Teaching an Online Course: The Professional, Stree-Free Approach

The Advantages of Learning Online…

Who hasn’t received email about online learning and thought how wonderful it would be to “attend” lectures, take exams, and interact with instructors and classmates through chat rooms, without driving to some campus? How convenient: work at your own pace from the convenience of your home or office. Most online courses have been degree programs in fields that lend themselves to this approach, like business, technology, health, and law.

How many more people want simply to enrich their lives by delving into something interesting or practical on an ongoing basis? That has been a service community colleges supply, hiring many people with specialized knowledge and experience in a wide variety of fields that appeal to enough citizens to make it worth listing in the catalog.

What About the Advantages of Teaching Online?

When you stop to think about it, most adults accumulate enough knowledge and experience to have something worth sharing with others. Most of them truly love their special field and believe they have a unique slant on it. Only a few, however, apply to teach at their community college and those who are accepted get to share their expertise and passion with only a few dozen people at most per semester. Many knowledgeable and passionate people are intimidated at the thought of designing a course – writing up descriptions, syllabi, outlines, and lecture notes without professional guidance or assistance. Of those who get this far, how many freeze at the thought of standing up in front of a classroom and talking in public?

If this describes you, there is great news. You can now teach what you know and love while “hiding” behind the Internet. Even better, you can get talented professionals to help you create and develop a truly excellent course with all the trimmings. You can get access to tools that let you enroll hundreds of students at once and still manage to encourage them to complete their assignments, pass quizzes, and participate in online discussion groups.

UniversalClass.com – Where Learning and Teaching Come Together…

One such online service is UniversalClass.com. It offers a “Virtual Classroom” in cyberspace. You set up an account quickly and easily, and then concentrate on typing in or uploading specific content for your course through a “wizard,” an automated program that prompts for necessary information and offers hints. Make no mistake, it takes planning and effort on your part, But you are guided through the whole process. Once you’re satisfied with your draft, UniversalClass.com professionals critique it and tell you how to improve it. Once the Course Review Committee approves your course, it is made available online to potentially thousands of learners, who pay whatever course fees you stipulate. You receive sixty percent of these fees. And you’ve paid nothing to set up the course. As you “teach” the class repeatedly, feedback from students and your own evolving insights can be edited in and your course grows in excellence.

What Can I Teach?

It’s time to brainstorm. Start a notebook of ideas. You don’t have to be a “guru” or expert for people at some level to benefit from your insight. Four to six years work or field experience after finishing school may suffice to build a practical course around. Help people learn the “inner workings” of something you do every day effortlessly. Help them avoid trial and error. If you are a skilled craftsperson or hobbyist, you have the makings of a first-rate course. Remember, the Internet lets you incorporate artwork, music, and even movie clips – without you having to know any programming.

What do you enjoy talking, reading, and learning about most? What do you enjoy doing the most? What do you find yourself talking about most with family and friends? What do people most ask your help with? What good and bad life experiences have you been through? How did you cope? What are the biggest problems on the job and how would you fix them? What do you find yourself saying, “I could do that better” about? Or, “If only they’d try such-and-such.” Start here.

People want courses in things like:

  • accounting
  • bookkeeping
  • marketing
  • financing
  • office skills
  • telemarketing
  • entrepreneurship
  • New Age
  • self-improvement
  • holistic healing
  • Yoga
  • fitness
  • birthing
  • dreams
  • self-hypnosis
  • meditation
  • quitting smoking
  • computers at every level of expertise and every specialty
  • cooking (all forms)
  • the visual arts – how to and academic views
  • decorating
  • landscaping
  • genealogy
  • reading music
  • playing instruments
  • the languages of the world
  • law
  • criminology
  • taxation
  • parenting
  • grand-parenting
  • caring for elderly parents
  • caring for pets
  • real estate
  • religion
  • social work…

With a little imagination, your list of ideas can grow to unbelievable heights…

You Can Become a Work at Home Mom Online

By becoming a work at home mom online, you can earn income for your family without leaving your computer chair. By building a website in your area of interest, you can reach an audience of millions with your information, product or service.

You do not need technical knowledge or web design experience to build a successful website. The following C-T-P-M process will help you develop a website that earns income for your family:

  • Content – Create a website that delivers original, high-quality information in an area of interest. Include specific phrases in your website pages that many people are looking for, but many websites don’t provide. These high demand, low supply phrases are known as profitable keywords. They will help others find your website when they search the web for information on your topic.
  • Traffic – You can build the best website on the internet, but you won’t earn any money unless people are visiting it. Bring visitors, or traffic, to your website by spending time in online forums, writing articles and having your site included in web directories. It takes time to build a strong traffic flow, but if you stay the course your website will one day have many visitors.
  • Pre-sell – Go beyond putting advertisements and sales pages on your website, and help your visitors begin to trust you by providing honest, accurate information. Help people see a need for your information, product or service. Write detailed descriptions of the products you represent, their pros and cons, and how they will be useful to your visitors.
  • Monetize – Find ways to earn income through your site by placing ads on your site, selling e-books, or directing visitors to your offline business or service. You can also earn commission by directing visitors to make purchases from other companies. This is known as affiliate marketing. Some websites rely on one source of income, and others diversify by developing multiple income streams.

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to build a web business if you follow the C-T-P-M process.

Planning Online Courses – Do You Know Your Audience?

Who are you creating your courses for? Do you know your Audience?

In the film, Field of Dreams, the tag line was “If you build it, they will come” That might work with two teams of long dead baseball players, but unfortunately this is not a good strategy for online courses

You need to know who your audience are. The image you create of your ideal student is called an Avatar – nothing to do with that film either! This is a profile that you create based on what you know of the type of people who will be taking you course.

How do you find this out – is the next obvious question. Simple. Speak to them and ask them. My audience for my online courses about creating online courses is less demographically specific and does not have a gender bias.

On the whole these are people 15 to 50 who are entrepreneurial, creative, expert, smart. They can come from any part of the world – my courses reach 164 countries.

Start listening to your audience. Ask them questions. Create messaging dialogues. Organise Skype calls. Get under their skin.

Find out who they are.

I ask my students at the start of my courses to introduce themselves. This helps me to understand a little more about them and when they do leave a message in the course, it’s a great opportunity for me to ask them a question and keep the discussion going.

This information is very powerful.

When you talk with them or message with them start looking for key phrases of information about their struggles, motivations, goals, ambitions and objectives. These pieces of information are golden and will be particularly valuable when we come to discuss the next section – Problems.

Do not be afraid to niche your audience down.

By being very specific about your audience, you will resonate with them. If you keep your definition very broad, in order to capture a wide audience, you will resonate with no-one. When you start it is better to focus on one niche but as time goes on you can address multiple niches with your courses.

Try to create an outline written profile of your Avatar.

Even give them a name. Who are they married to or in a partnership with? Do they have children? Where do they live? What is their home like? What is their income? Do they have a car? The more you can fill out this profile, the more you can get to know them.

When you create your courses for them, it is much easier to feel that you are speaking directly to them, engaging with them. Although you are making courses for hundreds, if not thousands, of students, it is still a very personal method of transmitting knowledge. In the course there are only ever two people. You, the instructor, and the student and the more you can make your courses feel intimate and personal, the better will be the student experience.

This is one of the reasons I believe that Alun Hill is so successful. He works very hard to answer all the questions and discussions with his students and when you take his courses, you feel as if he is really talking directly to you. He does not lecture in the traditional sense of the word, he communicates the information you need to know in a very relaxed and no nonsense way that makes you feel that you know him as well as he seems to know you.

This is not an accident nor is it easy to do well. Many courses I have taken have seemed as if the instructor was delivering information to a disembodied spirit somewhere. Learn from this by really getting to know your audience and you will create better courses.

So, I strongly recommend that before you start creating your courses, you spend the time making sure that you know WHO you are creating them for!