I’ve been teaching online for the last 5 years and have thoroughly enjoyed sharing my knowledge and passions with almost 18,000 students.
Many people ask me what it takes to be successful as an online instructor. Well, in this article I will share the four keys that I believe have helped me and many other successful online instructors build large communities of happy students... so keep reading!
It's true that online learning has smashed down the walls of the traditional classroom environment and liberated us from the monotony of dusty textbooks and tedious conferences. This democratization of education allows almost anyone to become an instructor and the days of tenured professors and out-of-date training coaches are over, right?
Well, sort of.
While the average citizen is capable of taking advantage of online learning platforms to start their own virtual business, not everyone is successful at doing so. What separates the outstanding from the mediocre, the prosperous from the unprofitable? How can you ensure that the time you invest in creating a course is time worth working?
With a few key steps, almost anyone can become an education entrepreneur and earn passive income from selling your knowledge!
Step 1: Find your niche.
Before getting started on your course content, it is imperative that you identify your specific skill sets. What can you teach the world? You don’t need to be planet earth’s leading expert on astrophysics, but you do need to find your own area of expertise.
This could be a combination of professional and/or personal experiences. Perhaps you’ve had an illustrious career in a certain field, or maybe you have a lifelong hobby or hidden passion. From specific, obscure talents to more generalised expertise, there are numerous topics just waiting to be taught! Maybe it’s how to set up a home theatre or a guide to hacking online dating.
If a specific course already has thousands of students, perhaps you know of a new or different way of teaching it. Do it better and do it differently. Math has been taught for millennia, but Salman Khan’s Khan Academy has attracted millions of views. Why? His explanations are engaging and easy to understand and probably put your high school algebra teacher to shame.
Whether it is a simple explanation of the complexities of French grammar or an intricate Photoshop tutorial, it is important to teach what you know and know what you teach!
Step 2: Identify your market
After you’ve identified your specific skill set, you need to identify potential students. Are you targeting businesses or consumers? Will you teach the basics to beginners, or train advanced learners in complex procedures? Your course should appeal to a community of clients and avoid trying to be all things for all people.
Focus your course content to attract your target market and look at your competitors’ failures and successes for inspiration. Who are the highest earners and what are they teaching? Where have they specialised, and where can you identity existing gaps in knowledge? Rob Percival has earned over 2.8 MILLION dollars teaching online, what can you learn from his topics?
You should also look at education and general lifestyle trends for guidance. Keywords and trending topics can guide you towards emerging markets. Perhaps you’ve recognized the fortune to be made in the burgeoning field of yoga, but are overwhelmed by the possibilities. By looking at knowledge gaps, you may find that you should focus on pre-natal, mother and child or wheelchair yoga. Maybe you’re a natural polyglot and love teaching foreign languages. Thousands of members of the media, athletes and spectators are heading to the Rio 2016 Olympics soon!
Every incredible instructor needs to understand their target market before they can create outstanding courses.
Step 3: Use the carrot
Are you familiar with the old adage about the carrot and the stick? Your students are looking for rewards and added value offerings. The online education market is competitive and everybody loves free stuff!
You can start with enticing limited-time deals or special discount codes to boost your numbers and add positive course evaluations. Then, consider creating a free course or a free lecture to build your audience and attract new students. A teacher is nothing without their class!
Students in 2016 are looking for likeable instructors and a solid return on their investment of time and money.
You can draw your potential clients into the conversion tunnel by offering them something unique and valuable. Perhaps a viral youtube teaser video that shows off your personality, teaching style and knowledge. Don’t think these “gimmicks” are worth your time? Rob Percival, the 2.8 million dollar man, offers one year of free webhosting when you sign up for his courses.
Your carrot should be unique to you and your brand, and reassure the curious that your courses are worth their investment.
Step 4: Build your brand
So you’ve identified your skills, targeted an audience and created an appealing course with goodies. Now what? In order to successfully sell your content, you need to focus on marketing and promotion.
Create your personal education brand by engaging with users and expanding your target markets. Build credibility by responding to feedback and criticism and by keeping your curricula updated with new material. Stay active on social media and team up with other instructors to offer services such as guest blogs, affiliate options or discounted trials (there’s that carrot again!). By building your personal brand, you are adding additional value to your courses and other online offerings!
If a certain course proves to be successful, consider translating it into another language or growing it into a multi-part series. Interact with your students across platforms and build your virtual marketing collateral. It is important to respond to changes and stay relevant. By launching your own products and services, you are reinforcing your brand and building your online empire.
Interested? Do you feel ready to get started on your path to becoming a successful online instructor? I'll be more than happy to teach you how to create an awesome online course.
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