There's never been a better time to teach other people how to do the things you love.
People from all walks of life are turning to online courses as a way to learn new skills and demand for online courses has never been higher.
For content creators, this is an incredible opportunity.
However -- once you've decided that online courses are for you -- with so many content creation tools on the market, it can be daunting to try to figure out which tools you should learn and which ones to avoid.
That's why we've put together this comprehensive guide to the essential tools you need to create and sell online courses. We'll be taking a look at a range of tools across every stage of the content creation process, from recording raw video to editing your clips together in post-production.
First up, let's talk video!
Video Recording Tools for Online Course Creators
When it comes to learning a new skill, there's no substitute for being shown how to do something.
Written materials definitely have their place in online courses, but video courses are still the gold standard. To that end, we're starting our journey into the world of content creation tools by focusing on video recording.
APowerSoft Free Online Screen Recorder (Cost: Free)
First up in our list of video recording tools is APowerSoft's Free Online Screen Recorder. Don't be fooled by the tool's utilitarian name - Free Online Screen Recorder is a remarkably capable software tool.
Free Online Screen Recorder comes in two flavors: the free version, which is a web-based application, and a downloadable desktop version, which requires a monthly subscription.
It doesn't get much simpler than Free Online Screen Recorder.
To get started, simply install the Launcher, then click “Start Recording” on the Free Online Screen Recorder homepage.
You'll see a resizable box that controls how much of your screen you want to record, which you can stretch, drag, resize, and move to suit your needs. Recording options are accessible via the gear icon in the lower-right corner of the window, where you can change the output format of your video, the video and audio quality settings, and more.
Pros and cons of APowerSoft Free Online Screen Recorder
APowerSoft Free Online Screen Recorder is a powerful tool that out-performs even some paid desktop software applications. Here's what's great about it:
- Very easy to set up and use
- No time limits for video recordings
- No watermarks on video recordings
- Annotation feature is perfect for video tutorial content
- Skype and GoToMeeting integration
- Easy-to-upload videos to Dropbox and Google Drive
Of course, no software tool is perfect, and APowerSoft's Free Online Screen Recorder is no exception. Here's where the tool falls a little short:
- Necessary to install Launcher tool, even if only using the free version
- Unable to record footage of full-screen applications (such as video games) unless in Windowed mode
With an average user rating of four out of five stars at CNET, Apowersoft's Free Online Screen Recorder is a great starting point for course creators just getting into recording video.
EZVID (Cost: Free)
Our next video recording tool is Ezvid, a recording program with some very cool tools and functionality.
Ezvid does everything you'd expect a free video recording tool to do. It can record high-resolution video footage from any input source including software applications and games, chat windows and VoIP programs, and your computer's webcam.
In addition to its core functionality, Ezvid offers a range of tools that similar programs do not.
Ezvid features a voice synthesis tool that allows you to create an artificial audio track for your video's narration or dialogue - perfect if you're not comfortable using your own voice for your video.
Ezvid also boasts a range of video editing tools, such as video playback speed controls that you can use to speed up or slow down specific sections of your recordings.
Pros and Cons of Ezvid
Ezvid is a powerful software tool with some great features. Here's what we loved about Ezvid:
- Powerful video editing tools that other free video recorders cannot offer
- Optimized for multi-threaded CPUs and high-end video cards, offering superior performance
- Built-in YouTube uploading tool
- Advanced functionality, including high-definition output, autosave feature, speech synthesis, and speed controls
Of course, Ezvid doesn't get everything right. What could Ezvid do better?
- Only available for Windows
- Time limit of 45 minutes per video
Ezvid is one of the best free video recording tools out there. Combining advanced tools with an easy-to-use interface, Ezvid is a great choice for content creators who want to create and sell online courses.
Ezvid has a rating of three stars out of five at TechRadar, with the tool's inability to save video files locally hurting Ezvid's overall grade. However, if you're willing to work around Ezvid's few limitations, it's a great little video recording tool that's definitely worth a look.
FlashBack Express (Cost: Free)
Next up in our round-up of video recording tools for course creators is FlashBack Express by Blueberry Software.
Similarly to other tools in our round-up, FlashBack is available as a free version (FlashBack Express) and a paid version, FlashBack Pro. The pro version has some very handy features, but the free version is also very powerful for a completely free tool.
One of the main advantages of FlashBack Express is that it's so intuitive to use. You can record your entire screen or just a portion of it, add notes to your recordings, and even schedule when FlashBack should begin recording.
Pros and Cons of FlashBack Express
FlashBack Express is a very capable video recording tool that's ideal for content creators. What does it do well?
- Intuitive user interface and recording / playback controls
- Record video from multiple monitors
- Notes functionality allows easy annotation of video footage
- Scheduling feature
- Record audio commentary from various audio inputs including headsets
- No watermarks or time restrictions on video recordings
Now we've covered what FlashBack does well, let's look at where it could use some improvements.
- Only available for Windows
- Software download required
- Videos cannot be saved locally
FlashBack Express was awarded an Editor's Rating of four stars out of five and a rating of “Excellent” by the editors of CNET, making this tool a solid, reliable video recording tool for all course creators.
Video Editing Tools for Online Course Creators
Now that we've covered some tools to help you record your video assets for your online course, it's time to look at several of the most popular video editing tools out there.
HitFilm Express (Cost: Free)
It's hard to believe that HitFilm Express is free. Boasting tools and functionality that rival those of even professional editing and post-production suites, HitFilm Express is one of the most diverse editing tools available.
HitFilm Express isn't just a nonlinear editing suite. It's a fully featured post-production and compositing tool that allows you to create rich, visually stunning sequences with visual effects, transitions, titles, and more. The tool supports a wide range of industry-standard production techniques, including chromakey (green-screen), color grading, and visual effects compositing, making it far more than just a mere editing program.
Pros and Cons of HitFilm Express
HitFilm Express is a seriously impressive post-production tool. Here's what we love about it:
- Fully featured editing and post-production suite that can compete with professional editing suites
- Advanced functionality such as chromakey support, compositing tools, color grading, visual effects, and more
- Unlimited visual / audio tracks and robust nonlinear editing workflow
- Outstanding learning resources and project-based tutorials (with support files)
- Active, engaged community of filmmakers
It's hard to find fault with HitFilm Express - but it's not impossible. There isn't much we don't like about HitFilm Express, but here's what the tool could do better:
- Steeper learning curve than some editing programs
- Limited export / output options
- Relatively high minimum system requirements
- Irritating download process that requires you to share a link on social media to download the program
Overall, HitFilm Express is one of the best post-production tools out there. Its robust range of tools rivals even professional editing suites, but its steeper learning curve may be a little off-putting to newcomers to video editing. HitFilm Express received a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 at TechRadar, so if you're willing to get past its slightly clunky interface, there's a lot to like.
Lightworks (Cost: Free)
Next up in our list of video editing tools for online course creators is Lightworks by EditShare.
Lightworks' core strength is its intuitive user interface. Although Lightworks features some of the fancier bells and whistles of professional editing suites, its simplicity and ease of use are what makes it such a great video editing tool.
In addition to its streamlined UI, Lightworks has a range of other features that make it a serious contender, such as low-resolution proxy workflows for working with 4k video; support for native high-definition export up to 4k; and support for YouTube and Vimeo. Lightworks also comes with a library of royalty-free audio and video content, which can enhance even the most basic videos.
Pros and Cons of Lightworks
Lightworks is a very capable video editing tool. Here's what we really like about it:
- Very intuitive user interface makes Lightworks a solid choice for beginners
- Support for 4k workflows / export
- YouTube / Vimeo integration
- Library of royalty-free audio / visual assets and a wide selection of effects / transition presets
- Robust library of video tutorials and learning resources
- Available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux
So, now that we've talked about what Lightworks does well, let's look at where it could improve:
- Export options limited to 720p resolution
- Free version only outputs either MPEG4 or H264 format
Professional video editors may find the free version of Lightworks' export options to be too restrictive, but for most online course creators, it's a reliable video editing suite that's definitely worthy of consideration. Lightworks received a user rating of 3.2 stars out of 5 at G2 Crowd, making it a solid choice for a range of editing projects.
OpenShot (Cost: Free)
Few video techniques can convey complex concepts more effectively than animation, and if you're planning to use animated elements in your online course, OpenShot could be worth your time.
The tool features keyframe editing functionality, allowing you to create incredibly precise animated elements, from motion titles to sophisticated transitions. OpenShot also supports native rendering of 3D elements such as particle systems like snow; camera and lens effects like flares and distortion; and animated text elements for dynamic title sequences.
Pros and Cons of OpenShot
OpenShot is a great editing suite. What did we like most about it?
- Simple, intuitive UI lets you get to work right away
- Solid range of visual effects / transition presets
- Strong animation tools including keyframe and curve controls, particle effects, dynamic 3D text elements, and Blender3D integration
- Open-source, distribution-agnostic Linux platform
- Unlimited visual and audio tracks for complex editing tasks, advanced titling, and more
OpenShot doesn't have many drawbacks, but it does have some. Here's what OpenShot could do better:
- Can hang / freeze when working with very large video files or complex projects
- Some advanced options and functionality is hidden behind Properties settings
For its few flaws, OpenShot is a solid video editing tool with some very handy functionality. It's also one of the most highly awarded tools in this guide, having won the following awards:
- Best Linux Video Editor, WebUpd8, 2010
- Most Revolutionary Program, PortalProgramas, 2011
- Best Linux Application, TechRadar, 2011
- The Best Free Software, Zwodnik, 2013
OpenShot also received a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 by Capterra users and 4 out of 5 stars by users of SourceForge, making OpenShot one of the most critically acclaimed free video editing tools out there and a solid choice for all online course creators.
Upgrade Pick: All-in-One Screen Recording and Editing Software for Course Creators
If you want a more premium tool that handles both recording and video editing well — and you’re willing to pay for it — then there’s another option that you should consider.
ScreenFlow (Cost: $129 with a free trial)
For those of you who don’t mind paying for Mac screen recording software, ScreenFlow might be a great option for you.
With ScreenFlow, you can do anything you can think of in terms of a mac screen recorder and video editor. For example, you can record specific parts of the screen through cropping, zooming in and out of footage, adding annotations, callouts, and more. It’s got all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a $129 app.
Pros and Cons of ScreenFlow
ScreenFlow has lots of great features, which you’d expect for a premium product. What are the best parts?
- It’s incredibly easy to use
- It’s far more stable than many of the free tools
- The audio capture is best-in-class
- ScreenFlow offers full-screen 2880x1800 resolution recording, which none of the free tools have
- Integrations make it easy to publish videos directly to YouTube, Google Drive, Dropbox and Facebook
- Fast customer support via phone and email
If you’re considering ScreenFlow, it’s also important to know about a couple of cons:
- Only available for Mac
- While you’re on a free trial, every video you export will be watermarked until you pay
- If you want “premium” support, you need to purchase a more expensive package ($209)