When setting up for online teaching it is always a great idea to have a good understanding of the topic in general. This article will take the pain out of having to research it all on your own and give you an introduction to everything you will need to know.
If you are planning on creating an online course, the most important aspects you need to be aware of are:
- Understanding The Basics
- Required Certification
- What Subject To Teach
- Equipment Needed
- Software Tools
- Putting Your Course Online
- Your First Online Class
- Helpful Resources
Now that you have a broad understanding of the topics let’s jump in and see what you need to effectively start teaching online.
Understanding The Basics
If it is the first time you are reading about online teaching you are probably a bit confused with all the jargon and topics to learn. The first thing you will need to know are some of the basics and that starts with how you can teach online.
Here are some of the ways you can deliver training online:
- Question and Answer Websites
- Online Tutoring Websites
- Salaried Teaching Jobs Online
- Creating Simple Training Content
- Create E-Learning Courses
- Delivering Live Online
These methods of teaching online are discussed more in the article below.
ARTICLE: How can I Teach Online?
A lot of people wonder whether they need certain certificates to become online educators. The short answer is no you do not need any qualification to teach online. If you do however you can charge more if you are looking at strictly an hourly rate.
To learn more about when certification becomes a requirement for online teaching, make sure to read the following post:
However, there are some particular situations when you might be required to earn a certificate that proves your knowledge. For example, teaching English as a second language in non-native English speaking countries may inflict taking some tutoring courses.
Teaching in China is a perfect example of a country that requires online teachers to have a bachelor or a TESOL training course to teach online to their students. You can learn more about what you need to know before teaching in China by reading the following article:
What Subject To Teach
If you have expertise in multiple subjects but you can not decide what one to teach just start with the one you feel most comfortable with. When you are learning all the new technologies and methods of teaching online you don’t also want to be learning your subject matter as well. This is not to say some people don’t do this but they are generally writing blogs and sharing their learning journey.
Like with anything else related to business look at the supply and demand for each subject you may want to teach online. Look at the competitors and see if there is a gap in the market you could teach in. Also, look at what you can charge for that particular subject. The more specialized the training the more you can charge but the few possible students you might have are.
If you need a more in-depth analysis of the subject you can teach online, you should take a look at the following article:
ARTICLE: What Subjects Can I Teach Online?
The required hardware may vary from one course to another. Depending on the topic you are approaching, the educational process may involve using more complex equipment. The most common pieces of equipment used for online teaching are:
- Laptop or Computer
- Recording Video
- Recording Audio
If you do not know what equipment to use during your online classes, I suggest taking a look at the Recommended Tools page.
Laptop or Computer
When you are teaching online there are some basic requirements for a computer that you will need. If you require specialist software then you may need to review the hardware requirements for that specific software and maybe increase the requirements from the ones below.
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 4gig of RAM with a solid-state disk (SSD) or 8 gigs so RAM with an older style hard drive is more than enough.
The most important characteristics of your computer are:
- Operating system
- Hard Disk Space
However, if you are planning on running video editing applications, you might want to pick the Intel i5 CPU and 8 gigs of RAM and an SSD.
If you do not have much knowledge about computers, you should check out the following article that explains how to choose the laptop that suits creating training content online.
The choice of whether to include yourself in a video can be very challenging for a teacher and I know even for me as well it is scary to show yourself on video. The benefit of this is to help personalize yourself to your students and speak directly to them. This builds a relationship that you can leverage when you have your live sessions.
You can also do screencasts of your computer screen or record the actual tasks being completed. Nothing shows a car engine being serviced like a video and that. This is great for visual learners and shows the tips and tricks you may have otherwise forgotten.
If you are going to teach online now and into the future, get comfortable in front of the camera and use it in your courses. With camera phones and GoPro type devices it is cheap and easy. Video can be very powerful when used correctly.
When you create a video you will either need to get people to clean up your video and add the polish or do it yourself with some basic video editing.
If you would like to be inspired about what you can do with video check out the article below for heaps of creative choices.
Even though you have a webcam on most laptops these days they are a very poor quality camera and they have poor resolution, slow focus, and low light issues. I would recommend buying a proper webcam or full camera and my recommended ones are on the Recommended Tools page.
A microphone is a must-have if you want to effectively communicate with your students. Combined with a high-quality camera, it can make video calls a wonderful experience for your students.
You can include audio in many of your training content as you saw from the article linked to above in the Video recording.
Some of the ways you can use audio in eLearning are:
- Audio Instructions
- Audio Conferences
- Recording audio lectures
- And more.
If you reviewed the article in Recording Video about eLearning content types and you know what audio content type you want to use then the below article will give you ideas about how you can edit this audio.
In most laptops these days there is a simple microphone for use with family video and audio chats but not one you would use for creating training content. You can buy a cheap microphone that is a directional microphone with noise-canceling. You can find my recommendations on the Recommended Tools page.
While you may think of a scanner for v1.0 eLearning instead of where the current industry is at with v3.0 where we are at there are plenty of ways you can still use a scanner.
Here are some of the ways you can still use a scanner when delivering online training:
- Hand-drawn designs
- Handwriting examples
- Meeting Notes
- And much more
If you do not have a scanner and do not want to buy one you can also use your personal phone to scan documents. There are heaps of mobile apps that provide document scanning features directly using your device’s camera.
The most commonly used apps are:
- CamScanner (Android, rated 4.4 on Google Play)
- Evernote Scannable (iOS, rated 4.9 on App Store)
- Microsoft Office Lens (Android, rated 4.7 on Google Play)
- Adobe Scan (iOS, rated 4.9 on App Store)
When you start teaching online you must be aware of the fact that there are numerous software applications that you are going to use. These have different purposes but are mainly used during the content creating process.
Depending on the type of content you create there is different software that you can use. Some of them are paid and some of them are free to use. When I compare the open-source or free tools to paid tools I look to see if the paid tool has significantly greater tools that I would use to warrant paying for it.
If not I will use the free tool. The second thing I consider is software support and the skill of my team or myself. Do I want the responsibility for fixes to end with me or with the software company? This is often the decision for profit-based companies.
Training content can be divided into five distinct categories, as follows:
Let’s figure out what applications you can use to create certain types of training content.
Written materials are the most commonly used type of resource during online classes. Apart from being easy to create and maintain, it is one of the most efficient methods to make procedures and checklists. It is the least engaging of content types for modern students.
The most popular software tools used to create text training content are:
- Google Docs (free with a Google account)
- Open Office (free)
- EditPad Lite (free)
- Microsoft Word (paid)
- CMS and LMS editors (free)
Content Management Systems (CMS) and Learning Management Systems (LMS)
Graphics can be successfully used for many different activities such as charts, maps, and instructions, and much more.
The most popular software tools used for photo editing activities are:
Audio files are commonly used in online courses. This content format suits a lot of different activities such as lectures, assignment instructions, and more.
Tools you can use to create and edit the audio are:
NOTE: Open source generally means that you can use it for free as long as you don’t try to download and sell it to someone. It is free to use for private or corporate use.
We already discussed this above but let’s look at some of the tools you can use. This is the biggest way to create content that isn’t just commodity content. Make it real and make it personal.
There are numerous video editing applications, such as:
If you want to record your computer screen to share it with your students, you can use the following tools:
Interactive content is the most expensive to create but can add some great value to your course. This type of content often results in students being more actively engaged in learning.
The types of interactive content you can include in your training are:
- Group Activities
- Offline Tasks
As well as having interactive content you can also include this into your assignments as well. The article below discusses some of the ways you can build more engagement in your online assignments.
Putting Your Course Online
After creating your training content for your course the next step is hosting it online. These websites provide different features for educators such as cloud storage for their materials, marketing, student management tools, and much more.
The most popular online course hosting solutions are:
- Learning Management Systems
- Google Classroom
- Third-Party Training Websites
Each option has advantages and disadvantages. Let’s find out which one is the most suitable for you and your course.
Learning Management Systems
Learning management systems (often referred to as an LMS) are platforms that help educators to run their online courses. These act as a portal for your students to get their training content and assessments and also where they can communicate with their instructor and other students.
The most common features are:
- Storage for training materials
- Assessment & Grading
- Live class solutions
- Forums and Chats
- Student Management
- Payment Handling
- And many more plugins
There are numerous LMS available worldwide. However, before choosing the one that will host your course you must understand its features and how it is different from other competitors. And also which one suits your needs.
To learn more about learning management systems and their features in general, I suggest reading the following article:
Google Classroom is one of the most commonly used LMS and it is available worldwide free of charge for individual instructors and eligible schools. If you are not eligible there is a small cost per head for students and teachers and as a school, university, or private training organization you need to sign up for G Suite for Education instead. G Suite for Education Is the suite of applications that includes Google Classroom rather than as a private trainer where you can just sign up with a private google account directly on Google Classroom.
It provides all the basic features that one may need during online classes. The most popular features of Google Classroom are:
- Audio-video capabilities
- Cloud storage
If you are new to Google Classroom, I suggest you read some informative articles about its features. The following articles are a good starting point for your research:
Moodle is an open-source learning management system that is used all around the world by online educators. It has many powerful features that make online learning easier for both students and teachers.
The fact that it is an open-source project allows any interested educator to use it free of charge if they download and host it on their own web hosting provider. If you don’t want to host it on your own then you can use the paid cloud-hosted version from Moodle.com.
It has many useful features that you can look at here:
If the core Moodle installation does not have a tool that you need you can also install an extension from its large range of plugins. For example, you can take advantage of the available plugins to detect your students’ plagiarized content. To find out more about this topic, take a look at the following article:
ARTICLE: Does Moodle Check for Plagiarism?
Blackboard is another popular LMS that you could use as a paid solution to teaching online. The reason people choose a paid LMS over something free like Moodle is for built-in support for getting you up and running and for your teachers and students while you are using the product.
Moodle does offer this but through partners and you have to search for and find one your like whereas Blackboard users don’t have to look for someone to support it and they are all guaranteed the same level of service.
If you have not yet decided to use Blackboard, you can try out their demo website. It allows you to test all its paid functions for free. This way, you will figure out if it is the right LMS for you and your course or you should look for another one.
Blackboard also features an integrated grading method called Blackboard Open Grader. It is an alternative grading option that allows teachers to mark students’ submissions more easily.
Compared to Moodle, Blackboard does not support as many plugins but does have a partner network that does provide plugins and content to Blackboard that you can find below.
LINK: Blackboard Partner Network
If you do not know what to choose between Blackboard and Moodle you can look at the differences by reading the following article:
Third-Party Training Websites
There are many websites that offer online course hosting. Compared to learning management systems they do your marketing for you and you get access to the thousands to millions of existing users that already use that website. What you lose in the highly competitive nature of these sites lowers prices and they will control pricing and how much you get paid.
The most common of these training platforms are:
If you choose to host your course on one of these websites always check how you get paid and how much they will take from your course fees or if you even get to set a price for your course.
Your First Live Online Class
As well as hosting your training on an LMS you can also provide live training classes as either Web Conferences or as a truly Virtual Classroom.
To learn more about the methods of teaching online read this article:
ARTICLE: How Can I Teach Online?
If you have already set up everything you should get ready for your first class. There are some important things you should do before starting your first live class or tutoring session.
Test Your Connection
The first thing you want to make sure is stable and ready to go is your Internet connection. A stable broadband connection with a good ping time and 10Mbps download speed and at least a 3Mbps upload speed are ideal. You can test your internet connection speed with one of the many tools like https://www.speedtest.net/.
Check Your Surroundings
Making sure you have looked behind you to make sure there is nothing that will distract from your training and that it looks professional is always a good idea. Also, let people at your work or at your home know you will be teaching and maybe put a sign on the door.
Giving the class a clear set of rules will help your class run smoothly and lets them know how long the training will be and when they can ask questions.
Breaks Improve Efficiency
You should plan breaks to allow your students to refresh their minds and get ready for the next discussion. If one of your students experiences technical issues use a strategically placed coffee break to fix the problem.
Feedback Is Your Best Friend
At the end of every class and during the class you should ask your students for feedback. Using active listening skills allows you to manage expectations of the class and head off issues early as well as make sure the students understand and keep up in class. Make sure you use the feedback to improve your future meetings.
If you want more tips on running your first online class, you should read the following article:
If you have decided to start teaching online, I have some more resources for you. Make sure to carefully read the articles so that you will be able to create an amazing online course and to avoid any possible problems.