There’s a stigma attached to things that are ‘online’. If you admit you got something ‘online’ be it electronics, medication or even a lover, there’s an unwritten expectation that the thing you got was dodgy. Like a Louis Vuitton handbag you thought was real but turned out to be a fake.
This makes people wary of online education because it’s synonymous with questionable qualifications. No one really wants to go to a dentist who got their ‘diploma’ in an online course from the University of Gums. That would be a sad life choice.
The truth is, it’s pretty tricky to be dodgy online these days. Everything is trackable, everything is traceable, and unless you’re dealing in some weird shit (How To Break Out of Jail 101), it’s very easy to research a person or company and make sure that what they’re offering is actually legit. You can do full accredited degrees online these days from recognised institutions. Oh, the glory of the interwebs!
A few recent studies have shown that people can learn even more efficiently online than in bricks and mortar institutions.
In 2010, the United States Department of Education released a study that showed the results of online vs in-person learning. Learning online was proven slightly more effective than solely learning in a classroom. The primary conclusion of the study was that if a student could only afford to study online OR in person but not both, the most efficient method would be online study. Another study by SRI Internation for the Department of Education concluded the same thing – students who completed the online version of an in-person class outperformed the in-person students across the board.
This is fantastic news for online educators and course providers because convincing potential students to study online is easier than it’s ever been.
Here’s how to create a killer online learning experience for your students.
1. Embrace the flexibility
One of the best things about online learning is that students can do it in their own living rooms, not wearing pants, with their pet ferret sitting on their shoulder and no one gives a crap. Students can also work around other commitments like jobs and families. You can even travel to your cousin’s ridiculously expensive and compulsory overseas wedding and do your coursework around all the family drama – that’s the beauty of online learning. You can literally do it anywhere, and you don’t have to sit in freezing cold/sub-tropic temperatures in half-empty lecture rooms after an hour-each-way commute. When selling your online course, pimp this feature HARD. If you can teach someone an essential skill while they’re sitting within arms reach of their own fridge, that won’t be able to give you their money fast enough.
2. Keep costs low
When you don’t have to pay for room hire, teaching staff, admin staff, furniture and public liability insurance you can seriously cut costs on your course and undercut the companies running similar courses in person. If you can provide a better learning experience and a massive cash saving, the students will be knocking down your door to do your class. Your metaphorical door, obviously. Because you saved a shite of cash by not having one.
3. Promote and encourage self-discipline
Some students will resist the concept of online learning because they need the discipline of a ‘real’ teacher to hold them accountable. Pfffft! There’s no reason why you can’t hold your students accountable online. You could offer a refundable discount if your students complete the course by a certain time. You could also drip feed the content and only make the next lesson available after they complete the previous one. Leave all the juicy content at the end to incentivise completion. The more students that complete and learn from your course, the more they’ll recommend it to other students.
4. Provide a broader range of topics
If you have to teach your course in person, you’re limited to what information you can explain because you can really only teach what you know or what you can hire people to teach. If you’re online, you can call in experts from all over the world to add their expertise. You can also run a dozen courses side by side because you’re not delivering the content in real time. You can pre-record and write the content and use it again and again, while you’re working on other courses in other topics. It’s a much more efficient way of running a learning program, and you’re able to increase the number of topics covered without having to hire twenty people to teach it. Awesome right?
5. Keep it green
Without the need for printouts, books, worksheets, extra electricity and carbon emissions from travel, you can promote a very green learning experience that’s far better for the planet. You can encourage students not to print your material and instead work from their at home screen. Digital delivery of assignments is pretty much mandatory in the online world, so that’s another bonus.