Educator stories: 8 ways to make your virtual semester classes count
One educator shares how she has built a thriving teaching business on Outschool using semester classes as a base.

Daysha Conway teaches almost 300 learners a week on Outschool in semester, ongoing (both group and 1-on-1), multi-day, and flex classes. When the timing is right, she mixes in a few one-time classes and camps.

She teaches more learners weekly than when she was a public school teacher, and she spends fewer hours working now than when she taught in brick-and-mortar schools. For many reasons, she loves teaching on Outschool.

She’s currently teaching 12 different semester classes (about 25 classes a week) on language and math topics, including poetry, essay writing, personal finance, and consumer math, mostly to teenagers. Her group classes seem to average about seven learners, based on a quick assessment.

Daysha also teaches individual piano lessons and a popular ongoing class on “adulting,” where teenagers learn life skills. How does she manage so many classes so well? Here are eight ways she has created a thriving online business.

1. Make life easy for parents

Daysha started scheduling semester classes when she noticed that parents were looking for longer classes so that they and their child would have a consistent schedule. Daysha’s semester courses are 8 to 14 weeks long.

She also supplies written assessments on each learners’ skills at the end of her writing classes and for other classes when requested. A lot of parents ask for that, she says, sometimes to fulfill a credit. Then learners, too, can see their growth and have that information for their records.

2. Be strategic about your semester classes

Daysha uses a number of strategies to encourage enrollments and invite learners back for another class. Here’s what is working for her:

  • Double the reach of semester classes by offering a flex class for each semester class. Daysha has grown her enrollments this way — her flex classes have had a big increase in attendance this past year. “Not everyone’s able to attend live classes,” she says, “or they want to take personal finance but it’s not offered at their school… giving them the flex option has been awesome too.”
  • If possible, create semester classes with two parts so that they span the school year. “For most of my classes, I have a part one, or a part A, and a second part of that where students continue learning new skills,” Daysha says. Offering the second part on the same day and time encourages learners to sign up for the next course.
  • Schedule classes that start in the second part of the school year — from January on — as early as possible in the fall. Some parents are planning the whole year, Daysha says. If they want their child to take a full year of consumer math, for instance, they need to know a second semester will be offered in January.
  • Choose the semester format for classes where the concepts build on one another. For Daysha, those are math and writing courses. She also schedules a semester version of her popular ongoing class on life skills for learners who want to start in one place with the same group of learners.
  • Plan short camps, light classes like escape rooms, and one-time classes in the summer and for holiday breaks when learners are looking for a change from traditional academic subjects.

3. Build relationships and community online

Building relationships and community in her online classes is a top priority for Daysha. On the first day of class, she invites learners to introduce themselves and share something they’re interested in.

She also takes a few minutes at the start of class meetings to give learners a chance to share about their week. Usually, most people will talk about a highlight. “I think that’s probably the most important thing to me,” she says. “When you’re not in a (in-person) classroom setting, you want to make sure students feel community with one another.”

Daysha uses breakout rooms at times in her semester classes and moves between them to hear group discussions. She tries to keep the number of learners in each room to at least four so that those who want to listen more and talk less can do that.

Daysha also makes the most of opportunities to teach learners individually when they are the only ones who sign up for a group class. “Those 1-to-1 classes are a lot of fun,” she says. “You get to know those kids so well and then they’ll generally sign up for another class or two or three afterward too.”

4. Communicate with students and parents

Providing feedback to learners is an ongoing commitment for Daysha. She reviews projects that learners do on their own time and submit to her. She makes time to respond to learners in her flex classes and to post conversation starters in those classes.

Daysha loves when parents share notes with her about how their children learn, because she believes that everyone learns differently. If she receives a note that a learner “doesn’t like to be put on the spot,” for instance, she can make a note on her attendance sheet that reminds her not to call on that person but to communicate via chat instead.

5. Get organized to run your teaching business

Daysha showed off one of her extensive spreadsheets where she tracks each class and learner so that she knows what she taught last class meeting and who she’s communicated with. She also notes each student’s progress in learning skills.

Inspired by Daysha, Outschool has created this class tracking template based on what we learned about her business strategies. Check it out and customize your own copy!

Daysha has templates of her assessments where she has all the skills listed for each class. That saves her time so she doesn’t have to re-enter those for each student.

She uses sticky notes to jot down what topic she finished a class with and what learners still need help with. She uses video replays of her classes as needed to double-check if she taught a concept already.

6. Create a curriculum that sets learners up for success

Daysha spent a good chunk of time creating a curriculum for each semester class when she started on Outschool. Now she’s ready to go with slides to present in class meetings and guided notes for learners to access in the virtual classroom. Her hope is that learners print them out to use throughout the class or use the Google Docs version to type in during class meetings.

“It’s all right there for them, organized. They don’t have to look in the classroom every week, ‘Oh, do we have notes?’ “ she says. “I just give it to them all at once.”

Then they can also just listen during the class meeting and know all the information is captured for them.

Daysha uses the teaching approach: I do, we do, you do. “I will demonstrate something a few times. We’ll do a couple together,” she says, “and then I have them do some on their own with their notes.” Daysha adds that she uses a variety of tools like Edpuzzle and Kahoot! to provide lots of different learning opportunities.

7. Offer enrichment for students who want it

Daysha posts extra projects after class meetings, but she leaves it up to learners whether they do the at-home work. She calls these projects “enrichment” instead of “homework, which she thinks helps encourage learners to do them. “This year more than ever,” she says, “I’ve seen a huge increase in the number of students who are actually doing the enrichment.”

She also provides support for learners who need more time to learn a skill with options like Nearpod activities, a video where she reviews steps from a lesson, or even a 1-on-1 meeting.

8. Be passionate about what you teach

In the end, Daysha’s passion for both the topic she teaches and the learners she works with really shines. Daysha emphasizes that she is thrilled to be helping young people learn practical skills to kickstart their adult life.

When talking about one of her consumer math classes, Daysha says: “I have great kids. I get so excited for every class. They’re just so into it, and I’m hoping they’ll continue… I want to prepare them as best I can before they venture out into the real world.”

Want to learn more about Daysha’s teaching journey? Check out our full interview with her.

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