Do you want to teach online? Check out this list before embarking on your online teaching journey. (5-minute read)

Teach Online – An Analogy

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As we all know from shopping on Amazon or eBay, doing something in the physical world versus the virtual world differs in many ways.  How do you shop on Amazon? Well, you’ve probably had a lot of practice shopping in the brick and mortar world.  So you use what you know from that experience and then adapt it to shopping in the virtual world.  Over time while shopping on Amazon, you try and learn new things – for instance, Amazon Prime or Subscribe and Save, and then tweak your shopping experience accordingly.

The process of thinking about and preparing to teach online is similar.  If you want to teach online, whether it be by creating Udemy courses or teaching online college courses, there are a few key steps to take when preparing your online course.

Do a Quick Online Teaching Skills Assessment

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Do you have all the teaching skills that you need?

To get into the mindset of teaching online, it helps to do a little self-evaluation to identify areas of focus as you proceed.  Assess yourself for these skills: communication, presentation, technological literacy, time management, evaluation of students/material, and yes, of course, teaching students to learn and apply concepts – and this, in your chosen online course topic area.  It seems like a simple enough list of skills to have, but if you dig deeper into these, you may find that you need to skill up or learn more about, say, effective video presentations.

It also helps in this stage to reflect on your own experiences as a student or learner. What did you like that teachers said and did? And not? Imagine the total learning experience from the perspective of your online students.  Make notes about your skills and thoughts and what preparation you need to do on the front end.  Then go execute.

Create a Course Syllabus

Creating a syllabus can help you think through how to teach online

Yikes! We all know what it feels like to receive the dread course syllabus at the beginning of the semester.  So much to do and learn!   So much to teach as well!  A syllabus has an important purpose for a teacher as well – what will you teach and when? How will you know when or if your students are absorbing your material?

We’ve written about the importance of creating a course outline.  When you teach online, you should create a syllabus for your course as well.  If you are teaching a higher education online course, you most definitely must create one. 

Think of the syllabus as the pre-step to creating your online course outline.  A syllabus will be very detailed and provide specific content ideas, very detailed structure and pacing to your online course. It will also put you into the mindset of a “real” teacher.   After creating your syllabus, you can then think about how to teach the material online and what’s the best way to cover the material in a virtual or Udemy-like setting.

Make Sure You Have Enough Content Support

It’s one thing to know a subject intimately as a hobby. But can you create a course out of your knowledge and deliver the content with relative ease?  It pays to do a little upfront research on your topic. Discover new ideas, back up ideas, resources to turn to when you get stuck on course design and content creation, or when you need to refresh your course content. Bookmark websites to refer back to over time. Subscribe to newsletters about your topic area to keep up to date and get fresh material and ideas.

This is particularly important if you are putting together a course – say on the Udemy platform as many people do – on a topic that you know little about. Although this approach to creating your first online course is not recommended, you may have found a niche topic that you are just dying to try and teach online. If this is the case, make sure you have enough and the right kind of content and can speak to it as an “expert”.

Learn Tech for Online Teaching

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Do you know how to create and edit great videos?

One of the biggest differences between teaching in a regular class and an online class is the technology involved.  We’re all pretty tech savvy, right?  That said, taking selfies and tweeting is not the same as mastering technology that enables you to teach online effectively and consistently. Online teaching requires dealing with computers, webcams, software, hardware, platforms etc.

It goes without saying that you will need a solid internet / wifi connection.  Then you have to understand the differences between various online teaching platforms and software, such as Udemy, Thinkific and Podia, and pick the best one for you (no easy task!).  

Then there is the video and recording equipment and your video filming studio set up to organize.  It’s worth taking the time to get the online teaching tech right.  Sure, you can get going with an iphone, but you will still need to practice conveying your material in front of the camera and learn the best way to edit your videos for effectiveness and quality.

Here is basic checklist of tech skills to consider: basic computer skills, proficiency with software applications (i.e PDF, video editing),  internet search literacy, comfort level with learning and using features and functions of an LMS (like Udemy or Teachable) including uploading files, familiarity with platforms for communication/engagement Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

Plan for Engaging Students

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How will you engage your students so they don’t look like this?

Who’s your target audience for the course?  How well do you know them, their motivations and how to get them excited and interested in your topic?  Make sure you have a pretty good idea about this before designing your course and getting in front of a camera.

Also, it’s one thing to outline your course in a syllabus, it’s another to figure out how to convey the material as an online teacher with virtual students in an engaging way that encourages them to complete your course and meet learning objectives (these, by the way, should be in your course syllabus!).  Brainstorm ways to create interest constantly throughout your course.

We’ve written several articles that contain ideas for engaging students.  The kinds of online teaching aspects you need to be thinking about are your presentation skills (voice, body, movement, etc), interactive elements (encouraging questions/contact, quizzes, downloads, etc.), and adapting to learning styles.

Make content interactive as much as possible, such as having students take a short quiz after completing watching a module or incorporate interesting and unexpected visuals, much like advertisers do. Think of ways to catch students’ attention when they are watching your online course.

Finally, if you’re not teaching live, set yourself some kind of schedule or plan for reaching out to students to encourage them to complete and progress with your course and to check messages for comments and questions and give replies.

Do Your Own Online “Homework”

If you are reading this article, you are likely already doing research – good for you!  But in addition to reading this article, why not hop not on a quick Udemy course to help you skill up and make sure that you are covering the bases as an online teacher? Here are a couple of links to get you going (note: we do not receive any affiliate fees for these links, nor have we evaluated or recommend these courses):

Another tactic is to look at reviews (such as on Udemy) of courses similar to yours. See what students like and don’t like. Take one or two of your competitors’ courses and make notes about what YOU liked and did not like and how you can improve the learning experience for your students.

The Teach Online Bottom Line

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Whatever you are teaching online make sure to just have fun!

While some of these tips may seem easier or more obvious than others, the key is if you want to teach online you have to prepare in many ways.  This list is meant to give you some food for thought in terms of the kind of preparation you should do before you ever create an instructor account on Udemy or elsewhere. 

In the end, when you teach online, you want the experience to have as much of the same impact as a face to face course as possible. With all that in mind, the most important step for preparation is to prepare to have fun teaching!  Then students will sense your enthusiasm and desire to teach teaching, even in a virtual environment.

Do you want to teach online?  Have a look at our Beginner Instructor’s Guide to Course Creation for ideas!

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