Don’t you hate posts that tell you what you should or shouldn’t do? I do normally but in this instance, impelled by concern for your energy and sanity, I had to put pen to title.
Teaching online is like the Wild West currently. Investigate a fairly successful online writing course for example, and you could find that the tutor has never been published. They are, however, pretty hot at online marketing. So your prospecting cohort of teachers will range from subject experts who teach what they are really expert at, to the get-rich-quick-gang who flit from ‘Periscope, that could be big!’ to ‘Creativity, there’s a lot of noise about that online currently…’ to ‘New i Phone, people will need to learn how to use it!!!!’. You get the picture.
Some uncomfortable truths about teaching online are that:
- Standards can be low.
- You need considerable attention to detail.
- You need time to conceptualize, design and produce effective courses.
- You have to be as good at marketing as you are at course production, or outsource it to someone trustworthy.
- You are in a highly competitive marketplace.
- You will need to update your course and support your students afterwards.
To my mind, this is all offset by the opportunity to:
- Teach people from all over the world and interact with them.
- Dig down deeper and deeper into subject matter you love, and learn from those you teach.
- Interact in groups with some of the smartest people online, who love teaching, love their subjects, and who are generous and fun.
Talking to a friend who is creating her first online course, illustrates the challenge:
“I’m shocked at how much technical detail you need to get right. The sound, the use of images. How’s my lighting? Is my font large enough for mobile? Is my content sufficiently engaging? And of course – Will anyone want this course?”
All this becomes much easier if you teach what you love.
When we love a subject and are active in it, we go into the psychological and physical state known as ‘Flow’. Our mind and body work in harmony, we often lose track of time and the task in hand so engages us that at the end of it, we have an immense sense of satisfaction. It may be Minecraft, rose pruning, writing haiku or Python programming that puts you in this state – the most important aspect is that you can identify the something.
Because it is this something, that will give you the energy and purpose to attend to the finer detail of course production; to use Facebook, Twitter to target most precisely where your interested students lurk; to enjoy online chat and feedback with your enthusiastic students; and to drill down with them deeper and deeper into your subject matter. Forgive the hippy vibe, but in a great online learning experience, you’ll mostly be flowing together.
So if you already teach something you love online, or are thinking of doing so, I would urge you to join some of the better Facebook or Linked In groups, where you will meet and learn from others of similar enthusiastic bent. When enough of us are working together, supporting each other and sharing knowledge, there is a much better chance that the get-rich-quick-gang may decline in profile and volume – and online teaching become about democratizing learning and excellence.
I hate that saying ‘Those who can’t – teach’. Teaching brilliantly seems to me to be a wonderful creative act of connection between human beings and a critical part of advancing civilization. A dip into Ted or the Khan Academy will show you this.
So please forgive my ‘should’ – but this is why I think you should teach what you love.
Philippa Davies is a writer and business psychologist who teaches what she loves over at Udemy and Learning.ly. Her Complete Freelance Writing Guide is available to readers of this blog with a 60% discount using this coupon code,