The Top 9 Attributes of a Great Teacher

I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” Robert Frost

Who was the first teacher to make you like a subject you really weren’t that interested in before or didn’t think you could understand?

Frog in a jar during Biology_Class  Mine was Mrs. Putnam, my ninth grade biology teacher. I was convinced that I hated science and that I wasn’t any good at it. I was wrong on both counts, but it took Mrs. Putnam to help me see through my biases. How did she do it? Through the #9 attribute of a great teacher. But let’s work our way up to that.

If You’re a Great Teacher…

11 Business Books that Have Stirred Up My Thinking

The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.” Maya Angelou

Bulldozer plowing down middle of road.  For the last year I’ve been reading business books to shake up my understanding of:

  1. What a successful business is these days,
  2. How you run a successful business these days, and
  3. How you market a successful business these days.

In the process, I ended up rethinking what I want out of life as well as business and have changed nearly everything I was doing as a result.

Reduce Rework: 9 Tips for Editing Onscreen Text

So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” —Dr. Seuss

The first time I worked on an online course that had multiple video editors, I knew by the second lesson I reviewed that we were in trouble. We were on a ludicrously tight timeline, and so everyone was pitching in.

Slide1 Using his or her individual style.

Making his or her individual mistakes.

This meant that some bulleted lists used diamonds, while others used dots. Key words might be underlined in one lesson and bolded or capped in another. When I saw that some text was pink, some green, and some black, I knew that we’d gone too long without a style sheet.

Why is a style sheet so important? Four reasons:

Making Effective Online Courses with PowerPoint and Voiceover

There are three things to remember when teaching: know your stuff; know whom you are stuffing; and then stuff them elegantly.” Lola May

onlinecoursetemplates   In the last year, I’ve taken what feels like umpteen billion online courses. The main reason it feels that way is because most of them have been terrible. There’s a belief circulating that anyone can teach an online course, and the main reason to teach one is to make a bundle of money.


I want teachers to make a lot of money, I really do. They deserve to be paid well for what has to be one of the most important jobs on the planet. But to jump on a zebra racing to the bank is not the same thing as deciding to teach a course because you care passionately about the subject, the student, and whether the two get along.

This week, I want to take a look at how to make online courses using PowerPoint and voiceover, without boring your audience into a coma.

How to Use Green Screen in Online Courses

People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” Simon Sinek

Let’s face it, green screen is cool. Whether it’s Sandra Bullock and George Clooney chatting in outer space, Tom Cruise climbing a skyscraper, or a weather reporter interacting with a virtual tornado, we’ve come to expect special effects that look like the real deal in movies and television.

green-screen-weather  But what about in online courses? Is the special effect of green screen ever worth the time, trouble, and extra money? I’d vote yes, but only if it significantly improves the quality of the lesson. As Simon Sinek implies in the above quotation, it’s the “why” that counts.

Postproduction: How to Make Effective Graphics for Online Courses

Graphical excellence is that which gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.” Edward R. Tufte

movingvan  I am driving across country with all my household goods in a 26-foot moving van. I don’t want to sightsee. I just want the quickest route from Virginia to California.

Likewise, when you are trying to learn something from an online course, you want the fastest route to comprehension. Sometimes that means that the teacher needs to include graphics, and those graphics must be clean, focused, and clear.

Postproduction: 11 Tips for Effective Onscreen Text

Socrates said, “Know thyself.” I say, “Know thy users.” And guess what? They don’t think like you do.”Joshua Brewer

When you’re writing onscreen text to support your online course, you have to remember beginner’s mind. What does someone who doesn’t know this subject need to see?

Teleprompter with online course text  It’s easy to put up the wrong points, too many points, or too few points. In last week’s blog, we discussed the parameters for successfully using online text. This week, let’s talk about how you make onscreen text that is visually and conceptually effective. Here are 11 guidelines.

Postproduction: How You Treat Your Online Course once the Filming is Done

Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.” —Japanese proverb

Picture a great teacher. Imagine that you can hear every word clearly and that each word makes you nod and lean forward with excitement at all you’re learning.

Cat under covers  Now picture a kitten plastered over the teacher’s face. Picture floating text, highlighting words like “the” or “maybe” but nothing relevant to the subject matter.

That’s failed postproduction.

Show, Don’t Tell: Tips for Great Demos

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Benjamin Franklin

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates.” —William Arthur Ward 

Have you ever watched a teacher do a demonstration (demo) in an auditorium? Anyone in the front row has a great view. Back row, not so good. But film that same demo, and everyone gets a great view. In fact, if done right, they get a better view.

the human suspension bridge  Except for the fact that students can’t touch or taste any materials, I’d say that a demo online is a better teaching vehicle than one seen in person.

Overcome the Hurdles to Making a Great Online Course

The most difficult thing was delivering a lecture to no audience, just the robotic cameras.”

Diana McDonald

deanweightset  Last week I reached out to 10 professors and subject matter experts from a range of disciplines and asked them this question:

  • What would you say was one of the hardest things to do when you were planning, writing, practicing, delivering, or reviewing your course?

Not surprisingly, the #1 challenge is teaching to a camera instead of a live student. Most of us think of teachers as guiding students, but in many ways students guide teachers.