Whether it’s every once in a while or all the time, choosing the best resources for online teaching is important. Having the right tools & resources for your studio & situation is key to making the most of limited prep time. We all want the time & energy to pursue things outside of our studios, right?
I’ve loved teaching online. But, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t come with its share of struggles. One of the toughest parts of teaching online has been to keep a balance between what I want to accomplish career-wise & in my personal life.
What helps keep that balance in check is choosing the best resources & tools. The hard part is that these are different for each person. And, they can change depending on your stage of life or business. These “Tips for Avoiding Overwhelm” have made a world of difference in how I approach this delicate balance.
Choosing the best tools
Online teaching can feel complicated as you are choosing the best resources from the sheer number of tools available. There are 3 categories of tools that you will need for online lessons. And, they can be as simple or intricate as you need.
While Zoom is among the most popular streaming programs/services right now, that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. It all depends on what you & your students’ internet speeds are like & your most important considerations.
Many teachers in rural areas have found the internet speeds can’t keep up with Zoom’s requirements. Instead, FaceTime, WhatsApp or Messenger work best. The limitations of not being able to share a screen or record can be frustrating. But, this may be the only way to have live lessons in these situations.
Some teachers choose asynchronistic lessons. This is a way to present learning that doesn’t happen in real-time & allows lessons to happen regardless of internet connection issues. The back & forth of videos create an interesting conversation between teacher & student as they each react & build upon what the other sent before. Oftentimes in rural areas, a combination of both FaceTime & asychronistic lessons can bring the best of both worlds.
For some teachers, audio quality is the most important consideration. Rock Out Loud Live (ROLL) & StreamYard both sound a lot like in-person lessons. With features being added often, ROLL has set itself apart quite quickly as the go-to services for music teachers. At the time of writing this article, I don’t use either program since there are a few features I use all the time in lessons that are still missing.
As a travelling teacher, I’ve dealt with a whole host of audio issues, both for in-person & FaceTime lessons. Moving online, I was better prepared to deal with audio issues. Zoom offers the interactivity that has long been a hallmark of lessons in my studio. Rather than me being the one to annotate everything, my students can annotate (almost) anything I share on the screen. It’s allowed me to keep lessons fresh, while also using a lot of different tools to engage my students.
I’m a huge fan of the Google collection of apps, in particular, Google Drive. The fact that I can create & access spreadsheets, documents, digital escape rooms, registrations, & so much more is fantastic. The fact that I can do this all in one place & on any device has me sold.
There are other programs, like Dropbox, that allow you to store everything you could in Google Drive. My personal experience with Dropbox, in particular, has been frustrating. On my browser, I allow permissions to better protect my computer. Dropbox consistently requires multiple permissions (that don’t show up all at once) so it can take a good 5 minutes to even reach the button to download a video. That being said, I know other teachers & studio owners that prefer Dropbox & love it.
There are also programs like Tonara that provide all-in-one studio management & resource storage/organization. Many teachers love Tonara & how it makes their lives easier. If you want to combine these 2 facets, it may be the best tool for you.
Whether teaching online or in-person, having easy access to well-organized resources is essential. We have limited time in lessons so using what works for you is the difference between frustration & feeling happy at the end of the day. Choosing the best resource for organizing your teaching tools is a must.
Especially when teaching online, communication is what can make the difference between students quitting lessons & keeping students long-term. Choosing the best resources comes down to the frequency & type of communication you want to have with students & parents. There is no wrong answer here.
For example, my clients, students & I all text each other. It’s quick, easy, & often read more than emails. Some programs allow communication to happen between student & teacher within the program. While I haven’t found this necessary, I understand that with a small boutique studio the chances of getting a “million” texts is very small.
If you have or teach at a larger studio, that separation of using a program means you can step away from your business each day in a way that text messages won’t allow.
Choosing the best resources
The best resources depend on 3 things: your set-up, your time & your energy levels. Each of these factors plays an important role in your ultimate decision. Whether you use flashcards, PowerPoint games, digital escape rooms, annotate PDFs during lessons or add other activities, use these 3 factors while choosing the best resources for your studio.
When I first started teaching online, all I used was my cell phone. Online lessons were reserved for sick students or dangerous road conditions. Now, my set-up is much more complex because I plan to stay online permanently.
For a cell phone or a tablet, chances are you want resources that are easy to hold up to the screen & don’t necessarily require any digital interaction from the student. While using a laptop & your students are using at minimum a tablet, then other resources can come into play.
If teaching online is part-time, spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on equipment doesn’t make sense. Choosing the best resources means choosing ones that fit the equipment you already have.
We all have 24 hours, but the way we spend those 24 hours is different. We each have different responsibilities. And, these change over time.
When I look at how I spend my 24 hours, it looks very different from when our twins were younger. They needed more supervision & I certainly got a lot less sleep. If I had tried to accomplish then what I do now, it would have been a disaster!
Be kind to yourself. Understand that when it comes to choosing resources you are either trading time or money. You can spend time making resources. Or, you can purchase them. Again, there’s no wrong answer & you don’t have to stay with a choice forever. With the time you have available, which option is best for you?
Your energy levels
Last week, I had a low energy week. These things are cyclical in nature & I’ve learnt to embrace, rather than fight them. Because it was a low energy week, I focused on all the admin tasks that normally make me want to snore … while still awake. Rather than trying to be creative or do something that would take forever, I focused on tasks that didn’t require high energy or mental exertion.
We have to take care of ourselves first & everything else second.
Energy levels fluctuate all the time. Throughout the day, week, month & even year. While it might be great to include “super-creative” resources that you’ve created from scratch, is that a reasonable request to yourself?
Give them what they love
While we don’t need to entertain students from the start of the lesson to the end, we do want to make sure lessons are enjoyable. After all, why keep going to something that isn’t enjoyable? (Which is why I don’t go to the gym.)
Make note of what your students love & keep adding that. They will eventually get bored. It’s human nature. But, it will give you a framework for where to spend your time, energy & money.
Your average student may not want to do a music history worksheet. But, give them a digital escape room that covers the same material & they light up with a smile! It’s all in how things are presented, right?
Need Help Figuring Out Online Teaching Resources?
If you would like more ideas & support as you choose the best resources for your online lessons …
Enroll in my 6-week “Level Up Your Online Teaching” course!
This course is the best of both worlds with on-demand videos to watch on your schedule AND weekly group calls to get your questions answered.
We cover how to:
- Make the most of how you deliver your lessons, regardless of the platform (including asynchronistic lessons)
- Organize your teaching resources so students have easy access
- Communicate with parents & students
- Find & create the resources your students will love.
Check “Level Up Your Online Teaching” for specific start dates.