Running an online school – Part 9: Teaching a variety of subjects

I will continue from last time exploring in more depth how to teach variety of subjects and different topics when you are running an online school. This time I want to dig deeper into the advantages of teaching online if you have an unusual skill to impart or it is traditionally quite a complex area to explain as specialized equipment is necessary and you need to be hands on. Things like metalwork, thatching, carpentry, cooking, music, or anything that has large areas that are practical, not theory based.

Teach from your workshop to their workshop

Theory based instruction can always be given online without any problem, but the beauty is when you can demonstrate on your equipment and they can learn on theirs. This type of instruction is tailormade for the superb Vedamo system. You can have two camera positions to show your head and your hands using the equipment and they can stop you and say, “do that again”. And you can do the same with them. You can be confident that they are learning properly, which is very difficult or maybe impossible with a premade video like a Youtube one.

The other great advantage is that you can use your own workshop to teach, where you have everything to hand, where you feel most assured, and not in some nightschool were you are not so sure what the gear is like. And hey, your students can do the same. They can work from their garage, shed or wherever they have set up their equipment. They will be more confident and relaxed and neither of you have to travel. Win win.

Of course, getting your camera angles right, making sure sound is clear and an easy method of asking questions are essential. Vedamo’s ringing a bell to do so is simple, intuitive and can be made loud enough to be heard. You need to experiment with these areas to get them right but once you do, teaching practical subjects will be the best possible outside of bringing students into your own workshop to learn.

Teaching cooking

To give an example, lets say you are teaching cooking. Specifically, baking bread. You can take them step by step, assembling the ingredients, mixing yeast with tepid water, showing them how to get the right temperature, weighing the flour, adding any other ingredients, oil, salt, sugar etc. Then mixing it, then kneading it. Kneading is technical and has to be explained and truly, it is best to be shown and have someone confirm that you are doing it the right way. Then you prove the mixture and there are countless ways to do this from quick to slow and you can demonstrate the many ways.

You can show them how to knock back the dough, if they are going to (the quickest method doesn’t require this) and let it prove again. You then tell them how to prepare the tin or container you will bake in. You can then bring them through the different ways to shape the dough into a pleasing bread structure (there are countless) from small rolls to complex creations. All the while you are watching how they are doing, you are stopping them when they go off-track, they are asking you questions as to why this happens or that happens. Finally, then you show them how to prepare the oven, how to get the type of crispness desired, the right crust, a pleasing texture. Finally, how to check it is done perfectly and how to take it out of the oven safely.

Hands on is best

Hands on is by far the best way to teach anything practical as I hope I have demonstrated there. Every step can be seen, scrutinized, explained, and you can be brought along quickly as any mistakes are spotted and easily corrected.
As a self-taught chef, I spent untold hours getting it wrong, experimenting and finally getting things right because I never gave up. I wish I had taken lessons as when I finally did, I learned much quicker and was far more confident.

Use social media groups

With the advent of social media, groups have sprung up all over, with all sorts of interests and specialities. These can be tapped into and your skills can be offered. You’re an expert pizza maker? Teach your skills to those who wish to learn. Vedamo will help with the technical stuff of how to do everything.
Now, to be fair, a lot of movement will be hard to capture on a small computer screen. You need to make that decision, is it possible to capture what I do on a small screen? But if it is, then you are good to go.

What if I have never taught?

If you don’t have teaching experience, it is probably a drawback. But I will try and guide you through the process. Break everything you do down into tiny steps, including all the things you do without thinking. The best way to do this is get a novice to watch what you do and record everything on paper. To ask questions, why are you doing this, why are you doing that? When all the processes are noted, you need to figure out what is easy and what is difficult. Use your novice again. If you can have starter projects, so much the better. And keep the complicated ones for higher level lessons. If you do this preparation, then you will be able to teach. As I say, be guided by your novice. You need to work these into lesson plans, with all materials ready to be introduced at the right time.
You can do it, with the right motivation and what better motivation than making a good living doing what you love?

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Gus Worth is a highly experienced writer and educator having worked in universities for nearly 20 years and being first published at the age of six. Currently in the English department of the American University in Bulgaria, he also writes extensively for the web and in print for many companies. He has a particular love of online teaching and enjoys helping teachers take their first steps in the exciting world of the future where you can connect with, and help students develop, all over the planet.
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