This is a screenshot from “Foundations of Digital/Multimedia Storytelling”

Seven Great Things I Learned By Teaching

I started teaching online at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies last September, after having lead the development of a new online course in Multimedia Storytelling. And now I am teaching both that course and a second one focused on Brand Journalism in a three course certificate program.

Our first course was featured on the School’s Homepage.

When I started I was very anxious about how I would be received. And filming my video segments for the course made me even more so. I looked dorky on the webinar cam and sounded fey. I spoke too quickly. I filled quiet moments with way too many “umms”.

But after about a month these unfounded fears fell away. I found I really loved teaching and there were some amazing things about it that I can tell you about today.

1. You learn at least as much as you teach.
Of course I know my curriculum! I have had a hand in developing the course materials, interactions and assignments all along, but it is amazing how the students and the process end up making you learn also. You reexamine things. You see new perspectives. You learn also.

2. Caring about what others learn is extremely gratifying, motivating and encouraging.
There is a no-fly zone of judgement when I teach. I truly just want to improve their lives by learning and by sharing. And, unlike the business world, I don’t let personal politics come into play when I teach. Everyone deserves my full attention and commitment, and they get it. And when that is reciprocated, and you become cared for by the learners…it is a wonderful trust that is built.

3. It gives you the best reason to stay on top of your game.
What better reason is there to be in the know? Who wants to be that guy who doesn’t even know what he is talking about? You are teaching it buddy…get on the stick! And stay there.

4. Your world is expanded. You meet people you never would have otherwise.
Networking is almost always a positive thing, and I have now met some amazing folks both in the Instructor and Development communities and of course the students themselves. Those connections lead to a larger network and on and on.

And by continuing to engage the subject matter experts, your professional network is expanded. As I develop new curriculum I meet new companies, new technologies and new ways to engage in online and in-class learning.

5. Unlike typical day to day business communication, students take your input seriously.
How many boardroom tables have I sat at and listened to non-sensical ramblings just because it was the cost of “doing business” and politically correct? There is something precious to be felt when put in charge of leading, of standing in front of a group of people and showing the path forward.

If I decided we are doing it a certain way I don’t have to engage three departments, the regional VP of Sales and a partridge in a pear tree. I am thrilled to be working with the Learning Innovation Team at the School and they are focused, hard-working and just as determined as me to create excellent courseware.

6. You can give, share and encourage unconditionally.
I love not having an agenda other than the truly altruistic one of improving their lives through learning and sharing. I don’t have children, but students have filled a void that I didn’t really even know existed.

If somebody is having a tough time in the course I want to know why, and I want to help. I have stayed in touch with quite a few students and have met some for coffee. There hasn’t been one bad exchange. How often does that ratio work out in most professional lives?

7. It has no end; there is always more to learn and teach.
I was a little surprised to feel this way, but it is profoundly true. What I am teaching is evolving and changing all the time, and while I am sure many instructors can bring new insights into many subjects, for me the open path ahead to keep learning and sharing is truly exhilarating.

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