Ever since the beginning of the 2010’s, online learning has been consistently on the rise. With the launch of Coursera back in 2012, thousands of learning materials have become accessible to professionals and newcomers alike. This has led to a rise in professionals who’ve become teachers of their craft, particularly in creative fields.
Designers have greatly benefited from this trend. Along with providing their services remotely, and selling their products online, designers can now share their knowledge and expertise with other professionals through teaching design courses online. It’s also a great way to build authority and a solid reputation on the internet.
Becoming an instructor is a challenge in and of itself, but as a designer, you have a unique skill set that will help you start your online instruction journey on the right foot. In this article, we’ll explore the basics to transition from a designer to an instructor.

Find Your Purpose

The first step in creating online design courses is to decide who your online design course is for. Online design courses that are geared towards rookie designers have a very different approach than those aimed at seasoned professionals. This is where your skills as a designer come in. Your course has a better chance of being successful if you spend some time learning about your target audience and their needs. Spend some time doing research. Are creatives looking for interior design courses? Maybe professionals from outside the industry might be interested in design thinking courses. The only way to find out is by doing research.

To become a great online design instructor, one must first become a great course designer, and research is a key part of this process. The information you gather will help you determine other more nuanced aspects of your course design, like difficulty. Expert designers and beginner designers need different things from courses and as a course designer, it’s important to define the scope of your design courses online.
Once you know who your audience is and what level of complexity your online design course will have, decide what credentials you’d like to award your students with.

Set Yourself Up For Success

Having the right tools to teach online design courses makes a huge difference. Luckily, the last few years have left a lot of us with plenty of equipment we can make use of. Here’s a list of the essentials:

  • A PC or Laptop: Whether you’re a digital nomad teaching on the go, or have your very own home studio, there are a few things to consider when choosing between desktops and laptops. A benefit of having a laptop is the built in cameras and mics, which will save you from buying additional hardware. Just make sure to check the quality first! If you’re a mac user, we have more tips for you.
  • HD Webcam: There are hundreds of webcam options available. Luckily, the quality baseline has been raised significantly in the past few years. So, how to choose one? It really depends on what your course is about. Generally, you want to aim for a 1080p webcam, it’s a great resolution for any type of online design course.
  • Headset: You can get great quality audio all around with a decent headset with a built-in microphone. Headsets can go as low as 20 USD. 
  • Streaming software: This applies to both live and prerecorded online course design. Software like OBS (which is free to download) and Streamyard help you design a layout for your course. The built-in tools to capture different inputs make creating your digital setup a breeze. They also come with recording functions for non-live content.

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Get Some Training

A mark of a great instructor is the willingness to improve and learn new skills. Identifying your areas of opportunity is a good start in order to become a great instructor. There are, however, some general areas to consider that all designers can benefit from improving.

Learn how to become an effective instructor in this tutorial.

If there’s something we as designers lack at times, it is verbal communication skills. During our training, we were told time and time again that our designs should speak for themselves. But, being a great designer is one thing. Being a great communicator is a very different thing. In teaching, it is important to be able to organize your ideas coherently and communicate them to your students. With online course design, communication becomes tricky, since you won’t be receiving immediate feedback from your students like you would do in a traditional classroom. In this setting, clarity and coherence are extremely important. 

However, if your online design courses are live, connecting with your students will be important to leave them wanting more. If your communication skills need some dusting from all that remote work, look for public speaking courses or conversation clubs. The more interaction the space requires, the better.  

Get started improving your communication skills. 

Another important thing to consider is developing the habit of documenting your own design process. The greater understanding you have about your own process, the better you’ll be able to communicate it to others. This is a great practice regardless of the nature of your course or what field of design you’re specialized in. Online design courses are great ways to learn better habits for creative businesses and freelancers.

Design Your Syllabus

The syllabus is the backbone of your online course design. It’s also your outline to start creating your course design content. Now that you have your research and you’re equipped with everything you need, it’s time to get your hands dirty as a course designer. 

Your syllabus should cover the contents of your course from beginning to end. Here are a series of steps to follow to create your syllabus:

  • Write an overview of your online design course: Keep it short and concise. You’ll be able to expand on your ideas later. 
  • Establish your course objectives: This will give your students an idea of what outcomes to expect after taking the course.
  • Divide your course into units, lessons or modules: Think of them as the steps your students will have to go through to achieve their goals. Be concise and don’t leave any key information out. 
  • Assign complementary resources and materials to each unit: Articles, books, videos, templates. Complementary resources are a great way to add value when you design courses online. They also offer insight that goes beyond the scope of your online design course.
  • Create a presentation and a PDF for your syllabus: It’s both important to be able to communicate your syllabus, and to document your syllabus for future iterations of your online course design. Make sure to have interactive tables of contents for you to quickly navigate between the different units.

These templates from Envato Elements might give you some ideas on how to put together your syllabus presentation.

Flex Your Creative Skills

As a professional designer, you’ve probably mastered much of the go-to software used to create amazing assets. What a better way to attract more students to your courses than to show them what you can do. Showcase your own skills when creating the materials for your design courses online. Put together a great syllabus presentation, create worksheets, quick guides and other materials that can aid your students in their learning journey. If it makes sense, look for opportunities to design materials similar to those you’re teaching about. This is a great moment to let your work speak for you! Use icons and infographics to illustrate your point.

Listen to Trends

The world of design is a fast-paced one, and designers are constantly looking for ways to stay up to date with the latest trends and software. During your online course design process, consider what pieces of software and skills are the most sought out by the industry and other designers. It’s also smart to have a look at what the current job market for designers looks like. The required skills section might give you some clues as to what direction to take. Staying up to date with the latest trends can give you great ideas for future online design courses. 

 To wrap things up, whether you’re a graphic designer or an interior designer, the designer to instructor journey can be a really fun one. There are many new skills to master and great experiences to have. Becoming an instructor can give you access to new tools, new avenues to earn income, and boost your career for the long run. It’s also a great opportunity to put yourself out there and to find community in other creatives with similar goals and interests.