Before you choose any free software to create online courses…

If you want to get an edge as an online instructor, you’re looking for ways to increase your profit and to minimize the time it takes to complete your online courses.

That’s where free tools can come in. Many small businesses pick up free or low-cost tools the way Hansel and Gretel picked up pebbles. Like Hansel’s pebbles, free tools are easy to find and can help you get where you want to go.

At the same time, if you pick up too many you’ll find that they are hindering, rather than helping your process.

It makes sense to find the least expensive options if you have limited start up capital. That said, you may want to explore other options if you have online tools that aren’t working the way they need to for you.

While I was writing 38 Online Course Creation Tools That Keep It Lean I tried several tools for the first time. Others I’ve used before but I haven’t spent a lot of time comparing those tools to all the new options that keep popping up.

For example, I like Canva but since I’ve been using Photoshop since the 90s, I’m more likely to use Photoshop than Gimp or Canva for image editing. And I find ways to make that more expensive tool work with my budget because of the time I save using it.

At the same time, I don’t plan to pay for a grammar tool anytime soon because there are so many that work well for me for free. Online course creators run into something similar, and so it’s a good idea to do an audit at least once a year of the tools you are using and whether it makes sense to make a change for your time and budget.

Think about student habits

Another thing that course creators need to consider when choosing the right tools is the habits of your students. A recent phenomenon is that students are doing elearning on mobile devices.

Because this is becoming so prevalent, online instructors are looking into mobile-friendly tools. Gone are the days when an old PowerPoint presentation still works in the classroom, because the traditional PowerPoint format is impossible to read on small screens.

Some tools have upped their game with new mobile templates, but it still takes some extra time to create a new presentation that is friendly in multiple formats. Many new tools show you what your presentation looks like in multiple formats as you create it.

Think about your budget

It’s also important to consider your overall budget. It’s easy to pick up a handful of apps or subscriptions that cost a dollar each, and not realize that you’ve just spent $15 in a matter of minutes. A freemium tool that charges $15 a month doesn’t sound like much, but if you add five of those tools to your tech stack you’re spending $75! So, start with an overall budget for your tech stack. From there, prioritize your spending based on the applications that will be most valuable for the tasks you spend the most time doing. It’s OK to spend more on the tools that will save you the most time.

Think about your habits

Most people resist change. It’s also pretty common to subconsciously avoid the tasks you don’t like doing or to spend more time doing the tasks you enjoy most. While assessing which tools are best for your online courses, take a look at your typical daily schedule. If there is a daily task you hate doing, it may be worth investing money to make that task go faster. It’s important to step back from your habits to choose the right tools for your online courses.

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