When her position as a piano teacher in her small town’s new music shop failed to bring in any in-person students, Melanie Pauli turned to Outschool in the spring of 2020 during the heart of the coronavirus pandemic.
She was familiar with Outschool due to homeschooling her children. Then suddenly in 2020, “everyone was home doing what I’ve already done,” she said, supporting their children’s learning at home.
Previously, Melanie had taught piano to the children of friends and colleagues, but she was new to running regular piano classes. When she began her first “Would you like to try piano?” class on Outschool, she described being new to Zoom and terrified.
But once she started teaching her first class with six learners, “it was awesome. It was so much fun. I was completely addicted right from the start,” Melanie said.
Today she has seven small-group piano classes – each offered at multiple times – on Outschool. Here’s how she grew her online piano lesson business.
Intentionally adding classes
As Melanie sees it, the Outschool platform has always had a fair number of piano teachers, but the fact that many learners moved to online classes during the pandemic helped her get started.
After she started teaching her first class on Outschool, Melanie said she began to continually ask herself “What’s next?” Parents would also message her asking what class their children could take next, then she would race to create new curriculum.
That’s how she developed six more piano classes to follow her introductory class. Each class in the series builds on the skills that learners gained in the previous class.
She also would start a new pipeline of learners every quarter, creating what she calls “a constant funnel of classes.” She credits her marketing efforts with helping to attract new learners. While Melanie is modest about her parent reviews and says she regards them as important feedback, her reviews are excellent and often feature the word “patient” as a trait that parents like about her. As of our interview, she has taught 616 learners since she began in May of 2020.
Seeking ways to engage learners
Melanie pointed to several Outschool resources that helped her hone her online teaching skills and make sure that learners feel valued in her classes. She shared these in hopes of inspiring other educators to make use of them if they’re not already.
She discovered a book through the Outschool Educators’ Book Club on how to teach virtually, which focused on ways to engage learners online. “I found that naturally, I did a lot of those things,” Melanie said, “but I could take some of those aspects and improve them.”
A few takeaways she found were:
- Make sure that learners connect with you through positive interactions in the first 5 to 10 minutes of class
- Give every person an opportunity to feel heard and important
- Use the chat box to include learners even when it is not their turn to actively participate
Melanie also attended Outschool’s 2021 Educator Edventure virtual conference, where she heard one presentation that left her with new ideas about how to be engaging online.
“I watched the recording twice actually to pick up the hints on how to include learners so they feel really important on the other side of the screen… One of my absolute goals is to make every learner feel I am on their journey with them. They have to feel valued or they won’t want to come back.”
Using marketing techniques
One marketing tactic Melanie uses effectively is using consistent images for her classes that others can easily recognize. That way, someone scrolling through piano classes on the platform can identify hers at a glance.
Other intentional efforts that she’s made to attract families to her classes include:
- Using the “next class” feature that suggests which class a learner should take next so families who want to continue can see which class she recommends. Melanie also is often in communication with families about the next appropriate class for their learner.
- Writing class listings for SEO (search engine optimization) to make sure that families can easily find her classes on Outschool and the internet.
Melanie has ultimately built her brand by leveraging what she is passionate about. She thinks that learners and families need to feel confident that students are learning a skill, taking classes perceived to be a good financial value, and feeling welcome in class. If those elements are in place, providing a unique experience is key to creating an environment that keeps learners coming back.
“I know that nobody else can teach this curriculum like I teach it because I’ve created it,” Melanie said. “I know I teach it uniquely.”