Teaching an Online Course: The Professional, Stree-Free Approach

The Advantages of Learning Online…

Who hasn’t received email about online learning and thought how wonderful it would be to “attend” lectures, take exams, and interact with instructors and classmates through chat rooms, without driving to some campus? How convenient: work at your own pace from the convenience of your home or office. Most online courses have been degree programs in fields that lend themselves to this approach, like business, technology, health, and law.

How many more people want simply to enrich their lives by delving into something interesting or practical on an ongoing basis? That has been a service community colleges supply, hiring many people with specialized knowledge and experience in a wide variety of fields that appeal to enough citizens to make it worth listing in the catalog.

What About the Advantages of Teaching Online?

When you stop to think about it, most adults accumulate enough knowledge and experience to have something worth sharing with others. Most of them truly love their special field and believe they have a unique slant on it. Only a few, however, apply to teach at their community college and those who are accepted get to share their expertise and passion with only a few dozen people at most per semester. Many knowledgeable and passionate people are intimidated at the thought of designing a course – writing up descriptions, syllabi, outlines, and lecture notes without professional guidance or assistance. Of those who get this far, how many freeze at the thought of standing up in front of a classroom and talking in public?

If this describes you, there is great news. You can now teach what you know and love while “hiding” behind the Internet. Even better, you can get talented professionals to help you create and develop a truly excellent course with all the trimmings. You can get access to tools that let you enroll hundreds of students at once and still manage to encourage them to complete their assignments, pass quizzes, and participate in online discussion groups.

UniversalClass.com – Where Learning and Teaching Come Together…

One such online service is UniversalClass.com. It offers a “Virtual Classroom” in cyberspace. You set up an account quickly and easily, and then concentrate on typing in or uploading specific content for your course through a “wizard,” an automated program that prompts for necessary information and offers hints. Make no mistake, it takes planning and effort on your part, But you are guided through the whole process. Once you’re satisfied with your draft, UniversalClass.com professionals critique it and tell you how to improve it. Once the Course Review Committee approves your course, it is made available online to potentially thousands of learners, who pay whatever course fees you stipulate. You receive sixty percent of these fees. And you’ve paid nothing to set up the course. As you “teach” the class repeatedly, feedback from students and your own evolving insights can be edited in and your course grows in excellence.

What Can I Teach?

It’s time to brainstorm. Start a notebook of ideas. You don’t have to be a “guru” or expert for people at some level to benefit from your insight. Four to six years work or field experience after finishing school may suffice to build a practical course around. Help people learn the “inner workings” of something you do every day effortlessly. Help them avoid trial and error. If you are a skilled craftsperson or hobbyist, you have the makings of a first-rate course. Remember, the Internet lets you incorporate artwork, music, and even movie clips – without you having to know any programming.

What do you enjoy talking, reading, and learning about most? What do you enjoy doing the most? What do you find yourself talking about most with family and friends? What do people most ask your help with? What good and bad life experiences have you been through? How did you cope? What are the biggest problems on the job and how would you fix them? What do you find yourself saying, “I could do that better” about? Or, “If only they’d try such-and-such.” Start here.

People want courses in things like:

  • accounting
  • bookkeeping
  • marketing
  • financing
  • office skills
  • telemarketing
  • entrepreneurship
  • New Age
  • self-improvement
  • holistic healing
  • Yoga
  • fitness
  • birthing
  • dreams
  • self-hypnosis
  • meditation
  • quitting smoking
  • computers at every level of expertise and every specialty
  • cooking (all forms)
  • the visual arts – how to and academic views
  • decorating
  • landscaping
  • genealogy
  • reading music
  • playing instruments
  • the languages of the world
  • law
  • criminology
  • taxation
  • parenting
  • grand-parenting
  • caring for elderly parents
  • caring for pets
  • real estate
  • religion
  • social work…

With a little imagination, your list of ideas can grow to unbelievable heights…

Planning Online Courses – Do You Know Your Audience?

Who are you creating your courses for? Do you know your Audience?

In the film, Field of Dreams, the tag line was “If you build it, they will come” That might work with two teams of long dead baseball players, but unfortunately this is not a good strategy for online courses

You need to know who your audience are. The image you create of your ideal student is called an Avatar – nothing to do with that film either! This is a profile that you create based on what you know of the type of people who will be taking you course.

How do you find this out – is the next obvious question. Simple. Speak to them and ask them. My audience for my online courses about creating online courses is less demographically specific and does not have a gender bias.

On the whole these are people 15 to 50 who are entrepreneurial, creative, expert, smart. They can come from any part of the world – my courses reach 164 countries.

Start listening to your audience. Ask them questions. Create messaging dialogues. Organise Skype calls. Get under their skin.

Find out who they are.

I ask my students at the start of my courses to introduce themselves. This helps me to understand a little more about them and when they do leave a message in the course, it’s a great opportunity for me to ask them a question and keep the discussion going.

This information is very powerful.

When you talk with them or message with them start looking for key phrases of information about their struggles, motivations, goals, ambitions and objectives. These pieces of information are golden and will be particularly valuable when we come to discuss the next section – Problems.

Do not be afraid to niche your audience down.

By being very specific about your audience, you will resonate with them. If you keep your definition very broad, in order to capture a wide audience, you will resonate with no-one. When you start it is better to focus on one niche but as time goes on you can address multiple niches with your courses.

Try to create an outline written profile of your Avatar.

Even give them a name. Who are they married to or in a partnership with? Do they have children? Where do they live? What is their home like? What is their income? Do they have a car? The more you can fill out this profile, the more you can get to know them.

When you create your courses for them, it is much easier to feel that you are speaking directly to them, engaging with them. Although you are making courses for hundreds, if not thousands, of students, it is still a very personal method of transmitting knowledge. In the course there are only ever two people. You, the instructor, and the student and the more you can make your courses feel intimate and personal, the better will be the student experience.

This is one of the reasons I believe that Alun Hill is so successful. He works very hard to answer all the questions and discussions with his students and when you take his courses, you feel as if he is really talking directly to you. He does not lecture in the traditional sense of the word, he communicates the information you need to know in a very relaxed and no nonsense way that makes you feel that you know him as well as he seems to know you.

This is not an accident nor is it easy to do well. Many courses I have taken have seemed as if the instructor was delivering information to a disembodied spirit somewhere. Learn from this by really getting to know your audience and you will create better courses.

So, I strongly recommend that before you start creating your courses, you spend the time making sure that you know WHO you are creating them for!

Empty Nester Entrepreneur – Choose a Quality Online Course

Empty nester entrepreneurs are signing up for online marketing courses because their computer skills are weak, they want to have someone to discuss ideas with, and have someone explain the variety of resources. A business coach can certainly guide empty nester entrepreneurs through the online maze of information.

Working with a home based business coach can help you move forward in your business. There are many different coaching/mentoring courses available and they all have their own ideas of what works and what doesn’t.

The frustrating part is that you often don’t know exactly what you’re getting until after you pay. Then you find out it’s not what you thought and you quit.

Online business courses are offered in several different formats. If you are aware of these various methods before signing up then you will be happier with your decision.

Method 1: A sales person will offer you a mentoring/coaching course where you will receive one-on-one coaching. There will be a onetime fee and then you can have access to their system. The fee will likely have a high end price tag.

Once you become a member you will then have tutorials you can go through and a chat line or phone number to call for assistance. Now you will receive one-on-one coaching, but it is a different person every time. You are contacting a pool of coaches. There is no personal relationship and you will have to explain what you are doing every time you talk to someone.

Method 2: There are business mentoring/coaching courses that offer training tutorials and webinars. These monthly fees may range from $50.00 to $200.00 per month. You can learn a lot and they can be very helpful. The advantage over method #1 is that you can quit at any time and then your payments end. You don’t have to put out a lot of money upfront.

The disadvantage is there is no real live coach to communicate with. You can end up doing a lot of work that is not very effective.

Method 3: You download a series of videos for a onetime fee. These tutorials will lead you through several steps. The advantage is that the cost may be fairly low. The disadvantage is that the videos may be too technical, you may have difficulty figuring out how to make them applicable to your business and you will end up getting lost and losing interest.

Method 4: An online course that combines tutorials, weekly classes in the form of webinars, and personal consulting. You will have help building content and someone checking your work. When you need help with technical challenges you will get it and you will have weekly assignments that will keep you moving forward, plus a community of like-minded baby boomers/empty nesters to talk to and ask questions. The tuition is usually paid monthly.

These are online marketing courses that I have experienced. I recommend asking questions before you pay and find out exactly how the course is going to be delivered and then choose the method that will be best for you.

How to Estimate Home Building Cost?

There are many factors that go into home building costs and it can be huge task to even come out with an estimate.

The quickest way to estimate home building costs is to find similar houses in the area that has the same overall look and size of one that you want to build. Then take the selling price, minus the cost of the land and you will have a rough and quick estimate of the construction cost. This is, of course not an exact science, but by following this basic rule you will be able to get a rough estimate.

If the house that you are comparing with was built a few years ago, then you should factor in the appreciation cost due to increase in the cost of labor and materials at between 2 to 5% per annum.

Home building costs can be further influence by the interior feature of the home. Let’s say you want a completely furnished basement and the house than you are using as a reference does not. You should factor this into the cost estimate. A little here and there can add up to thousands of dollars.

Another way is to seek the help of a construction company. If you show them the type of house that you are interested in they should be able to respond to you with a quick estimate. Usually, due to expertise and experience, their estimate can be quite close to the actual building cost.

What if the house that you plan to build is different from what is available in your vicinity? Here is a tip. Go online and type in the terms ‘home plans’ or ‘house plans’. You will find many sites that offer thousands of house plans. You can search by type, size, number of rooms etc and for a small price you can download the blueprint. Then ask your friendly construction company to give you an estimate.

Yet another way is to use home building kits. Again go online and type in ‘home building kits’. There are many companies offering home building kits than contains everything (except labor) that you need to build a house. Then ask your construction company to quote for labor charges. Labor charges constitute a significant portion of the cost of building your own home and if you have the expertise, using a home building kit and building it yourself can reduce your estimate significantly.

No matter how precise or detail oriented you are in the planning stages, you must keep in that there may be an unexpected cost overrun. It is a safe practice to put away about 10 or even 15 % for contingency to ensure that you have the money to cover any overrun.

Home building costs can often times be very difficult to pinpoint. But if you use some of the methods described above, and by being precise and detail oriented, you will be able to come up with a very close estimate on your home building costs.