I spend much of my time supporting edupreneurs by discussing how to teach online, but just as important is thinking about who can teach online.
The short answer, of course, is that anyone can teach online.
Successful edupreneurs come from all ages and backgrounds. Whether you are formally educated, learned your skills on the job, or are self-taught, if you have knowledge and the ability to teach others, you can make a success of teaching online.
Of course, if you are on the fence about whether to teach online, that might not be enough of an answer. So, let’s go a little deeper. By the end of this post you’ll have good understanding of whether teaching online makes sense for you and how to get started if it does.
Why teach online
I’m a strong believer that anything that you want to do strategically needs to start with the question “Why?”
After all, when you decide to teach online, you will be adding one more thing to a life that I’m betting is already busy. So, is it the right thing to do?
To help answer that question, I asked some of the readers here at Learning Revolution to share why they decided that it made sense to teach online. Here are some of the answers I got.
Coaching students one-on-one was time consuming for me and expensive for the student. Creating a more self-serving format with online courses allowed me to teach more people in the most affordable, sustainable, and evergreen way. Alix Reed, InventInsight
To reach more customers/increase income. To reach customers who’s -schedule doesn’t sync with the studios. To save energy and free myself up for deeper and further studies. Anna Göransson
Several reasons: I like what I do, and it matters to the people I work with that I want to bring my expertise to a larger audience to (a) fulfill one of my purposes to advance civilization and make lives richer, (b) expand my reach, and (c) create an additional revenue stream for my ‘retirement’ years. Steven Feinberg
As a former passionate English teacher I had to spend so much time on travelling because my students were scattered around a city. Updating to online teaching best practices, learning about e-learning strategies and tools, platform functionalities and the vast opportunities in digital learning are no-brainer factors any “offline” teacher should reconsider on a quarterly basis. Matúš Kopalko, Poď Podnikať Academy
I haven’t had a typical job for 20 years. Since I learned a unique way to generate income from home 20 years ago, and realized many would like that option to do the same, I decided I could make available my understanding of what I do. Online is the online way to cover the planet instantly with the message. Mike Aston, Trading Template
I decided to teach online because my niche has problems finding reliable instruction that’s accessible to them in geography, affordable and reliable. I’m realizing that the ability to preview content before buying many enrollments for staff is also a very attractive feature, as hiring a guest speaker is always a gamble. Ryan LeBlanc, ThinkCatholic
We built the Academy of Pedorthic Science to teach people the best ways to help their community walk well. We are one of only two accredited schools in the US to teach these specialized skills. The school had only been classes and we just added some online courses. Some instruction needs hands on and labs, but we have been able to teach many more by doing half the class online! The Academy of Pedorthic Science is now at a point where we can learn and focus on making our online classes more up to date and interactive! Krin Patrie, Academy of Pedorthic Science
Some of the main points that jump out at me from these reasons for why to teach online include:
- To reach more learners
- To reach hard-to-reach learners
- To connect with learners according to their schedule
- To cut down on travel – for teacher and learner
- To take advantage of best practices for teaching
- To generate new/more income
I can vouch that every one of those reasons was important to me in deciding to teach online. I also love the diverse range of topics and businesses represented by the people above.
But, you may still be wondering “Is this really something I can do?”
Can I teach online?
In 2018, there were over 100 million registered learners subscribed to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), studying everything from computer science and second languages to hobbies and pastimes. A large number study for online degrees or industry qualifications in order to improve their career prospects, but many more are learning for the simple joy of doing so.
Knowing all of this, you might feel like there’s no room for you when there are already so many online courses. And, if you aspire to make money teaching online – to become an edupreneur – you may feel you can’t compete with colleges offering degree courses or industry accreditation.
But the competition and the number of online courses already out there is actually good news. Yes, really: it means that people are clearly interested in learning online, and many of them are willing to pay for the experience.
Remember that helping your learners to master a skill they can apply in their workplace is often just as valuable as any certificate or degree they can earn from a big institution. Numerous edupreneurs teach industry-specific skillsets such as marketing, copywriting, or coding, or host master classes in software like Microsoft Office or Photoshop.
Even skills that don’t apply in an office workplace can be taught online, and you’ll find plenty of eager learners if you can demonstrate how to knit a sweater, change a tire, or braid hair.
Bottom line: your knowledge is valuable, and you almost certainly know more than you realize.
Think about your hobbies and interests, the skills you learned at work that would be invaluable to others wanting to join your industry, and even the language you speak. Everything you know was taught to you at some point, and there are others who are eager (and will pay) to learn.
Do I need qualifications to teach online?
While many people earn degrees and accredited qualifications to teach online, in general online teaching is less restrictive than traditional classroom teaching. If you want to work as an edupreneur, you can choose what and how you teach, and how you measure success.
Many edupreneurs award certificates of completion to participants in their classes, but the true value of most online courses comes from the knowledge the learners gain and the impact you are able to have on their lives. As such you can teach a wider range of subjects, and be more creative with the learning outcomes you want to achieve.
This isn’t to say edupreneurs lack formal qualifications in the subjects they teach.
Many teach subjects in which they have received formal education, or they draw from their industry qualifications and work experience. Business people often offer online courses where they share their knowledge or mentor learners aspiring to emulate their success, and many freelance and new media entrepreneurs have shifted to offering online classes where they provide education in skills such as blogging, social media marketing, and web production, that didn’t exist a decade ago.
And, of course, whether or not you have any sort of formal qualifications, it’s important to understand what effective teaching for adult learners involves. To succeed over the longer term as an online teacher, you need to actually have a positive impact on the learners you serve. As a starting point, I recommend checking out my post on Adult Learning 101 for Edupreneurs.
How can I make money teaching online?
Ah, the big question for many who are thinking about whether to try to teach online.
Teaching and mentoring learners brings its own satisfactions, of course, but many online teachers come into the industry to make money, either short-term or as a career. That’s why I use the term edupreneur to refer to those who offer courses and teach online as a way of generating revenue.
Because your knowledge has value, you can find learners willing to pay for it, even when you don’t offer formal qualifications. There are a number of different way of monetizing your classes, so even if you feel that creating a full-fledged online course is beyond you, you can still make money teaching online. Some of the basics include:
Remember, “teaching” does not necessarily mean offering a course (just like “learning” doesn’t necessarily mean attending a class.) You can share your expertise through publishing a blog (like this one), producing a podcast (like this one), or any number of other channels on the Web.
As soon as you start sharing your knowledge online you open up wide range of ways to generate income, and one of the fastest and easiest of these is through affiliate marketing. With an affiliate model, you partner with another business and provide links to their store. If someone clicks your link and them makes a purchase with the other business, you get a small cut. Amazon provides probably the most popular affiliate program, and their links are allowed on most websites, even free ones such as WordPress’s blogging platform.
Or, to make things really easy, you might consider a service like Skimlinks, which will automatically turn any product links on your Web site into affiliate links.
Edupreneurs teaching across all subjects can use affiliate marketing to supplement or generate their income. You can use affiliate links for anything from equipment your learners will need to books you recommend, or even a new product that simply caught your eye. Affiliate marketing works by harnessing your reputation – and the experience and expertise that lies behind it – in order to make your recommendations credible and desirable to your learners.
Ad revenue splitting
Building ads into your online learning platform is another possibility for generating income. Some sites even have monetization built in, for example YouTube will show ads before your videos and split the revenue with you. Other platforms enable you to place ads on your website (Google AdSense is one of the most popular) and pay you each time one of your visitors clicks on an ad link.
How you can use ads to generate revenue will depend in part on how and where you teach online, but popular and successful edupreneurs can earn a lot of money using this model, with some educational channels on YouTube racking up millions of subscribers.
There are a number of ways to employ subscription models to earn money teaching online. Patreon is a site that enables content creators, including edupreneurs, to upload videos, images, files, and text and get paid directly by regular subscribers. You can set subscription tiers, choose between being paid monthly or upon triggers such when you upload a new post, and people can subscribe for as long or as briefly as they want.
Online teachers can offer other subscription models, such as pricing per lesson or per course, or granting full access to all educational materials for a fixed period of time. Subscription pricing for online courses is easy to set up with common website management systems such as WordPress or Squarespace.
Similar to subscription models, on-demand online teaching means learners only pay for the lessons they want, as they want them. On-demand pricing can be easily facilitated through ecommerce platforms such as WooCommerce by setting up each lesson as its own product in a virtual store. You can also use the on-demand model when selling video lessons through distribution sites such as Amazon’s Prime Video Direct or Vimeo On Demand, where your learners can purchase each episode individually.
The model most people think of when it comes to online courses is a one-time payment for access to a structured course. This model most closely resembles the structure of formal education, and has proven successful for numerous edupreneurs. While this market is currently booming, all predictions are for it to continue to grow over the coming years, so it’s never too late to create an online course.
When you teach online, you can set your own curriculum, choose your own lesson styles, and find a monetization model that best fits your teaching style, so even how-to and over short-form educational materials can be monetized. Smart edupreneurs use a combination of teaching methods to appeal to the largest number of learners and diversify their revenue streams, helping them to better weather changes in online markets as their platform grows.
How do I start teaching online?
Starting a new venture can be daunting, but learning to teach online is made simpler by its flexibility.
You choose your subject, revenue model, platform, and lesson styles, so you can tailor everything to suit your abilities and equipment. Educational videos can be shot with your mobile phone or webcam, or with a small investment you can create a professional home studio. Or if you’re not confident on camera you can teach using written lessons, images, audio recordings, or in any other way you want.
There is plenty of guidance available on the Web – including right here on Learning Revolution. See, for example:
- How to Create an Online Course to Sell
- How to Create Effective Video-Based Learning
- The Big List of Free Training for Course Creators
- 15+ Platforms to Create and Sell Online Courses
Bottom line: few professions have such a low bar to entry, or high potential return, which is why more and more people are turning to online teaching to grow their careers. All you need is a good idea to get started. So, get started today.
P.S. – By the way, of you are looking for an online course platform to enable you to teach online, be sure to check out my free course platform selection guide.