Virtual classes, virtual events, live or recorded webinars, online workshops … whatever you want to call them, they are becoming more popular and necessary as we move towards a virtual work-at-home setting. I’ve seen educators, business consultants, membership-based associations, strength and fitness gurus, and even doctors and counselors all moving in this direction. The good thing is ANYONE can set these up and it may help bring in some well-needed recurring income. However, it might prove to be a bit more difficult than you expect, meaning you may need some extra help from a developer to make the process smoother and quicker. Below will give you the basics of what you need to know:
- if you want to Do-It-Yourself,
- if you want to hire Evolv to coach you through the process at an hourly rate of $50/hr,
- or if you want to purchase the $1500 Workshops Package offering to have Evolv customize this for you.
Either way, this is a great direction to move in if your business can work virtually.
What you Need to Know To Setup Virtual Classes or Events
It is always best to make the most important decisions BEFORE you buy a software rather than AFTER, because it will save you money and time. Below are the decisions you need to make in order to select the right online class software, so take notes on each one and then research your options listed below this section.
1. Choose Your Virtual Class Offerings
First you will need to decide on what topics might appeal to your audience and come up with a snazzy description and title. Focus on how it will benefit your audience – what skills they will learn while taking your class or one-on-one training.
Think about whether you want to offer course features like earned credits, quizzes, lessons, handouts, or certificates of completion. Also think about whether you will offer live/recorded webinars and if they will be one-on-one meetings or for groups.
Lastly, try to get testimonials/reviews for each workshop page so that people can see what others are saying and add a sharing option so that customers can share it with others if they really like it. You can even send a Reviews link in a final email to remind people to review for you. And don’t forget to optimize all class pages for search engines using the Yoast plugin.
2. Choose Your Layout: Calendar or Grid Listings
There are two main layout options when offering your virtual classes that you may not be familiar with regarding terminology.
First you have the Calendar layout which allows you to setup an online calendar where people choose a specific time and date that works for them. This is more appropriate for live upcoming or one-on-one classes that someone can choose from several different dates.
Second you have the Grid Listings layout that is more appropriate for recorded events based on topics they can choose from and not specific to any particular time. This means that people can watch them whenever and wherever they choose.
Keep in mind that some plugins may offer you both options within their software, or you can add an event calendar plugin (check out our $500 Events Online Calendar Package) and/or create a page listing out all your events in a 1 or 2 column format.
3. Choose a Webinar Video Option
For one-on-one, live and recorded webinar sessions, we recommend getting paid plans with Zoom.us or GoToMeeting.com. The most recent option to come out of London is Veed.io who has a free and paid monthly/annual plans starting at $12/mo, offers easy-to-use screen recording and video editing with transcribed captions, and are environmentally conscious by running their servers on 100% Renewable Energy. But there are also free options like Google Hangouts or Skype for one-on-one or live meetings (not for recorded webinars). We especially like Zoom because it is so easy to use, offers breakout rooms to practice a group activity, allows anyone to share their screen or whiteboard, AND they offer a free plan option that works great for 2-person meetings, but if you have more than 2 people joining the call it will limit you to 40 minutes. Be sure to go through all your account settings before a webinar to custom tailor the meeting to your needs. Also read this handy PDF on Tips and Tricks for Teachers Educating on Zoom.
If you only want to create screen recordings, you can even videotape your own classes using video editing software like iMovie or Veed.io and then upload to YouTube or Vimeo – just make sure to optimize the videos and privatize them once uploaded so they can only be viewed from your website domain vs. the general public. Check out Vimeo’s Privacy Protection options & pricing here.
And for those who want to improve their audio visual aspects of their recordings (lighting, microphone, webcam, background, etc.), check out this post from Chris Lema: 6 Home Office Upgrades If You Work from Home.
4. Choose a Payment Option
With payment options you will need to decide on whether you want to offer subscriptions (recurring payments) or one-time payments for each class/workshop, whether you will track registrations & payments yourself or if you want the whole process automated, and whether you want them to pay online with PayPal, Stripe, or Authorize.net. There is also EventBrite or Meetup that will take payments for registrations but they split the cost with you. If you are not familiar with these options, feel free to contact us to help you through these decisions. And don’t forget that whenever you take payments through your website, you will definitely need to setup SSL to show you are a trustworthy secure website.
5. Choose your Software
There are MANY online class software options to choose from – it is overwhelming for sure. Hopefully we can help narrow down your options with a list we’ve compiled below from our peers and our own experience.
How to create an effective interactive virtual class or event:
People can get really bored very quickly if you don’t keep them active and engaged. Below are some great points you should adhere to in order to enjoyify your audience:
- Lead the call with energy, starting right from the beginning – this is THE most impactful thing you do – maybe consider the role of ‘facilitator’?
- Incorporate group breakout sessions: Do your best to help people… Engage (with body and mind!) – Connect (to self and others!) – Smile or Laugh (authentically!)
- Encourage people to show their video so everyone can see eachother’s faces.
- Use Polls to get feedback.
- Vary your agenda with activities that help people access different parts of themselves
- Chatitate => Using the chat to facilitate engaging online gatherings! Do a “Chat storm”
- Consider various personalities, learning styles, interests
- Sometimes it’s helpful to open a meeting by asking a question to meet people where they’re at, making it clear that whatever they’re experiencing is welcome. The following activity is one example of this:
“2 then 2”: invite people to share in the chat 2 words that represent their current experience or state of mind. Share some aloud. Then, invite them to share 2 more words that speak to how they’d like to feel by the end of the call. Share some of those aloud, as well.
- Keep pre-recorded video in easy to digest lengths.
WordPress Options for Live Virtual Classes or Events:
Calendly + Gutenberg Editor
WordPress.com published an article on How to Move Your Classes Online — and Charge for Them using the Gutenberg Editor and Calendly that allows people to subscribe (with recurring payments) to live group or one-on-one classes. These are both free options and easy enough to setup yourself but there will still be some manual things you will have to do here, so not as automated as you may prefer.
Events Calendar Bundle + WooCommerce
Events Calendar published an article on How to Set Up a Calendar for Virtual Events in WordPress using all the tools in the Virtual Event Marketing Bundle which cost around $250/yr. But in order to make money by selling tickets you will need an extra plugin WooCommerce, as described in this post How to Make Money on Virtual Events unless you want to send them to EventBrite or Meetup who can also take payments but they will split the cost with you. This option is also an easy setup that you can do yourself or get help from a developer through our $500 Events Online Calendar Package.
For more Resources check out Events Calendar Resources page to help you with many other tasks like optimization and email communication tips for your virtual events, etc. And if you want to learn how it all works from a small business point of view check out this post: How a Small Business Pivoted to Virtual Events Using The Events Calendar.
A One-Page Simple Solution with Paypal
If you don’t want to deal with plugins in order to keep things as simple as possible, all you really have to setup is a page listing all of your offerings with a PayPal button that will take them to Paypal for payment. Make sure to also setup a confirmation page on your website that your PayPal account will redirect them back to when the payment is finalized. This page should let them know you will be in touch shortly to schedule the meeting. Then you can contact them directly from there on out!
Other CMS Options for Live Virtual Events (non-WordPress):
- Crowdcast starting at $20/mo for 50+ attendees and 5 hrs
- AccelEvents 20% of ticket price or $3/participant free events
- BlueJeans Events by Verizon starting at $9.99/mo for meetings and $99/mo for large events
- GoToTraining (part of GoToMeeting) starting at $109/organizer/mo
* Prices subject to change.
Learning Management System (LMS) for Recorded & Live Virtual Classes & Events:
In order to offer recorded virtual classes you will need functionality like login/registrations to keep the classes private, expire dates to limit long-term access or sharing of the videos to unauthorized users. This means you need a more serious setup called a Learning Management System (LMS) which will give you the security you need plus so much more – including assignments, quizzes, lesson timers, learner profiles with progress reports, credits & certificates, forums, and automated reminder emails. An LMS will also let you display live events as well.
WordPress LMS Options:
One of the most powerful trusted LMS systems for WordPress that has minimal ongoing cost with reliable support and robust features is LearnDash $159/yr. It has been widely used by major universities, Fortune 500 companies, and best selling authors. WP Engine, our favorite webhost, also supports and recommends them in their article here that provides a good overview with a complete listing of all their main features, what plugins they integrate with, and a great preview video. In addition to LearnDash you may also want to install & use LearnDash Course Grid and Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit, both are free.
Some other LMS systems that are highly recommended in the industry are:
- LifterLMS $99/yr
- AccessAlly $80-120/mo
- MemberPress $149/yr
- WooCommerce with Memberships $199/yr, Subscriptions $199/yr, WP Courseware 30-day free trial $129/yr & CartFlows 30-day free trial $199/yr
- Restrict Content Pro $99/yr with WP Complete (progress tracker add-on) $159 lifetime
SAAS LMS Options:
Some people believe that an LMS functions much cleaner and easier on a SAAS system. SAAS means “software as a service” and basically is a hosted web-based software, so not hosted on your own website or WordPress. This means you will have to to create a promotion page with an introductory pitch on your website that then links to the SAAS site for your customers to register and participate – see this exemplary online learning promotional page. This also means that you will have to pay higher ongoing costs but will save on setup costs from a developer. Also their support may help you with the setup process – perfect for those who are technically-deficient.
Below is a list of reputable LMS options that come highly recommended from people in the industry but be sure to check out their demos and reviews before you buy:
If you want to avoid the headaches of building your own virtual classes alone, you can hire Evolv to coach you at $50/hr OR do it for you at our $100/hr rate.
Want something more custom? Our LMS Package for $1500 covers everything below:
FREE Initial Website Consultation: 2 hrs
- This is where we discuss your virtual class needs so that we can find the right software to use.
- You will receive handwritten notes and an estimate following the meeting.
- If you approve the estimate, we move forward with a contract and 50% initial payment (deposit).
Consultation, Reviews, & Training: 4 hrs
- Initial Consultation to review needs & next steps (1 hr)
- Review page layouts and plugin settings (1 hr)
- Training with handwritten custom notes (2 hrs)
Website Design & Development to match your website style: 16 hrs
- Customize custom login/register page
- Customize course grid listing page
- Customize featured course section on homepage
- Customize profile and course pages
- Customize one custom certificate
- Setup of one course in backend for client to replicate for their other courses
- Setup of free SSL certificate that comes included with webhost (if a new site; if old site, then we may have to charge an extra half hour to install and update database)
- Going Live & Browser Testing
PLEASE NOTE: Web Hosting and Software purchases are not included with this package price.
Keep in mind that if you don’t want to purchase the WordPress Custom LMS Package for $1500 we do offer one-on-one coaching for $50/hr.
A client of ours, Graham Behavioral Services, hired Evolv to setup virtual classes on their WordPress website using a custom LMS. They also wanted to offer lessons, quizzes, credits, and a custom downloadable certificate. Feel free to check out their CE Workshops page to enroll and check it out.