longer lesson, it’s tough to hold students’ attention if you cram too much information into one module. If you need help keeping the time down, break each lesson into smaller, bite-sized pieces of information. For example, if you’re talking about your three keys to graphic design, make each one a separate video.
We’re all human, and humans make mistakes! Stumbling over your words, misspeaking for a moment, or saying a few “ums” as you gather your thoughts is normal. When our inner perfectionist shows up, it’s difficult to let go of little things. But honestly? They actually don’t bother people while they’re watching your course!
Even if you make a bigger snafu, you can always edit it out later. I don’t like to make things sound too perfect, or else I end up sounding like a robot! It’s not about being perfect; it’s about showing up, filming, and bringing your course to life.
Tech overwhelm and perfectionism can make it challenging to wrap your mind around the recording process. I hope my tips for filming online course videos make the project seem more doable for you! When you make a plan, set aside the time to record, and dive in with the equipment you already have, you’ve already most of the way there. It’s perfectly fine to make mistakes – just keep working on getting that course ready for launch!