(5 minute read)

Teachinguide often receives requests for assistance from readers who need help getting started in online teaching and course creation.  We decided to put together 8 first steps to take and factors to consider if you are contemplating making a move to teaching online.

Online Teaching Options

How you proceed breaking into teaching online will depend very much on your teaching and domain experience – whether you have any at all, have a lot, and everything in between.  So, keep this in mind as your read.  In addition, you must consider whether your goal is to make some cash on the side or to make an entire career of teaching online.

Here’s a list of some of your options:

  1. Use a course marketing platform such as Udemy to launch a course
  2. Create your own online school website
  3. Apply to teach English or tutor online
  4. Apply to teach online courses for brick and mortar education institutions

Since Teachinguide has the most experience with options 1 and 2, we will address these.

How to Get Started

Regardless of whether you are new to the job, or choosing any of the above options, there are some key steps that any online teacher should take to prepare. 

1. Assess your teaching and other skills

Are you articulate and a good communicator? Are you organized and a good planner? How adept are you at social media and digital marketing? Can you be creative and engaging in your course design? Do you have the time to devote to creating a course that people will see as valuable? Reflecting on your skill sets will help you identify areas where you may need to do a little more thinking or preparation to be successful at online teaching.

2. How much money do you want to make?

We know, your answer is “a lot”.  But the reality is likely something different, so you need to consider some of the few factors i.e. work life balance, how much time your willing to dedicate and how profitable it will possibly be.  We’ve written a couple of articles summarizing the potential earnings for Udemy instructors.  If you are an expert in one of the more popular topics (you can find out which topics are popular or growing quickly using Teachinguide’s database), Udemy is a pretty good place to start teaching – especially if online teaching will be a “side gig”.  And actually, if you are not an expert, Udemy might also be a good place to start teaching online because you can capitalize on their organic traffic.

That said, every online teaching platform has a different revenue sharing scheme, pricing and revenue potential. If you launch your own online school, all the proceeds from course sales will be for you alone. However, you pay a subscription for the number of courses you produce, and often for the number of students, as well as a transaction fee.  And you’ll need to put some money and effort into driving traffic to your website (although some platforms do provide some basic marketing tools).  On the other hand, if you produce a course on Udemy you get instant organic traffic and lots of promotions, but have to share a percent of your revenue with Udemy and will likely charge less for your courses.

You’ll need to do your homework to get a feel for your earnings potential on different platforms vs. your earnings goals.

3. Research your topic

Even if you currently teach a subject(s), how do you know if your subject(s) will sell online? You must do some research on this beforehand.  It is critical to research and validate your course topics before embarking on your online teaching career. 

You can’t assume that if you are successful at say, teaching French literature in the “real world”, that as an online teacher you will be successful teaching that or any other subject.  There is competition and potential audience to consider, among other things.  It could be that you need to transfer your teaching experience to a more popular topic.  Or, you might have no teaching experience but possess enough knowledge and authority on several topics, and need to research which one is best to go with.

In the Teachinguide ebook and in our articles on course topic research we provide some recommendations and frameworks for how to research and choose a topic to teach.  In fact, Teachinguide’s database is geared towards helping instructors with course topic selection.  We also provide some hints for which topics are popular in our article on 2019 online teaching trends.

And remember, no matter what topic you choose, you will be on video, so it pays to be enthusiastic about your chosen topic because it will come through in your course presentation!

4.  Take a course on “online course creation”

There are dozens of courses on Udemy alone that provide a wealth of information on how to get started teaching online and all the factors you need to consider.  Other platforms such as Thinkific, Skillshare and Teachable offer the same.  Spend some time exploring and learning tips from those who have gone before you.

And again, Teachinguide has written about this topic previously so check out our blog on course creation and our ebook.

5. Choose an online course creation platform

There is a host of online teaching platforms now with a wide variety of offerings.  Platforms basically fall into two categories:

  • Online course marketing platforms – These are platforms that enable you to create a course and list/sell it on the platform which does a lot of the course marketing for you. These include Udemy, Skillshare, and Alison.com.  There are subtle differences in the requirements of these platforms, but essentially Teachinguide believes that Udemy is the easiest platform to get started with online teaching if you are eager to begin generating cash.
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS) platforms – these sites provide software and a platform for creating courses and establishing and promoting your own branded online school. You typically pay a subscription fee for this service.  Learnworlds, Teachable, Thinkific and WizIQ are some of the more popular ones.

Choosing an online teaching platform

There are many things to consider when choosing which online teaching platform to go with.  In general, if you are looking to make quick cash, teach online as a side job, don’t have time or the network to market your courses and build a following, or have little experience or expertise, online course marketing platforms such as Udemy are a good place to start. 

You can learn the ropes of online teaching and use the platform’s organic marketing efforts to start creating a network of students and followers.  This is not to say, however, that you can create just any ‘ole course and stick it up on Udemy. Udemy has minimum standards and poor quality courses simply do not sell on Udemy.

If, however, you already have a fairly extensive existing professional network and/or a reputation in your field, or if you want to make a full time career out of teaching online, you may benefit more from launching your own online learning website or school. 

Whatever you do, choose the platform BEFORE creating your course. Each platform has different requirements.

One “hybrid” idea if you are new to online teaching, is to create a course or a few courses on Udemy. Learn through that platform and as you build your audience, move to creating your own website and migrating students to that.  Many now-famous Udemy instructors have done this.

Consumer or Business Audience

Finally, many platforms have separated their online course offerings into two audience categories: consumers and businesses/corporations (often called eLearning).  So, you need to think about which category you want to pursue.  For instance, on Udemy, if you want your courses to be considered for Udemy for Business, you will need to opt in to the program and work on your course ranking so that you are in the top 3,000 courses (in addition to creating relevant coursework).

In the end, your specific use case for online teaching will determine which platform or approach is best for launching your online teaching career.  And while it would be nice to start and continue with a particular platform, there are plenty examples of instructors using multiple platforms (but probably not at first and all at once).

6. Get the right gear and set up

Getting into the details of course creation a bit, it seems like a simple thing to film yourself; however, to be successful at online teaching, you need to be effective in front of the camera and know how to present yourself and your material professionally.  You need to be able to operate the equipment required to film yourself and will need some video editing skills. You’ll need to plan your background, lighting, sound and how you will incorporate any visuals in front of the camera.  

Once your course is designed (no small task either), you’ll also need to script your lectures and practice your delivery.  You should probably shoot a test video and have friends and family provide feedback.  Going through this exercise will also help you to determine if teaching in this way is for you.

7. Start creating your network

It’s no secret that the competition in online teaching is fierce.  Much of your success as an online instructor will be driven by your ability to market to a network of potential students. Once you decide to create an online course, it’s a good time to start collecting emails. Create a blog website, start writing articles on LinkedIn, post to Facebook groups, Twitter, etc.  It takes a long time to build a network and regardless of which platform you choose to teach online, you will need a marketing network.

8. Start designing your first course!

Now to the fun part. As we mentioned previously, it’s a good idea to go on Udemy or another platform and take some courses on how to get started creating an online course.  There are so many aspects of course design – outline, quizzes, gamification, length, visuals, video, and more. We could write an article on each one of these.  As it stands, we’ve written a few articles on course creation that you can check out here.

While you’re at it, maybe take one or two courses in your chosen topic in order to have a competitor comparison.  Expect to take 1-3 months to design, create, and film your course – longer if you are creating a Masterclass and holding down a day job at the same time.  That is in addition to all the research and legwork you should do upfront.

We hope these simple tips are helpful in getting you on track to launching your online teaching gig.  And if you do end up choosing Udemy, don’t forget to check out how Teachinguide can help you beat the competition!

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