E-Learning is big business, and not just for universities and traditional academic institutions. Many professionals are able to provide themselves with a second income stream by curating courses which teach others some of the skills that they have acquired throughout their careers.
If you would like to take advantage of the e-learning trend, there are some things that you should bear in mind when you are deciding whether to invest in a formal learning platform, or whether you think you will be able to deliver your course effectively using other tools.
if you are teaching a course which may have a high emotional impact on students, this is important. Learning online is a lot more solitary than traditional classroom based learning, and it’s important to replicate the feeling of community between students. For example, registered nurses undertaking an online RN to NP to become a nurse practitioner will be juggling their studies with placements which involve a lot of emotionally draining work. If they can access a community of other registered nurses in the same position as them they can not only get advice, but they will feel supported which will help them not to become overwhelmed and it will improve their learning outcomes. If you focus on building a community of students you can also use it to your advantage, as you will have a pool of people who you can go to for advice on what topics they would like covered, and what courses they might be interested in, in the future.
You can foster a sense of community through existing social media platforms, the key is that you use them regularly so that your students don’t feel as though they are just talking into the ether!
If you are going to be delivering teaching online, then it’s a good idea to try to mimic the classroom environment. This means that you need to not only be able to speak to a group of people, but ideally you should also have access to:
– A whiteboard so that you can highlight key points and ideas. This could be a physical whiteboard if you are able to set up your camera so that both you and the board are in shot, or it could be a whiteboard tool.
– Two way communication, meaning that the people you are teaching are able to ask you questions but in a non disruptive way. You might want to utilize a text chat function for this which you keep an eye on, or you could use a feature such as the one available in Zoom where students can virtually ‘raise their hand’. This can be easier to keep track of if you are teaching a large group than a text chat is.
– Ability to screen share and present. This means that you can compile slides with your key points and any illustrative images ahead of time, and share them with your class.
– Recording functionality. If you can record the class and allow your students to have access to it this can really help them, as it means they can go back and watch explanations that they didn’t fully grasp the first time. It also saves you time as you are less likely to get questions on things that you already covered in the class.
Self Paced Learning
A lot of people like learning online because it means that they can structure their studies around their lives. In order to truly allow them to do this, you need to allow students to complete work (where feasible) at their own pace. This is particularly important for those who already have a busy schedule but would like to hone their skills further. Medical certificates such as BLS, for instance, are thus available online for all those who cherish flexibility in learning.
This means that you will need to upload as much content as possible for students to go through in their own time, which can be quite storage heavy depending on how much content is on your course.
It’s worth estimating just how much space your content is likely to take up, and then ensuring that whatever platform you are using, whether it’s Google Docs or a more formal learning platform, is able to cope.
This is particularly important if any aspect of your course involves group working. Ensure that your students have access to something that allows them to easily work collaboratively on the same document, and gather sources of information into one place.
Tools like Google Drive, Padlet and Wakelet are worth taking a look at for this.
Reporting and Analytics
As with any digital product, reporting is key. Find a way to report on and analyse how many students are engaging with each piece of content you provide, monitor for and drop offs and ascertain where your weak points are so that you can improve for the future.
This feeds into analytics. Ensure that whatever system you set up is flexible enough that if you identify something that isn’t working, you can easily change it and try a new approach. You don’t want to be stuck with an immovable system that you know isn’t working but you can’t change it!
Ease Of Use
Otherwise known as UX (User Experience), basically means taking into account your users when designing your platform. Not only should your platform be intuitive and easy to use, but it should be appropriate for your user base. For example, if you are teaching tech skills to people who aren’t confident using a computer, then you need to make sure your interface is as simple as possible so that they don’t get overwhelmed. Conversely, if you are teaching a highly technical audience then they might appreciate all of the extra features you can throw at them.
Utilize your community to inform your user experience and you’ll be on to a winner!