Over the past few decades, the internet has completely transformed world, and that also applies to education and learning. Today, there are hundreds of millions of people learning things online, outside of the traditional classroom… things like yoga, fitness, dance… music, drama, art… languages, programming, business skills… you name it.
Covid19 and the associated lockdowns have only served to accelerate this transformation. Taking classes online became an ordinary fact of life during the pandemic, and now it turns out that in the post-covid era, students actually prefer to take classes online.
For students, online classes have many advantages over in-person classes: apart from the obvious convenience, online classes are also less expensive. And for many people, it also feels safer (no, not because of covid but just because of shyness... for various reasons, room full of other people makes many uncomfortable).
So online classes and e-learning are not only here to stay, but they are growing in popularity. The global online fitness market by itself is predicted to grow nearly ten-fold in the next few years, from $11.4 billion in 2021 to an astounding $80 billion by 2026.
This means that things are looking pretty bleak for schools, studios and gyms. With most classes happening online, it’s not clear what role (if any) these brick & mortar businesses will still have to play.
On the other hand, it's the dawn of a golden era for teachers. Independent instructors are now in the drivers seat.
As online "teacherpreneur", you can really pursue your passion and teach exactly what you want and how you want. And you can also do very well financially. When you teach online from home:
- your overhead and expenses are minimal.
- your potential client base is almost unlimited — the internet is a big place!
- you get to keep 100% of the money that students pay.
- you can offer recordings of your classes as "on demand" videos and generate a steady stream of additional income
In short, teaching online is about freedom. The freedom to pursue your passion in exactly the way you want, the freedom to live anywhere while still earning income, the freedom to become financially independent and not have to clock in to a 9 to 5 job. Even if your teaching is just a hobby and you do have a "real" job, teaching online can make all the difference in your personal and financial life.
If you're new to it all, the idea of teaching online can seem daunting, especially if you’re not super comfortable with technology. Well, don't worry. It's actually incredibly easy to set up and operate your own teaching business.
Your first question might be: is there's a better video conferencing tool for online classrooms? What are some Zoom alternatives?
Good question. We're not particular fans of Zoom, and Zoom isn't free either — you will need to upgrade to a $15 "premium" Zoom plan in order to run classes longer than 40 minutes.
Some of the free alternatives to Zoom include Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and even Facebook... plus hundreds of other, lesser known video chat applications. But don't go there... stick with Zoom!
Your choice of platform is not about you or your own preferences — it's all about your students. The reason to use Zoom is that everyone is very familiar with it and knows how to use it — and it's crucial that you always make things as easy as possible for your clients.
The only new things your students should be learning with you is what you teach in class! They shouldn’t have to learn how to use a new video tech platform. As the teacher, you certainly have enough to deal with... so you don't want any technical glitches, and you don't want to have to deal with connection problems or your people figure out how to get into class.
Zoom basics for teaching group classes
Use the Zoom client, not your browser
Although you can do Zoom from any browser, you should download the Zoom application onto your computer (or tablet or phone) and run your sessions from within the app. This will give you and your students a higher quality video feed and better audio. And things will generally be less glitchy.
You might also recommend to your students that they install the Zoom app too (most people will have it already), instead of using their browsers for class.
Zoom settings for teachers
In your Zoom account settings, you'll find that Zoom gives you a ridiculous amount of options and configuration choices. When you first see these, it will seem overwhelming... but thankfully, most of these settings are fine with their defaults and can be left alone.
But you might check just a few of them as they will help with larger group meetings (like your classes). Tweaking these will help you to keep things organized and running smoothly.
So on your Zoom dashboard, click "Settings" and pay attention to the following:
Mute Participants Upon Entry: set this to ON. Students can still choose to unmute themselves if or when they want to say something, but having people's microphones muted by default will ensure that there's not a lot of noise in your classroom.
Enable Waiting Room: consider turning this ON. If on, it means that people don't automatically join your class when they click on your Zoom link. Rather, you'll see them appear in a "waiting room", and you'll have to click a button to let them in. This can help to minimize disruptions when people show up late for class.
Most teachers we know have the waiting room enabled, but this is entirely optional. If you don't have the bandwidth during class to look at your monitor and notice people in the waiting room, you can try leaving this option set to OFF.
Record the Meeting Automatically: yes, you want this. Recording your classes by default is useful if you plan to offer recordings to students who couldn't make it, or if you want to offer your class recordings to others as "video on demand" content.
By setting this option to "on", you have less to think about at class time, and forgetting to click "record" when your class starts is a common mistake. You can always delete recordings if you don't want to keep them, of course.
Equipment for teaching on Zoom
Your computer, tablet, or even just a mobile phone are all that you need to teach on Zoom. The video quality of the cameras in most modern devices is more than adequate, and the sound quality of built-in microphones is generally superb.
However, if you don't have good light in your class room, or you are moving around far from your device while you're teaching, you might have to invest in one or two extra things.
Here are the basic requirements:
Internet: you do need a reliable and fast connection. This doesn't mean fiber-optic super duper fast... but if you often have trouble streaming YouTube videos at high quality smoothly for yourself, then your connection is not good enough. In that case, upgrade your internet service provider or teach out of a friends house or some other place where the internet works well.
Space: work in a quiet room, with minimal background noise and distractions. Kind of obvious, right?
You might also arrange your background to be not super busy (visually). If that's not easy, Zoom has some great background effects — our favourite is a simple blur so you are the only thing in focus.
Light: merely a window, where you have natural daylight coming in, is best. If that's not an option, or you teach at night, then consider purchasing a ring light kit. The one thing you need to make sure of is that your light source is in front of you (not behind you).
Sound: For most people, the microphone on their computer or phone will be just fine. But if you want people to get the very best sound, or if you have to move around or be positioned somewhat far away from your device to demonstrate something, a wireless mic or headset is recommended.
Inside an online classroom
You really don't need to completely overhaul how you teach when making the move to online.
Many teachers say that online teaching works even better than in a physical classroom, because you can clearly see each of your students in a nice grid... so nobody is stuck at the back of the room where they can't get the proper attention from you.
Having said that, here are some simple tips you might like:
Eye contact: look at the camera to create eye contact with your students. This helps to create a more personal connection while teaching over video. It's a little different on a monitor, if you are looking at the people in your class you're not actually looking at the camera... so just keep in mind that looking into the little hole on your computer or phone where your camera lens is will give people the best experience.
Gallery view: you will most likely want to use "Gallery" view when teaching. Gallery view lets you see thumbnail displays for all of your students in a grid pattern, which expands and contracts as people join and leave the class. It lets you see everyone.
In your Zoom session, simply click 'View' in the top-right corner, and then select "Gallery".
Admin for online classes
Besides the things that happen inside of your Zoom class, teaching online involves a laundry list of other things you will have to deal with. We're talking about "admin". For example, bookings for your online classes have to happen over the internet — people can't just show up and pay you at the door like before.
Unfortunately, Zoom is a terrible platform when it comes to managing class registrations, taking payments, sending zoom links, managing attendance, dealing with refunds, sending confirmations and class reminders, emailing participants, and incorporating class passes and memberships.
So you will need an admin system that takes care of all of these admin tasks for you, so you can focus on teaching. Without one, there will be many glitches, errors and much confusion...you'll get overwhelmed with tedious chores and, even more importantly, your clients will get frustrated.
There are various booking and admin systems out there, so you have options (do some research here).
When choosing your system, simplicity should be top of mind. You don’t necessarily want to go with a product that has the most features — chances are that it will be much harder for you to learn, it will cost a lot, and you probably won’t need all most of those features.
Also remember that one of the main advantages of Zoom classes for students is the convenience... so you will want to make sure your system is convenient for them, too. It needs to be super easy for your students to sign up and get into class.
You're on the Ubindi blog — obviously we recommend using Ubindi for everything outside of the classroom. Not just because it's our business... we genuinely believe that Ubindi is the best, simplest, and most affordable admin solution you will find. It's specifically built for independent instructors (not schools, gyms, studios or institutions). Sign up with a free account here and play around with it!
Sending Zoom class links
One of the admin chores that an admin system will handle for you is sending links out to people who signed up for class. This deserves a special mention, because aside from the time and hassle involved in making sure everyone has the correct link, one concern for teachers has to do with security.
You may have heard some horror stories about ‘Zoom bombers’ and trolls who appear randomly in classes only to disrupt things and disturb people. Yes, it happens. But if you follow a few simple rules it won’t happen to you.
- Never send the direct Zoom link for your class out to people — so it can't be shared. Your admin system should send a confirmation email with a unique encrypted link to each person who books your class. Ubindi handles this automatically.
- Never post a Zoom link to social media. Ever. If you do that, you’re basically inviting trolls to join your session.
- Don’t offer free online classes, even on a "first class free" type offer. Charge at least $1. Trolls don’t pay for classes.
- Use Zoom's 'waiting room' feature as an added precaution. If you don’t recognize who someone is, keep them waiting while you check your registration list in your admin system.
If you have a sensible admin system that automatically sends your links out in booking confirmation and reminder emails, you don't have to worry about any of this.
Just do it
Alright, that's all folks! Hopefully, you now have a sense of what you need to start teaching on Zoom, and you're hopefully feeling encouraged! The next step is to simply dive in and do it. Everything is made easier just by doing.
To get started, you can take some simple baby steps:
- Create your Zoom account (the limited free version is fine)
- Choose an admin system and connect it to your Zoom account
- Create a free test practice class in your booking system and invite a couple of friends to sign up for the class
- When class time rolls around, do this practice class with friends. It's just for fun — and it will allow you to test all the technology, get familiar with the online teaching format, and iron out any glitches before facing actual clients
After that, you're ready for your first real class! Invite your existing students to try out a virtual class with you. Afterwards, make sure to get their feedback. Ask each participant: did they like it? Will they want to do it again? What didn't they like, or what could be improved?
Once you have an online schedule, you'll want to work on filling up your classes and building your virtual teaching business. This means marketing, and for online teachers that's a very different thing than what you might be used to (you will want to attract people from all over the country, or even the world).
But that's a whole other topic... for now, if you'd like some pointers, have a look at beYogi's blog article: Marketing for online classes.
Wishing you the best success!