Create E-Learning Materials in 5 (Almost) Simple Steps

Create E-Learning Materials

Are you a classroom teacher interested in creating your own online language teaching materials for your students? Or are you a freelance educational writer or business owner who wants to develop online language teaching materials for your target audience?

You have the desire to create online materials, but you may be scared of technology – just like I am. And you don’t have a lot of time to invest in learning new technologies or money to spend on ever-changing software or technical support.

I am both a classroom teacher and an educational writer who has always loved creating my own teaching materials. Early in my career, I used to teach with traditional textbooks like most teachers but always enjoyed creating my own print-based materials.

Once I was given the opportunity to write commercial materials, this experience served me well. I was fortunate to participate in nine textbook projects, with companies such as Pearson and Nelson Thomson.

Today, I’m fascinated with using and creating online teaching materials. Over the last decade, e learning has become immensely popular. Online courses ranging from business to technology to language learning are appearing almost daily. Popular learning sites include Udemy, Coursera, and Curious.

Thanks to tools offered by Google and Apple, it’s becoming easier for creative teachers, freelance writers or business owners to produce their own online teaching materials. You don’t have to be tech savvy either. The last thing busy professionals want is to complicate life with technology.

Don’t get me wrong. Creating online teaching materials is not as straightforward as producing text-based materials. There is a certain learning curve, as with any new, creative initiative. This is especially true if you want to create an entire online course.

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As Nik Peachey points out in his technology blog:

“A teacher may well be marvellous at developing and delivering their own materials in the classroom, but when it comes to converting those materials into effective online learning units there is a new level of skill and understanding that they need. Understanding the instructional design potential of an online platform, and how to structure materials so that students progress through an online environment, require training and experience.”

However, if you’re like me, you are willing to learn about instructional design and new technologies. It’s worth the thrill and exhilaration in creating your own simple online materials.


Why use e-learning

In this article, I want to share my experience in creating online lessons. For example, if you’re a classroom teacher using Moodle, you may want to produce a short video introducing your classroom course. Or you may want to create a more elaborate video presentation introducing a project, including slides that have audio.

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Video has become a standard feature in online learning materials. There are a variety of ways you can integrate video into a lesson. It adds a more personal touch to your lesson or an entire course. Recent research has shown that a “lightweight approach to production” is best. This is the approach I propose in this article.

Creating your own online lessons is not as difficult as you may think.

Moodle? For those not familiar with Moodle, it is a learning platform that is widely used in colleges and universities to support classroom teaching and learning.

At the college where I teach, I use Moodle a lot in the language lab for all my English second language classes. It allows me to do a variety of tasks, such as:


  • present the course outline
  • make announcements
  • list the weekly readings and listening assignments
  • link to sites for readings and video material, especially YouTube and Ted Talks
  • create closed-ended quizzes to track student progress
  • have students submit written assignments, which I can then correct and give feedback online


If you’re an educational writer or business owner, you might want to produce an actual online course to sell to your target market. This is an entirely different challenge and requires a lot more knowledge, time and energy as well as investment of some money.

In this article, I will briefly explain how to create simple online learning materials – especially for the classroom teacher, using Google tools and a MacBook Pro. To illustrate the process, I will use examples from an online course I’m developing on how to write effective emails.


My recipe for creating an online lesson



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Like any novice chef using a new recipe to create a delicious meal, you need to use the right ingredients and to follow the steps. This is also true for producing an engaging audio-visual online lesson.

I’m a big Google fan (no, I don’t own Google stock, but I wish I did). Its suite of tools is phenomenal and free. It offers tremendous value.

Although I was hesitant at first, I’ve come to love using a MacBook and its latest operating system, Yosemite. After using PC-based computers for years, I moved to the MacBook and couldn’t be happier. It took me a while to learn how to use it – I’m still learning, but it is well worth the effort.

Good teaching – whether in the classroom or online – begins with good pedagogy. Put into practice these points as you plan your lesson:

  • keep the learners in mind throughout the process
  • know the interests and level of the ability of your students or your target audience
  • be aware of what your students or target audience need to learn
  • have a clear lesson objective in mind
  • keep the content specific and concise
  • engage the learners by telling a story or sharing your experience, ideas or opinions
  • make the lesson concrete and applicable to the real world, if possible


Now let’s move on to the tools or simple ingredients it takes for creating online lessons. I’ll suggest basic tools for beginners and more advanced tools for those wishing to go further.


Beginner (for creating simple online lessons)

  • Google Tools – Drive, Docs, Slides, Google + (Hangouts on Air)
  • YouTube
  • MacBook, iMovie


Advanced (for creating online courses)



I’ve broken down the creation process into five steps. Steps 1 and 2 are basic. Step 3 can be tricky and may require patience to get right. At the end of the article, I’ve added “Recipe notes” giving more information about each of the tools.

Step 1. Write the text of the lesson.

  • write up your lesson notes in Google docs
  • keep in mind the points above about good teaching
  • be sure to edit and proofread your document.


Step 2. Create the slides.

  • transfer your lesson notes to Google slides
  • use one of the available templates or create your own as I have done
  • be consistent in sight design
  • write the key points only
  • include the text in the notes to display to readers.



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Step 3. Record the slide notes.

  • Go to Google+ in your list of Google tools
  • open a Google Hangouts on Air session
  • open another window with Google slides in “present” mode (full screen without the header bar), then minimize the screen
  • toggle back to Hangouts on Air and screenshare the Google slides window. You find the “screenshare” icon on the left menu bar.
  • using your computer camera, click on “Start broadcast” at the bottom of the screen. Note that you don’t necessarily have to be in this window to continue recording. You can be in the Google slides window. This is handy if you have more than one slide and you need to scroll.
  • finally, print out the text of the slide and read it. As you speak, your voice records automatically.
  • Once finished recording, you can then upload the file to iMovie using a mp4 file, open a new project, and do editing

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Step 4. Record yourself.

  • If you wish to add a personal touch to the lesson, you can record yourself in a video introducing the lesson using Hangouts on Air in another session.
  • you can then upload the file to iMovie to the new project, that you previously created, to edit.
  • or you can use another video camera, such as the Zoom Q4, to record yourself and upload the file to iMovie to the new project.
  • in the above example, using iMovie I uploaded the Google presentation and a brief video of myself introducing the lesson.


Step 5. Publish your audiovisual lesson

  • having previously created your own YouTube Channel, you can then publish your lesson online, either public or private, using the URL provided in iMovie.


It’s as simple as that, but you have to practice and keep on practicing to get it right.


Advanced lesson creation

When you become proficient at creating online lessons, you may want to produce an entire online course. You can download Google Course Builder. I am in the process of learning Course Builder myself. So how to produce online courses with this tool is a topic for a future article.

For more information about the uses of technology in education check out Tefl Geek.


 Recipe notes


  • Google Tools for Home & Office

* To access Google tools you need a Google account. But you don’t necessarily have to create a Gmail account, if you are happy with another email service provider.

* Docs allows you to create and edit documents (an alternative to Word).

* Slides lets you create and edit presentations (an alternative to Powerpoint).

* Drive provides access to all your documents and slides, searchable by keyword.
* Hangouts on Air accessed through Google + makes it easy to communicate with others and create video material (an alternative to Skype).

  • Macbook, with its integrated camera, simplifies the recording process.
  • iMovie, Mac’s film editor, lets you edit your video material. It is not difficult to learn with its free tutorials.
  • YouTube makes it easy to upload video with your own YouTube channel.



  • Zoom Q4 handy video recorder – if you plan on doing a lot of recording, this nifty tool gives you high definition video with high resolution audio in a tiny package. My next-door neighbor, a professional musician, highly recommended it. It offers great value for the price.
  • You should use proper lighting to get a better picture. I recommend lighting such as the video light led-5001 or the professional HD-160 camera led video lamp. Both lamps are compact and easily transportable.
  • Google Tools for Home & Office
    * Forms lets you build simple questionnaires or surveys. It can be useful in finding out about the interests and needs of you are target audience.


Course Builder is an open source education platform. You can create
and deliver online courses for any number of students. It offers a handy template to get
you started.

If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact me at I’d be happy to get back to you promptly.

Please enter your comments in the box below.


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  • Larry Clark says:

    Excellent article!
    I found your step-by-step instructions to be particularly useful.

    I’m amazed that Google offers all these tools for free.
    What a boon for educators – and their students.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  • Hi Larry,

    I appreciate your comment. I’m glad you found my instructions useful. I wasn’t quite sure if they were explicit enough.

    Please let me know if you would appreciate a follow-up article on use of Google Course Builder, the platform I’m learning to build online courses.

    Best regards,

  • Leigh Lawrence says:

    I did not realize Google had its own online course builder. I would love to see a follow-up article about the user-friendliness of the application.

    Great article. Thank you.

  • Hi Leigh,

    It is really quite amazing the tools and resources that Google offers. Most people are unaware of them –

    Even though I use Google Apps for Work – in addition to WordPress, for my online business, I discovered course builder by accident.
    I’d love to do a follow-up article on using course builder. I have to admit there are some technical challenges in getting started with the software. If you’re familiar with Moodle, it helps.

    I aiming to do an article by mid-October.

    Best regards,

    PS: Do you do any online work at your university?

  • Cara Leopold says:

    Hi Frank. Great tips. I didn’t know that it was possible to use Google Hangouts in this way to record a presentation. I’ve been using the screen capture tool Snagit – I’m still very much a novice, so probably not ready for Google Course Builder!

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