Make your own online courses

So I thought, “Hey, how would I make an online course if I didn’t have access to edX?” Because edX and Coursera are nice, but you sort of have to be affiliated with a major university in order to get involved with them.

One web search later, I have a bunch of links and some time on my hands, so I thought I’d do a compare-and-contrast exercise. These links are in no particular order.

There are some common features that I initially listed, but then decided were so ubiquitous that I might as well take them out. The following features are present in basically every provider I looked at.

  • Discussion boards on every page (with the possible exception of quiz pages)
  • Completely linear content – no branching paths
  • An extremely limited number of question types – multiple-choice and typed response are the most common.
  • If it’s a commercial site, you can build courses for free but need to either pay by the student, or have the students pay.

Without further ado:


  • Link:
  • Interface: Fairly wysiwyg editor.
  • Guide: A “101” course:
  • Good: Automated due date reminders. Custom problem types for larger creators (in their “partnership” model). Can also customize content for each student (though naturally it could become time-consuming).
  • Bad: Build courses for free but pay for each students. (It’s a fairly small fee.) Must award points for each piece of content.
  • Commercial: Yes
  • Notes: Can offer scheduled and self-paced versions of the same course. Fairly well-polished.


  • Link:
  • Interface: Fairly wysiwyg editor. Does both uploading and embedding for videos.
  • Guide: An “instructor course”: and a “knowledge base”:
  • Good: Inline place for student notes. LaTeX for math formatting.
  • Bad: Course pricing seems fairly high.
  • Commercial: Yes
  • Notes: Fairly sizeable audience. The instructor course actually has a good amount of video production advice. Definitely one of the better-developed environments.



  • Link:
  • Interface: Authoring tool with preview and some import tools.
  • Guide: A help site:
  • Good: SCORM compliant.
  • Bad: The authoring tool is slow and parts of it seem not to work. The “marketplace” is flooded with test classes.
  • Commercial: Yes
  • Notes: This site’s logo lists it as being in beta, which definitely seems to be the case.


  • Link:
  • Interface: Checkboxes and pull-downs.
  • Guide: A help site:
  • Good: Extensive, lots of features. You can run a school with this.
  • Bad: A little tricky to navigate sometimes. Not for single users. No online assessments.
  • Commercial: Yes, but not at the student level.
  • Notes: rCampus is designed as a whole-school product. It’s not really made for online courses.


  • Link:
  • Interface: Checkboxes and pull-down menus
  • Guide: Teacher’s course at
  • Good: Built-in notes section.
  • Bad: Teacher’s course videos seem to be entirely blank. Multple-choice questions only.
  • Commercial: Yes
  • Notes: Fairly bare-bones stuff. The errors in the teacher’s course seem like a substantial issue.

Google Course Builder

  • Link:
  • Interface: “To use Course Builder, you should have some technical skills at the level of a webmaster. In particular, you should have some familiarity with HTML and JavaScript.”
  • Guide:
  • Good: Open codebase.
  • Bad: Limited response types – MC and custom-coded fill-in-the-blank only.
  • Commercial: No
  • Notes: This is very much a set of tools – not a template-driven approach or a “fill in the course” approach, but something you can use if you have the tech skill for it.


  • Link:
  • Interface: Editor uses Markdown
  • Guide: A how-to course: and
  • Good: The badge system is course-specific and peer-driven. The site collects some explicit metadata about the course, which is good from a research perspective.
  • Bad: No heirarchy of course items. No quizzes or assessments.
  • Commercial: No
  • Notes: As the name might indicate, there is a strong focus on peer critique and feedback. There is no other assessment of the students. The site also makes a distinction between “courses” and “MOOCs”, for reasons unknown to me.


  • Link:
  • Interface: Checkboxes and drop-down menus. There’s a lot of stuff here, so it takes a little getting used to. If you’re running the server yourself, you’ll need to be familiar with a command line.
  • Guide: Documentation at, forums here:, and even books:
  • Good: Extensive support.  SCORM compatibility.
  • Bad: Takes a lot of setup work. You’ll need to run your own server or find someone else who will.
  • Commercial: No
  • Notes: Moodle isn’t as much of a “run your whole school” site as rCampus is, but it’s close. If you work in education and haven’t heard of Moodle, you should probably learn a little about it. They’re fairly ubiquitous.


You can also run your own instance of edX’s server (here’s their GitHub repository). There are instructions, but you’ll really need to be a programmer. It’s not for most individual teachers.

If you have a site that you’d like to see added to this list, let me know. Always glad to learn more.


About Colin Fredericks

By day I help to create online courses at HarvardX. By night I write roleplaying games.

Posted on September 9, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Thanks for reviewing CourseCraft! We agree that back then the site was pretty bare bones. Since this post was written we’ve made a TON of improvements and added a lot of new features. We ditched the markdown editor for rich text and we’re constantly working to improve things.

  2. Update: Odijoo is no longer online.

  1. Pingback: edX and Google | Don't Stop Learning

  2. Pingback: Pathwright follow-up | Don't Stop Learning

  3. Pingback: “Lots of students” is not a course format. | Don't Stop Learning

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