August 30, 2015

4 Teaching Principles for Creating a Successful Online Course.


yoga sign beach

According to Forbes, the 2014 market for online courses was $54 billion and growing.

If you’re trying to make a living as a yoga teacher, you can’t pass up the opportunity for income from online courses.

Launching an online course can be intimidating. When I taught my first course online for a university way back in 2000, I was completely overwhelmed by the technology. Luckily, it is much easier now, so a new online teacher can focus more on teaching.

Here are four basic teaching principles for creating a meaningful online course.

1. Find your niche topic.

In the current market, it’s nearly impossible for the average, local teacher to make money streaming asana videos. However, there are gazillions of yoga-related topics for online courses.

Choose a topic you love, even if you don’t think you have enough expertise. As an academic, I taught courses in which I had little expertise prior to teaching. When the topic was something I had always wanted to know more about, the hard work getting up to speed did not feel very difficult because I loved learning about it.

A few ideas:
>>> “other” yoga practices,
>>> yoga-related text or texts
>>> topics for yoga teachers (working with injuries, how to teach an “open level” class, advanced anatomy, sequencing),
>>> Ayurvedic approaches to wellness,
>>> mythology

2. Keep instructional videos and podcasts short.

Videos or audio podcasts are a common part of most online courses, and students now expect them.

The most important thing to remember when creating a good video for learning: keep the video short!

How short? No more than 12 minutes. Eight to 10 minutes is even better. Seriously. TED talks have an 18-minute rule, no matter how famous the speaker. The media produced by most yoga teachers is fairly basic compared to TED, especially as you start. That means our students will have an even shorter attention span than the TED audiences.

Shorter videos mean that you have to chunk your information appropriately, keeping each video to a very specific idea, and each lesson will have several videos. And that is good for students. Chunking is one of the main ingredients in building long-term memory.

3. Create various avenues for interaction.

A course with lots of interaction is not only a more interesting experience; it also builds knowledge faster that lasts longer. Bottom line: a dynamic online course is going to be a better course with better outcomes for the students.

A “secret” Facebook page is easy and familiar, but I don’t recommend it. Facebook is primarily interested in finding out more and more about you, so they can target ads your way. That means even your secret group postings are mined by the Facebook computers. Plus, having a course-specific site for interaction makes your course more professional—and it really isn’t that hard to do.

A guided threaded discussion is a necessity for each lesson, but it is not sufficient for a deeply engaging course. Here are just a few suggestions for additional interactive components: dyads, collaborative wikis, role playing, case studies, peer-review, student involvement in interviews with experts, or even a live chat once in awhile.

A good online teacher performs several balancing acts. First, create discussion prompts that are open-ended yet also specific enough for students to engage in very concretely. Secondly, moderate the interaction with “just enough” input. Be a part of the conversation but realize that too much of your authoritative voice can make students hesitate about participating.

4. Provide lots of opportunities to reinforce new information.

We know that retrieving new knowledge and skills from memory leads to better, long-term learning. For a deep impact on students, each lesson should include several different learning strategies beyond a video and discussion: activities, exercises or assignments. Don’t be afraid to include a short quiz for students to test their knowledge. Explain to your adult students that it is not about a grade. The process of retrieving the information for a quiz will make the information from the course stick better.

We also know that spacing out the retrieval exercises requires more effort from the student and reinforces the new information even deeper into long-term memory. This means that after several lessons, using an activity, exercise, assignment or quiz that requires students to remember material from previous lessons is a great idea. Yes, they are going over it again, but that is the point: well-spaced retrieval will build the neural pathways to long-term memory.



27 Ways to Grow Your Yoga Business (Without Working More Hours).


Author: Eileen McGurty

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Cory Doctorow/Flickr


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