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You’re looking for a new side hustle to start earning some extra money. You read some articles on Frugal for Less, you’ve done your research, and you decide that teaching online is a feasible job for you to begin.
After checking out all the different teaching platforms, you pick one or two to work with, but before you dive into it, let me give you 11 things you need to ask yourself before you start teaching online.
1. Are you a people person?
Now that you’re thinking of becoming an online instructor, you need to look at your personality.
You may have all the educational credentials, know your content inside and out, have many professional accomplishments under your belt – none of it will matter if you cannot connect with your students.
Some students are motivated by wanting to learn the material and wanting to practice applying what they are learning. Other students need to be motivated extrinsically – they need extra motivation and acknowledgment.
- Establish a friendly and inviting personality – You need to show you care about the class, the students, and subject, and that you’re looking forward to the course and eager to help your students.
- Don’t confuse personality with teaching style – You can have a great teaching style, but lose it with a bland personality. Stay upbeat and pleasant and the course will be more interesting for your students.
- Sometimes you need to “fake it” – Your “everyday” personality may not fit an online presence so you may need to up your game and act more personable and enthusiastic about your course. The more interested you are about the topic your students will be too.
- Infuse your course with your interests – Don’t just share your knowledge with your students but share things you find interesting like articles, YouTube videos, facts, cartoons and such.
- Don’t take things personally – Some students may say or write something that’ll upset us, we need to remember they’re learning and don’t know the intricacies of the topic. Keep in mind to stay professional and answer civilly as any other reaction may damage your reputation.
Lastly, if you’re a shy introvert, one-on-one or an online classroom teaching course may be overwhelming. If this is the case, you can still succeed with creating premade video courses to sell instead.
2. Are you able to act professionally?
Acting professionally is really important as an online teacher or course creator.
This goes hand in hand with having a great personality – if you have a great upbeat personality but cannot contain your foul language, you’re not going to do well. The same goes for having a great professional appearance and faithfully stick to your schedule – but speak like Ben Stein during your sessions, you’re not going far.
So, let’s explore what makes a good professional instructor:
- Stick to a schedule – Once you have a student roster, you’ll need to stick with their teaching schedule. If you have a rotating job schedule that frequently conflicts with your teaching schedule, you’ll have trouble keeping those students.
- Watch what you say – What you say and write will influence the perception of your message in your course. Too laid back and you come across as uninterested, too much jargon and you’ll lose your students understanding your course.
- Dress the part – Dress appropriately to match your course topic. It’s best to wear business casual unless you’re teaching a hands-on course such as art or car maintenance. Try and avoid a lot of jewelry, revealing styles, or “extreme” looks.
- Don’t forget your Social Media – Don’t forget what your social media presence says about you. Students might want to check your online profiles and you may not want them to see that awkward New Year’s photo, hmm? The same goes with email addresses and “handles”.
- Be available – Be available to answer students’ emails, texts and phone calls. Also, be sure to set hours for personal time and let your students know you’re not available those hours, such as from 9 pm to 9 am.
So, the more professional you come across, the better your reputation you gain and the more chances of gaining more students.
3. Do you have any teaching experience?
This doesn’t necessarily mean in a formal classroom but can include tutoring, volunteer work, or a work session at your job.
Think back on any time you taught someone about something and reflect on how the “student” fared. Were they successful in understanding what you were showing them? If the answer was no, you may need to re-evaluate your ability to teach.
Not to worry though, there are plenty of learning materials and online courses on how to teach others effectively.
4. Is your course suitable for online?
Let’s say you do have teaching experience and you’ve taught on-site in the past. You’ll need to evaluate that course to see if it’s still as effective online.
For example, in your classroom, you used a lot of group work, discussions, and other extensive student-led activities – this won’t work for online one-on-one sessions.
Other elements of an on-site classroom that won’t work online can be:
- Practical Assessments – Courses requiring you watching and evaluating the student perform in real life situations (like vocational courses)
- Safety Demonstrations – Giving instructions on certain safety protocols in the workplace is pretty limited to teach online. Pretty much restricted to only teaching workers how to perform basic first aid or proper heavy lifting demonstrations.
- Heavy Interactions – Having a course that needs substantial student/teacher and group interactions is hampered by having to rely on discussion boards, internet connectivity, availability, and other factors.
You also need to know how to cater to a variety of learning styles as well. People learn by visual, reading/writing, auditory, and kinesthetic.
This means that some people learn best by looking, others learn by writing and reading materials, still others learn by listening, and finally, others learn better doing hands-on work.
Does your online course cater to all or most of these styles?
5. Do you have the time?
Check your schedule, is it pretty consistent, or do you have a fluctuating work schedule?
I touched upon this in #2, this is an important question because once you have a student roster, you’ll need to be able to give steady, reliable lessons at the same time every week.
Constantly needing to change your teaching schedule because of your other job’s work schedule will not reflect well on you as an instructor.
Don’t forget there also needs to be time to grade assignments (if any), needing to be available to answer student questions, and then you need time to market your online course.
Now, if you’re going to create courses instead, there is still all the preparation work in creating the course that takes a lot of time too. Creating the curriculum, a script, PowerPoints, videoing (and reshoots), editing and putting it all together into a cohesive package to market takes a lot of work.
Research has shown that for an hour of e-learning with moderate interaction and very little animation (PowerPoints, screenshots, demonstrations) requires anywhere from 90 to 240 hours to develop. While other creators state it takes only about 2-3 hours a day for a week to make.
It all depends on how well you know your material, how much you need to “show”, and how tech-savvy you are in putting it all together.
6. Can you create your own curriculum?
Now, let’s say you’ve decided you have a great personality, a professional appearance, and a great course idea – none of that will matter if you cannot teach in a cohesive, linear progression. This is why an effective curriculum is important.
A curriculum is an effective map to steer the learner towards the course goal. There are several ways to gain a strong curriculum:
- Copy someone else’s curriculum (be sure there are no copyright infringements)
- Adapt your on-site course for internet use
- Search online teaching sites, such as on Teachers Pay Teachers
- Look at similar online courses and study their layouts
- Read up on how to create your own
Whatever method you choose, it needs to clearly state what the student will learn during each step.
7. Are you Internet and Technology Savvy?
This is a great question to ask yourself whether you’re going to be teaching live or making recorded courses.
You’ll need to know how all your equipment and software works and how to troubleshoot everything. The simple answer is because it will not look good if your webcam crashes during a session and you have no idea how to restore it.
If you’re recording your courses, you’ll need to know how to record, do audio voiceovers, edit video clips, add effects (like in-screen screenshots) and more to create attractive videos to watch.
8. How Passionate about your topic are you?
Being passionate about your course topic ultimately reflects in your personality, your eagerness to teach, and knowledge on the subject.
If you’re bored about the topic, your students will be bored too.
So, stick to teaching topics you are enthusiastic about and it will definitely show in your presentation.
9. Do you have the patience to help a struggling student?
As with any teaching opportunity, you will need patience when interacting with students.
I mentioned in #1 about not taking things personally, you also need to watch your reactions to students struggling to understand your material. Getting angry or impatient is definitely not effective and will inhibit the learner further.
Some effective ways to help students struggling with your course are:
- Try presenting the material in a different way – Change your wording or give the student different material to work with (audio instead of written and vice versa)
- Break it down – Break the lesson down into smaller chunks of information, the student may just be overwhelmed at the amount.
- Demonstrate it – Depending on the topic it may be easier to do an actual demonstration or draw it out on a whiteboard each step in the process.
- Give More – Be willing to give them more material and time to work on a difficult step
Be patient, be flexible, and keep calm.
10. Are you comfortable with teaching people of different cultural backgrounds?
Let’s admit it, society is full of bias, stereotypes, stigmas, and negativity towards people “different” than themselves.
You’ll need to self-determine if you have any misconceptions about people from other cultural backgrounds, disabilities, religions, and beliefs. Believe me, you will come across these diverse people and how you interact with them makes all the difference between a successful and a failed course.
Be willing to provide alternate material to students requesting them – transcripts or captioning for Deaf and hard of hearing students, audio and alternate text formats for those with vision loss or learning disabled. Be accepting of schedule changes to accommodate religious holidays and such.
11. Are you comfortable talking to and teaching young children?
If you’re going to join an online teaching company such as VIPKid, you’ll be working with many young children.
You’ll then need to ask if are you comfortable with talking to, teaching, and keeping these kids attention during your lessons?
If the answer is no, you should stick with only teaching adults instead.
You need to remember that just because you thought a topic would be a good money-maker means it will be one. You need to really think about how effective overall you are able to teach online. It takes a lot to be a successful online teacher or course creator.
Lastly, here are some quick tips for teaching online for the first time:
- Don’t plan to teach a week after you first thought about it. You need at least a semester to make plans, prepare materials, and rehearse
- Consider whether there is a real incentive for teaching online. Preparing an online course, in the beginning stages, requires a lot of time commitment
- Enroll in similar online courses to see some examples of how others are teaching
- Provide feedback forms for all your students and adjust your lessons accordingly
- Keep it simple the first time around. Assess its success, and what you need to learn in order to improve it
- Relax, it’s supposed to be fun too
Here are some more teaching online references to check out:
- 14 Online Teaching Companies That Pay $20+ Per Hour
- Teach English Online: Top 10 Jobs That Pay (Updated 2019)
- 12 Interesting Ways to Make Money By Teaching Online
- Fifty Ways to Teach Online: Tips for ESL/EFL Teachers
- Teach Online: Design Your First Online Course
- Teach Online: Make Money Doing What You Love