How To Teach Biology Online


Two students showing the parts of a molecular cell

Having taught online for many years I will show you how you can successfully teach Biology online. I will assume you know how to teach Biology but are getting stuck in how you could do this successfully online.  Let me show you the technologies you will need to know to do just that. 

To successfully teach biology online you will have to create an SEO friendly course outline, title and content.  You will have to decide on your pricing model, target market and create your training content.  Then host your course using a custom website, a learning management system or third party.

To teach biology online you will have to:

  • Outline Your Course
    • Course Title
    • Topic / Niche
    • Target Audience
    • Pricing Model
    • Marketing
  • Create The Training Content
    • Hardware
    • Software
  • Host Your Course Online
    • Learning Management System
    • Third-Party Teaching Platform
  • Access Biology Online Resources
  • Live Classes

Now that you know what exactly you have to do in order to teach biology online let’s jump in and see exactly what that means and what steps you need to take.

Outline Your Course

When you are outlining your course I am assuming you already have some sort of curriculum that you are working to deliver training on.  You will then need to think about the following four topics for your course.

  • Course Title
  • Topics
  • Target Audience
  • Pricing Model

Course Title

When you are creating an online course if you are making it public on the web you will need to think about a title that works well with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  The reason you need to do this is because Google and other search engines rank closer to the top of search results web pages that make it easier for them to list your content and course. 

If you are creating the content for your own school then this may not be as important.  If you are wanting to make money from your course online this is very important.

There are 5 key characteristics of a great course title:

  • Less than 60 characters – google only shows this many in search results
  • Audience Focused – think of the level of your students
  • Specific – narrow down the niche
  • Entice the Students – catchy marketing name
  • Using SEO keywords – using the google alphabet soup or keyword research methods
  • Check Competition – you need to google your course title and see how many courses are out there already and how good those courses are.  How could you stand out?

If you want to learn more about course titles and how to create a catchy one for your online biology class I suggest taking a look at the following article:

ARTICLE: How to Choose a Catchy Name for Your Course 

Topics

Having created and used a lot of training material both in the classroom and online I find you can spend a lot of time picking the topics for your course.  This is important because it provides the building block framework for your students to learn.

You are the expert in teaching Biology and will already know what you will want to include in your training course but below you can find a simple example of how to break down a course.

For example:

  • Human Biology
    • Nervous System
    • Arterial System
    • Digestive System
    • Skeletal System
    • And more

Target Audience

Picking a target audience and knowing that audience is key to a successful course.  You need to know what you will assume about the existing knowledge of your students and what they are hoping to gain from the course.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Age
    • Basic Knowledge (K-4)
    • Entry-Level Biology (4-9)
    • Mid-Level Biology (High School Students)
    • Advanced Biology (Vocational and University)
  • Gender
  • Geographic location
  • English language competencies
  • Prerequisites (educational background)
  • Learning style
  • Language, Literacy, and Numeracy (LLN) skills
  • Job Role

Moreover, you can narrow down the reason why you are creating this biology course:

  • As part of a formal qualification
  • To train
    • My staff
    • My customers
    • My volunteers
    • Hobbyists
    • Others

Once you have a profile of the learner then you can continue on to pricing and content creation.

Pricing Model

Before you create your training course you will need to decide on whether you will need to be paid for the course you create.  Are you doing it just for the love of it or do you need to get an income to live on.  There are many things to consider when you are deciding on the price.

What to consider when choosing a price:

  • Your Time
  • Hosting Costs
  • Maintenance Costs
  • Course Costs
    • Creating Content
    • Hosting the Course
    • Software and Tools
    • Third Party Licenses
  • Third Party Commissions (paid to people who sell your course)
  • Target Profit (typically at least 30%)

Keep in mind that if you are planning on hosting your training content on a third-party teaching platform then you will have to work under their pricing model. Depending on the platform you choose you will have to deal with substantial discounts automatically applied by promotions they may have.  A perfect example of this is Udemy that if they sell a course for you takes more commission and will heavily discount your course.

If on the other hand you host your own course your costs will be a lot less but developing a demand and the traffic for your course may be a little more difficult.  We will discuss these later with hosting.

To learn more about the pricing models you can use when teaching biology online I suggest taking a look at the following article:

ARTICLE: 10 eLearning Pricing Models Online Teachers Must Know

Marketing

Personally something I have learnt since moving from working for someone else to running my own businesses is that ensuring you have an audience to sell your course is the most important thing you can do.  With online businesses you need to create the market first and then create the training or products and services you want to sell to them.

It is no different to the age old find a need and fill it that has been a major business driver for many years but with a crowded internet you need to carve out a market first.  Once you have provided value through social media or a blog you can see what your audience is interested in and create the training course around their needs.

Don’t just create a training course and assume people will come.  And once you have made the training for your audience then you have a warmed up audience that is more likely to convert to students in your courses.  Typically a 3% to 5% conversion rate of your website traffic to students is a good rate if you have warmed them up on your blog first.

Create The Training Content

The next step when teaching biology online is to create your training content. What software can speed up your content creation.  What tools are out there to make your training content more engaging and what type of computer will you need to do this work?

Hardware

Depending on how you are going to teach biology there are several optional pieces of hardware that you may need. Below you will find a brief explanation for some hardware that may be useful to you. 

Laptop or Computer

The most important equipment when teaching online (regardless of the subject) is your laptop. It allows you to create, edit, and distribute your training content. You will also use it during classes and to conduct live meetings with your students. 

Generally any computer less than 4 years old of around $500 will do for this style of training.  For most training online an i3 or i5 Intel processor with 4 gigs of RAM with a solid-state disk (SSD) or 8 gigs so RAM with an older style hard drive is more than enough.

The required specifications of your computer are directly linked to the complexity of software you are planning on using. If you are going to perform multiple tasks at the same time then you might want to stick to the latter option (i5 Intel processor with 8 gigs of RAM and an SSD). Otherwise, you can complete all your tasks with a basic laptop (i3 Intel processor with 4 gigs of RAM).

NOTE: An equivalent AMD CPU is fine also so if cost is an issue this is a nice way to reduce your costs.

Webcam and Microphone

If you are going to have live training with your students or you wish to add sections of you explaining topics or ideas in your eLearning you will need at least a webcam and microphone.  If you have never taught live online the article below will discuss some of the pros and cons.

ARTICLE: Teaching Live Online: The Pros and Cons

If you are using a laptop then it probably has an integrated microphone and camera. However, due to the poor quality of these two components I strongly advise against using them for teaching purposes. You should spend some extra money and buy a dedicated microphone and webcam. 

If you want to see my recommendations in terms of dedicated webcam and microphone you should take a look at the Recommended Tools page of the one I currently use.

Software

There are heaps of software packages you can use to create your training content and below you will find a list of some of them.  Your Learning Management System (LMS) will allow you to add all of these types of content to your training course.

Text

The most popular tools you can use to create and edit text are:

To create a training manual in print or digital format you can use:

Graphics

If you want to capture screenshots to use it as training content you can take advantage of:

Here are the graphics editing applications:

Audio

Among the most popular software used for audio recording and editing are:

Video

To edit video recordings you can use:

For a more thorough guide to eLearning content types you can look at this article.

ARTICLE: The Ultimate Guide To Creating eLearning

Host Your Course Online

For students to see your course when completed you need to put it on a website for them to be able to see it.  You can create your course directly on some of these website tools or create it offline and upload it later depending on what the website allows you to do.

The most common types of educational content hosting are:

  • Custom Website
  • Content Management System (CMS)
  • Learning Management System (LMS)
  • Third-Party Teaching Platform

There are certain advantages and disadvantages to each method. Below I have listed the most popular picks for each category as well as a set of advantages and disadvantages.

Custom Website

This is the least common of the options above due to the high cost of creation and maintenance and it is also difficult for you to make changes to the website yourself.  This option is only really picked if you have specialised requirements from the website and something like Khan Academy is a good example of this.

Content Management System

A majority of the websites on the internet use some form of CMS that is just a website that is built in such a way to make it easy for people to create and maintain websites with limited IT knowledge.  The largest of these is WordPress with over 50% of the CMS market.

If you own a business with a website or the company you work for does then it probably uses a CMS already.  This means each person throughout the business can update the web pages in the website that directly relate to them.

There are plenty of educational plugins you can install into these types of websites to host your training course on them.  It depends on the CMS as to what plugins are available but they all have a searchable plugin library.

Here is one you could use if you were using WordPress:

https://wordpress.org/plugins/search/lms/

Learning Management System

LMS are a specific form of CMS that are designed specifically for use in education.  They have all the tools you need to teach online directly built into the website itself as well as the ability to create and manage training courses and create your basic website pages.

The most popular LMS are:

Using one of these you will have a website that is dedicated to education online and you have the full control of your content and pricing as well as how you market your training courses.  This is generally the option chosen for people wanting to write multiple courses and have full control of their business and maybe have many courses.

There is however the requirement to set up your website yourself and there is some maintenance time required as well.  For the paid tools above they can bundle this work into your quote if you don’t want to do it yourself.

Third-Party Teaching Platforms

You can host your training course on a third party website if you want to limit your maintenance and just manage the course only.  They will however depending on the website choose how you get paid for your course and some will even force pricing or discounts on you.  So be careful to read the terms and conditions as they may come back to bite you later.

The most popular third-party teaching platforms are:

Access Biology Online Resources

There are plenty of platforms that allow online teachers to access biology-related resources. Some of them offer free resources while others require a paid subscription. 

On the websites listed below you will be able to find:

  • Lesson Plans
  • Interactive Materials
  • Biology-Related Games
  • Simulations
  • eBooks and PDF Materials

The most popular online biology platforms are:

Live Classes

When teaching biology online you might want to include online live meetings with your students. To do so you will need a web camera and a microphone as well as a web conferencing software. The most popular online conferencing tools are:

If you are using an LMS it might have an integrated video conferencing tool. For example, the Moodle learning management system allows its users to meet using the Big Blue Button plugin. To learn more about how to teach live online look at the article below.

ARTICLE: How To Teach LIVE Online

To help your students get a better understanding of the taught topic you might want to make use of an online interactive whiteboard. You can learn more about this type of whiteboards by taking a look at the following article if your web conference software does not include one:

ARTICLE: The 7 Best Online Whiteboards and tools

Glen Brown

I am a Technical Trainer and Manager with over 20 years experience in IT, Education and Business. I have multiple qualifications on each topic including post graduate qualifications. I have a passion for sharing knowledge and using technology to do this. If you would like to know more about me please see the about page of the website.

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