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To say distance teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic has been painful would be an understatement. Educators had to figure out how to convert face-to-face instruction into lessons and materials they could provide virtually.

Zoom classes and Boom cards, quickly became the norm. And that meant learning additional skills, new classroom management considerations, and more. Despite the challenges, however, many educators also noticed pleasant surprises, like some introverts began to participate more!

New circumstances create new opportunities

If you learned how to distance teach, and you want a Summer Break side gig, one option is to create and virtually instruct your own lessons. And by “your own,” I mean teach about what you’re passionate about and what you know there’s a need for, rather than simply teaching to the test.

How educators can leverage their distance-teaching skills during school breaks.

Online classes, workshops and camps are in higher demand than ever, and more teachers than ever have the experience to meet this need.

Also, during school closures, I registered my kids for online courses to supplement what their teachers, and the school district, were sending us and posting online. Doing so enabled me to continue working, while we were sheltering place.

It was cool to see how creative some instructors were with their class topics! I found courses on everything from Titanic by the Numbers and Fortnite: Reading Comprehension Escape Room, to Wile E. Coyote Physics and Raising Rabbits 101.

And with community pools, summer camps & other seasonal pastimes still closed in many areas, online courses continue to be a great help to parents!

Be yourself, without limitations

What I’ve noticed on is that the more creative the topic is, the better the reviews seem to be!

In other words, if you want to teach your own online course or camp, don’t worry about niching down. In fact, quite the opposite. Offering courses about topics you love – and that you may not be able to teach during the school year – will attract students who enjoy them as much as you do.

How educators can leverage their distance-teaching skills during School Breaks

Case in point: my bright-and-quirky fourth grader loves an ongoing series on called Weird History: The Bizarre, the Insane and the Worst Decisions Ever. Will he ever need to know about the people and events featured in this course? Probably not, unless he lucks out with the perfect question on Jeopardy, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? or trivia night at a local sports bar. (In fact, it even says in the course description that most of what’s covered never makes it into school text books.)

Do I care about that? No, and here’s why… My son isn’t just learning about an anomaly of past human behavior; he’s discovering how to empathize with various types of individuals and societies…trying to understand what made them do what they did, even if it seems confusing and self-destructive to us.

As a “differently wired” child who is often misunderstood by his peers, I think the Weird History course also helps my son realize that none of us are perfect. In addition, he’s getting weekly interaction with a teacher and other kids who love history as much as he does. There’s so much value in all of that, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. The class is packed each week!

Online teaching platforms

If you offer your courses through an established service, it will already have a following. This makes the marketing process easier because those parents will be looking for other courses that are a good fit their kids’ skill levels and interests.

Here are advantages that offers its instructors:

How educators can leverage their distance-teaching skills during school breaks.
  • A robust platform that enables you to organize, promote and deliver your online classes
  • Integrated video chat and messaging via Zoom
  • Responsive support
  • Set your own schedule
  • Pick your own topics (i.e., no need to “teach to the test”)
  • Spend your time teaching, rather than doing tons of paperwork
  • Buy supplies only for yourself (parents buy any supplies their children will need)
  • Skip the bureaucracy

There are plenty of benefits for students, too. Kids learn in a group, and get to explore ideas with peers from around the U.S. – and, in some cases, the world. In addition, children have vetted mentors guiding them, who are accessible at a lower price point than private tutoring sessions.

Choose your class format

Remember what I said about how you can set your own schedule? I wasn’t just referring to which days and times you offer your online classes. There are different format options, too. Here are a few examples:

  • Live, online courses – These are live sessions on Zoom in which teachers facilitate a class. Most courses are 30-60 minutes in length. Some are one-time classes; others are ongoing, like the Weird History course I mentioned above.
How educators can leverage their distance-teaching skills during school breaks.
  • Flex courses – These are classes in which instructors pre-record what they ‘re teaching students. Students typically have about a week to watch each session (and often do homework based on what they learned). They can do so at whatever time works best for their schedule. Instructors give feedback as students submit their homework. In some cases, students can see (and comment on) each other’s creations. Then, the next pre-recorded session is released at the same time the following week and the process repeats.
  • Clubs – These are groups that tend to meet live once per week. There often is a blend of learning and peer interaction. In some cases, the clubs will have a specific beginning and end date to coincide with a typical school semester or school break. In other instances, the group is ongoing and students can join and leave when they wish; however, the parent is charged each week until she or he cancels the child’s registration in that club. There are tons of possible themes for online clubs, but some that work well are hobby-based clubs (e.g., chess, photography, water painting) or that have a social-emotional element to them (e.g., practicing mindfulness, weekly journaling prompts).

Mix up the formats if you want

What’s great is that you don’t have to limit yourself to just one of these format options. In addition to your availability, consider your teaching style, the ideal class size for a course, and the lessons you plan to teach. Then decide which format(s) could work best for each course, given those variables.

A six-week, online flex course that infuses art with social studies. Students learn (at their own pace, through directed drawing & collaborative activities) about African Americans who helped change history. Each week, students learn about a new change maker through pre-recorded drawing instruction, painting instruction & read-alouds.

Take Teacher Kaylani, M.Ed., (“Ms. K”) for instance. She offers flex courses on science, reading, math and even art infused with social studies. In her Draw & Learn: Change Makers flex course (pictured left), students learn, through directed drawing and collaborative activities, about African Americans who helped change history.

Ms. K also oversees Elementary Movie Watchers Social Club, a group that meets weekly for half an hour. She releases a monthly schedule that lists which movie the club will discuss each week in that month. Through those discussions, she helps the children practice social-interaction skills while coloring and chatting about movies they’ve seen.

In addition, she periodically offers a one-week Body Camp in which kids learn about the functions of various systems in the human body. One mom, who reviewed the class, posted a photo of the human body playdough mat Ms. K had provided digitally to campers and the playdough systems and organs her six-year-old added to it with Ms. K’s virtual guidance. Such a creative and engaging activity. And Ms. K didn’t even need to make photocopies, buy Play-doh or sanitize a classroom! 😉

Another teacher who uses multiple class formats is a popular Python coding instructor named Sidney. My son wanted to take a Python course and Sidney (whose style and content seemed to best fit our needs) was booked up for months, even though he offers a lot of classes on the topic. Then, I noticed Sidney had more of the same courses, but in flex versions. My son would have preferred a live course; however, based on Sidney’s great reviews and high demand for his classes, it was obvious that he’s a great instructor. So we took a chance and we were glad we did.

How to become an Outschool instructor

Sounds like an awesome gig, doesn’t it? If you’d like to learn more about becoming one of Outschool’s independent instructors, including best practices, the approval process, how payments work, and other frequently-asked questions, visit the Become an Outschool Instructor webpage.

I love Outschool and have been promoting their courses here on my blog as well as via Pinterest, Instagram and my personal social media accounts. Who knows. If you end up becoming one of their instructors, I may tout one of your courses, too. 😉

Want more inspiration for course topics? See my article about online courses for bright and quirky kids. It contains tons of other examples that will help get your creative juices flowing.

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A silver lining to pandemic-driven distance teaching is that it opens up a new world of possibilities for educators. Online courses for kids are in higher demand than ever, & many teachers now have the experience to meet this need.