Creating an online course can be tough - especially if you're used to teaching in a classroom. Here are a few things I've learned after a year of creating exclusively online courses.
Think about the last conversation you had via text or phone. Now think about the last conversation you had in person or via video. Consider the differences. How well were you able to pick up tone or meaning? Were there subtle communications you missed over the phone that you likely would have picked up in person? How much is lost when you’re not looking at the person you’re talking to. Teaching In-Person vs. an Online Course is Different
In the classroom, I knew who I was talking to. I could see them and had some information on their backgrounds. When I said something they didn’t understand, I could tell by the look on their faces. And when I needed feedback, they were more or less a captive audience that I could ask and talk to. When I transitioned from in-person courses to online courses, this was the hardest change to make.
Nearly all of that is lost online. That means you’ll have to do some more research on the front end, before you create the course. Over the last year or so of teaching exclusively online, I have finally picked up on some of these things. As I create new courses, I’m putting what I’ve learned into action.
If you’re thinking
Giving a great talk at an event like a WordCamp is not easy. As someone who's been speaking in front of people for 10+ years, I have some advice on what to do to give a good conference talk.
When Steve Jobs presented the iPhone for the first time, he didn’t get up on stage and say, “Hey this is an iPhone.” Instead, he told a story – specifically the story of Apple. He built up the iPhone in terms that people understood. This made for an excellent presentation. It sucked people in, it made them invested in what it was talking about, and ultimately, he announced the iPhone to huge cheers. Steve Jobs knew how to give a great presentation. Now, I’ve been speaking in front of people for a long time. My first on stage performance was at 7 years old, when I was in 2nd grade. I love being in front of people, whether I’m acting, teaching, or just talking. But giving a good conference presentation takes practice. After professionally speaking for almost 10 years, I know what works and what needs work. Here are my 5 steps to putting together a good conference talk.
Step 1: Tell a Story
My friend Chris Lema knows how to give a good conference talk. He also starts of most of what he says with, “Let me tell you a story.” He then regales us with an interesting, relatable story that grabs our attention. That’s your goal too: start off
I've been doing my podcast for almost a year and it's been sponsored for pretty much the whole time. I write about my experience and how both the sponsor and the podcaster can help make the most of the sponsorship.
It was around this time a year ago that I decided to start my podcast, How I Built It. I started it as a way to generate buzz around building things so I could send people over to my online courses, where you learn how to build things. But a funny thing happened. Thanks to Rebecca Gill (Season 1, Episode 2) I reached out to Justin Ferriman of LearnDash about sponsoring her episode and he said yes! Since then, basically all of my episodes have had at least one sponsor, Season 2 was sold out, and Season 3 is on its way to selling out. In that time I’ve picked up a few things that I feel can help anyone who is thinking about Podcast Sponsorship. Preamble: Find the Right Show
Before we get into the nitty gritty, I should say that if you’re going to do a podcast sponsorship, find the right show. As a relatively new podcaster, I can tell you that knowing who my audience is with hard stats is tough (I’m trying) but I can take pretty good guesses based on who’s sharing it, my subject matter, and the stats Libsyn & Google provide me.
I try not to accept just anyone who wants to sponsor my show. My reputation is at stake, from both sides, so I need to believe in the
A great introduction to the new podcast on building things on web.
If you visit Florence, Italy, visiting the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly known as the Florence Cathedral or Il Duomo, is a must. From its completion in 1436 until the advent of modern-era architecture, it was the biggest dome in the world. Even better, it’s completely self supported. All without the help of modern technology. How? Filippo Brunelleschi, the designer and architect of Il Duomo, set out to answer that very question by starting in an obvious place: asking how the Pantheon’s dome was built. It was nearby in Rome and a grand structure. Unfortunately several factors in the Pantheon’s construction ruled out mimicking that design. Brunelleschi kept looking.
He sought inspiration for the construction from other great minds like Neri di Fioravanti, who created an early design for the dome; eventually he used part of Neri’s design. See, before doing something that’s never been done, he asked others, “How did you built that?”
Learn from Others
That’s how the world works! There have been many discoveries in the history of the human race, all built off of previous discoveries. We wouldn’t have any modern electronics
Making the transition to freelancing full time can be tough. Here are some things you should keep in mind if/when you decide to do it.
Note: this is an update to an article I wrote in 2010, when I went from college to full time freelance. I started freelancing all the way back in 2002, when my church came to me looking for a website. As a junior in high school, I used
Frontpage, and GMail had yet to grace me with it’s presence. And this seemed like a really good opportunity for me to run
the business I always wanted. I freelanced all through high school and college. It was at the end of my senior year in 2007
that I realized I wanted to keep doing it. So I went to grad school to learn more about my trade, and better prepare myself full time freelancer. I stuck with it for a time but sought full time employment for 6 years before coming back to self-employment.
So what does it take to transition to full time freelancing (from school or employment)? Let me tell you what I’ve learned.
Be Financially Ready
First and foremost, you need to have money saved. This is for the slow times, the extra bills you will likely incur, and
tax time. I recommend starting as early as possible and putting as much as you can in an interest bearing account. I
had 6 months income in savings I could draw from. And I needed it! Less
Webinars are becoming a pretty important part of my business and I want to do them right. Over the last several weeks I've been trying out different webinar software. Here's what I've found so far.
Yesterday, I gave a fantastic webinar on creating an Event Registration Form with Gravity Forms and decided to try something other than Zoom Webinars. I love Zoom and use it for all of my meetings, but my goal for attendees is to make is as easy as possible without the need for them to download anything extra. So far, I’ve looked at 3. Zoom Webinars
Zoom Webinars is the software I used for a while when I first started doing webinars. I love Zoom Meetings because it’s super reliable and easy to use. It’s well worth the price to not deal with the headaches of Google Hangouts.
The only drawback I saw with Zoom Webinars was that users had to download Zoom in order to participate. That might still be the case to get the full effect (raise hand, become the host, ask Questions using their UI), but after I started writing about this, my friend Brian pointed out that Zoom Webinars lets you stream to both YouTube Live and Facebook Live. Looks like I’ll have to revisit them soon. Though another big reason I decided to move away was cost. We’re looking at $15/mo for Zoom + $49/mo for the Webinar feature. That’s a lot of bread!
I signed up for the
In the Post Status community, we were presented with this question: Do you ever struggle with feeling like the work you do* isn’t meaningful (eg compared to doctors etc.)? How do you cope with that? The conversation was great with a wide range of answers. I’m lucky enough to not have to struggle find meaning in my work, and here’s why.
My wife and I do very different things. I sit in front of a computer all day, get to work pretty much the hours I’d like to work (within reason), and I don’t have to put pants on. Erin is a nurse, who works 12 hour shifts, taking care of the some of the sickest people in the hospital. Her bad day is much worse than my bad day. But when I say that, she tells me I shouldn’t devalue my work, and that I can still talk about my bad days to her; it’s not a competition. I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago, when in the Post Status community, we were presented with this question: Do you ever struggle with feeling like the work you do* isn’t meaningful (eg compared to doctors etc.)? How do you cope with that? The conversation was great with a wide range of answers. I’m lucky enough to not have to struggle find meaning in my work, and here’s why. *This is a community made up mostly of developers and designers.
To Find Meaning, Love What You Do
My answer to the question was this:
Generally I think it’s all relative, and if you get enjoyment out of your work (whether that’s by helping people, scratching your own itch, or something
I've been a web developer and a programmer for *most* of my life; but recently I moved into the video/online course space and I haven't been writing a lot of code, much to my dismay. I made a decision this week to dedicate more time to writing code by making it my side hustle.
I did some thinking over the weekend, after I wrote the post about my learning plan. I looked at my project pipeline. I looked at what people were hiring me to do, and I reviewed the next few personal projects I’m working on. You know what I saw? No coding projects. Honestly, I shouldn’t. That’s no longer my core business. I turn down freelance jobs 90% of the time. But I still want to write code. I will have to for some of the online courses I’m taking. Luckily, there’s the whole idea of a “side hustle,” and since I made my side hustle my main gig last year, my side hustle has an opening. Coding as my Side Hustle
So I’m doing a little bit of a switch. At this time last year, coding was my full time gig; courses and the podcast were my side hustle. Now that coding isn’t part of my day-to-day, I’m going to do coding projects on the side.
I’ve taken the approach up until this point that 100% of my non-family time should go to my core business. But you know what? When my wife is at work on night shift, and the baby is down for the night, I don’t really feel like doing that stuff. So if I feel like working, I’m
Over the holidays I decided to completely rebrand my online courses, and I wanted it to coincide with the launch of my Gutenberg course. In this blog post, I discuss how I did this in a week, thanks to some experience and some even better themes and plugins!
7 months ago I took my business full-time. Being a freelancer for most of my life, and even doing it full-time for a while after college, I thought I had a pretty good handle on how things would work. But as it turns out, the product space is a lot harder to work in than the services space (for me). I’ve lamented over the last few months that it’s easier for me to sell one person on a $5,000 project, than 100 people on a $50 course. But after attending CaboPress and participating in an amazing Master Mind group, I was able to get some perspective and readjust. The Autumn and Winter have been much better than the Summer. But what does that have to do with a new site I launched called Creator Courses? Everything! I decided that as well as do an intro course on Gutenberg, I would launch a new brand. Here’s how I did it, and why.
What is Creator Courses and Why?
WP in One Month is not a great name, to put it nicely. When I first started the site, it made a lot of sense. It was supposed to be live, in-person classes that focus on WordPress. We’d meet once a week for 4 weeks. However, after several pivots, I’ve landed in a place where I do online courses, that
In this tutorial, I talk about how to move a WordPress Multisite from Media Temple to SiteGround, and what to look out for while doing it.
A few years ago, I wrote about domain mapping using WordPress Multisite on Media Temple. This year, I’ve been consolidating all of my hosted websites to a single SiteGround account and the very Multisite instance I wrote about needed to be moved over. I had been avoiding it but the time had come, especially since I was getting knocked for $50/month just for those sites. Here’s how I did it. This was a process I was dreading for several reasons. First of all, Multisite isn’t your normal, run-of-the-mill WordPress install. There are often complexities that cause issues you don’t usually see in a single WordPress install.
The other reason is that I’m not just pointing one domain. I’m pointing 10 domains that seem to rely on one domain, and I’ve never done that before. I wasn’t sure how the system would function if the main domain wasn’t the first to propagate, and this seemed like an all or nothing deal. So how did I do it?
Getting the Data from Media Temple
First, a note. This process worked for me, on these specific hosts, using this domain mapping tool. I suspect that the general rules apply in most places, but I can’t guarantee
Very useful if you need to place a widget inside of a content area.
Podcasting can be pretty tough. In this article, I share some thoughts I have on how to deliver better quality, value for listeners, and service for sponsors.
Season 3 isn’t wrapped yet, but I’ve already started thinking of better ways to deliver for Season 4, coming in January. When I started How I Built it, I didn’t think I would see the success the show has had. It’s a formidable part of my income, it’s got over 100,000 downloads, and it’s growing in popularity. When you first start anything, you are just finding your sea legs. Over a year in (and a fun obsession with this project), and I’ve got my bearings. I’m ready to go to the next level.
There are 3 areas where I want to improve my podcast: sound quality, user experience, and delivering more for my sponsors.
I’ve written about this before. In the off-season, I plan to purchase some better equipment, and not just a mic.
I work in an upstairs office of a town house that shares a wall with a nursery. While software editing has been successful for me until this point, I want to handle as much as possible in the analog to get the best, noise free audio. A dynamic SLR mic will be a big step because it’s more forgiving of the environment than a USB mic or my current condenser mic.
On top of that, there’s a pretty
Patreon recently released their own WordPress plugin, which allows you to make posts only available to your patrons. This makes it very easy to get the content benefits of a membership without needing to manage payments or subscriptions. In this video tutorial, we look at how it works.
This week I wrote about how I’m doubling down on Patreon to deliver more quality content to my backers. Well, things have just gotten a lot easier for me, because their timing is impeccable. Patreon has recently release a WordPress plugin that allows you to take posts on your blog and make them viewable to Patrons only. This allows us to make membership sites quickly and easily, without having to worry about processing payments or subscriptions. In this video tutorial, I show you exactly how to make a Patreon WordPress Membership Site.
Patreon WordPress Plugin
I go into detail in the video (transcript below if you prefer), but with the Patreon WordPress plugin, you can connect your Patreon project, then lock down posts so that only people who pledge a certain amount can access them. This is a great way to quickly and easily build a membership site that has private content, without you having to worry about collecting payments, managing subscriptions, and more.
Setup Your own Patreon account if you haven’t done so
Install the Patreon WordPress plugin (in your WordPress Dashboard, go to Plugins -> Add New)
Go to Patreon Settings and click the
I've decided to change my approach to the way I teach programming to beginners, and came up with a new process that helps students ease their way into this potentially daunting field.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I teach. I tend to take a “learn by doing” approach in my online courses where there are very clear, step-by-step instructions completed via video. However, this format gets pretty tough to execute in other contexts. For example, I teach an online graduate course for the University of Scranton, which is primarily text-based. This course’s goal is to get students with a healthcare background proficient in programming; the assumption is they are at least somewhat technical. After getting feedback, especially this semester, I’m realizing the approach my co-author and I took in creating the course was wrong. This got me thinking: how do we best teach programming to people who have never seen it? Low Barrier to Entry
The first thing we need is a low barrier to entry. In the course, the very first assignment is a string sorter (take a list of strings and sort it alphabetically), which is difficult assignment for a few reasons:
We should strive to make early assignments easy to describe in plain English, and sorting strings includes too many steps and edge cases. To sort strings, you compare 2 words by the first letter.