How to create a MOOC for free: the definitive guide to Thinkific

Many visitors come to our page searching for information on how to create an online education course. We, at Learnable, are constantly experimenting with solutions, tools and platforms for creating online courses, so we think this guide might be helpful for many of you .

This guide includes all the information you need to create and manage a free MOOC with Thinkific from A to Z. You can choose to read it in its entirety, bookmark it for future reference or simply take a look at the parts that really interest you.

If your only interest is to create MOOC for free, the second chapter will be more than sufficient.

>> I am not interested in this introduction. Take me straight to the process of creating a MOOC with Thinkific ->

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#1 Why create a MOOC and why choose Thinkific

Whether you are a trainer, a teacher, a training provider or simply someone who wants to transfer your knowledge to others – a MOOC is perhaps the best solution, capable of reaching a multitude of users by providing them with a flexible system, adaptable to their time and habits.

Today, creating a MOOC does not require any special technical knowledge. As you will discover in point two, you can create and publish a MOOC in minutes and without spending any money.

There are a number of solutions that will suit you, but with this guide we would like to focus on using Thinkific for the following reasons:

– First of all, we can tell you that Thinkific is one of the few platforms that allows you to create a MOOC for free by providing you (also for free) hosting space to publish your MOOC and a system to manage your earnings if you intend to sell your course.

– You don’t have to download, install or manage anything. All you need is an internet connection and a little patience to learn how to use the interface.

Against this potential, if you want to use the platform for free, there are some limitations:

  • you can only create one MOOC
  • you cannot add more than one admin to collaborate in the creation and management of your MOOC.
  • You are some limitation in the design and technical features

The free pricing plan is perfect for someone new to creating a MOOC, a teacher who wants to create a MOOC for their students or anyone who wants to try their hand at creating an online course. As your needs grow, you can easily access additional services and benefits with pricing plans that suit your needs. The free option is a great way to start

#2 How to create a MOOC with Thinkific

Go to Thinkific.

After creating your account and explored what you can do (there is a small video introducing you on Thinkific), you can start designing your course.

The Course Player is the course-taking environment – the part of your site where your students can go to watch your videos, take your quizzes, and more.

Just click on customise your course player to open the tab and start completing the following steps:

Course name: write the name of the course you want to create (for example “How to create a MOOC for free”)

– Choose a primary colour: choose the primary colour of the Course Player. It will change the colour of the menu and other accents in the Course Player.

-In the free version, you cannot choose the fonts for your text, but you will use the default ones.

-Add your logo: click on “upload” for uploading your logo.

In the right column you have several options for uploading your logo. We suggest you to upload an image from your computer: for best results, we recommend uploading a PNG or JPG file under 250kb with dimensions 240×48 pixel.

– Click on “Save and continue”

If you are not sure of the final layout, Don’t worry, you can change all these elements later.

By clicking on “Open preview” a demo based on your customisation will appear in another window. You can see how your course will look like, the different media, the structure and layout.

When you have finished exploring it, click on “Complete and Continue” and close the window.

It’s time to create your own course

You can continue with the guided procedure clicking on “Build your own course” and “Start building”

…or jump directly on “Manage Learning Content”  > “Courses”. Here you should click on the course previously create.

Your course will be organised in “chapters”. Any chapter includes different “Lessons”.

By clicking on any Chapter, you can change the chapters’ name. Make sure to flag “draft” box until you have the materials finalised.

By clicking on “+ Add lesson”, you can create a lesson and choose the medium that best suits the learning needs of your students.

Thinkific is able to support a wide variety of content types such as Videos, Quizzes, Multimedia, Text, Surveys, PDF, Audio, Downloadable Files, Presentations, Quiz .You can use only one media per lesson.

Once saved, every time you need it, you can explore a preview of your lesson (how it will be visualised by your learners)

Once created all your lessons and contents, you can set up the other details included in the tabs of this section. We will suggest you to focus on “Settings”, “Pricing” and “Publish”.

In the “Settings” tab, you can set up different details of your course. We would like to highlight the “Course Image & description” and the “Course progress & completion” sections.

In the “Course Image & description”, you can upload a course image. It will make your course more appealing.

In the “Course progress & completion” section, you can set up a Custom completion page. This way, students see when they reach 100% completion of the course. This is a perfect opportunity to show them other courses to take or share follow-up material. In the free version, the “Certificate of Completion” is locked, but you can use this tab to share or download any certification or online badge you have prepared once the course is completed. If you want to know more about how to create an online badge for free, this article it may be useful.

In the pricing tab, clicking on “primary pricing” you can choose if you want to deliver the course for free or to request a fee. In the first case, you can decide an enrolment duration that will limit the time students have access to your content.

In the second case, you will be redirected to the “setting” section for defining the payment methods.

In the “Publish” tab, you can define the course status: draft, pre-order, published. When you click published, your students can purchase, enrol in, and access the content of the course. For students that are enrolled, this course will appear on their Student Dashboard.

When finished, just save.

Now, you should start customising your site. To do it, you can open the menu “Design your site” on the left bar.

By opening the “Site Builder” app, you can customise contents and design of your pages.

Clicking on “Home page”,  you should firstly answer the question below.

For this example I chose “only one course” and then click on “Let’s go!”

At the moment, we will focus on the Home Page.

The customisation of the tabs  “Home page” and Courses is more than sufficient for users approaching Thinkific for the first time. As you become more experienced, you will be able to set up all the other elements, if needed.

It is important to highlight the two main areas enabling the customisation of your pages: the “Pages” and “Theme Settings” tabs.

In the “Pages” tab, you can customise the contents and some structural elements, in the “Theme Settings” tab, you can customise the design of your pages.

Our suggestion is to define the contents and structure before (“Pages” Tab) and then the design (“Theme settings” tab).

In the “Theme settings”, we suggest you to choose one of the three pre-defined Styles included. They will change the page design in a consistent way. Then it will be more easy to set the single design features, if needed.

Now, you can start designing your Home Page.

This will include all your information and courses.

You can customise the header, the banner and the Product areas. They are the main 3 areas which will appear on your site. The header includes your logo and all the direct links you want to provide your learners (including the “Sign in” link).

The banner is the central part of your page and should include a description of your main proposal.

The last part includes a description of all your courses on Thinkific.

The very last part is the footer, which usually includes your contacts  and social media, copyright notes and other links.

All the changes will be visible in real-time, so that you can explore and evaluate different solutions.

When you have finishes don’t forget to save the changes.

You can also create single pages for each of your courses. They are used for give to the learners an overview of your course and allow them to enrol. In most of cases if you want to deliver only one course you can focus only to this page. You should click on “Courses” and then on the course you want to create the page for.

Here you can customise four main areas: heading, banner, curriculum and footer. The curriculum will be automatically generated based on the chapters and lesson you included in your course and the related features.

By clicking on the “+ ADD SECTION” button you can include a lot of different sections and contents to your landing page.

When finished, save your settings.

At this point, go to “Settings” and customise your site’s details.

In this section, you can define some details about your site, payment method, sign up and other elements.

What you have done so far is sufficient for publishing your first MOOC.

Now, open the “Manage Learning Content” section, go in “Courses” and click on your course.

Click on the tab “Publish” and then on “Publish”. Now your students  can purchase, enroll in, and access the content of your course.

#3 Creating a Thinkific course: extra content

Creating Thinkific courses can be simple or difficult. The difficulty lies in the degree of complexity of the course we want to create. If your want a simple MOOC it will be very easy to achieve your goals. If, on the other hand, you want to create a complex educational path, you will have to apply yourself and study a bit further.

Learning how to use Thinkific does not require technical skills such as programming, it just requires commitment and passion. Try to take this new activity as such, study how it works, be happy with your successes and in times of difficulty just keep learning.