Top Mistakes Online Instructors Make (And How To Avoid Them)

What can be better for a student than after waking up in the morning to pour a nice cup of coffee, turn on a computer, and see what’s new and exciting in the world of e-learning? No more missed classes because “the alarm didn’t go off”. No need to spend money on gas while driving to the campus. No more hassle with carrying lots of heavy books to class. No surprise why e-learning steadily gains popularity.

Since the world of online education expands, it allures more recruits. Having the option of taking courses online is probably one of the most useful things the Internet has ever offered. No entry tests for enrollment to become a student, no eligibility requirements. You’ll always get your chance to pick through the online course just to make sure it is something you need or can handle.

But what about those instructors who create online courses? Every online course has somebody who stands behind the curtain and creates content. Online instructors are those who navigate you through the information with teaching techniques they developed for learning process improvement. However, if a student is under the impression that he is experiencing a lack of information or not learning enough, this is something that will become a problem for course creators. 

Let’s go over some common mistakes that online instructors make while creating and teaching online courses.

An absence of a business plan once you’ve gone free float

If you are not a part of a brick-and-mortar school or college, most likely you decided to go free float and work independently. Moving online to teach is a great idea, but keep in mind all the challenges that come with it. Before gaining vast benefits from your self-employment, which won’t be even tied to any location whatsoever, think about creating an essential analysis of expenses and marketing efforts you are going to invest. Online teaching is like any business – it needs the right approach and a business plan. And then, after you succeed in implementing your business outlines, you’ll get a level of freedom that you only dreamt of during your summer vacation at the regular job.

Check out some online business podcasts or websites before you start. If you need help with creating a business plan, you can check an online course on “How to Write a Business Plan” , so it might be a great place for you to get all pros and cons first, and then start building your business plan for the year.

Here are more reasons why the lack of a business plan would be a mistake for your online teaching business:

  • Reveals and evaluates any weaknesses of your business;
  • Discovers new business opportunities you haven’t thought about before;
  • Strengthens your business idea through the market analysis and analysis of competitors;
  • Develops strategies on resolutions that deal with any potential challenges which derail a startup that you launched;
  • Designates your target audience and shows ways of reaching them;
  • Encourages you to go through some calculations to determine how much money you need to gain profit and for your startup capital;
  • Makes you look good and professional in the eyes of potential partners.

Also, keep in mind marketing tools that are needed for a promotion, collecting and billing methods, website building, and SEO practices for boosting social media presence in case you want your unique online school. All of these factors and elements should be incorporated into your business plan too unless you’re willing to use online marketplaces like Grinfer. 

Not using best practices acquired while teaching at brick-and-mortar schools

Online education demands new approaches to teaching and learning. Yet, omitting or forgetting the best practices you used in the classroom is a mistake. Don’t skip traditional methods like portfolios, team-based learning, small-group discussions, etc.

Another thing that you should maintain is your positive attitude. Be friendly and care for your students. Working from home can be tricky and can set you in the mood of being isolated but try to build positive relationships with your students and your colleagues through online forums and social media groups. Realize that trying to create a one-path-fits-all approach may not be too contributive to your online teaching experience.

Here are more tips for you in finding ways to succeed in teaching online:

  • Convey individual goals expressed by students into your own teaching approach. This strategy is useful for those who provide 1-on-1 consultations and lessons. Trial lessons would be most handy since this will help you to understand what level students are at and get the feel for their learning pace.
  • Make sure that your teaching speaks to modern realities. If you haven’t been changing your teaching methods and techniques since the 90s, odds are students will not come to you for learning. Stay up to date with the current world and update your syllables.
  • Stay up to date with tech tools. Keep an eye on new technologies and developments used for online teaching. You derive information about most current events in the world of technologies by following podcasts, picking through blogs, and publications posted regarding this industry. Don’t overwhelm your students with too many tech tools though. Most people just simply don’t have enough time tinkering around all the innovations.

Not providing timely feedback to students

Since online students mostly learn through self-study, structuring a day, and staying on track with assignments can be challenging for some. That’s why providing feedback and evaluations is really important for giving learners the right direction. Timely feedback shows either there was obvious progress in studies or whether a student needs to identify areas they are struggling with. It is also a good chance to suggest or recommend more useful methods and exercises used for improvements.

Teaching feedback can be provided in the following ways: videos, responses in written format, audio recordings. Written feedback is given directly in the Learning Management systems or (LMS). In some LMSs (such as Canvas) there are already built-in voice and video recorders.

Here are some software used for free in case the LMS you’ve been using does not allow either video or audio feedback:

  • Vocaroo – uses audio podcasts for providing verbal feedback. The instructor’s comments regarding students’ submissions are recorded and provided with links available for playback.
  • Jing – combines screen capturing with verbal feedback, which then delivers video responses to learners. Screen captures can also go along with verbal feedback, which later elaborates on written comments. A link with video feedback is usually delivered to learners along with their assigned grades.
  • Zoom – can be used as a video conferencing software for hosting virtual sessions and offers vast applications for providing feedback.
  • Knovio –  a platform used for creating video presentations. On this platform, learners get a chance to view the online edition of their work being corrected while they can watch their teacher talking about it at the same time. It is a useful tool utilized in flipped classes. It can also be utilized for providing video files that contain feedback responses.

Master your organizing methods by creating a Teaching Toolbox for collecting and providing feedback to students. Teaching Toolbox is a repository of responses produced and accumulated over a certain period of teaching. The main purpose of such a toolbox is to save time while searching for a particular response, as well as for adding new content for later use. You can either create a text document with a table of content where everything will be sorted by headings, or use MS Word Quick Parts. Its function allows saving blocks of text and then later access signature blocks which can be used as shortcuts with repeated comments provided to students.

Focusing too much on creating lengthy videos

Once starting to make videos for online courses, many educators get caught up in chasing after creativity and entertaining content. The final result might be very surprising – long videos with fewer ideas. That’s where the idea that less is actually more becomes obvious. In most cases, creating shorter content feels like putting serious constraints on the process. How to overcome this challenge and yet create substantial videos?

Some tips for the effective video-making process:

  • Know your target audience and examine their pain points – with a general topic in mind which you are about to cover, determine what possible gaps or downfalls in the knowledge your target audience has. Focus on these parts to make your video more instructional.
  • Make a clear objective for the learning process – try to set a clear learning goal and stick to it while making videos.
  • Choose the right format for videos that best suits your topic. You can choose either animation or live-action videos (or both). It depends whether you speak about abstract concepts or want to show complex actions such as doing makeup, cooking a dish, or making a craft. If you’re creating an instructional video, then try a screencast for showing how to use some software or application. Try a useful software called Asana, which is a project management program that mixes live actions with screencast videos.

While creating instructional videos with different scenario branches, it is better to write separate scripts for each scenario just for avoiding confusion.

Be fun for your students

Last but not least, give some room for a good laugh with some subtle jokes. You don’t have to look serious in order to provide learners with useful information. Make your students smile and move on with your learning process with a positive attitude!

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