Create your own online course with WordPress

Want to create your own personal Lynda.com or Treehouse? If you have something to teach, the tools have never been better to create your own online course.

The problem is that a lot of these new course hosting services are expensive. They start by charging you $130 / month + 4% of course sales + transaction fees!

When I built my first course, I ended up paying $1,288 to host my course for just 9 months.

As someone who was familiar with WordPress (the most popular CMS on the planet) and Gumroad (the best way to sell something online), I always wished I could combine the two, and use them to sell online courses.

Well, that’s why Carl Alexander and I built ProductPress.

What you’ll need

There’s only a few things you’ll need:

  • WordPress hosting (I recommend WPengine, or Digital Ocean). This is where you’ll host your course website.
  • A simple theme: I’ve found that the default Twenty Fifteen theme (that comes pre-installed with WordPress) works well.
  • A Gumroad account: Gumroad is the best way to sell something online. It’s free to use, and you only pay for transaction fees.
  • The ProductPress plugin: the ProductPress plugin connects your Gumroad account to your WordPress site, allowing you to sell memberships. When a user buys your course on Gumroad, your WordPress site will automatically create an account for them, and email them their username and password.

The steps

Here are the steps to creating your own online course using WordPress:

1. Install WordPress:

You’ll need your own web hosting, plus WordPress installed.

2. Install the TwentyFifteen theme

To do this, go to your Appearance menu and click on Themes. Choose TwentyFifteen and click Activate.

Activate the Twenty Fifteen theme in your WordPress Admin

3. Create your product in Gumroad

Log into Gumroad and create a product for your course (ie. Learn Ruby on Rails, $39). You’ll need to include a file in order to save your Gumroad product; we recommend you include a PDF / text file with instructions for your course.

4. Install the ProductPress plugin

In WordPress, go to Plugins and upload your ProductPress plugin zip file. Activate it and connect it to your Gumroad account.

5. Create your course content in WordPress

Create a page for each lesson in your course. In the sidebar, identify which Gumroad customers you want to give course access to.

Now, only people who have purchased that product on Gumroad will be able to access that content online.

The sales process

Here’s how a customer would find, buy, and experience your new course.

1. Discover your landing page

Gumroad provides you with a landing page for each product you create. You can include screenshots, video, and a text description (example).

2. Purchase your course

When a customer clicks the purchase button in Gumroad, it notifies WordPress (and the ProductPress plugin). They’ll also be able to download any files associated with your course (worksheets, etc…)

3. Email notification

ProductPress will trigger your WordPress site to send the customer their login information by email:

(Note: these emails are sent through your web host’s mail system. Make sure they have a good sender reputation!)

4. Customer logs in and learns!

The customer can then log into the course and start learning. Your course can include text, video and images.

This screenshot is from a course that uses the TwentyFifteen theme we mentioned earlier.

Get started

Want to get started? Download the ProductPress plugin and start creating your own course!