Teaching Tips For Online Courses
How to Say the Right Thing During Your Course
You couldn’t believe how many prospects call me (a curriculum developer and education consultant) embarrassed to ask me for help with creating their course curriculum. People have this wrong perception that just because they are an expert in a subject, they should be able to create a course or workshop and teach it… and there is nothing farther from the truth.
Knowing a topic and teaching are two completely different things
Most people can work one-on-one with individuals because that individual is able to ask them on-the-spot questions and the teacher can train based on what they see and understand about what the individual needs to know and do.
It is a completely different thing to teach a group of people who all come from different backgrounds, knowledge on the topic, goals for knowing the topic, and guiding them to a similar result.
Because of this barrier, I often spend the first few minutes of each prospect call just explaining how and why their frustration is normal and that I have teachers and even instructional designers as my clients all the time.
All that said, I wanted to give you some tips on what to do to get used to teaching and making the transition to online courses easier and give you more confidence to push forward and not let your fears and insecurities stop you.
“By learning you will teach; by teaching you will learn.”
There is no hack to becoming a better teacher than just doing it. If you would have asked me in my first three years if I could do what I’m doing now, I promise I wouldn’t believe it.
I struggled with writing curriculum. I struggled with teaching articulately. I struggled with almost all aspects of teaching. But as a Marine, I’m always motivated by any opportunity to overcome a challenge.
What changed this? 177 days per year for over 6 years teaching the most difficult audience there is: teenagers. But truth be told, it was hard. I could tell some crazy stories, but that’s for another time.
I got better and made my weaknesses into a strength through simply doing it over and over again and not stopping. I realized what did and didn’t work. I retaught. I changed what I said, how I said it and WHEN I said it.
I am not a safe teacher when it comes to curriculum. I am very risky and test out lessons and strategies that most teachers would avoid because of fear or just unbelief that it will work.
I am also extremely authentic, and I learn with the students. I tell them my thinking, what I wonder, how I think during activities, and try to put myself in their shoes.
Although I am referring to my experience teaching teens, these concepts can be adapted to any audience.
And I don’t care if I make a fool of myself because I get to teach them that not everything you try works, and it’s okay to risk and fail because sometimes those risks will be rewarded more than playing safe all the time.
Teaching in-person gives you the opportunity to get to know your potential audience at a deeper level than your peers or others in your niche.
Bring your whole self into the classroom: your weaknesses, your experiences, your thinking, your authenticity. Be fully you and see how people flock to transparency more than perfection.
Visualize this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blue print, and begin to build.
Visualizing is a lost art. Imagination and quiet time have been replaced with 24/7 screen time or entertainment. Someone said recently that the lack of boredom will be detrimental to the next generation.
Spending time visualizing your content, in whatever form you make it, can help you with efficiency, making it streamlined and seeing and preventing problems before they start.
For each project I create, I spend 1/10th of the time visualizing what it will look like. I look at it from all directions. I think about the variables, I wonder what people will see and experience. I see it in my mind and walk through the process before I set myself in front of a computer to complete it.
Let’s take this blog. I am on a plane right now about to surprise one of my best friends for her 40th birthday. I just busted out a blog post and didn’t want to stop, so I kept going. After I wrote the intro to this post, I felt like I could keep going but I really needed to stop. I closed my eyes for a good 15 minutes and let myself drift. I wasn’t consciously thinking about this project but letting the ideas come to the surface rather than trying to force them out.
Right before I drifted off to sleep my eyes popped open, I grabbed my computer and I was ready. And here you are now.
Try it with your next project and share your results.
“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice reduces the imperfection.”
Obviously if we want to get better at something we must practice. But it’s crazy that people think they should be (or embarrassed that they are not) amazing at teaching when they have zero experience in teaching.
Maybe they have a podcast; that is different than teaching. Maybe they are a dynamic speaker; that is different than teaching. Maybe they have 5 books published; that is different than teaching.
Teaching is teaching and is different than speaking. Why? Because teaching requires not just motivating a crowd, but training them to do something they haven’t done before and most of the time requires much more than one hour of amazing speaking, one book, or one podcast.
I tell people that I love teaching because it requires me to me so many things: I get to be a comedian, an actress, a storyteller, a speaker, a writer, an interviewer, a surveyor, an analyzer/critic, an editor, a trainer, a creator, and much more.
On any given day I am putting on five different hats, and I absolutely love it. This variety of experience is one of the reasons why I think I am successful at helping people create and teach their own curriculum on their own subjects.
When you do get a chance to practice, keep a journal before and after teaching: what worked, what didn’t work, what you will improve on, what questions they had, what things they seemed to struggle with understanding, moments when their eyes glossed over because they were either bored or they didn’t understand, and any other moments that you’d like to learn from.
These reflections will help you improve dramatically.
Create a Script
“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
– Mark Twain (Tweet this)
This may seem a little off-topic, but I absolutely love Mark Twain. He is one of the most authentic storytellers there is. If you want to become a better speaker, storyteller or writer, I highly suggest reading Mark Twain’s short stories. They will not only have you cracking up, but you will learn from one of the best.
All that said, some of the worst speakers I’ve ever heard are those who think they don’t need a script. Those speakers who might seem to be natural speakers but they are all over the place in their topics and they let their subconscious take over the entire time they are speaking or teaching.
You can see that during their preparation they only created an outline of one or two points, and when they got in front of the crowd they just started talking without knowing where they were going and why.
Some people in the audience might be able to pick up a few things they said, but overall the speech was a disaster.
Truth moment: people don’t mind and actually prefer knowing where the teaching is going before you get there. They actually don’t want to be surprised at the direction you are going with it, and there are times that you can effectively “preach to the choir” and still have an impactful training.
That’s why having a script written with milestones, points and example stories is vital to having a successful teaching moment for your audience.
As you get more and more experience, the script won’t be as necessary but will still help your focus and process through each training.
Please don’t do the improv model unless you’re Drew Cary or Wayne Brady.
Let It Flow
Let it become what it’s supposed to be not what you think it will be.
-Jessica L. Moody
This quote is what I say to prospects before committing to work with me. See, since I create curriculum and programs, I can see that not all information is right for a static online course.
Sometimes when I chat with clients, we realize that, no, this isn’t a course. It’s a podcast. And right away, we shift gears to turning the content into a podcast that oftentimes will become a course in the future.
But if we have in our head, “I want to make a course, and I will not budge!!” We might find that we are creating a course prematurely or trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Not one time have we completely flipped gears and turned a course into a podcast or something else and had my client be angry about it. When we change gears on the direction we are going with the content, it always is an aha moment for the client to realize they were looking at their content all wrong and actually changing the format is the right decision.
The process that I go through is finding out who my clients are and what impact they want to make, who they are talking to and what is the easiest way for them to communicate help with making it become what it’s supposed to be. Then we look at the content and make the most logical course of action based on all the factors.
More often than not, they say stuff like, “Jessica, you’re right. It is a podcast. I’ve been wanting to make a podcast but I haven’t been sure what to do it on. Now I am clear!”
Be Okay With Imperfect
No course is ever perfect when it launches. If you try to make your course perfect before you launch, you will NEVER launch. It’s okay to start with an initial version of your course that you improve on after receiving feedback from your students.
– Daniel Milner, Make TV Easy
No course is perfect, and the more you overthink it, the less chance you have to finish it.
I know, I know that you want it to be good, people to see you as credible, and for it to be a success. I know.
It’s important for it to be well done, thorough and reflect who you are as a creator and business owner, and I will always be the one to give you strategies on how to improve, but any tips I give is nothing if you don’t ever get your expert knowledge out there.
That’s why I always tell you to map out the process that you’ll have to take to get all of your projects done. What will you need that you don’t have? How close is it to you living in your natural talents? What are the barriers and are they achievable to overcome in a reasonable amount of time?
When you see the process and the answers to these questions review, visualize, and make a decision on the best route to take. Do the thing that is the easiest and the best use of your time, get it done and launch it…. even if it’s not perfect.
The beauty of launching before it’s perfect is that you can go back and update or fix it. You will also have experience under your belt. Experience in creating and launching a course (or another thing that it became, see above) is that you can do it again because you’ve learned the process and you’ve overcome many barriers.
You will also establish credibility because you have a course and others in your niche don’t. You will have a course to offer to those who can’t afford your one-on-one services. You can be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. And most of all, you put your genius knowledge out there to positively impact and influence others who need it.
I would love to hear the one above that spoke to you the most.
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