Last month I launched my very first e-course.
After getting the course set up to run in the fall and then having to cancel it because of health issues, it was both exciting and nerve racking to finally go forward with it.
My 12 students and I embarked on 4 weeks of intensive swatch study. The course ended up being over 4 hours of video content, not including weekly live chats--who knew I had so much to say about swatching?
Well, I kinda did--that's why I created the course.
Still, when I sat down to actually put it all together, I was pleasantly surprised that I really did have (more than) enough content to share over 4 weeks of instruction--plus some bonus content!
I found the e-course format to be a great way to present a brand new course without the pressure of a classroom full of eyes directed at you for 3 straight hours. Creating the video modules required being comfortable on camera, which, while not exactly the same as speaking to a classroom, does involve putting yourself out there as an expert of sorts. And the weekly live chat did provide an opportunity to interact directly with students and answer questions in real time, similar to a classroom, but in a much smaller dose (20-30 minutes, not 3 hours).
Ideally I would've loved to present the course on Teachable or another platform specifically designed for e-courses, but the costs were prohibitively expensive for a new project I wasn't sure would take off, so instead I worked to combine several different platforms and use them together as seamlessly as possible.
Each week students received an email from me (sent via MailChimp) with their lesson for the week. Video modules were hosted on Vimeo, where an affordable basic plan allowed me to password protect the course content, and included a sufficiently large upload limit each week. I created a course workbook on my own and uploaded it to MailChimp, which hosts files for users, so I did not need to use a separate file hosting platform. I created a Facebook group for students, where I also hosted the weekly live chat (the first week we tried YouTube for the live chat, but it was not as user friendly). Facebook has some obvious drawbacks, but it allowed me to create a closed, easily-monitored group, which is not possible on Ravelry.
All graphics for the course were created using Canva, and I recorded video in my home office/studio and edited it easily with the basic video editing software included with Windows. I bought a separate mic because the one on my laptop is poor quality--I think it ran me about $10. I also purchased what's called a "magic arm" for my camera, AKA my phone, which allowed me to clip the phone above me to record myself knitting.
Best of all, I learned that Microsoft PowerPoint now allows you to record narration of your slideshow--and even video! So each presentation had a little video of me in the corner, almost like a professor giving a lecture. The presentations can then be saved as mp4 files and uploaded to a hosting site like a regular video. The only trouble I ran into was in trying to combine multiple of these files into a single video with the editor--the audio would not stay in sync. Whether this was an issue with the editing software, PowerPoint, or both, I don't know, but simply leaving them as separate files was the easiest solution.
As for my "class," we had a mix of quiet and active students, but all seemingly eager to learn. I know it's a leap of faith when you sign up for any kind of course with a new professor, so I sincerely appreciate their willingness to give me a chance! I particularly enjoyed the live chats, though participation was low (understandably because it's simply impossible to find a time that works for everyone), because I got some really great questions that kept me on my toes and showed me that my students were really thinking!
Feedback on the course has been positive, and I really enjoyed the experience of creating the course, which has me looking forward to not only offering Swatch Master again, but to developing 1 or 2 more e-courses in the future. Swatch Master was a very positive experience overall, and after struggling late last year and early this year to get back on track with work, I feel like I've really accomplished something!
(If you'd like to learn more about Swatch Master, or sign up to be notified when the course is offered again, click here.)