5 Common Mistakes Made By Online Teachers

Starting a new venture is always a bit unnerving, along with being exciting. How can one be sure they are going about things the right way and not overlooking important factors? With teaching online, it’s super important to go about things the right way, both to attract students and to keep them around. Let’s take a look at 5 common mistakes made by online teachers and what you can do to avoid them.

Not fully establishing their credibility

Think back to when you were in grade school. What did you think about your teachers? I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that you likely saw them as leaders. As trustworthy experts with valuable information to share. You believed what they said, and viewed them as the right people to be in their position.

No matter what you’re teaching, whether it’s high school English or beginner guitar lessons, it’s important that your students view you the same way. They need to trust you prior to beginning the first lesson. Does your website or teacher profile sufficiently explain your background and experience? What else are they reading about you that helps them view you as an authority?

It might be uncomfortable to boast about yourself. The truth is that students have many options for learning online. If you’re going to become a successful online teacher, they need to be confident that you are the right choice. If not, they either won’t sign up or won’t stick around for long.

Here are some hints:

  • Anything that is linked from your profile or website should work in your favor on this. Published work, YouTube videos, active and engaging social media profiles – anything that shows why you are qualified to teach.
  • Make sure students know who you are and what you’ve done before starting their first lesson. If they were to call their parents and explain this new online course or lesson plan, what would they say about you? Do they know why you are, excuse my language, a ‘badass’ in your field?
  • Try to create a vibe of friendly authority. Whoever your favorite teacher was (or is), take what you liked most about them and apply it to your own situation.

Camera and microphone placement

Take a moment to view your ‘classroom’ from the other side of the camera. What is the student going to see? You probably don’t want a basket of dirty clothes or half-eaten sandwich from lunch to be viewed. Create a neutral space free of distractions, that focuses on you as the centerpiece. If using an auxiliary microphone, be sure that it isn’t taking up half the viewer’s screen if you’ve placed it in front of the computer.

Think of this as if you’re creating a set for a play or television show. Everything on stage needs to have a purpose, otherwise it’s a distraction taking away from the production. On this note, it’s equally as important to make sure you are talking to the student. Despite them not being there in the room with you, your conversation should be directed at them as if they were your audience. Avoid talking into your lesson board or other display objects that are on screen. Your student wants to converse with you! Talk towards the screen and the camera.

Not personalizing the lessons or catering to individual students’ needs.

Despite the student not being in the room with you, it’s still important that the lesson feels personal. They have a specific and often unique set of needs and problems, and your job is to address them. What works for one student may not work for another. It’s important to note each individual’s learning style, and what will help that person get the most out of your knowledge.

It’s harder to do this if you’re recording an online course. But still try to anticipate the viewers’ desires and likely problems. If you receive feedback or questions after the course is published, do everything you can to either update the current version or incorporate that feedback into future work.

Not making the course/lesson interactive enough

On the same note, don’t just get on camera and lecture. Many teachers fail to interact with their students enough to truly engage with the course. As a result, a student’s mind begins to wander, they struggle to pay attention, and ultimately don’t feel they are getting what they wanted out of the process.

  • Try not to talk for more than five to seven minutes at a time without pausing. Ask for questions, ask the student a question.
  • Tie the lesson to a story in the student’s life or situation. Tie it directly into their learning journey, if possible. For example: a voice instructor working with a mid-level student. After a particularly in-depth portion of the lesson, the teacher pauses to explain where he or she was when first learning this technique. After asking the student for a personal story in relation to the lesson, the teacher ties that into a hint for remembering the technique.
  • Include live work in the lesson plan. Get a conversation going with the student about it, and work directly to their needs in addressing the work. This all but ensure you, as the teacher, are honing in on their specific struggles and helping them to progress.

Being too ‘matter-of-fact’

Online teaching platforms provide the perfect medium to really get to know your students. That is, if you make the effort to do so. As we discussed above, personalizing the discussion in each lesson to directly relate to the student’s situation will keep them involved. It’s equally important that this discussion is conversational. The last thing a student wants is someone preaching to them about how to learn something. Friendly conversation will help them open up and be honest about what he or she needs. This ties into the concept of being personable and approachable.

All five of these common mistakes can be easily avoided with proper pre-planning and set-up. It’s important to not just jump into online teaching. Read some of our other resources . . .

Turn Your Teaching Experience Into A Successful Online Business

What Do I Need To Make A Website?

Do I Have What It Takes To Be An Online Education Entrepreneur?

. . . and have some kind of business outline ready to go before opening your ‘doors.’ These are just 5 common mistakes made by online teachers – do you have any specific questions or advice for those just starting out? We’d love to hear them. Leave us a comment.

Ray is the founder and creator of Teacher Indie. He is an award-winning entrepreneur who has created online education businesses that have appeared in publications such as Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc Magazine, Buzzfeed, The Boston Globe and many others. His goal is to help teachers from around the world get online and gain the financial independence they deserve.

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