I want to become an Online Teacher. Where do I start?

So, you finally decided that you have some valuable knowledge that you want to bring to the Internet community, but you don't know where to start. Well you are not alone. A lot of people have become “experts” in their own specialized field, and have knowledge that they want to share and don't know where to begin. Here are some steps to follow to become an Online Teacher.

 9 Easy Steps to Becoming an Online Teacher

 1. Choose Your Topic and make sure your are an Expert

You probably already have a topic in mind. Whatever the topic, make sure that you have a top-notch understanding of what it is. If it is accounting, and doing personal tax preparations, make sure that you understand all the ins-and-outs of tax preparation, so that your students will get high value from your course. Does this mean you need to know absolutely every personal tax question that arises? Of course not, but be sure that you have the answers to 99% of them. If you aren't an expert, it will show through in your course materials, and as you teach your online course, and will result in poor sales. So, become the expert that people will want to learn from.

2. Create Your Learning Materials

Next you need to get this Expert knowledge in a format that you can teach your students. There are a few formats that you can use for me, so let's discuss them here.


This is probably the most effective type of learning material. Videos allow you to show a more personal side of teaching. It has more of an in-class type of feel, then straight audio or PowerPoint. You don't have to have a Studio to do video. It just needs to be a nice clean place that doesn't have a lot of visual distractions. It could be in your office, or in your backyard. Just make sure that it is fairly quiet apart from you speaking. No phones ringing, kids crying or cars honking in the background. Be sure to use a tripod, so that the image is as stable as possible. Lots of people don't like to be in front of the camera, but just be yourself and share your knowledge. The beauty of video is that you can always re-record if it didn't work out. I would recommend using a modern video camera that allows you to easily export to your computer. Most video cameras built in the last 3 years allow you do to that. If you have a nice beginning and end to each video, then you can just use your raw video. To make it more professional you can use a number of video editing software packages that allow you to add titles and text to your video. A course could be one long video, but it is better to break it down into smaller videos. This allows people to take the course over time, and not have to digest it all at once. Another option with video, is to intersperse the video with images from PowerPoint or to do a screencast, where you demonstrate something on your computer screen.


Having a good PowerPoint presentation can be an effective learning tool. It allows for visuals and text to be combined to illustrate principles being taught. It can be augmented with some nice transitions, but be sure not to overuse them as too many can almost become distracting. The beauty of a nice PowerPoint presentation is that it can be used for an online course, as well as if you are teaching to a live group of students or vice versa. If your PowerPoint does have either Video or Audio embedded, I would suggest taking them out, and creating separate Learning materials for them, so to decrease the size of the PowerPoint file.


For all text documents with some images, creating a PDF is the best option. Most text editors including Microsoft Word allow you to export your document to a PDF. Using PDF is the best option as the vast majority of Internet users can open and read a PDF. Even if your course is a predominantly a video oriented course, it might be good to have some notes, visuals, etc. in PDFs so that learners that like to read can have some of this important material in reading format as well as video.


If video is not an option, a simpler yet still effective format can be audio. Be sure that your audio is clear and free of any distracting noises. There are a number of good audio recording software packages you can use to record and edit the audio right on your computer. Be sure to include a clear introduction as well ending to each audio clip. Your audio can also reference PDFs or PowerPoints that you have created for your course, to allow the learner to have some visuals to go along with the audio.

3. Create Some Test or Exams

Though not an absolute requirement for most courses, a test or exam to review materials that have been covered is always a good idea. Some courses it will be a requirement to pass a chapter before needing to continue on to the next chapter. Typically online courses have multiple-choice questions so that it can be automatically graded and the student will know immediately whether they have passed or failed. To create a exam go through your material, and pick out the most important facts, concepts, etc. you want your students to learn. From these, then create a multiple-choice question that will determine whether the student has understood the concept or not. Finally, you will have to choose a passing grade in order for students to progress to the next chapter. Typically this is 50% or 60% but may be higher if it is important to you that the students get the concepts covered.

4. Organize Your Content

Now that you have raw learning materials and some tests written, you will need to organize all the work into chapters. Each chapter may just have one or several types of learning materials within the chapter. Each chapter should have a title as well as a description about the content covered in the chapter. Some programs may allow you to have an intro video for each chapter to explain what is to be covered in the material. After organizing the chapters, and creating descriptions for each chapter, you need to think about a description about the whole course. This description should describe not only the content that is in the course, but what type of learner would take the course, and what the course prepares the learner for. A good accurate, and succinct description will go a long way in helping to promote and sell the course.

 5. Find an appropriate LMS

Once you have all of your learning material together and organized, you now need to find an appropriate Learning Management System that will meet your needs. There are literally hundreds of different possible solutions for LMSes. Instead of selecting specific solutions, we will go over some things to consider in choosing an LMS. Then I will present the solution Learnopia Inc. has to offer, and show how it is the best solution for many teachers.


What you need to look at is what kind of functions you want, and is the LMS that you are considering have these features, and are they easy to use. There is not point in getting a large full-featured LMS, if you only require the ability to show videos, and have multiple-choice tests. So, you need to look at your current courses and decide what are absolute must-have functionality, and then check LMS to see if they not only have these functions, but they are easy to use.

Business / Accounting Requirements

Depending on your application, you should look to make sure that the LMS will fulfill your business and accounting requirements. If you are looking to charge for your courses, then your LMS should be able to take credit card transactions. If you need some accounting features to help do your books, then be sure these are also included.

User Base

You need to know your user base to figure out what LMS you need. Are planning to give your courses away to the public or are you going to charge for them? Are your courses for internal training of employees or for anybody in the public to see. These important factors need to be considered when choosing your LMS.

Licensed versus Hosted

There is a big difference between having an LMS that is hosted for you, or purchasing an LMS license and hosting it on your own server. The hosted solution takes a lot of the hassle out of setting up an LMS. Typically the hosting company will set up LMS and get you on your way. You pay a monthly fee, but they cover hosting as well as technical support for this fee. In the licensed version, you may responsible for setting up the application on your server. If you don't have a web hosting company, you will need to go out and now research web host firms to decide which one works for your application.


Finally, as in most business decisions will come the price. This can range from an Open source model such as Moodle where you will have to do a lot of the details to get it up and running as well as maintenance or using a full hosted customized LMS solution that will take care of all of the details for you. Typically, LMS will have a set-up fee as well as an ongoing monthly hosting, support, licensing fee. You will have a lot of factors to consider when looking at pricing. Be sure you have all of your questions answered before making a decision.

The Learnopia Solution

Well now comes a plug for the solution that we offer at Learnopia. When developing our application we considered a lot of the above details, and tried to make Learnopia as easy as possible to use, as well as have the functionality that they vast majority of teachers need, without trying to over-complicate it. This meant they we developed the application, as one teacher put it, to be “Google easy”. We set it up so that anybody should be able to post a course on Learnopia. We then set up accounting tools and reports so that anybody using the system would have the tools they need to supply their accountants with the correct numbers. We made it a full hosted solution, so teachers wouldn't have to worry about setting up their own application. Finally, we decided to make it accessible to all, to make it free of charge to use and set up your courses. The only time we would take any payment is when a course is sold, and then we only take a reasonable fee for selling the course. Therefore, it is absolutely free to set-up and either sell or give away your courses. This is completely risk-free. We tried to make the LMS available to all. For companies looking to own a completely customized and branded solution, we also have a Corporate version of Learnopia for external sales or internal training. Please contact Learnopia.com for more details of our services at: http://www.learnopia.com/about/contact/

 6. Get a Merchant Account

If you are planning to charge for your course, you more than likely will need to have a merchant account in place in order to process your credit card transaction. Courses that are run, and require a check or money order to be sent, will probably not be overly successful, as it could take a week or more for a willing student to be enrolled in their course, therefore taking credit card transactions is highly recommended. Depending on your LMS, you may have a few merchant accounts that will seamlessly integrate with the system, such as Paypal. This may not be the case, and you may have to work towards a custom solution in order to get your credit card payments up and running. One huge advantage at Learnopia, is that we take care of the merchant account, by selling our courses on a resellers model, where we actually take payment for the course, and then pay the teachers, less a very reasonable fee for our services. Learnopia in this way makes it very easy for teachers to sell their courses online without have to worry about setting up and using a merchant account.

7. Post Your Course

With an LMS and merchant account in place, you are now ready to post your courses. Depending on the LMS you have chosen this could be a very simple and straight-forward tasks, or it can be slightly complicated, and tricky to get your learning materials online. You need to have the time and patience to upload your courses, which may take some time depending on the file size of your learning materials. Typically you will need to enter the chapters' names and descriptions, as well as enter your tests or exams for each course. Many LMS allow for an image for the course as well. Once you have taken the time to upload all your materials, descriptions, and images, your course should be ready to go.

8. Promote Your Course

Most LMS will be a great asset for getting your courses online, but you will still need to do a lot of work to get students to your course. Here are some ways you can hopefully get some students for your courses.

Word of Mouth

Tell your current students, family and friends about your course being online. Make sure that they tell their friends.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Depending on your LMS, SEO may be built right into the system. On the other hand, you may need to do some research on SEO, to make sure that your system will be seen by search engines, and get higher rankings. You can also hire an SEO firm to do this for you.

PPC (Pay-Per-Click)

Using Google Adwords or Yahoo Search Marketing, does cost money but can be an effective way to promote your specific course. Find all the keywords related to your course, and set a monthly budget on what you can spend to promote your course. Then see what Google or Yahoo search traffic might send you in the way of students.

Social Media

Another effective means of marketing your course is setting up social media accounts. Having a Facebook page, Twitter feed, LinkedIn, MySpace, YouTube account and more can be used to effectively interact with your current, past and hopefully future students for your courses.

Learnopia has taken into consideration the difficulty many teachers have in obtaining students. Therefore we have set-up a number of marketing systems within Learnopia, to attract students to all of our courses. Learnopia has an in-depth affiliate network that allows all students, teachers, and affiliates to be rewarded for the students and teachers that are brought to Learnopia. We also have PPC campaigns set up to promote Learnopia. Finally we utilize share tools so that students or teachers can easily share their courses on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

9. Teach Your Students

Once you have a few students enrolled in your course, this is hopefully when the real fun begins, as you get to teach your course. What we have gone over is self-paced courses, where students get their materials and learn on their own time. So, direct teaching isn't required, but when a student does have a question they should be able to contact the teacher, or discuss it with other classmates in discussion forums. You should be available to answer students questions, and help them on their learning journey. Depending on the number of courses and students you have, this may be very little work, or a full-time job, if you have hundreds or thousands of enrollments. Hopefully, this part is the most rewarding as you see your students learning from your expertise.

Well, I trust this has been a helpful exercise for anyone considering being an online teacher. Whether it is a part-time endeavor or a full-time commitment, it can be a very rewarding experience. When you reach step #5 of Finding an Appropriate LMS, I trust you will consider Learnopia.com.

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Posted: September 1, 2010

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