How to create an online course PDF (+FREE Templates!)
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How to create an online course PDF (+FREE Templates!)

April 26, 2024
From checklists to workbooks, learn how to create an online course PDF support system for e-learning. Get started with free templates today.

Everything from work to socializing has moved to the virtual world, and learning is no exception. Whether it’s training professionals or subject matter experts looking to leverage their knowledge for passive income, many are embracing online learning as their preferred education method. However, there are some obstacles to overcome with online and virtual learning, and you’ll need to use every tool at your disposal to help keep your learners engaged, motivated, and internalizing new information.

This article will explore and explain:

  • How do you design an online course?
  • How do you create content for an online course?
  • Why create an online course PDF?
  • How do you make an online course PDF?

Plus, we’ll provide some templates to help you get started with your online course creation!

How do you design an online course?

How you set up your online course will vary based on the subject matter that you’re teaching. Some classes will benefit from extensive self-reflection and others might need extra video content to help demonstrate hands-on techniques. 

The question you need to ask yourself is what is the best way for me as an instructor to design online courses that will make online learning a success for my students?

In order to engage your learners and make the best use of their time, there are certain considerations related to online course design best practices that will help you plan your course and ensure you’re creating all the right documents.

Know your audience

Once you’ve chosen your course topic, the next step is to identify who the course is for. ‘Anyone’ and ‘everyone’ are not helpful target audiences. The more you can narrow down who your audience is, the better you can target the information to them and promote your course effectively. A simple way to do this is to fill in the blanks of the following formula:

This course will teach [audience] how to [end goal of the online course]. 

For example: This course will teach [employees] how to [combat unconscious bias and build allyship in the workplace].

In this case, the person running the course not only knows what they’re teaching, they know how to target their messaging and how to promote the course objectives effectively.

Outline your course

Taking the time to create an online course outline is incredibly helpful for ensuring the information is easy to follow and understand.

What are the core learning objectives? How does the information build up? Break down the learning journey into milestones; this’ll tell you how much content you need to create and help direct the focus of your lesson plans and curriculum.

Use well-organized microlearning principles

Microlearning is when education uses short-term strategies designed specifically for skill-based learning. With information delivered in smaller bite-sized quantities, students are less likely to feel overwhelmed by information overload. 

In practice, this means breaking your course down into small modules with well-defined objectives at the start, providing dynamic activities throughout for engagement, and space for summary and reflection at the end of each unit.

Make your lessons interactive

Student engagement is a huge contributor to positive learning outcomes, and interactivity is a huge part of increasing engagement. Beyond incorporating visual content and video lessons where it makes sense, fill-in-the-blank sections, quizzes, and open ended questions are great ways to spur interaction.

Make content accessible

As the course creator, it’s on you to create a good virtual learning environment. Everything about your course layout, PDFs and workbooks should be clear and concise. The resources should be easy to find, simple to access, and well organized. All of the files and content you link to or use in your course should be universally compatible so that students can use them easily. 

Web-based platforms avoid a lot of these major issues, and using a digital workbook to create your learning materials can help keep your online course navigable and easily used.

Make content accessible

Structure your lesson plans

This part is a lot easier when you’ve done the work to lay out your learning milestones and modules. The next step in the process is to start mapping out your information and the details you need to go with it. 

The easiest way to do this is to use a customizable template (with your interactive elements baked in already) that has preemptively done the hard work for you, and just customize it to fit your course needs and your branding. Wobo’s digital workbook templates have done the heavy lifting for you, so you can get your online course documents ready in no time.

Explore our template gallery and find the right fit for your course.

The better alternative to online course PDFs

PDFs and other types of interactive documents are an integral part of online course design. They provide an area for learners to take notes, reflect on their learnings, and navigate the course. PDFs are handy because they can be displayed on many devices without risking formatting errors like you’d have with a Word document where the user doesn’t have the correct fonts installed. PDFs also allow you to create fillable fields so that learners can fill in their own information for a degree of interactivity. 

There are, of course, a few drawbacks to PDFs. If the student doesn’t have the right program installed on their home computer, they may not be able to easily save any information they’ve filled in. Instructors also don’t have real time visibility into changes being made, they have limited interactivity which hinders engagement, and you often need multiple programs to design PDFs. Digital alternatives like Wobo let users access and interact with your course documents, picking up where they left off if they’re learning at their own pace, then allowing them to download the finished documents as a PDF to refer to later on. 

Giving your learners interactive workbooks like Wobo gives them the tools they need to internalize new information while keeping a document to refer to later on in their learning journey.

How do I make a PDF course?

You can use any number of tools to create an online course PDF. Some tools like Canva provide templates for different types of course materials that you can download as PDFs. You can also use more complex Adobe tools if you’re familiar with them, like InDesign. PowerPoint and Word also export to PDF. 

However you decide to create your online course documents, it’s important to remember what happens next–your learners need to be able to easily use these documents. PDF fans and the IT crowd will tell you they’re generally universally usable, but some student experiences say otherwise. 

Not every person will have access to the required software to fill in PDFs, meaning some will need to print it out at home (which might mean you’re losing out on younger demographics) or just disregard the document completely. It’s worth it to explore interactive options that allow learners to access and interact with the documents online, then download the materials as PDFs later.

Custom online course content is just a click away. Try Wobo for free today.

How do you create content for an online course?

Once you’ve finished your course outline, it’s time to create content for your online course. This is where you give students the information in different formats and give them the space to practice applying their new skills and information. There are different types of learning content that you can create to stimulate and engage your students.

Checklists at the end of each module

Checklists are a quick win when it comes to engaging course content. They reinforce what students have just learned, and clearly instruct them what to do next. 


Workbooks are one of the most powerful tools you can put in your learners’ toolboxes. Workbooks provide an interactive way for students to interact with course material both in and out of class. When they’re interactive and engaging, they help reinforce concepts covered in class and can help with problem areas that may need extra attention. 

Having a handy resource students can turn to and use for extra practice problems, assessments, additional resources, and space for reflection empowers students who learn in different ways to really sink their teeth into the material. 

Make sure to create workbooks built like your lesson plans. Best practice is to use smaller modules aligned with the lessons with different input types like checklists, fill-in-the-blank exercises, open-ended questions, and other activities to keep learners engaged and make sure it’s manageable.

Lesson summaries

At the end of each module or unit, it’s helpful to summarize the information using bullet points that’s been covered, and provide space for students to demonstrate their understanding of the core concepts. These can be included in your digital workbooks to keep things organized and easily accessed.

Video lesson transcripts

Every video in your course should not only be captioned for accessibility purposes, you should also provide text transcripts. This not only allows students to review the information in a searchable format, but a PDF transcript can also be offered to students with accessibility requirements. 

Online course PDF checklist

No matter where or how you create your course materials, there are a few key elements and best practices that you’ll need to keep in mind. Follow this online course PDF checklist to make sure you’re ready to go:

  • Brand all documents with your course logo
  • Include course copyright information 
  • Be consistent with your designs
  • Ensure proper formatting of all documents on multiple devices and operating systems
  • Make sure lesson titles are clear
  • Provide space for students to take personal notes
  • Outline any actions or required next steps 
  • Summary of key concepts covered in each lesson
  • Proofread everything at least twice with fresh eyes

How do I create an online training course PDF for free?

When you’re first starting out with creating an online course, interoperability and interactivity need to take a back seat to cost concerns. As a free tool to prepare a basic PDF support system and create presentation slides to get your online class launched, Canva is a good starting point. 

When you’re ready to offer your clients and learners a better course content option that allows for collaboration, interactivity, unparalleled accessibility, and real time updates, try Wobo out for free. 

Improve your online courses today

While PDFs can provide a great starting point for many online courses, Wobo’s digital workbooks provide an even better way to support your students through their learning journey. Digital workbooks empower students to interact with the materials without the headaches that can accompany PDFs, allowing them to jump in and pick up where they left off at the last lesson. 

Wobo also makes it extra easy for new course creators to create an online course with visually appealing quick-start templates and the ability to integrate your workbooks with major learning management software systems and online learning platforms like Thinkific. Interactive digital workbooks are a win-win solution for both you and your students. 

Level up your online learning. Try Wobo for free today.

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