Getting started

“I want to get started so I can get my first course up and running.”

Diagram with a triangle in the middle and a circle over each corner with the words "Plan", "Produce" and "Promote"
The Course Creation Framework

Congratulations on your decision, and welcome to an exciting new adventure!

As you already know THAT you want to teach, you’ll likely also know your Reason Why and what your general subject will be, so let’s skip that part for now.

But before we jump right in, allow me to give you one single piece of advice which will save you a lot of frustation and time:

EMBRACE SIMPLICITY!!!

Nourish your big dream with your whole heart…but start small, keep everything as simple as possible, and grow as you go.

Our greatest capital is our JOY and passion for what we do and share, because THIS is what comes across “between the lines”, THIS is what empowers and encourages our audience to create, and has them ask for more classes.

So do yourself – and your audience – a favour, and avoid overwhelm and confusion: Ask yourself at every point how you can make things simple and fun! Your audience will thank you for that!

Text image: What you'll need - for starters, use what you've got!

Small and simple is good enough!

TIP: I’m referring here to classes via email or online. For teaching locally, you don’t need any of the technical stuff, and promoting your class is also different and depends on how it’s organised. If you’ve never taught before, how about gathering a few friends to show them how to make something? You can use the same process that I’m describing below for preparing and rehearsing your class, then test it and ask your friends for feedback.

Begin with a few short classes before you think about creating courses.

The purpose of your first classes is for you to gain know-how, experience and confidence. By the time you create your third or fourth class, you will think much less about what to do or what to do next, and the whole process has become so much clearer, easier and quicker!

It’s like learning how to write or how to drive a car: In the beginning, your focus is on learning single new steps or actions. Then your focus is on remembering and practicing them in best order. After you practiced for a while, then – whoops – suddenly you notice that you’ve done them automatically!

For your first few classes,

  • you don’t need a “perfect idea”,
  • you don’t need high quality video or audio equipment or expensive editing programs,
  • you don’t need a website or blog, and
  • you don’t need a big audience.

It helps a lot to think of each new class or course as a Beta Version – a sort of edited draft, good enough to share with a few people, but not perfect.

Amongst arts & crafts teachers, we had a saying that you’ve got to teach a class three times for it to be really good. Online teaching makes revisions easier because you can make improvements right away, but the gist is the same.

Just imagine you spent many days on outlining and producing an all-bells-and-whistles class…only to discover that you’ve got to cut out more than half of it, and re-edit the rest, because of information overwhelm? Don’t ask how I know… 🙂

And when you’ve watched or read tutorials, or have taken online courses yourself, did you really notice the image or video quality unless it was so bad that it was distracting? Or did you rather focus on WHAT was presented, that is the content and whether it was easy to understand or not?

So what DO you need to get started?

Creating a sample class is the best way to find out what course creation practically involves. You’ll need

  • A sample project: Something that is quick and easy to make, and that you’ve done before so you don’t need to think much about the process itself.
  • Something to record what you’re doing: Ideally, that would be in video format so you can document the complete process seamlessly. Use your webcam or your mobile phone if you’re making things with your hands, or a free screencast app if you’re designing on your computer.
  • Paper and pen.

You’ll be your own audience, and your own safety net.

Don’t worry about video quality; see Darby Smart for great examples of how-to’s recorded with an iPhone. As long as the lighting is good you’ll be fine. In the process of creating, you’ll learn more about what is necessary (like keeping your hands in the picture, getting closer to the object or further away, moving your hands slowly) and when you review your sample class you will find what can be improved or left out.

Text image: Your First Class - You are your own best teacherHow to create a first sample class – for an audience of one: yourself

Take your time with this first sample class and the revision. I understand…you’re itching to create your first course, and “take your time”, “sample”, and “revision” don’t sound very exciting, but this about laying lasting foundations. Spending a few extra hours now at the beginning will save you many, many hours later!

A) Outline and produce:

  1. Write a short list of the major steps involved in making this project; no need to dive into details at this point.
  2. Write a list of all the tools and materials you’ll need for this project. If you’re creating it on the computer, make a list of the apps and files involved.
  3. Gather the tools and materials (or open the apps).
  4. Set up your working space and your camera. Do a test shoot: Can you see all of it? Where should your hands be? Is the lighting even enough, or does something cast distracting dark shadows?
  5. Can you start creating right away, or do you need to prepare some things first, like making templates or resizing photos?
  6. If yes, do it, and film yourself doing so. If it helps you, speak along and describe your actions.
  7. Create your project and record the making. If that takes longer than five minutes altogether, it’s a good idea to record it in parts of 3 minutes or so.
  8. In case you make mistakes or have to do things over again, keep the video running. These bits might prove to be helpful in form of what-to-avoid reminders.

B) Analyse, revise and break down:

TIP: Don’t try to do all these steps in one go unless you love mental overwhelm… 😉

View the recordings one by one in order of appearance, and take notes:

  1. Switch off the sound. This will help you focus on what you see in the video instead on what you hear yourself say.
  2. Compare your list of tools and materials with what you actually used. Did you add an item, leave an item out, or change your mind about something?
  3. Go through your list of major steps. If there are more details = action steps than you have outlined, add them now as you watch what you’ve actually been doing. Check for correct order of actions within the process (number them), note where you changed things around or where you had to redo them (why?), or when something wasn’t really necessary.
  4. Write concise instructions: On a new sheet of paper (or as a text document) write each action step as a full sentence or two. Examples: See how Mark Montana writes clear and simple instructions: Nesting Easter Eggs DIY and Recycled “I HEART YOU” Garlands  TIP: I find it a lot easier to keep the text short and simple when I imagine it as captions or as a silent movie text slides.
  5. Put your instructions away for at least a day so you can detach from what you’ve written, then review them. Do they still make sense? Are they clear and complete, or are there gaps?
  6. Watch the recordings once more with the sound off, but this time focus on what appears on the screen, not on the action. What could be improved? Lighting, focus, speed,…? Can you see everything clearly, or are your hands covering up something or casting shadows? Take notes on how to do it better next time.

C) Learn from others:

By going through A) and B) you’ve probably made loads of discoveries, consciously.

Because you experienced the process yourself, you’ve learned a whole lot more than I could teach you with a thousand words.

Now that you’ve got a much better idea of what to look for and watch out for, you’re ready for a little survey that will expand your analytical skills as well as your options:

  1. Online, find three projects similar to the one you used for your sample class. You could look on YouTube, Skillshare or browse your favourite blogs for short tutorials or how-to’s.
  2. Notice their formats. On YouTube that’s likely to be video only, on blogs you might find videos, images and text.
  3. Are they easy to follow? If not, why not? Is there something you’d improve if you had written or filmed them? Are there longish bits you’d cut out? With videos, how is the speed, that is can you follow easily or are you bored? Do they spark new ideas of what you might try? Take note!.

If you’re up for an extra exercise, pick a video-only tutorial. Analyse it and break it down just as you’ve done with your own.

D) Revisit your sample class:

Now review your notes. Add or adapt what you’ve learned from your survey.

E) Create a couple of new classes:

The aim is to create the raw material for two classes that you’d be happy to share with others.

One of them can be the same project you’ve done already, but this time you integrate all that you’ve learned in the meantime. As you’ve got your notes already, you know what you are going for.

  • For videos, record the raw video footage. You don’t have to talk while you’re filming. You can either do a voice-over later, or insert the text as slides before each step.
  • For a “printed” or printable format (like PDF, email, on your blog, or as a mini series on you social media account) without video, take clear, well-lit photos of each step, best using something like a tripod to avoid blurry images. In addition you can take a photo of all the tools and materials together. Show off the finished product in use or in a nice setting. For general tips on taking good photos see this post on Handmadeology, and for tips on using a smartphone as a camera, these posts on Popular Photography and Digital Photography School.

Your second project could be a variation of the first, perhaps with more steps, with different materials, or an added technique or embellishment.

The process is exactly the same – repeat the steps under A) and B).

Text image: You've Got It! - you're ready to take the plunge now

Woohoo and welcome to the next level – you’re not a beginner anymore! You’re ready now to take your raw materials, shape them into a class, and publish it!

If you have any questions so far, post them here in the comments, or book an email feedback session with Maria.

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