What I Have Learned About Teaching Online

Quiet | Oil on Canvas | © Beth Cole

Quiet | Oil on Canvas | © Beth Cole

What I Have Learned About Teaching Online

by Beth Cole

Last spring I was asked to teach a painting class online. I had been thinking of teaching, but I hadn’t come up with a plan or a deadline. Being asked to teach gave me both! And I must say, it is amazing what you can accomplish when you have a plan and a deadline.

I wanted to write a little about the practical steps I took in order to get stuff done. I am not an expert! I am just sharing what I have learned so far.

First, the gear. I knew I would have to invest in a small video camera as I didn’t want to record the demos with my iPhone. I could have researched this purchase ad nauseum, but instead I asked a few friends what type of camera they used and I decided on a Sony HDR-CX240 that I bought at Target.

It has done a great job for me. The menu buttons are a little weird, it is difficult to use from that aspect, but other than that, I have liked it just fine. I also bought extra memory cards and a storage case to keep them organized. I found I needed several to get me through the project.

I also knew I would need to be able to shoot overhead so I needed a boom or some type of system. Again, I could have spent lots of time on getting just the perfect thing, but my daughter helped me find a suspension arm that hooks to the end of my work table and it worked just great. In order to get the angle I wanted, I attached my camera to a guerilla tripod and wrapped the legs around the suspension arm.

I also thought about a microphone for the audio, I wanted to be sure my voice could be heard as I was painting. I didn’t think the camera would pick up my voice very well so on the first video I didn’t talk, planning to do voice over with my computer. That worked fine, but meanwhile, I experimented with just talking as I was painting and found that the camera picked up audio great because it was very near my mouth! So I didn’t buy an additional microphone.

Next were the software decisions, i.e. what to use to edit the video. In my former life as a web designer, I made tutorial videos for my clients using Camtasia. I loved the software, but I didn’t want to make that kind of investment for this project. Plus, I use a Mac now and I didn’t have the software on my Mac, but I did have iMovie. I am not as familiar with it, but I thought I would give it a try. It worked great! And you know what, you can Google practically any step you need help with, and there will be an answer for you online, usually a video tutorial. I did that a lot, and it really helped me to push through and not get stuck.

I wanted to add some music in the beginning and end, so I bought an audio clip at Pond5.

I also knew I wanted to make a nice looking promotional trailer for the course. To save time, I subscribed to Magisto and used some of the ready-made tools to help me put together this type of video. There are probably lots of other ways to do this, but again, I was on deadline and I just picked something! It worked great!

Now to the most important thing – what to demo and teach. I knew I would be sticking with landscapes because that is what I normally paint. So I came up with a theme that described what I paint – Earth, Water, Sky – and that became the title of the course and my guide for what types of demos to share. I combed through my photos to come up with class projects and I ended up instead going out with my camera so I would have fresh and inspiring images to paint. I chose three photos and one for a bonus project.

I didn’t use any special lighting for the project, although, again, I could have researched and spent lots of time and money on this alone. Instead, I chose to work with natural daylight. I had access to large north facing doors and windows so I set up my worktable there and only filmed during daytime hours.

Looking back, I am so grateful for the push I got from being asked to teach. It really gave me momentum and helped me break through all the barriers I had in my mind that had prevented me from starting. It was a wonderful experience, and I plan to do more of it. Now all I need is another plan and a deadline!

Have you had experience teaching online? I would love to hear any suggestions you might have…..let’s talk!

Thanks for reading.

--Beth Cole
Soli Deo Gloria

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