Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, online education and communication started to take a bigger role in the lives of many students and professionals.
According to a study led by UNESCO, almost all the world's learners were affected in one way or another by the global pandemic. Data showed that at its peak, over 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries were out of school.
This drastically slowed down the traditional education system all over the world, but at the same time, the online education industry boomed, and it now still stands strong.
Many teachers, schools, students and companies turned to creating and consuming online courses, and saw that it has clear advantages over the traditional ways of teaching and learning, but also some disadvantages.
The pros & cons of online courses
Pros of online courses
- They are cheaper for the teacher and student because the course needs to be produced only once, which makes it infinitely scalable.
- Online courses can be of higher quality because they usually have higher production value than a live class.
- Online courses are accessible anywhere, by anyone with an internet connection.
- The learning can be done asynchronously.
- The progress of the students can be tracked automatically with adequate tools like SchoolMaker.
Cons of online courses
- Not everyone has access to the internet and an adequate environment to learn.
- Following up with the student is not always easy with online courses.
- People can end up dropping out.
- Some students will have a hard time getting used to asynchronous learning.
- Keeping schools open and supporting teachers is still necessary.
- Online courses can be isolating for some students because of the lack of community.
The best tips for teaching online effectively
Online courses are a great way to teach your skills, provide knowledge and share your expertise. It can also be a great way to make money for content creators.
There are many factors that contribute to the success of an online course, such as the quality of content, marketing strategy and how well the course is structured. That is why it is important to follow these 12 tips when you plan on creating an online course.
1/ Niche down
Niching down your program is one of the most important aspects to consider when you are creating an online course.
If you were an ecommerce site owner trying to improve your search engine rankings, what course would you rather buy:
- A course that helps anyone learn online marketing.
- A course that helps anyone learn SEO.
- A course that helps ecommerce site owners go from zero to 10 000 organic visitors per month.
It’s obviously the last one, because it is more targeted and precise.
You can find a niche by looking at what your interests are and what you know best. This may be something that you have studied in school, something that you have experience with, or something that your friends ask you questions about all the time.
And if you are a content creator, great news! You probably already have your niche.
2/ Solve important problems
As a course creator, you should help your students solve problems that are important for them. Here is a framework you can use to see if the course topic ideas you have will solve meaningful problems:
A problem worth solving is PURE:
P → Painful, which makes the solution more valuable, and also encourages the student to put in the effort to solve it.
U → Urgent which makes people take action quicker because they want to solve this problem now, not in the future.
R → Recognized by people who want to buy your product online, which proves that enough people want to solve this problem.
E → Easy to solve by you because you have specific knowledge or experience.
When a course is solving a PURE problem, students are generally more motivated because the stakes are higher, which leads them to take more action and be more engaged.
3/ Help your students achieve a tangible outcome
As you create your course and teach online, your goal will be to help your students get a tangible outcome from it, such as:
- Understanding a concept and applying them like “Web design basics: learn how to create a beautiful landing page that converts”
- Using a tool efficiently to do a specific thing like “Create wonderful movie posters with Photoshop”
- Achieving a goal like “Grow your YouTube channel from 0 to 10 000 subscribers”
- Building a new habit to improve their life like “Make your own Kombucha at home”
And you don’t need to be the best in the world at what you teach, you just need to be better than your students.
If this is one of your first courses, it doesn’t have to be huge. Even if it’s tempting to polish it up and be a perfectionist.
It’s OK if it doesn’t cover everything you want because the goal of a useful course should be to help your students solve a specific problem, not teach them absolutely everything you know about a topic.
4/ Different students learn differently
If someone is already familiar with what you are teaching, they will get bored if you take too much time going through the basics.
But if someone is a complete beginner, they’ll simply get lost if you skip over the foundations!
More experienced learners will also expect more autonomy, while beginners will not need as much autonomy, as it would simply lead them to feel overwhelmed.
Here are some best practices for teaching beginner and advanced learners.
Best practices when teaching beginner learners
- Provide a lot of guidance, especially at the beginning.
- Provide a slow introduction to the topic at the beginning that answers their questions.
- Small achievable goals.
- Increase their confidence by celebrating small wins.
- Increase the difficulty of their assignments and lessons incrementally.
- Give them opportunities to rest.
- Provide feedback often to ensure they are going in the right direction.
Best practices when teaching advanced or expert learners
- Give them more autonomy.
- Help them measure their progress.
- Provide advanced material & challenges to stimulate them and help them master the topic you are teaching.
- Give them the opportunity to teach and help less advanced peers.
5/ Include visuals and demonstrations
Visuals and demonstrations are a necessary part of any online course. They can be used to help the learner better understand what you are teaching.
Here are some tips for creating visuals for your online course:
- Include a visual in each slide of your presentation. This will help you to keep your learners engaged and interested in what you have to say.
- Choose visuals that match the topic of your presentation or lesson, this will make it easier for learners to follow along with what you're talking about.
- Use visuals that will help learners remember important information or ideas, such as an illustration that shows how something works or a diagram that explains an idea with ease.
- Avoid adding too many visuals as it can make your learning material difficult to follow. (a good balance is having one or two visuals maximum per slide).
- Except if you are teaching artistic or design related skills, don’t spend too much time on making your slides pretty. Make them well enough for them to be clear and understandable, and move on.
- Also, you can provide video demonstrations for your students, which are more interactive than still visuals!
6/ Focus more on active learning than passive learning
Having visuals and demonstrations is only one piece of the puzzle when teaching online. They encourage students to memorize facts, but they are not great if the goal is to actually APPLY the information to reach a certain goal. The same goes for reading, watching a video, or a demonstration because these methods are too passive.
Great courses also help your students learn actively by providing these 3 things:
- Group learning through communities
- Learning by taking action
- Mastering a topic by teaching to others
Focusing on Active Learning is one of the best online teaching strategies.
7/ Provide resources
To help your students track their progress, you can create spreadsheets for them, give them exercises with measurable results throughout your online course, create habit trackers or other templates for them.
This will make the learning journey of your students more enjoyable.
8/ Use real-world examples
A great strategy for teaching online is to give real-world examples as they are more relatable and easier to visualize. This is especially true when they are able to use these examples in their everyday lives. For example, if students are taking an online course on nutrition, and they are learning about how carbohydrates can impact weight gain or weight loss, they can use this information from the course to help them lose weight or maintain their weight loss goals.
Examples are especially useful for beginners who do not always have the same level of understanding about your topic as more advanced people.
9/ Create a community around your course
Most course creators just sell a bunch of videos that students have to watch by themselves. But the problem is that they don’t end up taking action because no one is there to push them to take action (or judge them if they don't).
This is where traditional schools have some advantages. In a classroom, students can talk to each other, ask questions to their teacher, and they are kept accountable.
But when you’re teaching online, it’s not so easy:
- There aren’t many reliable solutions for users to communicate. You can use a Facebook, Discord or Telegram group, but people won’t engage in it as much as you’d like because the community isn’t well-integrated with the program.
- People are rarely kept accountable for their progress in a course, and they tend to drop off.
- Asking questions to the teacher and receiving answers can be a messy process, spread between emails, course comments, and social media. Students ask themselves “will I actually get an answer? Am I even asking in the right place?”. This creates friction, and it seems easier to just not ask for the student.
This is why we built SchoolMaker to fix those exact issues that plague most online courses.
With SchoolMaker, you get a built-in community to keep your students engaged and create more accountability in your courses.
10/ Encourage peer-to-peer learning
Peer-to-peer learning is when students help each other out by sharing their knowledge and experience. It's a great way to encourage students to take an active role in their own education, and it can be used in any online course.
This type of education has been around for centuries, but it has gained traction in recent years due to the rise in internet use and social media platforms.
The best way to encourage peer-to-peer learning is by providing the tools for it. You could do that by providing a forum or chat room for students, or by creating an online community where they can share resources with each other, like the one we provide to all SchoolMaker customers.
11/ Interact with your students often to give them feedback
Course creators need to make sure that they are interacting with their students often so that they can give them feedback on their work.
Students want to know that they are progressing and that they are doing well in the course. The feedback from the instructor is a crucial part of this.
The feedback needs to be specific, timely and encouraging. Feedback can be delivered through SchoolMaker, with the built-in community, or through the consultations feature.
12/ Use technology to your advantage
Currently, many EdTech companies are actively making online courses better by building better tools with better follow-up systems between teachers and students, community-driven learning, and some are exploring interesting approaches like Cohort based courses.
Tools like these can help you be more productive and create better courses for your students, so you can earn more money from your online courses.