What makes a great live class?
We’ll walk through essential elements of a successful online class from start to finish — preparing to teach, engaging learners, and wrapping up with a memorable activity.

Whether you are a new educator or one who has taught for many years, there’s always room to refresh your skills, add new elements, and up your game as an educator entrepreneur on Outschool. Presenting a quality product – your teaching – is critical to keep learners coming back.

With that in mind, we put together some possible answers to the question: What makes a great live class on Outschool? So glad you asked! Let’s walk through some highlights.

Make sure your class matches its description

When you purchase something, you expect to get what you paid for, right? It’s no different for Outschool parents. Whatever you put in the class description or a class video, make sure that’s in the class you deliver. Not only do you want to provide a quality product, but you want to avoid parents making a case for a refund or potentially writing a negative class review.

You don’t want to be caught in an example like this: You changed all your class lengths from 30 to 20 minutes, but inadvertently missed one section. When you ended that class after 20 minutes, you had a parent complain that the class was supposed to be 30 minutes (because that’s what the listing still said).

Or – here’s another example – if you say you’re going to read a book and play games, don’t trade the book for a song at the last minute. Outline the kind of teacher you will be, then portray it.

Get organized before class starts

You planned your class, you listed it, and learners have signed up. Take extra steps to help learners be prepared by posting the material list in the classroom (in addition to the class listing) well in advance of the start of the class. Some parents may not thoroughly read the class listing, so a classroom post can help you cover your bases.

Check that your teaching environment is set up the way you want with adequate lighting and a purposeful background with a few well planned features. Make sure your materials and visuals to teach the class are ready to go. Try out your speakers, microphone, camera, and any other technology tools to make sure all are functioning properly. If you’re teaching a skill where learners need to see your hands, do you have a second camera set up?

It’s good practice to open the Zoom meeting 10 minutes ahead of the start of class. Check that you are starting the correct Zoom meeting. Plan what you’ll do during this time when learners are entering the classroom but class hasn’t begun. You could have a slide welcoming learners or reminding them of what materials they need or of class expectations. You’ll need to let in each learner one by one by checking their name in the Zoom waiting room against the class roster. To protect learner safety, never select the “Admit all” button.

Be intentional about how you begin your class

In addition to greeting each learner, learn to say each person’s name correctly. There are online tools you can use ahead of time to learn basic pronunciations of names. You might want to ask learners to let you know if you don’t pronounce their name right. Or, if you’re not sure how to pronounce someone’s name, go ahead and ask. Consider adding correct pronunciations of learners’ names to private learner notes (located under the Learners tab in your classroom) to help you remember them.

If a learner has their camera off when they join class, ask that person to turn their camera on to say hello and verify that they are a child of the appropriate age. After that, they can turn the camera off again if you permit learners to have their video off during class.

After welcoming everyone, possible ways to begin the class include:

  • Posing a question about the topic of the class
  • Playing an icebreaker game
  • Discussing expectations for the class, such as raising hands to speak or muting when you are not talking

Setting expectations about class behavior means you are more likely to have a class where learners interact respectfully and feel valued as equal participants. And it’s important to parents that classes are run well.

Engage each learner

As an educator, you also want each person to feel welcome and valued in the class because you care about your learners and because connection counts. It means that learners are more likely to return.

Building strong relationships in the classroom is similar to building them in other areas of life:

  • Pay attention to what learners say
  • Remember details that learners share, and refer to them, if appropriate, at a later point (another good use of private learner notes)
  • Balance student voices so that all learners have the opportunity to speak and participate

You may have a variety of learners, including those who are from other parts of the world, are neurodiverse, or have unique learning needs. Part of engaging each learner is to differentiate learning and provide multiple ways to participate so that everyone has what they need to learn.

Communicate passion for the topic

You’ve done the work — created the curriculum, set up the classroom, connected with each learner — and now it’s time to shine.

Let all that passion that you have for your topic and your learners come through the screen. Now’s the time to put everything together and enjoy the experience.

Make the class your own by expressing your unique style as an educator. No one teaches the way you do. That’s your brand. Families are looking for real connections, and you probably are too.

Lead interactive activities

Just like in an in-person class, offer learners opportunities to interact with you and each other and to participate in activities that support the class learning goals. You may be using tried-and-true tools like movement, music, or conversation. Or you may want to add one of the plethora of tools available for online learning today.

In fact, it may be a little overwhelming deciding which tools to use. Start with knowing the Zoom classroom technology well. Depending on the age of your learners and the type of class you are teaching, you can use some of the built-in tools in the Zoom classroom like the whiteboard, screensharing, or breakout rooms.

Consider other resources like Nearpod, Gimkit, EdPuzzle, escape rooms, and the list goes on… If you’re not sure what, if anything, you want to use, listen in a bit on Outschool’s Educator Hub on Facebook and hear teachers there talking about the tools they prefer. Peruse the Outschool platform itself and read class descriptions to find tools that other educators are using. Don’t forget that for safety reasons Outschool has a list of approved external tools.

How do you know what learners think about the class activities you’ve chosen? Get some feedback during class. You can ask learners for a simple thumbs up or thumbs down response or have everyone share a word describing their impression of an activity.

End your class on a memorable note

The end of the class is another opportunity to get feedback for future classes. You might ask learners what they enjoyed about the class, what they would change, or what they would like to do next time. Depending on class and age group, learners could take a short quiz created on a Google form. Whatever you choose, it’s important to finish with an activity that leaves learners with positive memories of the class.

After the class ends, extend the learning with a follow-up activity or worksheet describing how to practice at home or use the materials further. This information can be included in a thank-you message to families via the Outschool platform.

Take next steps

Would you like to attend a live coaching session to get more guidance? Check out the Outschool educator events calendar for upcoming sessions.

It’s also likely you have some ideas to share with other educators. If so, head over to Outschool’s Teacher Hub or Communities of Practice to exchange tips about what has made your classes not just good, but great!

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