Tips to help online educators plan their first course.
With online education a growing force on the market, more enterprising individuals than ever before are finding themselves inspired to launch an online course of their own. However, for many of these potential educators, the first hurdle is learning how to teach a course.
If you’ve never taught a class before, there are some fundamentals you should be familiar with before you begin. And even if you have taught a course, doing so for the first time online is a different experience. What steps can you take to prepare yourself ahead of time?
Fortunately, there are several. Here’s some of our top tips to help you make your start as an online educator.
1. Read online teaching blogs.
You’re here, and that’s a good start. The Internet is full of valuable resources to help motivated individuals learn almost anything they want. Blogs and other online teaching journals provide some excellent resources for the new online educator. Compiling a list of top industry blogs is a great way to keep on top of new trends and pick up on best practices.
2. Learn the software.
Before you launch your course, you should familiarize yourself with all the software you plan to use. That includes your LMS, any video editing software for course presentations, online applications, and all SaaS programs you plan to use. The last thing you want is for your learner experience to suffer because you haven’t gotten used to the technology yet.
3. Consider taking a course.
Yes, there are online courses available to teach people how to teach online courses. While plenty of entrepreneurs have become successful educators without them, they’re still a valuable resource for anyone a little less sure of their capabilities. And, once you take an online course yourself, you’ll be more familiar with the medium from the learner side of things. You may gain some inspiration for your own course, or you could come away with idea for how to improve the experience for others.
4. Attend a conference.
The e-learning industry is huge, and that means there are plenty of conferences all around the country for you to attend. And you should go, because they provide a high-powered environment for you to learn a lot in a little bit of time. It’s not just the talks and workshops that are valuable—the people you meet can share their own experiences and guide you to more helpful resources.
5. Connect with other educators.
Conferences are great for meeting other educators, but even if you can’t attend one, there are plenty of other ways to connect with other online educators. If you read a blog you like, try asking a question or two in the comments section. Look for online teaching groups on social media, or join a discussion forum. Having trouble finding an answer to one of your burning questions? Ask it on Quora. Not everyone will be able to leave detailed feedback, but even a sentence or two can be a great help.
6. Blog your way through it.
Blogs aren’t just a learning resource for the readers—they’re a learning tool for writers as well. If you’re trying to learn anything new, writing about your experiences along the way can help you organize the materials you’ve learned in a way that makes it easier to recall later.
Plus, a blog will give you an early opportunity to build your brand and test your course ideas with your audience. Wondering what pricing model to use? Blog about the different kinds and ask your readers which they would prefer. Thinking about what material to include in your course? Blog about some of the topics and ask readers what they would find most useful. You may not get much feedback, but if you do it can only help you build a stronger course.
7. Prepare your course materials.
For many of us, the best way to learn is by doing. It’s going to take you some time to pull together a complete online course. Depending on your subject, you may need to film and edit lectures, work with a graphic designer on course materials, or talk to a developer about custom functionality. Throughout this process, you’ll learn plenty about how to organize your materials, how to integrate them with your LMS, and how to set up communication channels with future students. You might as well make a start.
8. Beta test.
Once you have your course together, beta testing can help you work out some of the kinks in your plan. Was the course accessible? Did the quizzes match the knowledge level of the course content? Were they able to communicate with you effectively? Most importantly, beta testers can tell you if you’ve successfully taught anything in your course. (And yes, they’ll probably have learned something.)
9. Be prepared to fail.
Well, not fail permanently, but be prepared for some things to go less than perfectly. And by “be prepared,” I mean “have an improvement plan.” If someone leaves harsh feedback on your course, don’t let it destroy your motivation to keep going. Instead, have a reply ready, know what you’ll be willing to offer in compensation if someone has a bad experience, and be proactive in looking for ways to make your course better.
Don’t talk yourself out of it.
Starting anything new is an intimidating prospect. But online education is a forgiving environment for anyone trying to learn something new—even teachers. If you’re worried about teaching a course for the first time, remember that you are not alone. Online education is full of first-time teachers, and that’s a good thing. It means there’s plenty of others to learn from, and more than enough room for another new educator to join in.