Since school buildings shuttered in March, parents have been turning to the internet to help keep their kids busy and engaged. And while most schools have been offering some sort of distance learning, there’s been a surge in the call for on-demand learning and specialized classes that have never been offered in schools.
What is Outschool?
According to their website, “Outschool is a community marketplace of online classes for kids. We help parents find and register for great classes that are offered outside of regular school. And we help teachers, both professional and amateur, manage and promote their classes to parents. Our focus is on small-group, live online classes, though we support a variety of other formats as well. Outschool offers the broadest range of online classes by independent teachers. Outschool is a for-profit company and is based in San Francisco, California.”
In an interview with Forbes, founder Amir Nathoo said that the idea for Outschool was based on his own educational experience. The son of two teachers, Amir had a wonderful experience in the standard school system, but realized that his most poignant learning took place outside of the classroom. His parents found a mentor that would help guide and cultivate his growing passion for computers.
Not all families, however, are in a position to be able to find and hire someone to assist their child in exploring their interests. And, as most parents will tell you, interests change, so they’d likely need to find a series of mentors over the span of their child’s education.
So far my 9-year-old has been passionate about dance, writing, and becoming a Ninja Warrior, none of which are in my wheelhouse to teach.
Outschool offers classes in virtually anything kids are interested in, from standard school courses like history and math, to Harry Potter discussion groups, to how to dance like Disney’s Descendents.
But it doesn’t just allow kids to explore passions. Teachers can, too! The platform allows teachers to teach subjects and age ranges that they may not typically work with, and to teach in their own way, without the pressure or paperwork of traditional schools. Teachers should be aware, however, that reviews written by students (or their parents) are public, so there’s an element of customer service that isn’t necessarily present in a regular classroom.
Is Outschool teaching for me?
In a word… Maybe.
Outschool provides teachers with complete control over what you teach, who you teach it to, and how much time you spend teaching. It’s great for people who are highly motivated and want to work with kids in a less formal structure, whether you’re a certified teacher or not. And if you’re not sure what to teach, Outschool sends a list of requested classes to all its teachers each week, so you can see what kids are asking for.
There are only 3 rules when it comes to classes:
- Classes must be secular. Religion can be talked about, but it can not be encouraged or discouraged. For example, there is a class called “Comparative Religions” in which students learn about various religions, but no religion is presented as right or wrong.
- Classes must be age-appropriate. To facilitate this, Outschool does not permit an age range more than 5 years for each class. However, you can offer similar classes to two different age ranges.
- Sensitive topics to be covered in classes must be noted clearly in the description. For example, if teaching a course on forensic science and pictures of blood or other potential triggers will be shown, you will want to note that in the description so students and parents are aware before enrolling.
Other than that, you’re free to teach what you’d like!
Some other things to consider before applying to teach for Outschool are scheduling, class creation, and technology.
Because you can set classes for any time you’d like, you must be self-disciplined to set a schedule and stick to it. Classes can be a one-time event or last for several weeks. As the teacher and expert, you get to decide which is best. Some classes are also ongoing, so students can join and drop at any time.
As with any platform, it may take time and tweaking before your class offerings get any traction. You should be prepared to have classes with low or no enrollment at the beginning, and make commitment to give yourself at least six months of consistent effort before deciding to continue or not. The good news is that Outschool has a large number of kids actively engaging on the platform and they also take care of marketing as they have a very strong presence on social media.
When it comes to class creation, and anything related to your course, you are responsible. Any handouts, worksheets, videos, slide shows, etc. must be created by you. Outschool provides a platform and an eager audience… the rest is up to you.
And of course online teaching contains an element of technology you need to be familiar with. As of this writing Zoom is the program used for class meetings and any other programs you choose to use are at your discretion.
When it comes to pricing, Outschool lets you set your own price based on the time, materials, and subject you’ll be teaching. I recommend you take some time to look for comparable classes pricing so you don’t over- or under-price yourself. Outschool earns a 30% commission on every course and you keep 70%.