As many of you know, I have an online course that walks you through the steps of setting up your online tutoring business.

My goal is to make the transition from traditional teaching to the virtual classroom not only painless, but exciting and joyful even. Once you get the momentum going for making that switch, what you really need is a resource that lets you capitalize on that momentum and tells you exactly what to do–what marketing platforms are the best for attracting new students, what tools are the most effective–all the things I had to find out through trial and error.

It’s a bit of a “meta” exercise, though. Because it just happens that one of the best resources for building your online tutoring business is to…you guessed it…set up an online course for your students.

By offering an online course, you have unlimited ability to capitalize on your area(s) of expertise. Essentially, you turn a single effort into endlessly repeatable income, because your single online course can be used over and over again by students without you ever having to get involved.

But there is a catch. And it’s one that I  discovered for myself creating the How to Tutor Online course:

Your Online Course Has to Be Interesting

When you’re in a traditional classroom setting, you can see right in front of you how interesting your teaching is. If the students are sitting up with wide eyes, raising their hands and flipping through their textbooks, you know you’re on the right track.

If, on the other hand, they are slumped over their desks or whispering to each other, you know instantly that it’s time to try a new approach.

With an online course, it’s a bit more problematic to decide how to engage and keep your students’ interest. I’ve done a lot of studying about this (in interest of making my course, well, interesting!) and here’s what I’ve found:

There’s no single right way to create an interesting online course.

Alas! But then again, there’s no single right way to keep a classroom interested.

There are, however, some rules of thumb about what not to do. And I’ve come across a wonderful article by Keren Sergeant called “How to Create and Deliver an Online Course that Sucks” that lists several of them in a cheeky, sarcastic tone.

I’ll let you read the whole article for yourself, but here are some of my favorite points she makes and what I’ve taken away from them:

Don’t create an online course for “everybody.”

This has the opposite effect you might think–namely, nobody thinks it is for them.

By contrast, when you specify from the outset the age group and grade level that you’ve designed the course for, it’s far likelier to attract students of every description. The ambitious sixth former/ grader (or their parent) will eagerly sign up for a high school-level course, while a high schooler who is struggling in a subject will feel more confident about taking a course that is directed for someone a year or two below them.

Don’t pack as much information as you possibly can into your online course. 

You might think this is offering extra value, but it really just feels overwhelming and makes your course impossibly long.

You see, part of the charm of an online course is that students can go through it at their own pace. Which means that they can not only take their time where they need to, but can also quickly experience the reward of finishing. The quicker they can knock out a lesson and feel the victory glow that comes afterward, the more likely they will want to repeat the experience.

So if you’ve got a survey of classical literature you want to teach, break it into very small pieces and create a course around each of those increments.

Don’t simply read through the text in your slides.

Many online courses are anchored by slide presentations that display the key points of the lesson. If you’ve ever gone through one of these courses, you may have come across the presenter who simply reads through each word on each slide, them moves on to the next.

Not a good idea, I’m afraid. Presenting your course word for word has one of two results:

  • The course will be uninteresting.
    How engaging is it to have someone read bullet points to you?
  • There will be far too much text on the slide.
    If the presenter is speaking conversationally but their every word is on the slide, it’s only a matter of time before students’ eyes begin to cross.

The answer is a combined approach. You want to have the main points of your lesson on the slide, and then offer plenty of conversational side commentary as you go. Essentially, your spoken presentation is a lecture, and the slides are the outline for your students to follow along.

Now we’ve got a few of the big “don’ts” out of the way, I’ll make sure I go over some of the “do’s” in a future blog post. For now, be assured that there’s no single way to make your course as engaging as a lesson taught in person. It simply takes some creativity to communicate your engaging personality and your passion about a subject through the online format.

And that is something you can look forward to learning in a lot more detail from my How to Tutor Online Course 

How do you keep your students engaged and interested? Drop into our online teacher’s lounge and find out what other teachers are doing.