Online learning has taken education beyond the confines of a classroom, crossing geographical barriers and transformed the modern education system. The name David Calle may not ring a bell until you realize that the number of students accessing his science and math lessons goes beyond 30 million. Raymond Chambers, Ken Silburn, and several other top teachers of the world have received phenomenal success through expanding their learner-base by teaching online. While most educators have adopted online learning methodology in some way or the other, it is not too late to leap if you have not done so already. The resources required to teach online are diverse and can confuse anyone who is relatively new to this approach. Understanding the importance of each strategy and available resource becomes critical while making the transition from traditional classroom approach to teaching online. Whether you are new to the world of online teaching or a veteran looking for an update on new resources, here are some critical things you should consider to become an online teacher.
- Set your goals – initiate your planning: What drives you to take the plunge? Do you want to reach out to a larger learner-base? Alternatively, do you want to save time and reduce cost in this technologically advanced age? Setting your goals takes priority over everything else. The goal-setting step includes creating an agenda or business plan with components such as time and resource management. It also helps in facilitating planning and preparation of teaching material and also highlight any potential challenges that might prevent you from delivering the class as expected.
- Decide your target audience: Once you have clarity of your purpose, the next step is to determine your target audience. One of the fundamental benefits of conducting classes online is the outreach to a broader and more diverse audience. There are some crucial aspects of selecting your target audience like demographics, the nature of your product/services, and what your competitors offer. Demography plays an important part, as your learners may belong to different schooling systems. Secondly, knowledge of who requires the recommended services is mandatory to approach the customer. Knowing your customer needs in-depth market research. On the other hand, a deep understanding of your competitors would enable you to polish your services/products and to provide the customers what other service providers do not.
Having clarity on who gets to access to your class, or ideally who should be admitted to your course, would assure effective and intended knowledge transfer.
- Prepare training material: One of the prerequisites for conducting an online class is having the right resources and the understanding of how to use them. Resources utilized for holding an online course are very different from that which we require for a traditional class. The resources to conduct a class online include a script or a teaching plan containing the flow of the topics to be covered, activities to be undertaken, and a sample assessment. Incorporating all these aspects, Instructional Design can be of great help to design and deliver an online class. It involves the inclusion of commonly used technology to facilitate a well-designed topic that, can be taught by analyzing and subsequently creating the content and evaluating it.
- Invest in teaching aids: Besides common communication platforms as simple as YouTube.com, a teacher also has the option of using various online teaching tools. While YouTube is the simplest, it does not offer most tools that make a classroom interactive and efficient. If you are a professional who wishes to impart paid, high-quality digital learning by interacting with your learners, you can enable extensive collaboration within a virtual classroom software or a learning management system.
- Test-run: After figuring out the mode of delivery, the last step is a test-run. A test-run would assure you if everything is working as expected or not. Similar to how a pilot conducts a test-run to check if all vitals of the aircraft are functional before the take-off, a pilot session would assure you of the smooth functioning of all critical tools and highlight the discrepancies. It is also an excellent way to gauge your learner’s initial response regarding the overall experience.
- Be known: You must carefully plan your next class based on the success of your previous one and market it through social media. Find a partner organization that is ready to pay you for your class and uploads your pre-recorded lesson to reach out to a broader audience. Uploading your course on an online course marketplace ensures that learners get to know you and reach out to you whenever they doubt a topic or want you to conduct more classes. Marketing your online course should be of primary importance, whether you are a passionate teacher who wishes to help learners worldwide or a budding entrepreneur who wants to get paid for his/her skills.
- Provide valuable add-ons – the X-factor: Most of the topics being taught in schools have been extensively researched, and most of this information is available online. Your class must be inclusive of all the accurate information that is available to your learners. Although it is impossible to incorporate all of such resources in your lesson plan, it is possible to find a way to include some of the most relevant ones. You can find short-list resources from several educational forums, most of which are usually free to access. Having such a support system that provides you a variety of resources is a good backup while starting out.
- Learn from the pro: Online classes have been around for quite a while, and several teachers have received phenomenal success. You can approach such pioneers and talk to them about their success stories. Ask them about what worked and what failed? Learning from failures can prove to be equally crucial in avoiding points of failure.
- Review, assess and realign: When considering any new venture, the most important thing is to review your strengths and weaknesses and evaluate the situation with regards to the tools available and your comfort level in using them. Then, realign yourself to be able to make optimal use of all resources while achieving the desired results. At the end of each class, repeat this process of review, assess and realignment to ensure you stay at the top of your game.
Conducting a class online is a daunting task, primarily for those of us who have been used to teaching in a traditional classroom. The first wave of teachers who braved to try teaching online has been successfully cleared, leaving behind several valuable lessons. Extensive knowledge coupled with comprehensive online teaching tools makes it easier than ever to begin conducting classes online in no time. Have a clear vision and the right resources to execute a well-planned online class. It may not be a one-hit-wonder, but if it is properly planned, you might just become the Elon Musk of education.