A note from Sarah: This post from Josh is part of a series about planning workshops and classes for professional services providers. Many of our clients are looking at ways to deliver “one to many” type content so they can share their knowledge with a larger audience. Josh’s background, prior to joining me in SMCO is in higher education administration, particularly professional education and training program development, management and evaluation. In this first part of our series, he digs into the planning phase of designing a workshop.
Now that you have worked through what you are going to teach, as we covered in Part One of this ongoing series, it is time to figure out how you are going to deliver it to students in a way that is effective and manageable, both for you and your students.
The first question you need to answer when planning a workshop or seminar is what are you going to need to teach the class?
We will evaluate choosing a platform shortly, but on the most basic level you need to decide the tools and supplies you and your students need. For example do you need to share a powerpoint? Are you going to go step by step and carve linoleum blocks? Do your students need access to specific software or hardware?
Put together a “reading list” of articles, books or videos relevant to your class. While you will need to build a syllabus and lesson plan later, having a basic list to work from and be inspired by will help you later on.
I once took a ukulele building class that was as hands on as you can get, but we still were given a handout explaining construction techniques and were assigned to watch a video on the history of the instrument—two things that were not necessary to complete the class—but were important because it gave the students a reference to look back on and context for the wider cultural meanings and history of the uke. These little things are often overlooked and are a critical value that will make your class better and stand-out against similar courses.
If you are offering your course online, you need to plan on how often to refresh and what will cause you to need to refresh it.
You have a responsibility to make sure that what you are offering is current and applicable—I’m sure many of us have stories of signing up for an awesome-sounding online course only to find the materials to be outdated. A couple of things to remember about your online class:
the technology you use changes; and
you have refined your skills and knowledge as students give you feedback.
Keep it up-to-date and plan how much time it will take you or when to pull your course offering. (There’s nothing wrong with sunsetting a course—people are often reluctant to do so, but it truly can demonstrate your authority when you say, “This class has run its course.” (Pun intended.)
Teaching a workshop, class or seminar in person comes with another set of issues.
Finding a space can be difficult, and we will address things you need to look for in a bit. The first step is to think of what you need and where you need to offer your class, this will inform how and where you look. You need to factor in that cost when pricing, again something that will be addressed in greater detail in a future post.
Plan your availability to your students. Think this through now, before you get to pricing and the nitty gritty of the syllabus. If you leave this ambiguous with, “just email me,” your time can be quickly consumed by answering questions or will lead to unrealistic boundaries from your students. It is okay to plan to have a virtual office hour, put a limit on the number of emails you will answer, or even to make yourself available only during class time. If you are clear with yourself and your students from the beginning of the class, it will manage expectations and make your teaching experience more successful.
Now let’s talk about how you are going to deliver your class.
We will start with online educational options. Sarah has a great article on the blog about choosing a platform for member sites that I highly recommend you check out. In the software as a service (SaaS) realm the major standalone sites are Podia, Teachable, Thinkific.
This isn’t a one size fits all situation. Map out exactly how you want to deliver your online course and find the best fit for you, balancing the costs, technical complexity and ongoing maintenance you may or may not need. (Pro tip: Book a strategy session with Sarah and she’ll help you figure out the best option.)
If you are going to teach an in-person class, workshop or seminar, you have some specific considerations.
Firstly, what kind of space are you going to need? Sarah and I offered courses on e-commerce and instagram for artists using an art gallery space that was available during the day. There are creative ways to use non-traditional classroom spaces and there are classrooms to rent at more traditional facilities like coworking spaces or even community colleges (this can be a great way to establish a relationship with a college, should you wish to teach at that level).
When we planned the classes at the art gallery we checked that there was wifi that was up to our standards and that it could handle multiple connections, that there were outlets for people to plug in their laptops, we had to find tables and chairs, we needed a screen to mirror Sarah’s computer to show her presentation and examples (flat screen TVs are light, mobile and clear– they are great if there isn’t an installed projection system—we got a nice one at Costco for a couple hundred bucks, less than a single student registration).
A short list of things that I look for in a space when planning class, workshop or seminar are:
Does it have enough space for the number of students I anticipate?
Is the space clean?
Does it have wifi, even in a non-technical class, people often want access to the internet?
Is there a projection system or a way to make my own?
Does the space allow for the instructor to teach comfortably?
Are there chairs and tables? Is there someone I can rent them from if not?
Is there toilet access? (This is a biggie!)
Can you have food and drink in the space? (Nothing irritates students more than a no food/beverage policy—you don’t want hangry people on your hands.)
Once you have all of this sorted out, you can start really getting into the exciting stuff and making your class come to life!
Next up we will dive into the world of pricing—stay tuned!