Resources — by teachers, for teachers
We're curating this resource handbook to list all the tips that we hear from teachers about how to build a successful presence on AllCourse.
Free Content Directory
AllCourse is creating a directory of free teacher resources. You can find great materials to use in your classes, and share content that you’ve created with other teachers. Just send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll add it for free. AllCourse will keep the library organized and easy to use.
Sites providing useful information on licensure and reciprocity
- Teacher License Reciprocity: State Profiles from the Education Commission of the States website.
- Comprehensive Guide to Certification from the Teacher Certification Degrees website.
1. Start by creating a basic outline.
2. Create a detailed lesson plan.
3. Decide if you want to have a distinctive pedagogical approach. For instance:
- You could limit class size to a very small number of students, so as to position the course for students who will benefit from a lot of personal attention in that subject
- You could offer a girls-only STEM class under the theory that girls tend to speak up less in STEM classes when boys are present
- You could try a partially or fully flipped classroom in which students spend some or all of their homework hours watching video lessons to learn the underlying concepts and then work problems together with you in class. Video lessons could be curated from YouTube or other sites, or could be your own prerecorded videos, or a combination of both.
4. Create a syllabus and a homework plan.
Once you decide exactly what you want your course to be, find a way to communicate in your course listing so that people can very quickly visualize what your course will be like. Course listings should clearly explain several things:
- what the course is all about and how it will proceed week to week
- the overarching course goals: what students will have accomplished by successfully completing the course
- your teaching experience and style
- where you're licensed and your course is aligned to particular standards
Decide on the schedule you want to offer. This will have a lot to do with where you’re licensed, and whether or not you have a full-time day job (especially if that day job is as a teacher in a school).
- Many schools want online courses taught during school hours. If you want to appeal to these schools, you’ll need to find a way to teach during those hours, which could be difficult if you work another job during those hours.
- If you have recently left full-time teaching but still have a current license, you will be relatively free to choose schedules that work well for schools.
- If you currently have a full-time teaching job in a school and you’re looking to supplement your income, you may find that even if you have enough free time during the day that your school district views those hours as their time, not yours. You should talk to your school administrators and ask permission to teach through AllCourse during the day.
- Alternately, if you are a full-time teacher in a school, and you happen to be licensed in another state in a different time zone, then you can take advantage of that to schedule your course. For example, teachers in the East Coast who also have a West Coast license could list courses after their school day is over but before West Coast schools have gotten out.
- Lastly, if you are a full-time teacher in a school, you might want to let your administration know that you’re interested in teaching through AllCourse and ask if the school is interested in partnering and splitting the income.
List the course requirements:
- Pre-req.s (if any): previous courses (e.g., Computer Science I, Spanish I & II, etc.), skills (e.g., intermediate violin), etc.
- Technology: video classroom solution, classroom management software, homework management solution, etc.
- Materials: Open Educational Resources, textbooks, online homework solutions, your own content, outside videos, etc.
- After successfully completing the course, what will students be equipped to do next? In many cases, this will be the next logical course within that subject domain. Let them know if you also offer that course, or if they’ll have to look elsewhere. If you’re teaching an unusual language, buyers will want to know if they can count on you next semester and next year. No one is going to buy your Gaelic Language I course without knowing they can take Gaelic Language II and III with you in the coming years.
- Let your colleagues know about your course.
- Tell admins you’ve worked with in the past. They might want to buy seats, or know other admins who would. And if they haven’t already given you a reference for your AllCourse profile, now is a great time to ask — teachers with strong references on their profile pages generally fill up their classes more easily and charge higher per-seat rates than those who don’t.
- Tell other teachers; you’d be surprised how many teachers actively post interesting education stories on social media. And teachers love to support other teachers.
- Spread word of your course around your district and state: admins within your state are most likely to have heard of your district and perhaps even your school. Hence, they have a built-in level of trust regarding your background and capabilities. They are also, assuming you are licensed in that state, the most likely buyers of seats initially. Communicate early and often with prospective admins, students, and parents who inquire about you or your listed courses. Because these folks are trying something new by taking your course, they will find a little bit of overcommunication to be reassuring. It shows them that you’ll be there for them.
- In states with relevant laws or regulations governing what can or can’t be said in the classroom, once schools start buying seats in your course be sure to chat with the hiring administrator about these requirements before you interact with any students or parents.
At AllCourse, how your class meets is up to you. While there are many options for video conferencing platforms, (Zoom, Google Meet, and others), you want to pick a video platform that schools are familiar with, which can reliably support the number of students in your course and can record each session for students who may have missed the class. It’s important to become an expert in the video platform so that you are able to successfully manage the classroom’s online experience.
Make sure that you communicate your choice of video platform to the students and admins you work with well ahead of time. Admins may have opinions on video players, and you’ll want to listen and accommodate them if you can. Students may need to download software in advance.
When preparing for each class session, make sure your camera is on and working properly. Don’t forget to record each class session! These are essential for students who miss class. They will also be useful for you in subsequent classes — to find highlights that you can use as learning aids or to post on social media to promote your courses. (Needless to say, never post student faces, names, or activity on social media.).
Some schools may ask you if, for a reduced price, their students can just use your video recordings. Perhaps these schools plan to have an on-ground teacher-facilitator and they lack the budget to pay for both an on-ground teacher and a live online teacher. If you agree, you’ll have to work out special pricing with them. The advantage to you is that you can earn incremental revenue with no extra effort. The school will be able to use your videos for the same length of time that you teach your course live. Seats in video-only classes are purchased on a one-time basis, like seats in live online classes, just at a lower price. (It is against AllCourse’s Terms of Service, and your rights as the intellectual property owner, for a school to retain your videos for future use.)
- Set up and run test video conferences with another computer in a different room, which you can walk back and forth between. The idea is to keep tweaking your “classroom’s” background, lighting, and sound until you think it’s just right.
- Make sure your internet speeds are fast and reliable, both for download and upload. (And during class times, make sure no one else in the house is using any significant bandwidth for tv streaming, online games, etc.)
- Will you be using a whiteboard, or a workspace (e.g., for arts or chemistry experiments)? If so, make sure that it’s easy to see in the camera frame, and that it’s angled so that you can use it without blocking the students’ view.
- In general, it’s best to get a pair of high quality headsets. Make sure they’re comfortable. Also make sure they have an attached microphone so that your students can hear you clearly and to reduce background noise. Gaming headsets work well, because they’re designed for a similar purpose. Wireless headsets are particularly popular with teachers — you don’t want the wire knocking over your glass of water every time you get up.
- Consider buying a dedicated webcam. The picture quality (of you presenting) will be better than can be achieved with almost any built-in laptop camera.
- Consider adding a second monitor to your set-up if it would be helpful to have your video classroom on one monitor and your materials handy on the other.
Before every class session, spend 10-15 minutes making sure everything is ready.
- Test your Internet connection.
- Make sure your camera and microphone are working. It’s annoyingly easy on many laptops nowadays to turn off the microphone, camera, or Wi-Fi accidentally simply by pressing a particular “Function” key on the keyboard — make sure you know if your keyboard has these keys and where they are!
- Have a glass of water nearby (and out of the way).
- Make sure all your materials are ready to launch.
- Review what was covered in the last session and the goals for this session.
- Review your students’ names.
We all know that it can be difficult to keep students engaged in the classroom. It can be even harder in online classes (though there are also many students who report finding it easier to pay attention in online classes). Teachers who teach online use a variety of techniques to try to maximize student engagement.
Free textbook and interactive materials:
Start with all the little things: communicate clearly with admins, students and parents. Respond to their administrative items and questions quickly. Start and end classes on time. Get grades done as soon as the course is completed. Make everything as painless for them as you can.
Make it easy for them to see if they want to take your class or not. Sample videos help a lot. So does a clear, logical syllabus. Don’t be offended if they drop in the first week. They’re balancing their own complex logistical needs and it probably has nothing to do with you. Rather, view the first week of your course as a chance to really show off the material and your own unique style.
Good teaching online is mostly the same as good teaching in a schoolroom. Are you organized? It makes life easier for everyone. Do you care about your students? They can tell. Do you love the material? It shows. Do you give them personal attention or a helping hand when they need it? They always appreciate it (even if they don’t always show it).
Of course, there are also some important differences when teaching online. Students online are less of a captive audience than you may be used to. It pays to be 10% more energetic than you would be in a classroom. Humor goes a long way (but keep it appropriate!). Modulate your voice and facial expressions more than you would in a classroom. Most important, pay close attention to students who are missing classes or homework! If it looks like they may be beginning to fall behind, contact them early and often. And contact their school and parents as well if you deem it appropriate. It hurts everyone involved to let students slip through the cracks.
Try to make the material come alive. There’s a reason why you’ve devoted your career to it. Find those things about it that are awesome, and share them with students. If you don’t seem passionate about the material, why would they be?
Be pleasant and easy to work with. Admins are inviting you into their schools and families are inviting you into their lives. Make them want to invite you back.