5 Part Series: My First Course: Deciding What to Teach?

Welcome to my new series where for the next few weeks I’m going to talking about all the ins and outs of developing my very first course. What I did, who and what tools I used as well as this very first part about deciding WHAT to teach and take my course online.

To say that I had fun was an understatement and I’m already working on filming and writing the content for my second course which will likely be more around writing but, of course, we shall see.

So, the first thing is WHAT TO TEACH? and Examining any internal and external motivations you have.

I have been teaching for some time and before those of you have any issue with people telling you about process or frown on where that person is and how much they CAN teach YOU, you only need to be a few steps ahead in order to impart wisdom. So whatever you want to do, don’t worry about others and their thoughts, do what you’re going to do, ensure that it’s the absolutely best it can be and you will have all you need.

So, before I do anything, I often ask WHY. Prior to that, I do also pray and ask for guidance and support through the process but after that, the next important thing to examine is: your own motivations.

In all honesty, it wasn’t that I wanted to do the courses online but the push to move into this arena, came from TWO important “push notifications” if you will. Two instances, life occurrence would say to me, now go do this…

1. The first push notification was simply that the course I was teaching at a local community college, would eventually be canceled by the powers that be. First attendance dwindled AND it dwindled because the course catalog that the college was producing and that went out to more than 5000 homes across five counties and more than 60K students WAS NO LONGER PUBLISHED. For myself and a host of other adjunct faculty, this was truly devastating.

Paying to put a flyer of some sort in that many homes, would be cost prohibitive. In other words, we could not pay for this. We could but we would not make back our return.

The course catalog was obsolete and the only real lucrative place I had to market and share information about the two courses I was teaching, at that time, was no more. That was the best advertisement for me and losing that is when enrollment dropped off. Many adjunct professions often complained about this and how their course just wouldn’t survive that constant mention on the pages of the catalog.

Couple that with a then new director came along and canceled many of what they deemed were “leisure courses”. Never mind that out of the course I taught for almost 15 years, I was up to 9 students that took my little course and were able to go on and publish their book.

So it wasn’t just my course that got the axe, but also things like art, pottery, masonry, interior design and other things saw enrollment decline and as such were cut. Of course I was sad and a little annoyed but it propelled me and gave me time to do two things I said I had wanted to do, the online course of course, I wanted but kind of in addition to the live course, and the other thing I wanted to start, was my own annual writer’s conference which is in its second year. So those are VERY good things that not teaching freed me up to pursue. It also propelled me to look at other ways and I have since applied to propose the course to a local recreation center that had similar offerings and so far seems interested in adding my course to their fall lineup. I’ll let you know how that goes.

2. The second thing is that people who could not attend any of my LIVE courses, that lived in areas all around the US and fans and friends of books wouldn’t realistically be able to attend and enroll in my course, offered live, at only 2 locations in Northern Virginia would always e-mail me and “when or could I, offer these same courses online?” At that time the response was no, but now, it will be YES, yes and yes!

So after examining your own motivation(s), you will need to decide WHAT to teach.

Obviously, teach what you KNOW to start.

I was already teaching writing and publishing LIVE and thus it was easiest for me to use that content, re-purpose it, lengthen it and simply find a way to put it up online, update it, refine and flesh out what was skeletal notes for myself and make them fuller for others to read and be able to understand as they read and learn.

Make a list of things you feel like you know WELL or that you know a lot about and some additional instruction or information would help you be able to impart to others. As I mentioned, for me it was of course publishing, writing and marketing basics, building a platform, arranging live book events, even planning a launch party, BUT THEN, as a person with a disability, I also had a wealth of knowledge to impart to parents, self advocates in their 20’s/30’s and I am an experienced case manager for my full time employment. This provided an extra knowledge base to explore what could I offer and I actually launched that course: Finding Qualified Caregivers, not related to writing, publishing and marketing basics just the other week. It’s about how to find, hire, train, maintain and sadly, sometimes fire qualified caregivers and it’s available on my shop, now.

See where there is a deficit? If there are numerous teachings and online content around certain subjects that you also want to teach, still watch these and see where the deficits are. For example, there might be a ton of courses on writing and writing fiction and the ins and outs of self publishing but is there information on how to prepare a proposal for a traditional contract? In fiction, there may well be enough about romance, but is there enough content on paranormal or fantasy, perhaps you write about diverse characters, could you provide a deeper understanding and instruction around writing more diverse subjects and how to address groups of folks and different backgrounds appropriately and avoid cliches and stereotypes?

What can YOU speak to and what can you share that’s missing or underrepresented in the current offerings?  Use places like Udemy, Coursera and Lynda (to name a few) to start to explore popular courses and missing subjects YOU can teach.

Finally, simply poll your audience, your followers and others that know you – ask them what are they coming to you for… and what do they wish there was more availability about (certain subjects) and this feedback will give you clues about how to extend and naturally tie into what they want to receive so that what you are going to teach about will seem like a natural progression or extension of your brand.

After, you’ve come up with WHAT you’ll teach, everything else will come together as far as developing an outline for your course content (what do people need to know; what questions do people have…), what tools and equipment you need (and are comfortable with using) to record and share/sell your course AND finally, what platforms to use to get your course out to the masses, which we will talk about in the coming weeks.

See you next week for Part 2!


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