If you want to add value to your class, give learners more than they might expect from a class like yours. Put in that extra thing that makes learners and families say, “Wow!”
Rebecca Delgado, founder of the organization Waldorful Days on Outschool, describes making a 20-page journal in a nature study class. She says learners wouldn’t need to create a journal, but it makes the class experience “so much better.”
Depending on the type of class you’re teaching, these “extras” could include activities that extend learning after class, materials that provide a preview of class activities, or in-class additions.
Types of activities to bring in
Post a video in your virtual classroom before class starts. You may, for instance, want to show a time-lapse video of an art or science project that learners will do in class. This can remind learners of what supplies they’ll need (these should also be included in the class description material list), and give students extra time to learn the steps of a project. Providing a preview is one way to personalize the learning experience and allow for more learning time for students who may need it.
Add a handout so learners can see key class content in advance. Share materials like a recipe for a cooking class or a text that learners will read in a class where they are learning a new language. Not only do learners get a chance to see what will be expected and perhaps even to practice, but a printout of these materials provides another way that learners can access the information during class.
Share activities to extend learning after class. These could be:
- A list of resources to check out. Vetted resources acceptable to share with Outschool learners could be put in a Google Drive accessible through the online classroom.
- Specific challenges to try in areas like science and engineering. For example, if your class features 10 famous towers worldwide, encourage learners to choose one to build out of household materials.
- Conversation starters to use with family members about class concepts. If learners are writing and telling jokes in your class, suggest they share their favorite ones at home and ask their parents what they think makes a joke funny.
- Activities that learners can do with parents, particularly if your learners are very young, say age three or four. For instance, if you teach a class on patterns, one possibility is to give examples of different types of patterns — alternating, growing, musical — that a parent and child can hunt for and create together.
- A follow-up topic with multiple ways to respond. Let’s say your class on animals is focusing on bats this week. You could give learners an at-home project with several options: Create a clay bat, put together a short presentation on one kind of bat, or develop a brief trivia game about bats.
Invite learners to suggest class topics that interest them. If you’re able to pivot to include suggestions for topics in a multi-day or ongoing class, ask learners to provide them! Spending class time on these can definitely increase learner engagement. Now, the class really becomes a shared venture that learners are invested in. The opportunity to collaborate on class content is the extra value you’re providing.
Ask learners to share photos or videos of class projects. Then take time to celebrate each learner’s work! Sharing results can also inspire learners for future activities and give you ideas for other classes.
Arrange an extra-special in-class activity. Examples are a virtual stand-up show for the last meeting of your teen comedy class or a guest speaker on a high-interest class topic.
The benefits of adding value
Adding a “plus” activity shows your passion and commitment and can make your class stand out. You can create similar value add-ons for all your classes, making these part of your brand. Remember that parents selecting classes only know the value you are offering if you include it in your class description. Adding that information there helps to market your class.
Offering more than is expected can help you not only bring in but retain learners. Quality “plus” activities are likely to engage learners and keep them coming back. Encouraging extra activities outside of class can be an opportunity to personalize learning. Learners can pursue an area of interest, and you can interact individually with them about their work.
The bottom line is that these additional opportunities extend and deepen learning, which is your ultimate goal as an educator and creates a positive vibe about your class.
A few more tips
- If the idea of preparing more materials for a class seems overwhelming, think about this piece when you create curriculum and include it as part of the plan. Consider starting with a simple addition to one class, then setting a goal to add one “extra” per quarter. Once you have a handful of special activities, you might rotate them regularly to raise the quality bar. If you prepare and teach classes for a while with this mindset, adding “plus” activities should become routine.
- Decide whether activities outside of class will be optional for learners and how you want to convey your expectations in this area. Unless you teach an academic class with required homework, you will likely have some learners who pursue extra activities and others who don’t.
- Make sure what you add is useful to learners and taps into your passion for the topic. It should also align with your learning objectives for the class. If you can’t articulate why you’re adding something, reconsider your plan.
- If you choose an extra activity that involves your time outside of class, such as learner projects that you respond to, consider charging more for the class. Again, clearly state in the class description that you’ll provide a personal response so that families can see the individual attention that learners who do the after-class activities will receive.
- If you’re not sure what more to add to your class, ask your learners! Give them a choice – we know that choice is an important motivator in learning – about what activities they want to do. It’s easy to gather learner input by inviting students to fill out a simple survey.
Finally, keep sharing your enthusiasm for both your topic and your learners. Taking time to interact with and get to know each learner is a big “plus.” A positive connection with you is an element that families are seeking and a big value-add.