THE BLOG

What I Learned From Teaching

03/31/2014 04:41 pm ET | Updated May 30, 2014

Teaching was an amazing experience that both excited and scared the hell out of me. It was my first time teaching a course to a room full of strangers and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I'm glad I took the opportunity to do so.

I was teaching at General Assembly, a knowledge sharing organization based in Manhattan, New York. They offer niche subject matters taught by experts on various different subject matters and I played such a role as I gave an introductory course on inbound marketing. An interesting part of giving the course was discovering the unique value that in-person courses provide over online ones.

I find a tremendous value in online learning. Organizations like Udemy, Learn Dot and GetCourse are growing because there is a clear need for online education and learning management platforms. These services provide an opportunity to learn and teach anything people want from almost anywhere in the world. All you need is a computer and Internet connection. Having given courses, webinars and presentations over the Internet in the past, I do see the value in such tools. However, I do believe that it lacks something crucial that teaching in-person provides - human interaction.

I started building my deck for this course and ended up with almost 100+ slides. Granted, I was teaching for almost an hour and half, but I forgot to account for the fact that I was also going to be present during the learning process. Teaching in person gave an advantage because of the ability to gauge the level of understanding as the course went on and to adjust the depth of the course. I was able to reduce the deck down to about 70 slides with this in mind, and after the course itself, found that I could have removed an additional 15 slides or so. Because I was able to quickly answer questions and skip over unnecessary course materials, the students in the class were able to get more from the class than just reading a presentation would have provided.

So what about online education?

In order to mimic this in online education, you'll need to offer a pre-assessment that affects the content of the course followed by a post-assessment to determine whether or not people were able to grasp the information. Yet, this is far from the same level of engagement that learning in person provides. To truly mimic in-person classes, you'll need real-time communication tools, or a course designed in a manner that addresses the needs of every type of learner. This is quite difficult to do without an experienced online educator on staff to help with creating the presentations, assessment questions and other course materials to help with the education process.

We might one day be able to develop technology that can completely replace the human educator, but we're far from it. This is why I think it's necessary to blend both automated teaching platforms with a live instructor to create the complete learning experience. At the very least, we need a strong team of content creators to develop the necessary materials to emulate the best learning experience, followed by a comprehensive post-assessment. Many classrooms around the country are already beginning this process. Who knows what the future will bring next.