Semester classes on Outschool offer an incredible opportunity to thoroughly explore your subject matter, build long-lasting relationships with learners, and secure consistent enrollments.
On Outschool, semester classes are defined as classes that meet at least once a week for a minimum of 8 weeks, and many will last up to 12 weeks. In this article, we’re talking about how you can create successful online semester classes by understanding your audience, creating courses around their needs, and marketing to families.
Know your audience
As an online educator, you know that with a little trial and error, you can find the age group and topics that work best for you. As learned from our Educator Stories, some educators start by teaching one group and then end up finding their rhythm with another. The foundation of developing your semester class listings should be: Who do I want to teach, and what will they learn from my course?
What are families looking for?
While no two Outschool families or their learners are the same, they all want some of the same things in their semester classes. If you’re offering longer courses, here are the 4 most popular motivations that parents told us* to help them decide which semester or full-curriculum classes to take:
- Outsourcing my child’s learning for a subject or grade level, including assessments, assignments, and a full curriculum.
- Tracking my child’s learning progress, transcript, or portfolio over time.
- Inspiring my child to love and be motivated to learn.
- Allowing my child to experience the socio-emotional and educational benefits of a live online learning platform that promotes socialization.
*Data gathered through usability research in May 2023
When are they available?
Since Outschool is a global platform, you have the opportunity to teach learners from all over the world. Knowing what time to offer your classes, which topics are most requested, and who’s asking for specific classes are helpful pieces of information that can help increase your enrollment.
If you’re teaching ESL (English as a second language) classes, you may want to consider teaching when families in East Asia are logging on. Doing so can help you fill more classes throughout the day or grow your international teaching business.
On the other hand, if you’re offering academic classes to homeschooled learners, consider choosing “school” hours when families may be looking for academic support. If you’re unsure when to offer classes, check out Outschool’s schedule recommendations. These are based on the number of searches throughout the week, listed by day. Just remember that it should be a time that works well for your schedule too!
Who are you creating classes for?
In addition to knowing the best time to schedule your classes, it’s also important to know who you want to create semester classes for. According to user research collected in May 2023, 47% of Outschool families report that they homeschool, unschool, or use another type of schooling outside of the traditional classroom.
So, how do you reach your target audience? Let’s break it down.
If you haven’t marketed to homeschool families before, you want to keep in mind that there are many different homeschool philosophies and learning styles. Homeschoolers on Outschool are often looking for classes that offer a ready-made curriculum, core academic courses, educational support in areas where parents need help or advanced topic information.
Consider what makes your semester classes unique and which homeschooling style works best for the subject you’re teaching. For example, some families look for a more traditional approach to education, while others prefer a fluid curriculum that follows the learner’s interests. Knowing this in advance can help you plan your weeks and make it clearer for families in your class description.
If you’re looking to expand your semester classes to before or after “normal” school hours (roughly between 8 am and 3 pm in the United States) you may want to consider offering classes before and after a typical school day. Since these learners often follow a traditional core academic program during the day, semester courses on Outschool give learners a chance to try new skills, learn new topics that are not typically taught in a traditional environment, or participate in extracurricular activities.
As an online educator, consider creating enrichment courses with hands-on, immersive learning that is student-led or allows learners to dive deeper into a topic they may not get in school. Unsure where to start? Think of your passions or interests and what you would have liked to learn when you were in school.
Are you still working on finding your target audience? No worries! Check out this article to get some ideas on how you can get started as well as a worksheet to help you out.
Create courses around families’ needs
Focus on academics
While there is always a need for fun, non-academic classes, most semester-long courses that see consistent enrollments focus on traditional academic subjects.
Design an age-range targeted curriculum
Your lesson plans should always be appropriate for the age group you’re working with. Teaching a semester class with extended screen time means you’ll need to consider how you’ll keep different groups of learners engaged over time. For more on how child development and education intersect, learn about how to create lesson plans for an inclusive classroom.
If you have a curriculum or lesson plan that can be used for multiple age groups, consider creating multiple listings targeting learners who are either behind, at grade level, or ahead of grade level. For example, if you offer what may be the equivalent of “8th grade” English, but open up sections for advanced 10-12-year-olds and another for 15-16-year-olds who are still learning at that level you now have multiple opportunities for expanding your online classes without additional lesson planning or curriculum.
Align your schedules
If you’re creating a semester course, one thing you may want to consider is when is the best time to schedule your classes. Since these run for a minimum of 8 weeks, you will want to be mindful of times when families may be on vacation or celebrating holidays.
According to Outschool’s Educator Insights, semester class enrollments tend to peak in January and September. These months align with the start of traditional school semesters. Summer semesters are also popular, but you may want to mix up your offerings with some summer camps during those months as well.
Since parents often start booking semester classes up to 6 months in advance, especially full-curriculum, academic courses, you may want to consider creating and listing classes well in advance.
Plan flexible lessons
The great thing about spending several months with the same learners is that you can truly get to know their skills and find opportunities to tailor curriculum directly to them.
So start with a plan for each week, but leave yourself some wiggle room to adjust your lessons to create the best possible experience for your classroom. You might be surprised by a group of learners’ passion for one aspect of your topic and want to explore that more, or perhaps there’s a gap in some learners’ skill levels that will require extra time spent on that element.
As you consider international learners, offer flexible options for learners who may not be in your time zone or have access to materials readily available in their location. Some items readily available in your home country may not be as easy to find elsewhere, so offer alternatives when possible and have a backup plan should a learner be unable to find a specific resource.
Find ways to build community
Your classroom will be spending at least 8 weeks together, and finding ways to help learners build relationships with one another (and you!) is a special piece of teaching a semester class. Think about how you can:
- Incorporate group projects into your curriculum.
- Assign fun activities in the Outschool classroom designed to spark engagement.
- Ask learners to introduce themselves using the video feature in the classroom before your course starts, and use icebreakers to keep getting to know each other over time!
Additionally, focus on creating inclusive lesson plans that help learners of all identities feel welcome and safe in your classroom. When every learner can positively express themselves and feel represented in the class the entire classroom community benefits.
Communicate with families
Semester classes call for a heightened level of engagement with parents and families. Parents will appreciate frequent check-ins from you on how their learner is doing, what’s happening in your course, and what work or outcomes they should see from their learner. Use the Outschool classroom to communicate directly with learners or message families from their learner’s pages.
Keep Outschool class standards in mind to get your class approved, and dive into that long-term course with well-planned, engaging lesson plans!
How to market semester courses
Once you’ve built your semester course and gotten it approved, it’s time to get the word out. Here are three tips to get you started:
List classes 3-6 months in advance
While you might be thinking about summer camps in spring, many families are thinking about what classes their learners should take in the fall semester. Many homeschooling programs open fall registration as early as February, which means they will also start looking on Outschool. Although they may not sign up until later months if they are part of a charter school, ESA program, or need time to match your class up with their schedule, educators have noted that they will start requesting dates and information early in the year.
Likewise, bookings for winter semester classes that begin in January really start ramping up in the fall (January is a peak season for semester courses). A good rule of thumb is to open enrollment for next semester’s courses at least one semester in advance. You may even plan farther ahead!
If you offer multiple semester classes, don’t forget to communicate with families and funnel learners from one semester to the next.
Make your listing stand out
Your class listing is your first opportunity to connect with prospective learners and parents. Include as much relevant information in your listing as possible, including any
- Prerequisites or necessary experience
- Materials and tech tools required
- A detailed description of what you’ll be teaching
Your class description should include a week-by-week overview of what material you’re covering in each lesson. By including this level of detail, you make your course more appealing to discerning parents and learners, plus help boost your search engine optimization on Outschool.
For example, if your semester math class includes instruction on long division, fractions, and multiplication, including those keywords in your description will help your class appear for learners searching specifically for those topics. Take a look at some examples of great class listings here.
For more information on how to create a stellar class listing, be sure to check out these articles in the Educator Library:
Additional details for full-curriculum classes
Make sure to include these key class listing details that parents look for in full-curriculum classes:
- Homework or other assignments
- How and when you’ll provide feedback to learners
- What assessments or grades are assigned in class
- A week-by-week breakdown of the class curriculum, including grade-aligned standards if they apply to your subject
- Phrases such as “full-curriculum” or breaking out which subjects you’re teaching
Consider flexible payment options
Remember that you may choose to allow families to pay weekly for semester courses. This option can be great for educators looking to avoid excluding learners who cannot pay a large payment upon registration.
There you have it! All the tools you need to get started this year to create a winning semester course. So, what are you waiting for? Head over to your educator dashboard and get started today!