How to Dominate Your Fashion Teaching Niche with Online Courses

business course creation Oct 25, 2017

This week I had a great meeting with Italian fashion designer and lecturer Sabrina Fichi. We met in the famous Piazza della Republica in the city of Florence on a perfect autumn afternoon. Amongst the piazza's many cafes and shops lies the Giubbe Rosse cafe which has long been a meeting place for famous artists and writers, especially those of Futurism.

Sabrina has her own design studio in Pisa and lectures at universities in both Pisa and Florence. We met because she wanted to explore how online learning can help her reach more students, support her private tutoring business and expand her services to a wider audience.

For those lecturers and designers that are in a similar position but perhaps with different specialities, I believe you'll find what we discussed relevant to you too. So both Sabrina and I are happy to share with you the key questions and answers that cropped up in our conversation.

Sabrina comes with significant expertise across many facets of fashion. As a designer, lecturer, and businesswoman running her own design studio, and offering private classes on a wide range of topics including:

  • Patternmaking
  • Tailoring
  • Cutting and Sewing Techniques
  • Theatrical Patternmaking Techniques
  • Draping
  • Fashion Drawing
  • Collection
  • Fabric handbags
  • Creative recycling

It should be obvious then to see that she has an enormous amount of experience to offer students far further afield than those that come to visit or live in these famous Italian cities.

She already had some inclination about how online courses might help her further but needed to understand the opportunities a bit more. Here's a rundown of the key points we covered during our conversation.

There Are Many Topics I Could Teach, How Do I Choose?

This is a really relevant question which all fashion experts are going to have. The answer is to start with what you're most excited about teaching because that's where your energy goes. It's also the subject that you need to think about least of all. When you talk about this subject everything flows from your passion and deep understanding of the subject. It's where you have mastered the topic and know it inside out. So I'd recommend choosing a subject you are an expert in and passionate about and then see where the opportunities lie to serve students in that topic.

 

How Do I Take A Course That I Teach Over Several Weeks or Months and Teach It Online?

First of all, don't think about converting the whole course. That may be something you can do in time. Look at where there's a need for your students and how you can meet that need with short courses. Converting a face to face workshop into an online format isn't always appropriate. The key goal is creating a profitable course that sells and that delights your students. The only way to do that is to offer a course that people will buy because it meets a real need. Not a need you think there is, but one that you have proven exists so have the evidence for.

Once you have identified the opportunity you can then begin the process of developing the course through the five development phases of:

  1. Planning - this involves all the necessary research required to identify your ideal students, choosing your topic and validating your course. It also involves being clear on the solution your course offers your students and is the phase that forms the foundations for the other phases.
  2. Designing - this involves developing the course framework, deciding upon overall aims and learning goals, module and lesson structure and how you will deliver your message and assess student learning.
  3. Creating - this involves creating your course brand, naming your course, creating your modules, writing your lessons and recording your training videos. As well as producing lesson support documents like worksheets, checklists etc.
  4. Publishing - this covers uploading all your content to your chosen course hosting platform so your course is accessible online. This is where everything in the CREATING phase goes live to the outside world and your students can find and buy your course. This is the most technically involved phase where you'll likely need much support.
  5. Promoting - this final phase is where you take on all the promotional activities to get your course selling and in front of your potential students. This involves developing the right strategies for reaching students as well as the appropriate copy for all your promotional materials.

You will probably come across other sources of advice that spread the development across four or even three phases and with different titles. Whichever way it's presented all the activities need to be completed to turn an idea into a profitable fashion course that sells.

How Do I Prove There's a Need?

Let's think about this for a moment...tutors, lecturers, professors regardless of job title you are all surrounded by people in need...your current students. You have a perfect audience to question and uncover further needs.

I'd start by simply asking them open questions to uncover potential needs. In other words, diagnose first before prescribing a solution. You wouldn’t walk into your doctor's surgery and have her write you a prescription without a proper discussion first. The same goes for course planning.

Any of the following questions are great to start with. Then  build upon these with further probing questions so you can drill down and get a deeper understanding of your student's needs:

  • What topics did you find most difficult to learn during your course so far and why?
  • What do you find most challenging at the moment and why?
  • If you could revisit any of the topics we have covered in the course, what would these be and why?
  • Which skills do you feel weakest in and why?
  • What issues, concerns or worries are you grappling with to do with the topic?
  • If I could wave the magic wand and give you just one skill to master, what would it be and why?
  • Which course topics do you feel we could have gone deeper into?
  • How would taking an online course support your studies at the moment?

How Do I Incorporate Practical Work in My Lessons?

For Sabrina, this was a really important point. How can she replicate the hands-on teaching support she provides in a classroom when the topic is being covered online?

It depends. If she needs to be stood next to the student to interact in the moment, to pick up the fabric and show a student who has just asked a question about a characteristic of the fabric when draped, it's not possible even if the lesson is being broadcast live. She can't take the fabric off the student to demonstrate side by side because she's not in the room. But she can incorporate answers and solutions to the common questions and situations her students present her with during those classroom-based lessons which minimise the likelihood that hands-on support will be needed.

Not being present in a classroom doesn't mean that practical work cannot form part of the online lessons. The beauty of video lessons is that the student can replay the video over and over to check any aspect of what's being taught.

Sabrina can also set her students assignments and practical work to complete offline, getting them to upload video clips or images of their completed assignments for her to then offer feedback and further coaching around. These assignments can be as creative and supportive as necessary to help her students learn.

For example, let's say that she needs students to understand how different fabrics feel when handled and that normally she would pass around samples of fabric in her classroom. Clearly, this is not possible online short of posting samples to the students, and although feasible that's probably not practical.

Instead, she could set an assignment where students follow a brief to visit a local fabric store and then answer questions on the briefing sheet about the way the fabric handles and feels. The student could then give feedback online in the course comments area or complete a quiz, survey or worksheet that is downloaded from the course.

So with some creativity, you can involve students in more than just learning via video online, making their learning experience with you experiential too.

How Could Online Courses Help Me Improve My Business Offer?

This is a really interesting question for Sabrina and maybe you too. She is considering offering online learning to compliment her existing business model. She loves what she is doing in live classroom workshops, helping people to learn in her university classes as well as her private tuition in her atelier.  So we talked about how she could incorporate online learning into her existing offers.

Just to recap she works as a tutor in two universities, she runs her own bespoke couture design business and she offers private tuition on several fashion design topics and specializes in draping. How can developing her own online courses compliment these offers? Let's have a look.

1. New Students From Other Countries and Continents

Offering online courses on her subjects means she can now leverage her expertise and reach new students far and wide. Instead of students coming to her, she can now reach new students across the globe irrespective of where they live. This opens up enormous markets, with the US alone being enormous let alone including the rest of Europe and China! As these new students study with Sabrina they will uncover further opportunities for her to support them. She will learn about new challenges and can decide whether these present her with the chance to develop further courses and generate another income stream.

2. Leverage Her Expertise and Sell it Multiple Times Without Working Multiple Times

With an online course on draping, for example, she can sell her expertise on a variety of draping topics from an introduction course through to advanced techniques. But once the course is created she can sell it multiples times, over and over again without having to be present to teach. Her recordings and lessons can be updated from time to time but she needn't be in the classroom teaching to generate extra income from the same expertise.

It is possible for her to make as much money with online courses as she does with face to face tuition, if not more, and to swap trading her time for euros for trading her expertise instead.

3. Support Students Before and After Attending Her Private Lessons

She can use her online courses as a support tool for her face to face private tuitions where students can take an online course beforehand to learn certain key points. When they attend her live classes in her workshops that saved time can be used for more hands-on practice which increases the value of the time with her and maximises skills development. She can even use assessments and quizzes to make sure that her students know and understand key pieces of information before they attend her live workshops.

Her online courses can also be used for supporting the student after attending a workshop too. The content can be used by the student to refresh their memories and revisit any topics that need further reinforcement increasing the chance that the skills taught face to face, stick.

4. Develop New Skills and Opens New Opportunities for Her

By learning about how to create and promote her own online courses, her newly developed skills broaden her horizons and enable her to consider new opportunities. She could perhaps collaborate with other tutors and designers, support the two universities she works for if they are developing online courses and even sell her own courses to other universities.

With each of these comes new revenue and income streams.

5. She Can Dominate Her Niche and Develop a Draping Academy in her Native Language as well as English

Once she has created a single course the principles of creating further courses are the same. She just follows the five phases of course development for each new course. So a suite of three to four courses could be developed around a theme.

But there's nothing then stopping her creating a full 'draping academy' (remember that's her speciality) that covers a series of topics where she can offer students basic, intermediate and masterclasses.

The later could include students attending live workshops in Italy for personalized coaching from Sabrina, visits to cultural sites, fashion museums and exposure to the Italian way of life, style and art to broaden a fashion student's artistic influence and inspiration.

What Does It Cost to Create an Online Course?

Nowadays getting started with an online course as a subject expert can be as little as zero. Most people have much of what they need already at their fingertips and within their pockets.

The key tools you need to get started are:

  1. Camera to record your lessons. Either a digital SLR camera, a video recorder or a recent smartphone that can record in 1080p will suffice.
  2. A microphone to record your audio since camera mics and phone mics pick up too much background noise so a lapel mic will suffice to begin with.
  3. Software for editing video and audio such as Audacity for audio and iMovie for video. There are free versions of software to get you started.
  4. Adequate lighting either natural light or lamps. For less than $75, euros or pounds, you can get a lighting kit to use in your home or office to provide professional lighting. Plenty of natural daylight will suffice too. Sabrina already has an excellent design studio which looks perfect for filming.
  5. You will also need a platform to host your course on. This is where all the course files reside and turn your set of files into the course that students take. There are free versions of these too.

So Sabrina could be up and running for next to zero cost other than her own time of course.

How Does The Fashion Student Hub Help Me?

I tried not to sound like a salesperson with the answer to this! The Fashion Student Hub is where Sabrina can host as many courses as she wants so there's no need for her to purchase any hosting. I explained that we deal with all the technology, payments and customer service with students so she can concentrate on developing her courses. Her courses will then be promoted to students through our various promotional activities.

We have a template system that is easy to follow so that when it comes to setting up her course she simply completes our templates in Microsoft Word, we then copy and paste her content into our course management software on The Fashion Student Hub.

This means she never has to learn about the content management system we use (which you find on every course hosting platform, by the way, there's always plenty to learn with these).

If you'd like further information on this I recommend you read the information here.

Where Should I Start? 

 Sabrina has a few options to consider.

  1. She can do more research herself online and look for further free information. There's plenty of generic info out there although finding rich and valuable fashion specific help with a growing community of fashion subject experts is very rare. You are welcome to join us in our LinkedIn group as a place to start and also to read our blog posts.
  2. Jump in with both feet first and purchase a masterclass covering the five phases of getting her ideas from her head to online selling. These are planning, designing, creating, publishing and promoting all covered in our masterclass How to Use Your Fashion Expertise to Make Extra Income With Online Courses.
  3. Or she could start with a short FREE course first to find her feet beginning with the planning phase. Here she can do further research about her topic and plan her goals for what she wants the course to do for her business, the revenue it should make and how she can help her students. We have a great short course for this called  How to PLAN Your Online Fashion Course Effectively.

Taking Action Makes the Difference

I think I left Sabrina feeling excited and full of ideas and inspiration about what is possible and how she can integrate online courses into her portfolio, build her business offers, generate extra income without having to deliver more face to face courses and dominate her niche in draping or any other she chooses.

But taking action is THE difference that makes the difference. Without action, nothing happens except the opportunity slipping you by.

For further information about the opportunity that awaits you enter your details below and we'll give you immediate access to our FREE course to get you started.

Thanks to Sabrina for the images used in this post. Sabrinatelier.com

Cheryl Gregory is the Founder of The Fashion Student Hub, a marketplace for selling online fashion courses, and We Teach Fashion teaching fashion subject experts how to create and promote their own online courses, generate revenue and serve the growing need for online education in the fashion sector.
 

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