What I learned from teaching my 1st online class
I've been toying with the idea of teaching an online class for years now. I have been teaching off & on "in person" for a while and it's been really rewarding. I love teaching and turns out, I'm pretty good at it. :) The only problem with teaching at the local level is I can't reach those babes who live on the other side of the country or the other side of the world. And I happen to really like those far away babes.
But I just never got around to actually setting the online class up. Well, until very recently that is.
And what I've found is that it's very different teaching in person vs. online. There is a whole lot more writing, editing, designing, etc. involved when teaching an online class, for instance. There are also different challenges; some things work for one but not the other. And I wanted to share what I've learned with you, in case you were considering teaching an online class :)
1. TIME ZONES SUCK.
In my Personal Branding for Creatives class, we have three group chats and three one-on-ones with me. And in the pilot class, I had 25 students. So that means every week, I was having to work around soo many different schedules and time zones. I had students all over the US (even Alaska!) all the way to our UK babes. So a group chat for a Cali girl who is getting off work at 5 pm, well that ends up being like 2 am over in the UK.
I don't feel like I ever found the perfect answer for this problem, but I do think mixing the times up each week, and trying to target as many students at once helped a good bit. But if you're planning on teaching an online class that involves any kind of chats or calls, you really need to consider the time zones.
2. SOMETIMES PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO PLAY.
So we totally had some students who did not engage at all. Like at all. Which is totally fine! The class was designed in a way that made it so that every week (three weeks in total), you got a workbook via email. You didn't have to join the chats or the one-on-ones, nor did you have to interact in our private Facebook group. It was just there to make the class experience a little richer & so we could all lift each other up.
And after the class, I sent out a survey asking all of my students lots of different things & a couple of them admitted that they didn't join in because they just weren't interested in interacting with the students or me.
A few said they were intimidated and felt uncomfortable asking for advice or anything like that. And one or two said they just wanted the workbooks and nothing else. When I asked if there was anything I could do to make them feel more comfortable to at least join me for the one-on-ones, they said there wasn't. And (after asking quite a few of my online friends who teach classes), that's totally normal! A few of my friends even said most of their classes get like a 35-45% participation rate.
So if you're going to teach a class online, be prepared for some people to want to go solo & just work at their own pace. Which is one million percent ok!
3. PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUPS ARE AWESOME.
When I was trying to figure out what platform I wanted to use to host the class, a blog friend of mine suggested emailing the class material & then having the "class" in a private Facebook group. GREAT advice! That worked out so well! 1. that way, all the profit goes into your pocket vs. some hosting service. 2. you maintain all the rights to your own work. 3. your students are already (usually) super familiar with and comfortable with the platform.
Just be sure not to assume that everyone understands how everything works. Be detailed in explaining what you're wanting them to do and where things are going to be.
4. ASK FOR FEEDBACK ALONG THE WAY.
I officially sent out a survey after the class ended. However, privately, I would ask different students at different times how they thought the class was going and what was working for them & what wasn't. Most of the time, it was all glowing feedback. However, a couple times, I got feedback saying things like they were a little confused on our scheduling system for the one-on-ones or they didn't understand how / where the group chats were taking place.
I took this feedback and adjusted the class in real time for THESE students. Sure, I could have waited to make those changes until Personal Branding for Creatives v 2.0 launched, but I think it's enormously important to adapt and make your current students happy. Asking for feedback along the way helps make sure that by the end, they feel like you're listening and care about them and that they're getting the best class possible.
5. BE PREPARED FOR ALL KINDS OF FEEDBACK.
I was so pleased that nearly ALL of my feedback for the entire class was glowing! I had two students who were happy, but not like PUMPED, but the rest were PUMPED. However, that said, I did receive one bit of feedback early in the class that wasn't as glowing. We had changed our group chats from Thursday nights to Friday nights after the first week, and as such that meant that new workbooks came out on Saturdays. And completely understandably, one student in particular wasn't pleased.
She had planned her schedule around the original days and so this change upset her balance. When she addressed myself and the group with that, I was a little bummed. But I totally understood! I would probably have been upset myself it were reversed! But we ended up working it all out & things shifted in a way that everyone was happier. This goes right back to #4.
So while I had like 99% lovely things, there is always the possibility of a negative. Don't let that ruin your day or your class. Publicly address the issue, apologize and adapt. No sweat.
6. YOU ARE EVERYONE'S COACH, CHEERLEADER, GUIDANCE AND SOUNDING BOARD.
One of my favorite things about teaching are the one-on-ones. I get some really awesome quality time with my fabulous students and we get to really sink our teeth into their brand. You end up developing actual relationships with these people if you let it, and it's super awesome. But you are 100% leading them. Most of them are a little (or a lot) nervous about the subject you're teaching (that's why they are taking the class after all!) and you are the expert. So make sure you carefully consider each answer and each bit of advice. And if you don't have the answer to something, be honest! Tell them that! Then either give it more thought or look it up for them.
You also are more cheerleader then anything else, honestly. They need your support, your gentle (or not so gentle) push and for you to get them pumped up! Tell them what they're doing that's awesome! Point out what makes them unique and fabulous! Be the peppy best friend they need.
7. YOUR STUDENTS CAN TEACH YOU JUST AS MUCH AS YOU TEACH THEM.
We never stop growing or learning and that 100% applies here as well. I had photographers, florists, college students, planners, bloggers, shop owners, etc. in my class. And every single one of them taught me something. They had awesome ideas, great tips and were experts in their own respective fields. The key here is to listen. Like really listen to what they're saying, take notes and to have genuine conversations with them. Be humble. You are an expert in your field, but you can always learn something new. And your students, if you let them, can be an amazing resource for you. :)
But those were the biggest take-aways I had from teaching this first class! Every class and every teacher is different, but these ones I feel are the most universal that we can all learn from.
If you're planning on teaching a class but just haven't yet, what's stopping you? And if you have taught a class, I would love to hear something you've learned in the comments!
And if you're interested in joining the Personal Branding for Creatives v2.0 class, I would 100% love to see you in class! xx