All courses to be effective must incorporate regular opportunities for Q&A with the instructor—basically, office hours. Images help engagement a lot. Zippy allows you to pre-load lessons and assignments and schedule them for release on specific days. It’s also easier from a marketing perspective to teach topics you’re well-known for, that you have demonstrated success in, or that you know would interest your   community or clients. What constitutes a lecture can be very flexible. Later on, using Screenflow or Camtasia, you can break up a long video into the intended lessons.)
For live lectures, build in question breaks. Almost every live lecture should leave 5-10 minutes at the end for student questions. Camtasia or Screenflow: both are excellent tools for recording audiovisual lectures but require purchase. The instructor needs to provide writing instruction in some form, usually on a weekly basis. Students   can dial in through a phone number for audio only, and you can record sessions for students who miss. Most online courses are best when there’s   one goal, focus, or lesson per week. For this to happen, the course needs a discussion and community area for posting. This would include critique/feedback, live office hours of some kind, forum discussion, or even an in-person component. If you’re new to online teaching,   choose a class you’ve taught multiple times, where you have confidence in your approach and knowledge base. Students can tell when you’re phoning it in, or just posting lessons then   disengaging. For   Video-Based Lectures or Lessons
These are some of the principles I encourage you to adopt. Always build in next steps or actions. There are other teaching platforms available—some with wonderful features—but (1) they’re probably more expensive and (2) they may not support having specific start and end dates to your course. This is usually the most intimidating for new online instructors, as well as experienced—it’s more or less like doing a live webinar. Private Facebook groups work great for the discussion and community aspect of an online course because nearly everyone is familiar with it and logs in at least once a day. Make them put what they’ve learned to work, or get them writing. And usually, it’s not desirable to mandate feedback unless the students are insightful in giving it. I use the   Zippy Courses   plugin installed on WordPress. Course Lessons or Lectures
An online writing course can’t just rely on student production of material for critique. Course   Benefit and Structure
With writing courses for adults,   it’s important to focus on what the students will achieve or have in hand at the finish line. Attention will skyrocket. The primary motivation for adult writers who take online classes is to:

Acquire new skills
Complete a writing project (be motivated and be held   accountable)
Get personalized feedback and instruction

People also appreciate the immediacy of online education in serving their needs. How long will the course run? Written lecture: using PowerPoint or Keynote helps incorporate visuals (preferable for some types of material), but text only can work well. When students register for a course, they receive login credentials and can immediately access any   curriculum made available prior to the official course start date. More often, and students won’t be able to keep up; less often, and students will become disengaged. Unplug your phone and turn off your cell phone ringer. For me, the latter is essential if you want all students to go through the same experience together with you, and if you want to avoid doing a self-study or a continuous course that’s always open for enrollment. This would ideally be halfway through, but you should base it on when you think the most questions are likely to arise (e.g., during the most confusing or complicated material). If you’ve ever used Lynda, you know the model. I recommend about one live session per week, whether through text-based chat or audio/video conference. Freedom and flexibility are often critical for adults deciding to take an online course—more important than even price. It allows everyone to see and hear each other (assuming you have a webcam), plus you can   share your screen and do text chat. Course Community and Discussion Area
Students will find a course more valuable if they meet other like-minded people with whom they might even continue a relationship after the course ends. Ideally, your lecture doesn’t consist solely of audio with a static visual (or a talking head); this leads to student boredom and distraction. And so I came up with the following tips. I also build in at least one additional opportunity for students to ask questions. Rather than using your computer’s built-in external microphone, you may need to purchase an external microphone for best possible results. (Only half joking.)
Break up your lecture into 3-6 minute increments. The more interactive the course, the more expensive it generally is, but obviously the more time the instructor must commit. You could also choose to create a self-study, but this post focuses on writing courses with a specific start and end date. It might be:

A live video conference session using software such as Zoom   (and recorded for students who can’t attend). If not, I suggest you develop slides unless you have other visuals. This will depend on the nature of the session, but one of the first things students will ask for is a copy of your lecture. I don’t recommend that you be merely a talking head, but that you have visuals to share, and budget plenty of Q&A/break time. It’s Your Turn
If you’ve taught online writing courses, I’d love to hear what has worked (or not) for you and your students. When you can’t think of anything, add a cat GIF. Be prepared to share your slides in PDF form. Deciding What to Teach
Here are some starting questions for those who have never taught online before. Prior to that, my experience and prepared curriculum was entirely centered around the traditional classroom. (The best writing classes have interaction and engagement with an instructor who can offer feedback/critique.)
How much personal attention will be offered? The easiest method by far is to create a   private Facebook group for the course, but you could also create a private WordPress site with forum capability through a plugin such as BBPress. And if you’ve been a student in an online writing course, tell us about any positive experiences—what made the course valuable to you? Apple’s standard-issue earbuds—the ones with a built-in microphone—also work very well. While readings can help illustrate important principles or lessons of craft and technique, any energy devoted to group discussions about readings   are   almost never a good use of student time and energy. Good feedback doesn’t happen   by accident, and writers need training in how to give it, which may be outside the purview of the course being taught. The course might focus on one large-scale project (first 25   pages of a manuscript, a completed essay or story) that is   worked on and submitted to the instructor for feedback; or it might focus on completing a series of smaller assignments. If necessary, post a sign on the door that says, “Recording in progress.” There is nothing worse than being distracted during a live session or recording, trust me. Having something in writing, like a tip sheet, is very helpful with online courses, so that students don’t have to search through recordings to find that 1 minute when you referenced a particular resource. Unless you’re enthusiastic about “boot camp” style courses that run in a weekend or a week, I recommend a minimum of four weeks and a maximum of twelve weeks. For audiovisual lecture delivery: Hopefully, you already use PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, or some other slide-based presentation tool to accompany your lectures. A critique can be   written or audio recorded and delivered in private, and/or   done in a more traditional workshop manner, where all students can see and benefit from observing the instructor’s critique of the work. What will the course focus on? (For efficiency, when you record a lecture, you can certainly do it all in one take, while giving yourself a pause between lessons or sections. One big caveat is that I am not an expert in curriculum design or creative writing pedagogy (either online or offline!). Find an enclosed room where you will not be interrupted. As I gained experience managing and evaluating online education through Writer’s Digest—and teaching online courses myself—I began to field more questions from authors   who were curious about doing it themselves, but didn’t know where to start. If it makes sense, build in a third break for questions. Student satisfaction is often tied directly to how they feel the instructor interacted with their work, their forum/discussion posts, and/or their questions during office hours. If you’re uncomfortable doing this, you should prepare a handout with the key ideas, lessons, resources, websites, or tips from your presentation. A   course’s success depends greatly on understanding or anticipating the needs of students, creating and delivering material that leads to learning and engagement, and thus producing   the outcomes they most desire. Recommended Technology
I favor the following tools for online courses. Photo credit: joe bustillos via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA
My first exposure to online writing education—for adults outside of degree programs—was Writer’s Online Workshops, a division of Writer’s Digest. In any event, in most   non-degree writing courses, the students are seeking the insights of the instructor, and not the other students. I’ve found that—unless students are in a university program—it’s very hard to mandate that other students give feedback. Zoom: This is a simple teleconference tool ideal for office hours or even live lectures. Instructor Critique and Engagement
Instructor feedback or interaction is critical to a writing-focused course. So I invite those who have more formal study and knowledge to share suggestions in the comments. Protecting Instructor Time
I recommend two levels of registration for any class involving critique:

Basic registration: All curriculum, lessons, community discussion features,   instructor office hours or Q&A opportunities, plus a basic amount of critique/feedback
Premium registration (usually limited in number): Everything in the basic, but   allows for more material to be critiqued, more revision and feedback, or more one-on-one time with the instructor

Students love having a choice because they may not have the time or ability to produce a large amount of work during a particular time, and/or may be mainly interested in the curriculum. Progress toward goals is very inspiring. It’s less daunting to tackle a video lecture when things are broken down into their smallest steps or components. Responding in the forum or otherwise being present in the forum, proactively posting questions and doing check-ins, and in general “showing up” is vital. Recorded audio or video lessons   using software such as Camtasia or Screenflow. By incorporating action steps into your curriculum, you will see satisfaction skyrocket, because people feel like they are accomplishing, creating, or learning something. Students will learn better if they’re given a specific task or action after watching a lecture or series of lectures. Use summary lists, imagery, graphics, and other visuals to reinforce the points you’re talking about.


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