The Teacher’s Guide to Bootstrapping Online Education (steps 1 – 3)

20 Dec

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Online education is booming. Several big corporations with deep pockets all seem to think they know what’s wrong with education, and how to fix it.

So, how can teachers compete with that?

Well, the truth is that although these big players may have all the money, contacts and staff to do whatever they please, there is no reason why you can’t keep up. This guide will show you the questions you need to ask, and the alternatives you can use, to build the online education product you dream about, without quitting your day job.

To begin, follow the first 3 steps:

1. Make a map

Maybe you just want your class to be more fun by building a mobile app that would make students’ faces into carnival masks. Maybe all you want is an automatic, essay-grading software that really works. No matter what your motivation is, or how great you think your product would be, it needs a map first. You need to determine how your product will work before you try to explain it to someone else. Mapping out all the details forces you to go beyond the land of ideas. It makes you anchor your idea in reality. It goes from something you dream and talk about, to something you can show and debate. A map can start out simple. It can be an idea sketched out on a board, typed into a word document or made out to be a full-fledged business plan.

2. Get informed

If a large corporation wants to try something new, it’s going to dedicate its resources to finding a new idea, presenting that new idea to hundreds of test subjects (teachers and students), asking thousands of questions, cross-referencing the answers, and coming up with an estimate of how popular the new product would be, if it were built.

As a teacher you start out ahead, because you probably already have an idea for an app, a board game, a homework organizer, data collection system, etc… and you’ve already got your target audience sitting nicely, in a staffroom or in a classroom, ready and willing to answer all the questions you need to ask in order to estimate how popular your product will be. If it’s a product for students, present your idea as a lesson, and make them part of the process. If it’s a product for teachers, organize a PD session around the concept to gauge how well (or poorly) it would be received.

Important: The questions you ask determine how accurate your results will be. For more info on how to write effective survey questions, you should have a look at Survey Monkey

3. Embrace the journey

As a teacher, you may have a fair idea of what is stumping the evolution of education in your particular field, but keep in mind that other people are probably aware of the problem too, and if it were an easy fix, someone would have done it by now. Then again, you may be brilliant and see a simple solution that’s easy to execute (and god bless you if you do).

Nevertheless, if your vision is still a bit blurry, feel free to get in touch.

Have a good bootstrap!

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