Teaching online is a complex activity. As online instructors, we need to take care of many different tasks:
- Online course production (creating videos, text, PDFs, exercises, activities, discussion groups, …)
- Online course management (administration, publishing, selling)
- Online course marketing (finding and reaching our audience with great sales copy and appealing visuals).
In previous articles, I’ve covered various course hosting platforms and course marketplaces. These platforms take care of online course management:
- Web and Video Hosting
- Content and Course Management
- Selling Your Courses
Don’t have a platform to host your online courses yet? Here’s a FREE guide!
Online Instructors Need Tools to Create Great Content
If you look closely, you’ll see that most course hosting platforms do not include tools for creating course content. What your online course is comprised of and how you create that course content is up to you.
- Creating great course content is challenging and will force you to look for the right set of tools.
- Marketing online courses isn’t usually done by your course hosting platforms either (although some marketplaces do it to a limited extent). You’ll need to plan how and where to market your courses, and you’ll need to come up with convincing sales copy and graphics in order to be successful. This usually involves either paying specialists for support or, again, even more additions to your toolbox.
For those of you who’re starting to build their toolbox (or those who’re curious if they’re already using the ideal set of tools), I’m throwing in a FREE bonus at the end of this article. Don’t miss out!
What Makes Visme.co a Tool for Online Instructors?
In this article, I’m reviewing Visme.co from a course creator’s perspective. By Visme.co’s own description, it’s a platform that allows you to “create presentations, infographics and other engaging content”. I’m intrigued. Can Visme.co help us with the challenges outlined above?
- Most courses definitely rely on presentations of some kind, and although most course creators have presentation tools at their disposal, it doesn’t hurt to see what Visme.co can do.
- Infographics have become very popular and may be part of your marketing toolbox. We’ll see later that Visme.co is also good at creating banners and social media graphics, which will come in handy.
- Engaging content is definitely something that is missing from a lot of online courses. Engaging content leads to higher knowledge retention rates, happier students, and – as a result – more sales.
There are a number of further features which give Visme.co an edge over alternatives when it comes to online courses. Here’s what online instructors will love:
Canva is often called a Photoshop alternative and it’s great at static visuals. Visme.co’s focus is more targeted, with an emphasis on interactive, animated infographics and presentations. “Interactivity” is a trigger word for any course creator trying to create engaging content for learners. The best course hosting platform will not help you if your learners fall asleep while passively consuming boring content. Content that requires your learners’ input transforms passive into active learning.
In Visme.co, interactivity and animations can be added to any element. You can place links to third-party content, other slides, or convert elements into popups
Due to the export and embedding options, integrating Visme.co projects in course platforms is very simple. Paste your embed code into your course, and you’re all set. Alternatively, you may also link to your Visme.co project from your course.
This also works the other way around – you can pull in elements from the web (videos, surveys, social media feeds, maps) and present them in your Visme.co design.
Autoresponder integration is available in theory (promo videos show the feature) but I couldn’t find the feature. If you use a different autoresponder than Mailchimp, you’re out of luck anyways.
Visme.co projects can be augmented with Disqus comments and social sharing buttons.
Data sets may be visualized in Visme.co using a built-in graph-engine and chart elements in templates may be modified easily. This is something you won’t find in every presentation software and it’s especially useful for course creators. Being able to quickly whip up a nice looking, interactive graph is very convenient if you want to illustrate a complicated point within your course. Cut-and-paste some data, and you’ll have a great-looking graph a second later.
There are a couple of features which may be interesting as well, but I couldn’t test before my premium account expired:
- Voice-over functionality
- Import from Powerpoint/Keynote
Visme.co definitely seems like a possible fit for our online instructor’s toolbox – let’s go find out how it performs.
A Quick Visme.co Walkthrough
There is no Visme.co desktop application, and you’ll create your designs in your web browser. Contrary to Powerpoint and Keynote, Visme.co was created as a web application from the start. Visme.co is quite good at creating web output (which we’ll see later on), and there are a number of useful web integrations available.
Templates are a strong point of Visme.co. They’re well made, they’re plentiful, and they can help you speed up your content creation process (by a lot!). Non-designers (like me!) will especially appreciate being able to tweak a finished design as opposed to starting with a blank canvas.
When starting a new project, you get to choose whether you want to create a presentation, an infographic or a banner, and based on your selection, a (reasonably large) number of templates will be at your disposal.
Once you’ve selected a template, you can immediately start modifying elements directly in your browser window, and you may add further elements using drag and drop. For those of you who know Canva (an online graphic design platform for non-designers), using Visme.co will be a very similar experience.
There is a library of materials (such as icons, images and shapes) available. Although this won’t replace the stock photo account of your choice, for many purposes you will find all the resources you need within Visme.co. Of course, you can also upload your own images.
Once you’re done with your project, it’s immediately available on the web (using a Visme.co URL).
You may prefer embedding your content on your own website or within a course using a script tag:
You can also download your project as images, PDFs (these exports will remove animations and interactivity) or HTML5.
Visme.co User Experience
The user interface is simplistic and well thought out (with some aspects in need of some more polishing – see below). The interface feels snappy on my Macbook Air 2013.
It’s also surprisingly uncluttered. It’s very lightweight and only shows you what you need to see at a given moment.
Creating infographics is incredibly efficient. Where you manually arrange chart elements and try to get them to accurately relay your message, in Visme.co, you just drag a slider to the right value, adjust a few colors, and you’re done.
Learning the basics of Visme.co will take you around one hour, and after half a day, you should be familiar with all the features that Visme.co offers. As with most tools, truly mastering Visme.co and using it efficiently will require some experience. As course creators, we use such a plethora of tools that learning yet another one is often a chore. With Visme.co, you can get started immediately and progress while already producing content.
Using Visme.co to Create Interactive Online Courses
Now that we’ve seen how Visme.co works and what it can do, let’s see how we can apply that to online courses.
In corporate learning, eLearning modules are often created using so-called authoring tools. These tools are specialized applications for creating learning content and they cost a pretty penny. Visme.co allows you to add some of the same functionality to course hosting platforms for a fraction of the price.
Integration with Course Hosting Platforms
Visme.co projects can easily be integrated with platforms like Teachable or Thinkific. Visme.co will allow you to add a level of interactivity to your course content you don’t get out-of-the-box without any complicated hacks. Simply copy the embed code and insert it into your course.
Here’s an example with Teachable (static image – you’ll find a live example down below):
Here’s what you might use Visme.co for within online courses:
Let users interact with images or flow charts. Provide further information upon clicks or when the mouse hovers above an element.
If you’re doing video-only courses there’s a danger of creating a purely passive course. Try adding hotspot elements to your course and increase user engagement.
Hotspot elements can be used to present information in small chunks. They can also be used to create little quizzes and exercises. Try it out (LIVE example!):
You may even use hotpot exercises to explain software interfaces. Using screenshots and hotspots can be used to simulate a software’s behaviour for a specific workflow.
How do you create an interactive course element like the one above? Is it difficult, and does it take a long time? Not at all. It literally takes less than 5 minutes. Watch this video:
Animate Processes or Timelines
Instead of dry, textual descriptions, why not explain a process with an animation? Are you teaching history? Use an animated timeline in order to explain a series of events.
Create little games and exercises by linking between slides.
The graphing engine is easy-to-use and powerful. Copy-and-paste your data, insert it into an editor within Visme.co, and you’re all set.
Visme.co for Online Course Marketing
Great course content is the best basis for a successful course. Make your course content look attractive and you’ll have an easier time selling it. However, if we look further than just the course content, there are many other activities where Visme.co can lend us a hand. Here are a few ideas:
- Make prettier sales pages that don’t only look good, but are also interactive and interesting. Who says sales pages need to be static?
- Capture the attention of your audience with visual elements in blog posts.
- Create great-looking infographics.
- Are you using Slideshare as part of your marketing toolchain? How about a very interactive presentation made with Visme.co?
- Social media marketing often requires pictures and banners. Visme.co offers templates for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn.
- Ads rely on appealing graphics. Whether you advertise on Instagram or Facebook, an ad that sends a clear message using great visuals is a lot more likely to succeed than using a standard stock photo.
- Use Visme.co as a lead generation tool – extract an interesting element of your course, give it a catchy title and publish it publicly. Then, use Visme.co’s lead generation tools to capture email addresses (which you will be able to download afterwards).
The basic plan of Visme.co allows you to try out the platform, but it limits the number of projects (3), the available storage, as well as the feature set. Your exports will carry Visme.co branding, and one of Visme.co’s most appealing features, the large collection of templates, will not be available (although it will show in order to whet your appetite). In short – the free version, unfortunately, isn’t really useful for professional online instructors. You’ll want to upgrade to the standard plan, which will cost you $7/month (annual payment). Although this isn’t unreasonable, the yearly subscription to Microsoft Office 365 costs about the same. Online instructors on a budget may choose the much bigger feature set over the more specialized features of Visme.co. You also need to bear in mind that even the standard plan limits the number of projects to 15. This is fine if you want to create static images (banners, infographics), but if you want to link to Visme.co projects using the “embed” functionality, you’ll run out of projects soon.
Things to Improve
Visme.co is still in beta, so you should expect to run into occasional problems. As I mentioned above, I was happy with the user interface for the most part, and I think Visme.co adds a lot of value for online instructors, but there’s still work to be done in order for it to mature. Here’s my personal wishlist for improvements:
- Some user interface elements could be more intuitive. For example, the iframe tool actually requires you to type HTML (with the iframe tag) into it, instead of just pasting the URL. Positioning elements is a little difficult at times.
- With Google Chrome I would run into occasional problems (text couldn’t be edited and I had to re-open the browser).
- The link tool’s pop-up feature could be extremely useful for online courses as it could allow you to create hotspot animations, little exercises and small games. However, using it is currently cumbersome and unintuitive. Events do not seem to be propagated. E.g. if you bind a hover event to a large rectangle, the action won’t be fired if the mouse is hovering on text contained within the rectangle.
- Animations are a little limited. From a course creator’s view, I’m especially missing path animations which would be very useful for illustrating learning content.
- There is no easy way to name your elements, so if you want to display an element as a pop-up in a (moderately) complex scene, you’ll be required to guess which one is the right element. In long lists of elements, sorting seems to be by order of creation, not by name. There is also no way to group elements, making it hard to accomplish anything beyond basic manipulation of simple elements. Yes, you can probably find ways to work around that, but having a grouping feature would be quite useful.
- QA seems missing at times:
- You’ll run into trouble if you try using Visme.co on mobile devices. While the results created with Visme.co show just fine on all kinds of devices, trying to launch the editing backend on Android results in an warning message. On iOS, I didn’t receive a warning, but the editor wasn’t usable. Now that iPads are being marketed as desktop replacements, not being able to run Visme.co on iPads may trip up some potential clients.
- Cross-project cut-and-paste does not seem to work, making it difficult to reuse your work. There is a slide library allowing you to share entire slides between projects (premium feature).
- There’s no double opt-in functionality when using the lead generation functionality. If you want to obey the law, in many countries this option would be almost unusable for you.
Visme.co is a great addition to a course creator’s toolchain. It’s easy-to-use, uncomplicated and can be useful for a number of purposes.
- Templates for making your content look good and speeding up production
- Graphic assets included
- Powerful, yet easy, data visualization
- Easily create hotspot type exercises/explainer slides
- Easy integration into course hosting platforms
- Host-once (on Visme.co) – use anywhere. Use the same animation within your courses, in blog articles, in your sales copies, or in emails by simply linking to it.
- Some integrations could be improved (autoresponders etc.)
- Limited animation and interaction possibilities
- Unpolished features/Beta status
If you want to improve your course content by adding interactive elements which you can easily integrate into your course hosting platform, and if you want a great tool to create infographics and social media graphics, give Visme.co a try!
Disclaimer: I was approached by Visme.co and was given a premium account for a limited amount of time in order to be able to review the platform. I did not receive payment of any sort (even my premium account has expired by now) and you can, as always, expect an unbiased, objective review.
So now you know how to create engaging content with Visme – but where will you host that content? Where will you publish your online course? You need a course platform to take care of technology for you.
Here’s a FREE guide with the very best platforms.