Teach anywhere, anytime

Emily Reese
Sep 6, 2017 · 5 min read

Everyone’s a teacher in some way! Maybe you already share your knowledge via blog posts or tweets. Maybe you’ve taught workshops in-person but have never had learners on a digital platform. Maybe you’ve never taught at all, but you’re interested in starting!

Everybody’s gotta start somewhere, and the easiest place to start teaching is online. 💻

First, let’s talk about why you should teach online and compare what it’s like to teach online versus in-person. Afterwards, I’ll continue this article in a Medium series about online teaching to give you concrete tips on how to teach your skills to a digital audience.

We’re not limited by a calendar.

Teaching online is very liberating. Students can sign up to my online courses any time of day, any time of the year. In-person teachers must be faithful to the notions of an academic year and a course length. They’re not as flexible to go faster or slower depending on the subject they’re teaching or the students’ speeds.

Students in the classic model consume the educational content at the speed the teacher delivers it — not at the speed the student wants it.

Online though, I can make a course anytime I want, update it on a rolling basis, and have students sign up 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There’s a more direct link between the content I make and the student’s motivation to consume that content at a particular time.

We have many content formats at our disposition.

The web is incredibly diverse. There are websites that allow you to rent apartments, learn how to code, adopt dogs, sign petitions, and much more wild stuff than that. It’s the most versatile tool the world has ever seen, which means it has an educational power that is virtually limitless.

On OpenClassrooms, we use videos, quizzes, peer-graded activities, interviews with experts, staged “mock” interactions, interactive code exercises, and more to give students a wide range of opportunities and mechanisms for learning. There are similar possibilities in-person learning, but as I’ve already explained, they’re not as easy to experiment with, and they’re definitely not scalable to hundreds or thousands of people.

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Using video effects to make code seem fun and accessible

We speak to many audiences simultaneously.

In classroom settings, students often come from similar demographics (though not always). They may have similar ages, geographic origins, or socioeconomic conditions. This allows in-person teachers to be very targeted with their messaging, which is pedagogically awesome for learners.

I, on the other hand, might have students who are 23-years-old and looking to find their first jobs in North America, or 35-year-olds looking to change careers in western Africa, or 50-year-olds who are curious about coding in Asia. I also have thousands of them simultaneously. Powerful but challenging! 😮

This is why, when we recruit online teachers at OpenClassrooms, as part of the interview process we ask them to explain their field to a hypothetical 18-year-old high schooler, a 30-year-old developer, and a 50-year-old manager. If you can successfully translate abstract concepts like programming or management to all of these audiences, you truly know your field inside and out and can explain it to anyone. Being an online teacher is legit!

Online learners can be anyone, anywhere!

We can make data-driven decisions.

The web is a data goldmine. Online learning platforms know when students start a course, where they tend to drop off, and the exact moments of many events in the learning experience. This data can inform crucial pedagogical choices. If we see a certain percentage students dropping off after a particular chapter in a course, we can immediately analyze and update that chapter to provide a better experience. If we see a course with a particularly high completion rate, we can re-use tactics in it within other courses. You’ll even have great data to use if your online teaching simply consists of putting educational videos on YouTube.

The downside of data is that online teachers don’t have one of the best feedback mechanisms of all time: the human face. Teachers in a classroom can always read their students’ faces to understand if they’re lost, engaged, and bored. To understand the emotional experience of my courses, I rely on direct messages from my students or feedback from OpenClassrooms’ mentors who meet with our students once per week over videoconference.

If you decide to teach online, you should find a way to replicate this face-to-face experience either by being a mentor yourself or creating a community of teachers with you!

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With some of my awesome students, Debbie (left) and Keith (right). Debbie is Irish and lives in Mallorca, and Keith recognized me on the street in Paris!

We all want to make a lasting difference. ❤️

Classroom teachers and online teachers both hope to have lasting impact on peoples’ lives. We can all share practices and tools to always provide the best learning experience, no matter which channel we use. Anyone can be a teacher if they have something to share, and they choose to do so intelligently. Guess what? This includes you! If you’re reading this article, you probably have a computer and could start teaching online today.

Try making your first online tutorial in a blog post, or get a small group of friends together one night to teach them a random skill that you know. No matter the format you choose, whether it’s online or in-person, you’ll make a difference. We’re all working towards the same goal of enriching knowledge.

Education is more important than ever, and we all have things to learn and to teach. 🤗

You could even teach or mentor with me at OpenClassrooms! Job listings here: http://jobs.openclassrooms.com/

Thanks to Mathieu Nebra

Emily Reese

Written by

Engineer at Glossier. Code/design teacher at OpenClassrooms, Europe’s largest education platform. Former engineer at Kickstarter / WomenWhoCode / RailsGirls

Emily Reese

Written by

Engineer at Glossier. Code/design teacher at OpenClassrooms, Europe’s largest education platform. Former engineer at Kickstarter / WomenWhoCode / RailsGirls

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