3 Ways to Teach Your Course

If you were to look at most of the online courses out there, it’d be easy to think that the only way to teach online is with a self-paced course. And while self-paced courses have their pros, such as high scaleability and profitability, the unspoken truth is that they also have abysmally low completion rates.

It's not uncommon to see only 20% of students complete a self-paced course. So what do you do if you want to teach your students, while also improving their learning experience and increasing course completion rates? 

You use a different course structure (or what we geeks call a modality).

In this article, you'll learn about hybrid courses. I'll share three hybrid models for structuring your online course. Each one has different degrees of self-paced content but is not fully self-paced in structure. Ready?

The Hybrid Course

Recently, I had a chat with my friend Philip Morgan about his online program, Prison Break Bootcamp (which isn't as gangsta as it sounds but totally worth it). When I used the word hybrid to describe his course he said, “Oh, I didn’t know that’s what it was called.” If you've never heard the term "hybrid" applied to online courses either, let's define it.

What’s a Hybrid Course?

A hybrid course is an online course that has both self-paced (asynchronous) and live content (synchronous). This model comes from Higher Education as a way to integrate online content into the classroom. At it's core, a hybrid course is a combination of a fully-online course and a Face-to-Face course that you'd deliver in real life or virtually via video. 

For example, you could have live sessions via Google Hangouts where you present the lesson presentation, then have your students access the homework via an LMS (Learning Management System) like Thinkific, Teachable, or your own site via a WordPress LMS plugin. In order for this structure to work, you need to have a fixed start date for your course.  

Key Features

  • Fixed start date

  • Flexible end date

  • Presentations are synchronous but students can watch the recordings later

  • LMS required for access to additional lesson materials and resources

When to USE a Hybrid Course structure

  1. Hybrid courses work well when you want to meet live with your students (virtually) in addition to providing some materials for them to work through on their own.

  2. When you want to encourage completion through structure and support.

Real-World Example

Yoga For All Training

Diane Bondy and Amber Karnes offer what I call a lite-hybrid course because of the limited live support: it's 5 weeks long; there's a fixed start date but students have a full year to complete the course; the lessons are pre-recorded; and there's live email and Facebook support during the 5-weeks.

The Flipped Classroom

Here's a secret: there are actually different types of hybrid courses. (I know! Hang with me, though.) What if you want to pre-record your lesson presentations and use your live sessions to work through assignments or difficult concepts? Well, my friend, you've stumbled upon the flipped classroom model.

What is a Flipped Classroom?

A flipped classroom is a type of hybrid course where you pre-record the lecture presentation and allow students to watch it on their own. Then, you host a live video conference to address questions and work through challenging concepts. You would also have supporting course content, like assignments and discussions happen within your LMS.

In this model, students have a specific schedule by which they need to watch the lecture presentation so they can come prepared for the live video conference session. To make this work, you'll need a fixed start and end date for your course.

Key Features

  • Fixed start date

  • Fixed end date

  • Presentations are asynchronous but students need to watch them before attending the workshop sessions

  • LMS required for additional course content

When to Use a Flipped Classroom

  1. When you’re teaching a complex topic and you know students will need face-time with you to answer questions, work through difficult assignments, etc.

  2. When you want to make the live course meetings more efficient.

HOW IT'S DIFFERENT FROM regular hybrid courses

Presentations are pre-recorded and students encouraged (sometimes required) to watch before attending live sessions.

Real World Example

Brennan Dunn’s Double Your Freelancing Clients

The bulk of the DYFC course content is accessible via Brennan’s course site, however students meet with mentors every other week via Google Hangouts to work on challenging areas. On top of that, Brennan hosts regular office hours—also via GH—for students to ask questions.

The Live Bootcamp

Okay, I'll be honest. The Live Bootcamp is one of my favorite online course models. If you're starting out with courses and need to validate whether your audience wants your course--without spending a ton of time or money on it first--this is the best way to get your course up and running, get paid and offer value to your students. 

What’s a Live Bootcamp?

A live bootcamp is a virtual version of the traditional face-to-face (F2F) class model that we all know from school. In a live bootcamp, there’s a fixed duration for your course, 6 weeks, for example. Each meeting is at a specific time and is usually via a webinar or video conferencing service like Crowdcast or Google Hangouts.

I like to call this a bootcamp because it’s similar to fitness bootcamps: an intense period where everyone rolls up their sleeves and works together to achieve a specific outcome. You could also call this a workshop model.

Key Features

  • Fixed start date

  • Fixed end date

  • Synchronous (each session happens at a specific time)

When to Use a Live Bootcamp

  1. If you love interacting with your students and teaching F2F, this model is for you. Sometimes students need more structure than is offered in a self-paced course.

  2. The Live Bootcamp is also a great choice for an MVC (minimal viable course) because you don’t have to have all of your content created to begin. In fact, it’s best to start with just 20 - 30% of your content complete and create the rest based on input from your students during the course.

  3. As an added bonus, you can record the live sessions and package them as a self-paced course for people to buy later. Nice!

How It's Different from the Other Models

The difference between this model and the others is that everything happens at the same time: presentations, Q&A, discussion of assignments, etc. This model takes real commitment from you and your students.

You can run longer live sessions than you could if you had pre-recorded videos. Also, instead of an LMS, you'll often see email, Facebook or Slack used to communicate with students in this model.

The value here is direct access to you and more structure for students who struggle with self-paced courses. Of course, you can still make recordings available for students who miss sessions but they won’t benefit as much. In fact, I’d argue you should only allow students to miss one session with this model.

Real World Example

Prison Break Bootcamp

Philip Morgan’s program is an excellent example of a live bootcamp. For several weeks, he and his students meet for 3 hours each session for a lesson, assignment review and discussion. Philip gives out homework and even offers multiple class sessions to fit his student's schedules.


Each of these models has one thing in common: you. They each offer different degrees of access to you. That means it’ll require more time on your part. However, if engagement, learner success and completion rates are your motivation, the added structure will be worth it in the long run. At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is there's no one way to teach your course.

What Next?

Speaking of bootcamps...Are you creating an online course? Do you need someone to guide you through the steps? 

Check out my group program Finish Your Damn Course! It's designed to give you a roadmap for validating, creating and pre-selling your online course. 

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