Teaching online

Have you ever thought of teaching online to earn money? Demand for online courses is growing rapidly.
Many universities now offer distance learning for graduate and doctoral programs. Traditional campus students prefer online courses to resolve schedule conflicts or take popular courses online when physical enrollment space is limited.

When I was an undergrad student, many years ago, I would have benefitted from an online program due to childcare issues. Night classes saved me from dropping out, but even those classes created time conflicts.

There is a growing population of post-grad learners welcoming online course delivery because the economy is growing and technology keeps changing.

Life-long learners, such as myself, need just-in-time learning. That is, where people who have had two or more careers in their lifetime need to stay relevant to stay competitive.

There are certain key decisions to consider when deciding to teach online. Before setting out to do so, ask the following questions.

What are my motives for teaching online?

Do these reasons justify my efforts?

How should the course be packaged for delivery to learners?

Question 1: motives for teaching online

The primary reason for teaching online is to provide access, not just to earn money. Professionals who want professional development in their field, for example, may struggle going back to school or even taking night classes. Oil workers in Nigeria who need petroleum engineering courses, k­12 teachers who want additional certification in their subject, and ranchers in Arizona who want agribusiness courses—all need these courses in a setting other than a traditional physical environment.

Good online courses offer a quality of instruction that cannot be matched by face-to-face instructor led instruction. Online instruction can integrate technology with course content combining a broader range of information and an abundance of resources. And teaching online allows for discussions and collaboration without fear of embarrassment.

Question 2: justifying efforts

Online courses present a few challenges.

First, teaching online requires lots of technical support. It is essential to have a good web server and a webmaster and help from curriculum developers or instructional designers. Next, teaching online requires a good deal of time communicating with learners using e­mail and electronic discussions in community forums.

Also, teaching online frequently require the instructor to re­think how to approach teaching, because online teaching does not readily support lecturing. Finally, teaching online has to be well marketed in order to be effective.

There is a lot of competition among online courses. With technology fees, domain hosting, and learning management system (LMS) costs, online course development’s initial cost may be more than expected. It may take quite some time to recoup those costs.

A few years ago, I created an online course in language acquisition, mainly because my career had been in that area. But since I failed to fully identify my target audience prior to launching, enrollments remained less than anticipated.
I have since discovered that effective marketing requires the help of a professional. The online teacher needs to develop contacts and cultivate potential markets.

Despite these challenges, the benefits of teaching online can outweigh the time consumed in creating an online course. The most important benefit, I feel, is that teaching online forces critical reflection on teaching philosophy, which improves the effectiveness of teaching. New opportunities for learning activities are presented and group learning is easier with the removal of space and distance barriers.

Question 3: designing and delivering the course

Initial considerations:

How to create new learning activities or revise existing ones? Convert an existing course instead of creating a new one. Creating new subject matter while building the online course can be overwhelming
How to handle electronic exchanges? Typical e­mail discussions generate too much mail and also lead to superficial opinion exchanges. Zoom is a robust low-cost video and audio conferencing service for class discussions.
How to provide online tutorials and slide presentations and videos?  Storyboards offer a variety of free tools to sketch your next course.
Camtasia is one of the best video editors on the market.

What should be on the home page? The home page should contain a summary or overview of the course. Provide course objectives, course organization (what topics will be covered), Canva  allows you to make instant graphic designs.
Contact information (the instructor’s e­mail and a link to a personal web site). You might also include a sitemap and a search field.

Once these design issues are addressed, the next step is to decide how to deliver the course.

The easiest way to get a course online is to use a commercial learning management system (LMS) or course authoring system, such as Blackboard, Teachable, or Thinkific. LMSs are very popular largely because they are template driven. The course author fills in the forms and web pages appear.

Sharing online videos for discussion is a popular activity. Videos from faraway places can be integrated into course content.

Teacher tube ( is an online community for sharing instructional videos.

Google docs is a great place to foster teamwork .(

Teaching a good online course with great content should have learning aids with such features as automated self-study quizzes, case study programs, computer simulations, and great videos. Too many online courses are casually generated without such features. Teaching online to earn money is part of the ingredients to success.

Get started. Get started early. Most of your time and effort will go into content development and learning activities. Reach out for help, if need be. Start teaching online.

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