The last couple of years have seen a major upheaval in the way people interact with each other, with more business and services going online than ever before. This has also led to a radical change in the domains of education and continuous learning, with courses of all kinds now being offered over the internet.
If you are someone with a special skill or expertise in any domain, these changes represent an incredible opportunity. It is now easier than ever before for you to make money from the comfort of your home by creating an online course and teaching people what you know.
Let’s take a deep dive into the world of online teaching: how to get started, the tools you will need, and how to plan and create your course.
1. Why should you teach online?
Before the what and the how, we should probably address the why: why even bother teaching online? For someone looking to share their knowledge and expertise, why is online teaching a better idea than conducting traditional offline sessions? It turns out that there is a whole host of reasons why online teaching is the way to go:
- Lower cost than traditional classrooms
Let’s start with an obvious advantage of teaching online: you don’t have to pay rent.
If you go the offline route, you could perhaps put off having to pay rent for a while by conducting classes at your residence for a while, when you’re first starting out. However, once you start to grow, in the interest of professionalism and having enough space, you’ll probably want to start renting a small classroom.
With online teaching, however, you don’t have to worry about rent, deposits, maintenance charges, and the various other hassles of renting a classroom. You’ll either be conducting live sessions in virtual classrooms, or you’ll have put up pre-recorded lectures on a platform. Either way, you typically won’t have to pay any large, fixed, rent-like charges.
Moreover, several of the platforms that we will discuss, such as Udemy and Skillshare, allow you to create and publish courses for absolutely no charge at all. This means that apart from some basic equipment that you might have to buy initially (discussed below), you don’t have to spend any money to start teaching online.
- Greater freedom with respect to time
If you create recorded content, you’ll be in charge of your own schedule: when you choose to record videos, how many takes you take, and how many videos you churn out in a day are all up to you.
If you take live sessions online, you will save time due to not having to commute. This also means that you can have a schedule that would be extremely burdensome if you did have to commute: for instance, you could easily schedule one session at 10 AM and another at 5 PM, without having to worry about wasting any time in transit.
- Ability to reach a global audience
With offline classes, physical accessibility limits your reach: your target audience will probably be restricted to people who live at most two hours away from your classroom, if that.
But if you teach online, any internet user in the world could, in principle, learn from you. This is especially true of pre-recorded courses, where time zone differences don’t matter.
- Passive income from pre-recorded courses
Pre-recorded courses sweeten the deal in yet another way: once you’ve put a course out there, you could keep getting an income from it for the rest of your life! How much a course can bring in will, of course, depend on several factors, such as the course’s subject matter, your expertise and teaching style, and to what extent you keep the course up-to-date. But with the right kind of course presented the right way, you could have a reasonably reliable source of passive income on your hands.
- Much larger audience pool translates into higher potential income
We just discussed how, in principle, just about any internet user in the world can access online courses. This also means that an online course is much more scalable than an offline one: indeed, there are several online courses that have been bought by lakhs of people. To take just one example, the course shown below, published on Udemy, has been purchased by more than 5 lakh students!
This course is an outlier, of course, but the point still stands: you can reach far more paying customers through an online course than you can offline, and this will typically translate into a much larger income for you.
- Ability to have a huge positive impact on people all across the world
More money is good, but almost everyone who gets into teaching also aims to make a difference in the lives of their students. Online teaching allows your altruistic self to dream even bigger: you now have the power to change thousands of people’s lives for the better.
2. Online teaching fundamentals
Hopefully, it should be clear now why people are creating and signing up for online courses in droves. The rest of this post has a lot more in-depth guidance on creating your own courses. However, before we get there, let’s quickly address a few basic questions you might have.
- What are the various types of online courses I can create?
There are three main kinds of online courses:
- Ones with pre-recorded content only
To create such a course, you’ll need to break your subject matter up into digestible topics and sub-topics, and then make a video for each sub-topic. Then, you’ll need to upload all of these videos, along with any ancillary notes or references, to a suitable online course platform, such as Udemy, Graphy, or Knorish. Alternatively, you could also sell such a course on your own online store; more on this below.
- Ones with live teaching only
Such a course will involve you providing live instruction over a general video communication platform like Zoom or Google Classroom, or over a platform that allows live teaching, like Teachmint or Graphy. You’ll need to decide your course’s subject matter and each lecture’s topic in advance, and then attract students by marketing your course.
- Ones with pre-recorded as well as live content
Such a model can be useful when you’re teaching, say, a foreign language: a pre-recorded video could be used to present a few new grammar rules with some examples, and a subsequent live session could serve to cement those rules by using them in conversation. Platforms like Teachmint offer you the ability to create courses with such a model.
Each course type might be best suited for certain kinds of subject matter. For instance, if you have a course on playing the guitar, then interactivity and instant feedback are going to be pretty important, and a live or hybrid approach would probably work best. For subjects that mainly involve a transfer of knowledge with minimal feedback being required, such as digital marketing or web development, pre-recorded courses are probably the way to go.
This is just a rule of thumb, of course; there are entire platforms dedicated to creative skills like illustration, design, and photography, such as Skillshare, that mainly make use of pre-recorded videos. So it really just boils down to what you think will work best for yourself and your students.
Another important point to keep in mind is that while pre-recorded courses sacrifice interactivity to a large extent, they scale much more easily, and represent a source of passive income, unlike live courses.
- How much money can I make teaching online?
Given certain reasonable assumptions, we estimate that you can make around INR 50,000 per month teaching online, whether in the form of a pre-recorded course or a live course.
To see how we arrived at this figure, let’s consider two scenarios: one where you’ve made a pre-recorded course and uploaded it to Udemy, and one where you conduct live classes over, say, Zoom.
- Pre-recorded course
Let’s say that you decide to price your pre-recorded course at INR 4,000. Moreover, let’s say that Udemy has to pay INR 1,000 (25%) as taxes on every purchase of your course. Hence, the net amount that Udemy makes is INR 3,000. Now, according to Udemy’s revenue-sharing terms, if a student purchased your course through a referral link that you shared, then you will get to keep 97% of the net amount; in all other circumstances, you will get to keep 37% of the net amount.
Even assuming that all of your students buy your course thanks to Udemy’s marketing rather than through your referral link, you will get roughly INR 1,100 for every student who buys your course. Thus, if 50 people buy your course every month, you will make INR 55,000 every month.
And of course, you can grow this income by signing up more students through your referral links, and by publishing more courses.
- Live classes
Let’s say you’ve decided to charge INR 10,000 for a 50-hour course spanning two months. That works out to be INR 200 per hour per student.
Now, if you manage to get 10 students to sign up for the course, you’d be making INR 2,000 per hour for the duration of the course – i.e. a total of INR 50,000 per month.
As mentioned above, it goes without saying that there will be several other factors that will go into determining your income, including the quality of the course, the demand for the course subject matter, your reputation and experience, how well you can market the course, etc.
- How do I sell a course on my own online store?
If you don’t want to share any revenue with a platform, you can also sell your courses on your own online store. For instance, if you have a Shopify store, you can integrate it with platforms such as Thinkific or LearnWorlds; these platforms will take care of hosting your course videos and supplementary materials, while Shopify will take care of presenting a professional storefront for your courses.
Here’s how you can create an online store with Shopify, if you don’t have one yet.
- Why not just create a course and put it up on YouTube?
You certainly could do so, but you’d have to reach a very large number of subscribers and views before you’d actually begin to see any significant revenue start to come in. In terms of return on investment, selling courses through dedicated learning platforms or your own online store is probably the best way to go.
- How do I decide what to teach?
Ideally, to figure out what you should teach, you should think of subjects or domains that strike the right balance with respect to the following criteria:
- You have specialised knowledge in them
- There is enough demand for them
- You enjoy talking about them and digging deep into them
People will want to sign up for your course only if they’re convinced you’re an expert. If the course’s subject matter is too niche, however, then you might not be able to make the kind of income you’d like to. Lastly, preparing for a course session or video will require you to spend a lot of time grappling with the subject matter, which means that the more you enjoy it, the smoother the course-creation process will be.
3. How to figure out what kinds of courses are in demand
What kinds of courses are likely to be popular? Well, in a nutshell, probably those that help people make more money by teaching them a skill they can put on their CV, or ones that help people get better at any general hobbies, skills or goals they might be passionate about.
While accurate, these criteria might not help narrow down the pool of potential subjects you could base your course around. A simple way to quickly get an evidence-backed picture of what kinds of courses are in demand is to use Google Trends. This tool lets you find out how search volumes for a given query have changed over a period of time. What makes it even more useful is that it lets you visually compare the changes in search volumes for multiple different queries.
So, for instance, let’s say you’re an experienced writer and can’t decide whether to create a screenwriting course or a novel-writing course. What should help you decide is pitting something like ‘learn screenwriting’ against ‘learn how to write novels’ in Google Trends, and seeing which one comes out on top.
Here are some examples of the kinds of subjects that have begun seeing more interest since the Covid-19 pandemic began, as evidenced by Google Trends:
- Web development and IT
Courses on web development, which involves building and maintaining websites, and other IT-related skills are very popular on platforms like Udemy, as evidenced by the gargantuan number of students many such web development-related courses there have. If you have a background in software development, making such courses might be right up your alley.
Here’s what the Google Trends chart for ‘web development course’ looks like:
- Digital marketing
Digital marketing involves the use of modern marketing concepts and techniques such as search engine optimisation, social media marketing, analytics, etc. Again, judging by the respectable number of students in top-rated Udemy courses on marketing, this is another subject that many people seem to be interested in learning.
Here’s what the Google Trends chart for ‘digital marketing course’ looks like:
The ability to speak a foreign language is widely considered to be a skill that can enhance your CV and help you land a dream job. Many people may also choose to learn a language as a hobby, due to an interest in the culture of the countries where it’s spoken.
This means that you can teach not just foreign languages like French, Spanish, Korean, etc., but also Indian languages that foreigners might be interested in learning. There are several platforms such as italki that specialise in live 1-on-1 language classes, and where you can get started.
Here’s what the Google Trends chart for ‘korean course’ looks like:
- Hobbies and creative activities
Many people are also willing to pay to get better at hobbies and creative outlets such as playing an instrument, sketching, or playing chess. If there’s a fun activity that you’re passionate about and also good at, you might want to consider building a course around it.
Here’s what the Google Trends chart for ‘design course’ looks like:
You could go a step further and figure out the trending specialisations or niches in your domain. Use the same method to narrow down and frame the exact title of your course. It’s always good to do a basic competitor analysis by checking out similar courses already listed on both paid and free platforms.
4. The tools you will need for online teaching
Apart from the online platform or video-conferencing software that you end up going with, you’ll also need a bunch of software and hardware tools at your end to make sure your course is as professionally made as possible. Here’s a quick discussion of the tools you’re likely to need, depending on the kind of course you decide to make:
- Screen-capture software
As the name suggests, screen-capture software allows you to record whatever you can see on your laptop screen and combine it with an audio track. If a video requires you to show a presentation or some drawings or some specific software, you’ll need to use screen-capture software.
- Video editing software
Videos are tricky beasts to tame, and it’s quite likely that you’ll need to edit out errors or slips of the tongue or splice together bits and pieces from various takes. And this means that you’re going to need video editing software.
Once again, you don’t need to pay a rupee to get started with a high-quality video editor, as there are plenty of free options out there. Some good solutions are Lightworks, VSDC Free Video Editor, and VideoPad all of which come packed with pretty much everything an amateur video editor could need. Here’s a list of some more free video editors.
- A camera
You don’t really need to go out and buy yourself a brand new camera to make a professional-looking video. It’s quite likely that your smartphone has 1080p video recording capabilities, which means that it should work just fine for your purposes.
Nevertheless, if you would like to explore some more options, here’s a rundown of some of the best video cameras in the Indian market right now.
- A microphone
It’s absolutely critical that you have good audio quality on your videos: crisp and clear audio will go a long way towards ensuring that your students don’t have to struggle to understand you.
If you’re just starting out, it’s probably a good idea to buy a lapel mic, sometimes also called a Lavalier mic. These mics can be clipped onto your clothing, so your hands can remain free and you can move around to a great extent without the audio volume dropping.
Here’s a list of some of the best lapel mics in India. While some of them are on the pricier side, you can use them to pick out the main characteristics you want in your mic, and then look for a mic of that kind that’s also within your budget.
- A green screen and ring lights
If you plan to record yourself using a camera for some of your videos, then you might want to consider getting a green screen and some ring lights. A green screen is simply a green curtain that you can prop up behind you while recording yourself, and that can later be replaced by any image of your choice in the final video. Doing so is useful if the best spot in your house for video recording has a not-so-great background.
As far as ring lights are concerned, these are soft lights that can illuminate locations in an aesthetically pleasing way without it getting too hot for anyone who’s under their glare. They are portable, and often offer features such as adjustable brightness levels and colours. Here are some of the best ring lights available in India.
- A tripod
Tripods enable you to record videos with your smartphone or camera conveniently, with minimal setup-related hassles. Here’s a list of tripods for smartphones.
- A teleprompter
Teleprompters make it unnecessary for you to memorise your scripts, and also reduce the number of takes needed, thus saving you a lot of time overall. There are many teleprompters these days that are specifically designed to work with smartphones and tablets. You will typically have to use some app that will display your script as scrolling text on your device, and the teleprompter will reflect the text on a glass window so that you can read it. What’s special about the glass is that if there’s a camera behind it, it doesn’t capture the text that you can see on it on the other side. So while you’re looking at the glass, a camera placed right behind it will give the impression that you’re looking straight at the camera, which looks very professional.
Here’s a list of some of the best teleprompters in India right now. If you’d like to hold off on buying one, for the time being, you could simply use one of the teleprompter apps mentioned above, and record yourself using your front-facing camera. One issue with doing so, however, is that the front-facing camera typically offers lower image quality than the rear-facing one, so you’ll need to make sure you’re getting an acceptable video resolution. An alternative strategy you can use to make your videos is to break up your script into small chunks that you can memorise, record yourself performing those chunks, and then splice all those smaller videos together.
5. How to plan and create your content
Creating and marketing a successful course from scratch is undoubtedly a challenging prospect, especially if you’ve never done it before. So to help you along the way, we’ve put together a checklist of all the main steps you’ll need to take, along with a few annotations where appropriate.
For all kinds of courses:
1. Decide what the subject matter of your course will be
As we discussed above, play to your strengths: pick a subject you’re an expert in and that you enjoy working with.
2. Keep your target audience in mind
Think of your idea of what an average buyer of your course is likely to be like. How old are they? What’s their educational profile? What else are they likely to be interested in? What kinds of references can they probably relate to? Having some idea of what your average student will probably be like will help you make your content more relevant, relatable, and enjoyable.
3. Make a list of all the topics you want to cover
This is where you decide the scope of your course: does it focus on a very specific skill or does it give a very high-level overview of the subject domain?
4. Organise the topics
You should make sure that the ordering of the topics is such that one flows neatly into the next, and that they can be grouped together into handy modules. Such an organisation will also help your students orient themselves within the course, and be more aware of the overall objective of each module.
5. Break each topic up into digestible chunks
According to an MIT study on student engagement with video content, for pre-recorded courses, it is a good idea to try to keep each video shorter than 6 minutes in length. Thus, you’ll want to break up each topic into chunks that can be covered in videos that long.
Even if you plan to create a live course, you should still try to break up complicated topics into sub-topics so that each individual session can neatly cover a sub-topic; this will increase the chances of your students feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of each session.
6. Create/gather the digital assets you will use to teach
Such assets include images, videos, books, audio clips, drawings, and slideshows. You should make sure that you are adhering to copyright laws at all times, of course.
To easily make diagrams or flowcharts, you can use tools like diagrams.net.
From this point on, we have two lists: one for pre-recorded courses, and the other for live ones.
Specifically for pre-recorded courses:
7. Write the script for each video
This is likely to be one of the most time-consuming steps in this whole process. Remember that for courses, the script doesn’t have to be especially florid: think more of utility than beauty.
8. Record your videos
As discussed above, you could choose to only capture your screen, or combine that with real-life footage. This step is where your tripod, teleprompter, and script will come together and make magic happen.
9. Edit your videos
This is where you get to put all your best takes together into a seamless whole. The free video editing software mentioned further up in this post should be enough for your needs at this point.
10. Publish your course
If you’re using a course-oriented platform, this usually involves simply logging into your platform of choice, and navigating to some kind of ‘Publish’ area, where you can set certain options and publish your course. For instance, here are the steps to publish a course on Udemy once you’ve logged in.
Alternatively, if you plan to sell your course through your own online store, you’ll need to upload your course material to your hosting platform. For instance, as discussed above, if you’re using a Shopify store, you will have to integrate your store with a platform like Thinkific or LearnWorlds, and then upload your course material there.
11. Market your course
Typically, if you’re selling your course through a platform, then the platform will take care of this, but you can attract traffic to your course on your own as well, through social media marketing. The revenue sharing structure of platforms like Udemy surely incentivise you to do so.
On the other hand, if you’re selling your course through your own online store, you’ll have to fully take on the responsibility of marketing it. In addition to social media marketing, you could also use some other common marketing strategies, such as including social proof on your store and putting out paid advertisements on Facebook, Google, etc.
In both the scenarios laid out above, you could also create a YouTube channel specifically for the purpose of establishing yourself as an authority in your domain, and then upload videos that drive home your expertise and direct people to your course.
Specifically for live courses:
12. Choose your platform
You could choose to conduct your online classes on a platform such as Teachmint, or you could simply use Zoom or Google Classroom for delivering each session.
13. Market your course
The suggestions for marketing pre-recorded courses, given above, apply just as well for live courses. In addition, a set date and time for your live course means that the marketing communication needs to have a sense of urgency about it. Early-bird discounts and calling attention to the limited number of seats available tend to work well for such time-sensitive marketing campaigns.
14. Prepare yourself before each session
Live sessions can be nerve-wracking, but as is the case with all kinds of public speaking, you can make things a lot smoother for yourself by ensuring that you’re fully prepared for whatever you need to talk about.
Apart from making sure you’re comfortable with the session material, you should also test your microphone, camera, and internet connection before each session to avoid any nasty surprises.
15. Deliver your content
In addition to having yourself in your video stream, you’ll probably also want to share your screen using tools built into Zoom, Google Classroom, or whichever specialised platform you choose to go with.
It’s a good idea to record your sessions, for two main reasons:
- You can watch them later and make improvements to your course material, assets, and organisation
- These recorded sessions can become the foundation for a pre-recorded course that you can put together in the future
You can record your sessions using the screen-capture tools discussed above, or using the recording functionality built into Zoom and other similar platforms. It would probably also be a good idea to disclose to your students that the session is being recorded.
6. The pros and cons of online teaching
While there are many advantages to creating and selling online courses, there are also bound to be a few challenges that you’ll have to deal with. Here’s a quick list of all the pros and cons associated with online teaching.
- You can work from home
- You can become a business owner
- You can monetise your pre-existing skills and expertise
- If pre-recorded, such courses can provide a passive income
- You don’t need a lot of technical know-how to get started
- Making pre-recorded courses can be risky since you’re putting in work without knowing for sure how many buyers you’ll get
- Online teaching can be more difficult to pull off for more hands-on skills, such as sketching, painting, playing an instrument, etc.
- The social advantages of in-person classrooms may be diminished or absent (learner-to-learner interaction, greater spontaneity, etc.)
If you believe that the pros outweigh the cons, you should go ahead and consider putting together a course that will allow you to make money online and will also have a positive impact on people around the world. You can rest assured that there are resources online to guide you whenever you need help.
7. Make money while making a difference
For millions of people around the world, the increasing shift of child, adolescent, and adult education to the online realm represents an incredible opportunity: they can now make money from the comfort of their home while helping people across the world learn new skills.
The discourse around education has been changing rapidly, and concepts such as upskilling, reskilling, and lifelong learning have become much more prominent in the public consciousness. However, given that traditional providers of formal education, such as schools and universities, are typically slow to react to the needs of the market, online education providers can find great success by addressing the needs of modern learners, job-seekers, and hobbyists in an agile manner.
Whenever you decide to get started with online teaching, you will find a plethora of tools, facilities, and tutorials to help you embark on this exciting and rewarding journey. With a relatively small investment of time, effort, and money, you can now put yourself out there and change people’s lives, one lesson at a time.
What is the best way to teach online?
There are three main ways to teach online:
- Recording a course and publishing it on a platform such as Skillshare, Udemy, Graphy, etc
- Recording a course and selling it on your own online store
- Conducting live sessions over a video streaming platform such as Zoom or over a dedicated platform such as Teachmint.
It is important to remember that there are pros and cons associated with each of these course types. Recording a course enables you to make some passive income off of it in the future. Publishing your courses on platforms is easier when compared to building and marketing your own online store; however, you have to share the revenue with such platforms.
Creating your own online store for your courses requires some upfront work, but it allows you great freedom to price and deliver your content the way you want, and you get to keep all the revenue you generate.
Live sessions offer greater interactivity with students, and maybe ideal for subjects that require a more collaborative approach to learning.
What are the challenges of online teaching?
You might need to deal with technical difficulties around certain pieces of equipment and software. Moreover, creating and editing scripts and videos can be time-consuming. Lastly, if you’re conducting live sessions, dealing with flagging student motivation can also be a challenge.
Which software is used for online teaching?
Here’s a list of some programs and platforms that can be used for teaching online:
- Zoom (a video conferencing program for live classes)
- Google Classroom (a platform that makes it easier to create, distribute, and grade assignments)
- Blackboard (a complete online learning management system)
- Graphy (a custom course creation platform)
- Jamboard (a virtual interactive whiteboard)
Here’s a longer list of popular online teaching software and platforms.
What are online methods of teaching?
There are two main methods of teaching online: you could create a pre-recorded course or a live one. If you make a pre-recorded course, you’ll need to publish it on a platform such as Udemy. On the other hand, if you decide to put together a live course, then you’ll need a platform where your live sessions can be conducted, such as Teachmint, Zoom, Google Classrooms etc.
Is online teaching good for teachers?
Online teaching presents several advantages for teachers over conventional methods of teaching. In particular, online courses are much more scalable than in-person courses, which means that your earning potential with a well-crafted and well-marketed course can be much greater than it would’ve been had it been an offline course.