How to Teach Online: A Complete Guide for Beginners

Thinking about transforming your unique knowledge and expertise into a new career teaching online?

For many people just like you, it's proving to be a savvy move.

Online learning has surged in the past few years with an ever growing market for niche teachers. And it's not expected to slow down any time soon with a projected compound annual growth rate globally of 10.3% (reaching a global market size of $457.8 billion by 2026).

But let's be real, educating others isn’t as easy as it first seems.

Teaching online effectively requires striking a fine balance between possessing expertise in your field, technical know-how, and transforming this knowledge into something that can be understood through a refined teaching skillset.

As an expert in your field, the online teaching market provides an opportunity for you to build a successful business helping your audience achieve specialized outcomes.

And because online teaching has broken down the traditional barriers that formal education built, there's no limit to what you can teach. But first, you’ll need to learn how to teach online.

And we’re here to arm you with the tools needed to get started.

So, let’s dive right in…

More...

The Benefits of Online Teaching

There are more benefits to teaching online than many first realize. This is a lucrative sector with a web of opportunities that can expand as your online presence grows.

Through learning how to teach online, you can:

  • Choose your working hours
  • Be fully remote
  • Have a solid business foundation
  • Affirm your expertise
  • Claim authority in your field
  • Embrace your inner solopreneur
  • Build a brand true to your values
  • Convert leads into customers

How Online Teaching Works

There are three main ways to approach teaching online: 

  1. Online teaching platforms
  2. Online course marketplaces
  3. Offering courses through your own WordPress website using a Learning Management System (LMS) plugin.

Here at Thrive Themes, our bias is obviously towards recommending you build your own WordPress website for full control over every aspect of your info-product business. But, this article will also cover the other ways you can teach online classes to select the solution that best fits your unique circumstances.

Let’s get started by discussing the online teaching platform solutions...

Joining a Teaching Platform

Online teaching and tutoring platforms are growing at a rapid pace.

Teachers of all experience levels can make money online. Popular domains include language learning, secondary subject tutoring and further education.

These platforms also help you create an online teaching space, provide materials, and offer regular feedback to improve your performance as a teacher.

To join, you’ll have to prove that you're knowledgeable in your field and have strong teaching abilities. Before you are approved, expect to do a trial lesson. This could be live or recorded.

Here are some of the most reputable companies on the market:

  • Tutor.com

    A one-stop-shop for after-school tutoring. This facilitates private tutoring in all U.S. secondary school subjects
  • Skooli

    Covers all levels of education from elementary school to university with tutoring from licensed teachers
  • TutorMe

    A highly accredited tutor-matching service with a vast range of subjects ranging from coding to chiropractics
  • Wize Prep

    Offers tutor services for all secondary school and university subjects with a comprehensive teacher training program
  • BuddySchool

    An open tutor platform that allows you to set your own price

Teaching on Online Course Marketplaces

If you don't want to work for an online teaching platform, what other options are available to you?

Often course creators decide to build and sell their info-products through online course marketplaces like Udemy, Skillshare and Udacity.

But even though these course marketplaces make it easy to build and launch online courses, the convenience they provide comes with some serious drawbacks for your online business. Most notably:

  1. The marketplace gives you limited control over your course pricing. On top of that, the marketplace can discount your courses as they wish and always take a significant percentage of your revenue for the honor.
  2. You have limited control over your marketing as your courses are forced to compete among the sea of competitors in your niche — all fighting for customers with race-to-the-bottom pricing
  3. You do not get access to your student email list. This means you have NO way to contact your students directly, making it near impossible to create a lasting and recurring revenue relationship with your course customers.

With all this in mind, we recommend...

Building an Online Course Business on a Platform You Own

To take your online teaching to the next level, your best option is to start your own business where you can have full control of your teaching career. This is also where DIY courses and Thrive Themes come in.

Building your own business teaching online from home is definitely for the solo-entrepreneur inside you. It’s where you can drip snippets of your wisdom into well-curated lessons and see them blossom into valuable courses.

And because it’s YOUR business, you get to set your course prices too.

Thrive Suite and the Benefits of Being Independent

All online businesses need a website, and WordPress is the free and flexible Content Management System (CMS) that most DIY entrepreneurs decide to use.

However, because WordPress was designed as a blogging platform and not a dedicated LMS, course creators often struggle to use it for delivering access-restricted lessons and learning resources to their students. 

But that's where WordPress LMS plugins come in. These online course creation tools expand WordPress's functionality allowing you to build and sell online courses on your own website.

And no WordPress LMS plugin matches the online business power or design flexibility that Thrive Apprentice offers – Thrive Themes's online course building WordPress plugin.

With Thrive Apprentice, you can create a host of online courses that you can sell from your very own WordPress website.

In fact, Thrive Apprentice comes bundled with several other online business building WordPress tools inside Thrive Suite. From crafting high converting sales funnels with Thrive Architect, to building a fully customized WordPress theme with Thrive Theme Builder, to visually creating online courses you can sell with Thrive Apprentice — Thrive Suite has everything you need to build, market and grow your online business.

Pretty cool, right?

What’s more, creating an independent online course business on your own WordPress platform gives you the power to fill educational voids that haven'y been taught before. By digitizing the learning experience with Thrive Apprentice, you have the power to not just build courses, but an entire online school dedicated to helping people achieve the outcomes they desire.

“In just 1 day I created everything I needed to sell my courses.” 
- BeHappy, Thrive Apprentice Customer

How Much Money Can You Make Teaching Online?

It’s probably MUCH more than you think.

Joining a teaching platform offers access to existing students, pre-made technology and materials. However, you'll get paid an hourly rate — set by the platform (not you!) — so you’ll never get compensated what your teaching is actually worth. The same principle holds true for selling your courses on online course marketplaces.

But when you teach online courses independently — on your own WordPress platform — you get to set your own prices.

And, if your course solves a big problem for people, you can set that price high.

How high?

A reasonably priced, high-value course can easily sell for around $200. And if you can achieve the very realistic goal of selling just one course per day, that equates to a yearly income of ~$73,000.

Make a second course that achieves the same success, and your online course business is now well over the six-figure mark — income you’d never dream of making when teaching on online platforms owned by others!

Curious to learn how you can create and sell a reasonably priced online course for $200? Check out Course Craft, our premium course that will walk you through how to build an online course business — step-by-step.

Does an Online Teacher Need Specific Certifications?

… not really.

Many platforms see teaching certifications as another way to affirm the quality of education you offer, but not all require them. However, as we’ve discussed already, there are many ways to teach online from home that don't require and certificates.

It's important to know that students are more likely to hire teachers with experience and the testimonials to back any claims of experience up. And getting great testimonials, simply put, comes from being a great teacher.

teach-online-courses

With great teaching, comes great testimonials to support your online business

If you haven’t worked to develop strong teaching skills, it will show.

And here’s a little secret: both great teaching and salesmanship are more similar than you think.

To sell your expertise, you’ll have to master the basics of communicating your ideas well when you teach online. While this doesn’t require a certificate, it does require an ability to break complex things down in ways that can be clearly understood.

Tips on Preparing How to Teach Online

Your biggest advantage as a teacher is that no one else can teach quite like YOU can.

Your personality, approach, and style are what set you apart from other people that teach your subject. Your uniqueness is your strength.

To this end, it’s important to know what you enjoy teaching, what you teach well AS WELL AS what you don’t.

Infuse your teaching with your own personality and you’ll uncover unique ways of conveying your expertise to others effectively — allowing you to become the master of teaching online your way.

If you still aren’t confident in your teaching abilities, check out our free course 8 Hacks to Become Better at Teaching Online Video Courses, where you’ll learn clever tips on how to become super comfortable teaching on camera, no matter what online teaching avenue you decide to pursue.

Plan Your Course

A course is taught over several lessons. Each lesson needs to have its own goal and clearly contribute to delivering the desired outcome of the course.

A well-planned course includes: 

  • Clearly defined modules
  • Achievable outcomes
  • Tangible learning materials
  • Good resources
  • High-quality video or text content
  • Concept and skill building assignments

Sounds obvious, right?

A great class is comprehensive and fun. Think about how you learned a given topic and bring those elements into your lessons to create an experience that engages your students.

Every student has a different learning style. To help cater to them all, think about including book recommendations, checklists, or handy PDFs in your content so students can immediately apply their new knowledge after watching your videos.

Master Technology and Prepare for It

No one wants to learn from someone they cannot see and — most importantly — cannot hear.

To teach online classes from home, you’ll need an excellent internet connection and an even better recording setup that captures stellar quality sound.

And here’s another online teaching secret: you don’t need to invest that much money in recording gear to achieve this.

So before you turn your home office into a state-of-the-art film studio, give this free lesson a watch:

Better Online Events Part 1: Everything You Need to Run Awesome Online Classes, Meetings & Workshops

And once your online classroom is ready to go live, just make sure to complete a test run of the system to make sure everything is working properly.

Establish an Effective Working Environment

Where you teach is as important as the technology you teach with.

If you've never worked from home before, this will be a new experience for you. To teach classes online, you’ll need a quiet space with good acoustics for recording, and no chance of getting interrupted — be it human, loud road traffic, or a needy cat.

Stimulate Discussions

By kick-starting discussions within your course, you cultivate a community. This is a valuable opportunity to build relationships with your students in an environment that you have curated.

Get creative in promoting student discourse through forums, online groups, webinars and 1-on-1’s that leave your students feeling great about their learning experience.

Communicate Regularly

Communication is a two-way street.

On the one hand, your lessons offer students the chance to voice their questions, thoughts and opinions to become part of the learning conversation. On the other, it’s an opportunity to improve how you teach class online.

In most student-teacher environments, this can range from regular check-in emails to private coaching and surveys. Make it personal and be sure to address any student comments that crop up. Your students will notice if you don’t.

Motivate Your Students

What type of learning environment motivates students more? Online or in-person classrooms?

...it’s a trick question!

Students are motivated by content they can benefit from and are deeply interested in, regardless of the learning format.

So do your best to make your content as valuable as it can be — ideally providing the desired outcomes your students are looking to you for.

Motivation will come naturally when your students know what they are getting from your course and you can deliver it succinctly. Which brings us to the next point...

Clarify Expectations

Your course should deliver all of its promises.

To do this, you need to clearly explain what students will and will not learn from your course.

Your course expectations should be painted with a clear brush strokes across both your marketing and learning content — as well as highlighted in bold at the start of your course.

Then it’s up to you to make sure your course delivers on those promises.

Think of it like tending to your garden. Pull out the weeds so there's space for the flowers to grow.

Setting clear course expectations is like getting your garden to weed itself by filtering for customers who will truly value the content you're offering. And the best way to do that is to be transparent with what’s in your course as well as what students will achieve by taking it.

Be Present and Active

Remaining aware of engagement levels and when they start to dip is a special skill that all great in-person teachers possess.

But when you teach online courses, it’s difficult to gauge this energy shift because you usually can’t see your students.

To sidestep this potential pitfall, do your best to cater to all learning styles as you make your content. Do this by giving your students short exercises, telling engaging stories, and demonstrating activities as you talk about them.

At the end of each lesson, ask for feedback in the comments section of the page (a feature built directly in to our Thrive Apprentice LMS plugin). Based on the feedback you receive, you can create engaging new content or host live events such as Q&As, coaching sessions, and peer-to-peer reviews to address common issues.

Your Turn to Teach Online

Your tool kit to get started teaching online should be pretty full by now.

We’ve broken down the different avenues online teaching can take you down and ironed out the benefits and pitfalls you’ll encounter along the way for each.

But before a student takes your first lesson, you’ll need to decide which approach to teaching online suits your unique circumstances best.

To get the most out of teaching online from home, our recommendation is to invest in yourself by building your own online teaching business.

To take the first step, check out our Ultimate Guide on How To Start an Online Business

It’s a complete step-by-step instruction manual that not only covers how to teach online, but also gives you the guidance necessary to grow a thriving online business — you control!

Author: Eilidh

Eilidh was bitten by the travel bug a while ago, and several years in the industry didn't help! While traveling, Eilidh packs a creative punch with all things writing, an eclectic music obsession and an art practice to boot.

  • Jeff says:

    Thank you for that. Could you please list a few good example sites using the system you describe? Successful language education sites in particular would be of interest. Thanks.

  • adam says:

    Ready for ThriveApprentice 4.0! When’s the release?! 😉

  • Haarin Lipari says:

    Hello,

    I have Thrive Suite and Thrive Apprentice is really good.
    But I have to sell my courses on another platform because Thrive does not take care of taxes and VAT.

    Do you know if you are going to take care of that?

    Thanks

    • Hanne says:

      Hi Haarin,

      Your checkout tools should take care of taxes and VAT this is not something Thrive Apprentice is responsible for.

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