The first thing that comes to mind is popular tools like Google Drive and DropBox. Well, let me break the bad news right from the start. Both services have ceased to provide web hosting, and no longer include the feature of launching courses from the folder. HTML rendering is now disabled in Google Drive or DropBox.
It’s a bummer, but surely not the end of the world. Check out some nice workarounds below!
Articulate fans may resort to Tempshare – an unofficial hosting service developed by an Articulate engineer (or so the story goes). It’s free, but your course has to be an Articulate Storyline or Studio project. If that’s the case, all you have to do is:
- Click ‘Publish’ for your Articulate project
- Pick Zip
- Drag the .zip file into the box in the tool’s menu, and voila!
Tempshare creates a unique hard-to-replicate URL, content is excluded from search engine indexing, and remains in ‘stealth mode’ while you test. On the downside, Tempshare gets rid of stored data 10 days after you’ve saved it, so don’t forget to warn your learners.
2. Use a proprietary domain and FTP hosting
In case you are beefing up your professional portfolio and trying to raise brand awareness, this is probably your top pick. It’s not rocket science, yet you enjoy greater control of your content and flexibility.
Some basic guidelines:
- First off, purchase a domain name. There are a bunch of services that could help you out with that for just a few bucks. A plain hosting plan will set you back about $10/mo unless you need extra space or other frills.
- Design your website using a market-tested engine like WordPress. It’s quite feature-packed and intuitive so you won’t face any difficulties on this stage.
- Next step: upload the course on the site with a free tool like FileZilla.
- Last but not least, share a direct link with anyone you consider a target audience!
The obvious perk of this method is that your link always leads to your site. That’s how you drive traffic, increase visibility and provide easy access to the content with no intermediaries.
3. Amazon S3
S3 Service from Amazon is a pretty good option for online course hosting. Everything below 5 GB comes free of charge, all extras are reasonably priced. To facilitate uploading and managing files, try CloudBerry Explorer or any similar tool of choice.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Install the free Cloudberry Explorer. Open your desktop folder, simply drop your files into Cloudberry and get them uploaded to an online folder.
- Register an Amazon S3 account. Make sure you provide real data for authentication, including a credit card number. It’s unlikely that you’ll exceed the free volume, so don’t be overly suspicious.
- Amazon S3 then sends you an access key; locate it under the security credentials. Add your account to CloudBerry.
- Once Amazon S3 and Cloudberry are connected, you can create specific folders for your course materials. Just drag them over there, and you’re all set.
- Right-click on the HTML file and get the URL for sharing with your audience.
- In Cloudberry, you may choose to shorten the link to make it look better.
Amazon S3 also enables the user to set expiration dates and viewing permissions. Don’t expect instant results from the service; it does require some steps to get everything up and running, but then again it’s a nice solution for the long run. Especially when both Google Drive and Dropbox are out of the picture.
4. GitHub Pages
Github is not only a kaleidoscope of resources for computer geeks but also a nice platform for hosting web content. Github provides a Pages feature that works just great for uploading and sharing web-based courses. It takes a little navigation and kick-off steps, which may take some getting used to. As part of the free package, all repositories are public, so you may want to consider safer alternatives for sensitive content. To creative a private repo, pick the Micro plan at $7/month or higher.
The course of action is pretty simple:
- Create a git repository
- Upload files
- Push “commits” to GitHub’s copy of the repo.
GitHub hosts websites of any size, and you can choose a free custom domain. The downside for users unfamiliar with git is a certain learning curve. But don’t worry – there is a free GUI client so you don’t have to use the command-line. Obviously, this is a geeky way of sharing stuff. However, should you have time to invest in learning the basics, this will pay off well for the projects to follow.
Site44.com helps you resuscitate the missing Dropbox functionality by turning Dropbox folders into websites. You can make local edits to your HTML so the website stays on the cutting edge at all times. It’s not free but comes at a reasonable rate – 10 websites and 10GB traffic for just $4.95/mo.
Here are the main steps:
- Log in to Dropbox, and allow it to share a single folder with Site44. This Dropbox/Apps/site44 folder is where you store your courses. None of your other content will be available to Site44.
- Site44 monitors the folder for changes and performs prompt updates. There is nothing special you have to do. Your website will refresh right away every time you click reload or F5 in the browser.
To sum up, Site44 offers an easy way to publish content online by connecting files from a Dropbox folder to a hosting platform. Changes made with Dropbox sync up with the website in just a few seconds. Nice choice for those who hate to give up their good old Dropbox service.
Bitballoon is another way to unveil your online courses to the public. You can host content on a bitballoon.com subdomain, which is free. Alternatively, opt for a $5/mo plan to host on your own domain, or – in case of larger institutions – consider a custom deployment infrastructure.
What makes the service a good choice?
- Ease of use. Zip your site folder, then drag and drop it on their web interface.
- Easy versioning. The service comes up with a new version every time you submit changes to the content, so you always stay up-to-date and reserve the opportunity to roll back if something goes wrong.
- Custom Domains. Choose a unique domain name for better brand awareness.
- Password protection. Keep your content away from prying eyes by setting a password.
Everything is really simple with Bitballoon. No FTP or special scripts required. A great method for most users who prefer to skip the coding part.
A member of the Open Company Initiative, Neocities is another free hosting service. With a $0 plan, you can count on up to 20 MB space, hosting of static content and a neocities.org subdomain. In case you need more storage, choose the Supporter Plan at just $12/year, and enjoy 200 MB of space.
Neocities makes it easy to build up a website from scratch:
- HTML editor in the browser. Take advantage of the web-based editor or drag and drop content from your favorite desktop tool.
- Easy browsing. All Neocities websites are easy to find in the gallery. An optional surf bar makes browsing even more convenient.
- Zero advertising. Neocities doesn’t trade community members’ data or add commercial content to your website.
- Elastic scalability. The service uses distributed web servers in datacenters all over the globe so there’s no problem allocating more space for your courses.
Neocities has certain compatibility issues. It only supports a restricted set of file types. Long story short, they avoid MP3 and video files that could mess with their throughput. Well, a free lunch is no haute cuisine, so make sure you don’t downgrade the quality of your e-Learning courses by leaving out multimedia.
Like Amazon S3, NearlyFreeSpeech provides web hosting services and charges for actual capacity. A lightweight static site with basic e-Learning courses will set you back some $3–5/year. Contrary to most competing services, NearlyFreeSpeech.net offers a classic shared hosting environment, and allows SFTP access to their servers.
Here’s what you should do to get started:
- Sign up for membership
- Confirm your email
- Create a personal bandwidth account
- Add funds to the account
- Proceed to deploying a website.
NearlyFreeSpeech allows both static and dynamic sites, which widens the horizons for multimedia content, interactive elements and all things that make e-Learning courses really engaging.
9. SCORM Cloud
Not surprisingly, SCORM Cloud boasts great SCORM support along with affordable cloud-based hosting. The service bills users based on monthly plans: 100MB of storage and 10 learner registrations come for free, unlimited storage plans with greater audience start at $75/mo.
What are the core features?
- Get started quickly. Just email a link to your learners, and they are watching your course in a couple clicks.
- Consolidated management. Stay in control of content updates, permissions and reporting – all available from a single source.
- Plugins for easy integration with WordPress, Moodle and LMSs
- Support for xAPI as well as SCORM
If your intention is to go beyond mere course hosting, this is your soft option. Otherwise, it might be a little bit on the high end.
10. Moodle Cloud
Moodle is Moodle: it’s a big brand in the e-Learning world and a Swiss army knife for any training activity you could think of. The Cloud service actually offers a feature-packed LMS with 200MB of storage plus 50 users at no cost – with way more functionality than SCORM Cloud, yet arguably a less intuitive interface. Starting at 100 users, you’ll have to shell out $250.
Why is Moodle Cloud good for hosting your courses?
- Web-based, easy to set up, updated automatically
- Not just hosting but also authoring. A bulky toolbox for creating killer courses
- Flexible, customizable. Moodle Cloud is a modular structure so you can tweak and tune all you want. Your website will look professional with no extra pains.
- Native mobile support. The Moodle mobile app works great on iOS, Android & Windows.
- Scalable. If your infrastructure grows bigger than expected, it’s easy to upgrade and add more storage capacity in line with evolving requirements.
As with SCORM Cloud, you’d better define your goals before jumping on the bandwagon. Moodle is a comprehensive platform with a plethora of features, bells and whistles that you may not need after all. Should you start building an e-Learning ecosystem with a long-term perspective in mind, Moodle Cloud is surely a perfect playground. The Moodle guys know what they are doing.
That’s online course hosting in a nutshell. What about your experience? Any criticism or kudos for particular brands?
Here’s a brief survey to glean your thoughts and suggestions.