Ali Mathis joins Chris Badgett in this LMScast to discuss the top 47 Recommended Resources for course creators and the new LifterLMS Recommended Resources page. In their discussion, Ali and Chris dive into their inspiration for creating the Recommended Resources page and how it may be able to contribute to your course creation journey.
A lot of people know LifterLMS as an all in one solution for building your WordPress LMS website, as it combines e-commerce, all the membership functionality you would need, engagement functionality, and the core LMS elements such as courses, quizzes, assignments, and reporting.
When writing a book, all you need to get started is a computer and a word processing program. Creating an online course often becomes a lot more complex with more pieces involved, such as a domain name, hosting, WordPress, and an LMS. The purpose of the Recommended Resources list is to point course creators in the right direction for things like themes, page builders, equipment, and other tools that can contribute to the course creation process.
The list of Recommended Resources for course creators includes links to tools for everything from hosting to meeting scheduling tools to microphones for recording your course. Tools for creating courses can help improve your ability to produce great content, but focusing on delivering value and getting students results is the core of online education. It is important to keep that in mind when building a course, because many course creators dive too deep into the tech early on and forget to focus their content around the core value they offer.
One way we have seen course creators be successful with creating content is by building a minimum viable course or offering a premium service and using what they learn from that initial contact with their audience to form their course content. You can always start out by recording a course with your computer audio and video camera and upgrading tools down the line if you find it useful to do so.
There is nothing more frustrating when you are building a course site than getting started on the wrong foot. As Chris says, creating a course site is a journey, and it is incredibly frustrating to twist your ankle on the first step.
If you have any questions about the LifterLMS Recommended Resources page or any feedback you have, feel free to reach out at LifterLMS.com. You can find the Recommended Resources page by heading to LifterLMS.com/Recommended-Resources, or you can scroll down to the footer at LifterLMS.com and you can find the link to the resources area there.
At LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Thank you for joining us!
Chris: You’ve come to the right place if you’re a course creator looking to build more impact, income, and freedom. LMScast is the number one podcast for course creators just like you. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of the most powerful tool for building, selling, and protecting engaging online courses called LifterLMS. Enjoy the show.
Chris: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. I’m joined by a special repeat guest, Ali Mathis from the LifterLMS team. How are you doing, Ali?
Ali: I’m great. Happy to be here again. How are you, Chris?
Chris: Good. Ali is further securing her lead as the most repeat guest on the LMScast podcast. We’ve been working on a project at Lifter called the Recommended Resources page, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. How do you want to lead us in?
Ali: I’m super excited that this page has launched, so I know there’s a lot we can talk about related to it. Maybe you could start out by just giving everybody an overview of what this page is, and why we decided to put it together.
Chris: Absolutely. It’s at lifterlms.com/recommended-resources. Also, if you go down to the bottom of the website of lifterlms.com, you’ll find a resources area and there’s a link to the recommended resources there, but a lot of people know Lifter is an all in one solution for building your WordPress LMS website. It combines e-commerce, all the membership functionality you would need, engagement functionality, and it has all the LMS stuff, the courses and the quizzing and the assignments and the reporting and everything. It’s really an all in one in that ecosystem of WordPress LMS website. You don’t need a separate e-commerce plugin or membership plugin or whatever, but the reality is as a course creator or someone building a training-based membership site, you still need a few other tools and tag hardware or software apps to get the job done. Everybody is really busy.
Chris: I think we’re living in a time we’re recording this in the summer of 2019, every time I ask somebody, how are you doing? They always say the same thing. Crazy busy. I think course creators especially, they have an even extra little layer of busyness because they got all this different areas they have to excel out for their project to even work and become a success. Part of that-
Ali: Sometimes … Oh sorry.
Chris: Go ahead.
Ali: Sometimes it’s not their full-time job either. [crosstalk] side project. They have their regular job, their life and then they’re trying to put a course together too.
Chris: I think that’s a really good point. If I was going to write book on the side like a nonfiction book or a novel, I just need a computer and a word processing program and I could get started. Creating an online course, if you’re going to do that on the side, it’s not that simple. You can’t just … You need some more things to come together to start putting it together. That’s really the genesis of it. One of the things that make courses so valuable is the multimedia interactive nature of it. There’s never been a better time in history to create scalable training content on the Internet. In order to do that, you’ve got to get a few things right. It’s never been easier and more possible for anybody to do, but you still need to get things like a website, video, camera, microphones. I don’t know, maybe we should go over some of the categories of all these tools we were talking about of all the tech and gear.
Ali: Yeah, we can go through with some of the categories on the page and then I’d love to talk a little bit about what your personal experience has been with putting your course sites together and your personal stories related to some of these things like hosting. I know you probably could talk about hosting for hours. We won’t do that, but maybe we can touch on some highlights or some horror stories or some good stories. You want to go through what some of the major categories are on the page [crosstalk 00:04:30]?
Chris: Sure. This is a living document or whatever. We’re just trying to make it more valuable over time. We’ve got hosting, domain name registration, emails, CMS, which stands for content management system, themes, page builders, LMS plugins, third party add-ons, SEO plugin, Google analytics plugin, forms, plugins, analytics, payment gateways, email marketing or CRM, meeting, automated meeting scheduling, project management, video editing, video hosting, virtual meetings and webinars, video camera, microphone, computer and design services. Wow, that’s a lot.
Ali: I think there are 48 resources on the page actually.
Chris: Yeah, but the reality is what happens is people end up in research mode and they’re looking at 480 and their brains explode when they’re trying to pick the tools to get the job done. Ali, you and I really relate on project management, and we’ve done it online, and we’ve used Basecamp, we’ve used Asana, we’ve used Trello.
Ali: We used Jira for a while too.
Chris: Jira. We’ve done rough project management, just doing it through email, but how valuable is it? Pretend, if you could go back in time to somebody who is just getting into an online project management. If there was somebody with a lot of experience and be like, “You know what? There’s a lot of tools.” There’s literally 50 project management tools out here. If somebody was like, “Here’s a short list of ones that you might want to check out,” that’s really valuable.
Ali: Yeah. As a company, I think we piloted many different systems for a month or six weeks or even two months some of them at a time before we decided that they maybe weren’t the right fit for us and then had to start from scratch and move on to something else. I’m laughing because you know that always drove me crazy because I don’t love change.
Chris: I don’t either.
Ali: Yeah, it would have been helpful if somebody was like, “Here are three really awesome ones that you can try out, and one of these three will be a good fit for you.”
Chris: Yeah. I went through that. You mentioned three. I think three is a really good number. I was trying to level up my audio capabilities for creating courses and just working on the Internet. In the beginning, what I recommend every course creator start with, if you’re watching this on YouTube, you can see me holding up, I have an iPhone so these are the Apple earbuds. That’s all you need to get started. Don’t over-complicate it. The world is not going to collapse if you don’t have a-
Ali: That’s what I’m using right now.
Chris: Yeah, you’re good. Your audio sounds great. Sure you can get-
Ali: I’ve had used microphones in the past that you have not approved of.
Chris: I remember that. Not all earbuds or headsets are created equal.
Ali: Right, exactly. That’s my point.
Chris: This is the $79 Audio Technica 2100 USB microphone. When I wanted to do something a little higher quality than my earbuds, I got that and this little boom mic thing that cost 15 bucks on Amazon. Now I have something a little fancier where it’s called the Samson Go Mic Mobile where I can walk around and I’m not attached to the computer. I’m not professional level. I’m not doing like Joe Rogan podcasts like studio quality audio through a mixer or anything like that, but I’m good. For most course creators, one of these three is fine, but I see people spend months shopping for audio equipment and just getting overwhelmed or spending too much time and money.
Ali: Right. You get stuck and it delays your content creation and your whole course and your revenue stream really.
Chris: Yeah. I just want to spotlight Jonathan Farley and Mark Maze of Tools For Course Creators because they are audio and video professionals, and they took me to school on … They helped me figure out that based on what I like to do and the fact that I have a whiteboard and this office I walk around in, they’re the ones who got me this. It was the stress relief of them saying, “This is the one you need based on your budget.” I was like, “I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a microphone set up right now.” They’re like, “That’s the one you need.” That’s what we’re trying to do for people, not just on the hardware but also the hosting as an example. We see a lot of people. It’s in every Facebook group that involves WordPress. What hosting do you recommend? There are 50 answers.
Ali: Yeah. We used to do client services really. That’s how the company started, codeBOX, the parent company of LifterLMS. That is a question when I was over in client services that I had to answer on a regular basis, questions or problems with hosting.
Chris: Yeah. It comes up and people … I was talking to somebody literally just yesterday and they were on not a great host and the host was on … They were having problems with the website, and I was helping them out, and then we realized they were on an outdated version of PHP and that host would not upgrade them or show them how our said it wasn’t even possible. There’s nothing more frustrating when you’re building a site to get started on the wrong foot. You got to go on a journey and if the first step you twist your ankle, it sucks.
Ali: That’s a big red flag. I don’t want to go down the hosting rabbit hole, but when your host won’t upgrade to the current version of PHP.
Chris: We want to just make that easy. There’s a lot of themes out there in WordPress and we wanted to just … There are some that have put a lot of great special attention on LifterLMS so we wanted to spotlight those. Also, people don’t know what they don’t know. Some people don’t realize, I want to have an online course, but they’re like, “What’s a foreign plugin?” I’m like, oh well, most websites have a contact form. By the way, you can do some advanced things with forms inside your courses. Just having them see that, oh, it was important enough for LifterLMS to put that category of plugin on there. That must be important. Maybe I should check that out. Because it’s also, what do we not know? I think the number one question we get asked outside of what Lifter can do is what do you recommend for video hosting? Because we get asked that question almost every day through multiple channels, it’s on the list now, so now we have a short list of video hosting.
Ali: Right? It starts with how does video hosting work and then what do you recommend for video hosting?
Chris: Yeah, exactly.
Ali: I think I mentioned that there was at last count 48 different resources on the page, but just eyeballing it, there’s probably about, I’m going to guess 20 categories that we have here for resource types. Do people need something from every single category? What are the bare bones things, the minimum, the MVP, what do people absolutely need and what are the nice-to-haves versus the need-to-haves when you’re starting with your website?
Chris: Yeah, that’s a really good question. We want … Minimalism is key. We could put a thousand resources on here if we wanted to, but we’re trying to help with the overwhelmed not create more overwhelm. I think it’s important to note that there are different types of people out there getting into courses in terms of how much complexity they want to manage and deal with. You could be a beginner, very new to WordPress, not really tech savvy and still pull it off. You’re going to want a few less things than people who are more advanced. I can give an example of that.
Chris: First of all, I just want to note that some of these items on this page do have some affiliate links, and we put that on there. It doesn’t cost you more money, but we do get a commission if you buy through our link, but that’s not the driving force of what we put on here. The number one goal is to just help you find the tools you want for your platform and as little as time as possible and without wasting money. Minimalism is what it’s all about. Every website needs web hosting. You need a domain name. In my opinion, email marketing and CRM, you really do need that. It’s fundamental. You could skip the foreign plugin. You could just put your email address on a page. You could skip the SEO plugin and worry about that later. You’re probably going to want video, unless you happen to have an audio or a text-based course.
Chris: Project management, you may not need. If you’re not doing coaching or consulting or not doing sales webinars or one-on-one virtual meetings in your sales process, you could probably skip the virtual meeting. Really this is a pretty minimal list. There’s a few that you could call out here if you want to go bare bones, but even the ones that we do have some third party recommendations that are nice to have but maybe not essential, third party add-ons. It’s really pretty fundamental. If it’s important enough for us to put it on there, like analytics, in my opinion, if the website is the business, you really should be integrating Google analytics from day one so that you can make data-informed decisions. That’s why it’s on there. The foreign plug-ins, they’re on there because we don’t want you to get a bunch of spam email because you put your email address directly on your website, not behind a contact form.
Chris: Even though some of these things feel a little extra, we’re taking the minimalist approach. I know one you added today is around design services. We’re recommending a tool called Design Pickle. Let’s be honest folks. 10% of you listening to this are wonderful and fantastic at graphic design, and if you want to get an image of your course design, every course has a featured image, we recommend getting some professional graphic design help with that. Design Pickle is something we recommend over there. We’ve been using that ourselves and love it. It’s a comprehensive list, but it’s not meant to let’s make this list as big and as massive as we can.
Ali: Right. When you first started out, Chris, when you made your … What was your first course? Was it the one about frying an egg?
Chris: They were omelets actually.
Chris: I called it the poet omelet method. Poet stands for perfect omelets every time.
Ali: I still have to take that course. When you made your first omelet course, what did you start with? Did you have a checklist that you were referring to or did you just make it up as you went along? Did you have a mentor? How did you get from the idea of having a course to actually having a course?
Chris: I had nothing. I had no mentor, nobody guiding me. I just challenged myself. I couldn’t explain it. I was compelled to figure this online training thing out. My online course was more just a test of can I do this? That first version of the course, I put up on Udemy. Pretty much all it was, was my laptop. I had an external video camera on a tripod, and my laptop had some video editing software in it. I didn’t really do much with the post-production of it. It was only a six-lesson course where I teach six different omelets. I was actually house-sitting for somebody, and I actually recorded it in their kitchen. To this day, they don’t know that their kitchen is all over the Internet with my omelet course. That’s it. It was really just my computer and a video camera and then whatever I needed to do my thing so some food.
Ali: Some eggs.
Chris: Yeah. That was it. Now even the computer itself, the built-in video camera on a computer, if you’re going to do talking head and for most … Honestly, almost the majority of online courses, you’re good to go with just your built-in video camera. Some people don’t even put there … There’s not a need for talking head and they just do screen share or they’re videoing something out in the field.
Ali: Yeah, I’ve seen people also do video recordings of a PowerPoint presentation, for example.
Chris: Yeah. Keynote or PowerPoint is a really popular way to get started. We’ve seen people … Even for the video piece, we’re actually using Zoom to record this, which is that virtual meeting and webinar software I will recommend. You can actually record your lesson videos by having a meeting all by yourself and hitting the record button in Zoom. There are all kinds of little tricks like that.
Ali: Zoom is free. You can upgrade to different plan levels, but the basic plan in Zoom is actually free.
Chris: Yeah, that’s a really good point. We try to recommend, too, we’re always conscious of price and helping people get their course and their project launched without breaking the bank because you can always improve things. I told you about my microphone journey over time. For example, on email marketing, MailChimp I often recommend as a great entry point. They have a free plan. You can do your broadcast emails and you can do a lot for free. It’s just a great entry point. Your earbuds that you already have are free, a great entry computer. Your computer you already have is free, a great entry point. A lot of [crosstalk 00:19:35]. No, they’re not free. A lot of the foreign plugins, not all of them but have a free version that’s very suitable.
Ali: Great. That’s true.
Chris: The SEO plugin, Yoast, there’s a free version. A lot of this stuff, it doesn’t mean you got to go buy something in every category either.
Ali: Yeah. One thing I want to talk to you about or ask you about, because I get this question a lot, I see this question from our customers a lot and this is one of our categories here, are page builders. Is a page builder required with LifterLMS? If not, if I know the answer, when do you recommend a page builder? Who is a page builder for?
Chris: That’s a great question. Well, first of all, WordPress by itself is a page builder. It builds pages, and with the block editor that came out at the end of 2018, it has more page builder-like features which continue to grow and expand. For a lot of people, they don’t need a page builder. They’re good with just regular WordPress and their theme. It’s often the other way around where people just at us and they’re already using page builder. They’re like, “I use Elementor or I use Beaver Builder. I use Divi.” They’re just page builder first and now they want to get into online courses. I’m like, all right, we’re ready for you.
Chris: Sometimes if they come the other way and they’re like, “I’m doing this more complex marketing campaign and I need a landing page that has this really specific layout and all these other features in it.” It’s starting to sound like page builder land where you’re doing complex designs and you want to get them done quickly without doing custom design from scratch. Page builders are great for that. Astra has the Astra starter sites, which is a way to get even more beginner page builder layouts that already look great, designed for a specific purpose with either Beaver Builder or Elementor, and they have some stuff for Gutenberg now that you can just drop right in.
Chris: The reality is the theme of this show, I’d like to just mention that I’d recommend is just being a minimalist. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and just get too many plates spinning that you almost forgot that the main goal here is to help a learner somewhere else in the world through the Internet achieve some result by taking your course. I always like to come back to that. If your audio is not perfect but gets the job done, is that going to make or break your student learning? If you have a fancy layout on your homepage that you did with a page builder, is that going to make or break the … Is it going to prevent you from getting a sale or helping that learner learn? Sometimes we have to get out of our own way and get launched as minimally as possible, but then you can come back to this list and just improve, iterate, improve over time.
Ali: Yeah. Another category which I think is interesting that we have here, and I think it’s because we use it a lot ourselves, is the automated meeting scheduling because that can really save you a lot of … We’ve talked about saving time, money and focus. It can really save you both time and focus, I think, as a course creator or somebody who owns their own business.
Chris: Yeah. I can’t tell you how … I used to schedule meetings all around the world manually. I’m not going back to that world.
Ali: I remember that. I know. We did too when we did client services. We had clients all over the world in every time zone. It was constantly like we’d use timezone conversion websites to make sure we were all talking about the same thing, but misunderstandings can happen a lot in this global economy.
Chris: It’s like, here’s my link, and then you just wait for them to appear. I think that’s important, too, just to mention. For scheduling for a course creator, one of the counterintuitive things I recommend especially if you have a higher priced program is make it possible for people to schedule a call with you because a lot of people don’t necessarily spend $1,000 or more without having to talk to you first to make sure to build the relationship, build the trust and see if you’re a good fit for each other. I highlight that’s why it’s on the list. It’s helpful in doing that. It’s helpful for doing post-purchase coaching scheduling. It’s helpful for if you start working with other freelancers and contractors and people on your team to schedule call times and stuff. You’ll just use the heck out of it once you start working with other people.
Ali: It doesn’t have an actual integration with LifterLMS, but that’s just something that you would throw up on your website separately. Correct?
Chris: Yeah, or use just to run your online training business by email or whatever where you send somebody a link to schedule a call with you.
Ali: I think that’s great. The last thing I wanted to ask you to touch on again since I think this could maybe scare some people that are just getting started is the video editing category. Do you need to be a professional video editor or have those skills to get your course off the ground?
Chris: I would just ask you that’s listening or watching this right now. If you have listened or watched this podcast before, this is near episode 300, it’s been going for four years, and all I do is I chop a little bit off the beginning and a little bit off the end, if that, and that’s my video editing process. These podcasts still deliver value even though they’re not totally perfect edited. Also, if I’m doing a PowerPoint slide narration, inevitably I’ll mess something up. Sometimes it’s okay just to be human and fix it on the fly and go for it. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for editing, but don’t let perfection be the enemy of just getting the job done. Tools … You learned, Ali, recently, fairly recently how to use ScreenFlow, which is a video editing tool for Mac. Personally, I only use 5% of what it does, just dragging things around, cutting them up and sending it out, but it does a lot more. What was it like for you getting going with ScreenFlow? How hard was it?
Ali: There’s definitely a learning curve with it, but there are a lot of YouTube videos. I wouldn’t underestimate the power of a good YouTube video to get started. As long as you have the right computer and the right equipment for it, it’s not too complicated to just do a little bit of chopping here and a little bit of chopping there. Like you said, I probably use … You say you use 5% of it. I probably know how to use 3.5% to 4% of it. I know that it has a lot more power than I even would know what to do with. There’s a lot of great video tutorials out there to help you get started with a lot of these things.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely.
Ali: Any last words you want to say about the resources page or anything that you’re super excited about that I forgot to ask you about or that you want to make sure that our audience knows about?
Chris: I would just say to keep coming back to it. It’s lifterlms.com/recommended-resources. Also, don’t feel like you have to get it all at once. It’s a resource. It’s a living document. We do have something called the infinity bundle, which is our biggest bundle that has a weekly call that we run in it called LifterLMS Office Hours Mastermind. Some of the topics that come up in there are discussions around these things. We’re putting just this list to these frequently asked questions that we get all the time, like what video hosting you recommend and stuff. If you want to have a more in-depth conversation around it, not just with LifterLMS but with other course creators just like you heard, using these tools, learning what they like, learning what they don’t like. I’d encourage you to check out the Office Hours Mastermind call that happens every week. That’s a benefit of the LifterLMS infinity bundle.
Ali: That’s a good point.
Chris: Do you have any final thoughts, Ali?
Ali: No. I just think that this page was born from the fact that we’re always talking and thinking about what we can do to help our customers be more successful. Their success is our success. We really want this to be useful. We welcome any feedback anybody has. They can always send us a message through the contact form on our website. If there are some resources that they’re looking for or have questions about them, we’re happy to answer them.
Chris: That’s a wrap for this episode of LMScast. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I hope you enjoyed the show. This show was brought to you by LifterLMS, the number one tool for creating, selling and protecting engaging online courses to help you get more revenue, freedom and impact in your life. Head on over to lifterlms.com and get the best gear for your course creator journey. Let’s build the most engaging results, getting courses on the Internet.