When FiftyThree and Skillshare approached me this summer to create a course centered around data visualization and iPad drawing, I knew that it would be a fantastic opportunity. I said yes before knowing any details about how it would all work because my gut was telling me that doing this would provide me with much greater value than purely financial benefit. In fact, I didn't know I would make a penny until after we filmed the first class. While it wasn't clear to me in exactly what other ways I would learn and grow, now I know and can share with anyone who takes the time to read this.
SO, WHAT DID I GAIN?
- It got me out of my comfort zone. I had already taught a number of classes on visual thinking, data storytelling, and graphic facilitation, but all of these were interactive, in-person workshops that relied heavily on live student participation. I had never taken the time to come up with a completely new curriculum, or considered how to deliver something in a video format. Being in front of a camera was super uncomfortable at first, but with an amazing team behind the camera it became much easier.
- It was the push I needed. Until the Think Kit video, I had embraced behind the scenes and only occasionally tweeted my ideas and drawings. When you work in a risk-averse organization, you are discouraged from having your own website, blog, or social media so I was very careful about what I shared. After lots of thinking and a few long conversations with my husband, I decided that this could be the perfect excuse and opportunity to do something I've considered for a long time-- to leave my corporate job and figure out how to do similar work, but on my own terms and timelines.
- I discovered amazing Skillshare students and teachers. After seeing the projects and discussions posted to the community page, conducting an AMA, and taking other classes I am very impressed by student engagement, and genuine curiosity. I think this is partially because the classes are so easy to find, enroll, and dive into. Kudos to the team at Skillshare for making it so easy to learn new things and for building a solid community!
- It feels good to pay it forward. I don't believe there is anything to be gained from hiding the tricks of the trade, or feeling threatened by others who are doing similar work. Much of this philosophy sprouted in my mind after reading one of the best books I've read in a while, Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. Most of what I know is the direct result of others sharing their thoughts and wisdom, so why shouldn't I do the same? There is enough work out there for everyone, so the thought of introducing competition has never crossed my mind. It was wonderful to read reviews and feedback like the quote below, which really confirmed I was able to provide significant value to some students
OK, Now What?
In the spirit of paying it forward, I'm working on my next class, titled Visual Thinking: Capture and Synthesize Content with Sketchnotes. I had the idea to do a second class back in December, and have been researching, developing content, and planning logistics since then. I wanted to do something related to sketchnotes because I have so much fun doing that it wouldn't feel like work. It also helps that I wholeheartedly believe in the power of visual thinking and sketchnotes in particular as a way to better understand and process information.
We shot the footage last weekend, and I'm reviewing the rough cuts with the video editor this week, and hope to have it published by the end of the month! I've gotten a lot of questions about what it takes to plan, produce, and publish a Skillshare class, so here are some answers to the most common ones:
How do you produce the classes? The first class was all thanks to the wonderful team at Skillshare. It was really helpful to have Alyssa review my class ideas, share her suggestions, and be there with me during the shoot to guide me into talking about the right things. The second class I got some help from Nataleigh along the way. Nataleigh helped me through the decision process for whether this should be another free class, or one for subscribers. Because I had a good number of students in the first class to build upon, I decided it would be worth the time saved and production quality to hire a team to help me film and edit. I'm working with a local videographer/cinematographer Rob Shore and it's been great so far!
Do classes have to be professionally filmed? Definitely not! Skillshare has a bunch of resources for first time teachers who don't want to spend a ton of money upfront before they know if the class will have a lot of momentum.
Can I do a Skillshare class? I will answer that question with two questions. First, do you have skill that others might be interested to learn? (It doesn't necessarily have to be artistic or creative... there are some great business/entrepreneurship classes out there). Second, do you have fun talking about this skill and sharing it with others? If you answered yes to both questions, then you should absolutely become a teacher on Skillshare.
I have an idea for a Skillshare class, can you tell me what you think about it? Sure! Reach out to me via the contact form on my website to get the conversation started.
Do you have ideas for other classes? Yes, many. Students from my first class wanted more on data viz, but I'll have to take Nick Felton's classes first and others to see what's missing. I'm also thinking about how much I hated using Powerpoint at my last job, and if there could be a teaching opportunity there.
- Have you considered other online training platforms? Not really, but I might in the future. Do you have any suggestions?