My Review of Teaching on Outschool

I discovered Outschool in January, and it has been a bit of a game changer.

What is Outschool?

Outschool is an online platform that offers thousands of classes for kids ages 3-18. Most classes are taught live via Zoom. As an international site, there are classes at all hours of the day and night on pretty much every subject you can imagine. While its original focus was to provide opportunities for homeschooling families, anyone can sign up for classes. Parents pay per enrollment, so you can do as little as $5 or $6 on a short, 30-minute, 1-time session, or you can spend hundreds of dollars on classes that last for weeks or entire semesters. There are also drop-in clubs that are offered on a weekly subscription basis and classes that are complete asynchronously.

Our Experience as Outschool Learners

When we were planning my daughter’s Dungeons & Dragons themed 10th birthday party, a sponsored ad popped up in my Facebook feed: Introduction to Dungeons and Dragons, a live, online course for kids.

I asked my daughter about it, and she thought it sounded great. We signed up, and she had a really positive experience sitting in our living room one evening, listening to an enthusiastic teacher tell her (and about 10 other kids) all about the basics of D&D.

Since then, we’ve taken dozens of classes. When schools were closed to in-person lessons and I was suddenly working from home, I needed something to help my kids stay busy and stay engaged with the learning process. (Note: Our rural school district is full of students who don’t have reliable internet or devices, so our distance learning didn’t involve a whole lot of online instruction. Our teachers were amazing during this time, and I’m grateful for all the work they put into the end of the school year–but just to be clear, I wasn’t adding Outschool classes on top of a very busy elearning schedule.)

Some of my favorite classes so far have been:

Read & Draw Book Club: Wings of Fire “Dragonet Prophecy”: For my 10 year old, this class had really great engagement and a reasonable amount of homework. She got to draw really cool dragons and participate in a fun class that lasted for several weeks.

Let’s Make Polymer Clay Miniatures (Ongoing Club): After taking all of Summer Jacobson’s individual clay courses, my daughter signed up for this ongoing club that meets weekly on Tuesday nights. She looks forward to it every week.

Half/Time Tutoring — Reading and Math for Little Ones: This is probably our biggest Outschool investment, but I use Outschool referral credits to help offset the cost. (More on those in a bit!) In this class, teacher Midge Spencer does an incredible job of working with our 6-year-old in a one-on-one setting to keep him involved in learning to read. I don’t feel qualified to teach early literacy at all, and so I was nervous when the school year ended abruptly and my almost-reading kindergartener was suddenly without the kind of instruction he had been receiving from his wonderful teachers at school. Midge Spencer to the rescue! When he is in her class, he pays attention, cooperates, and stays actively engaged with the lesson. He’s a pretty rambunctious, excitable kid, so watching him pay attention to ANYTHING for 30 minutes at a time is so cool to watch. She keeps his attention, redirects as necessary, and provides very clear instruction. I love her teaching and I feel so lucky to have found her!

My Experience as an Outschool Teacher

As soon as my daughter took that first class, I wanted to teach on the platform! I love teaching–planning lessons, organizing activities, talking with learners of all ages, explaining concepts.

As an English professor for more than 10 years (9 of which have been spent at a small liberal arts university that I love), I have enjoyed a lot of academic freedom in my classroom. Outschool seemed like a cool opportunity to do even more teaching, but with some of that same freedom, unlike other online teaching sites I’ve looked at.

Here is a breakdown of what I’ve learned from my Outschool teaching experience:

The Application Process

Applying is easy. Maybe too easy?

Because Outschool prioritizes learning in a non-traditional environment, they also welcome and celebrate non-traditional teachers. There are no degree or credential requirements for teaching on the site. On the one hand, that can be really cool, as I’m not really looking for someone with an advanced degree when I choose a class for my kindergartener about how cool toads are.

I think the drawback is that some people who are good at marketing themselves can probably talk their way into an Outschool teaching position and not have the teaching chops to provide good classes. My guess is that these teachers burn out quickly or receive bad reviews from dissatisfied parents, so this isn’t a huge concern for me. It’s just something to be aware of.

When you apply, you have to do a background check, create your profile, and create your first class. I also participated in an onboarding call with a veteran teacher, which was very helpful. Since I started, the amount of training for new teachers has also increased. However, the training appears to be optional, since the teacher Facebook group tends to be full of the same questions over and over that are answered in the training.

Something to note: I recently learned that there are some big-name “recruiters” with massive online platforms are pushing people to apply to teach on Outschool so that they can make a ton of money through referrals. If a new teacher signs up under your referral link, you get $200 when they earn their first $100. A massive influx of new teachers has provided tons of great new classes, but it is coinciding with a natural decline in enrollments during the summer months, and so there is increased competition for a smaller number of students.

Getting Started as a teacher

Unless you are incredibly lucky, you will not immediately have a ton of full classes or a full-time schedule on Outschool. You just won’t. For a brief period of time, when schools first closed and Outschool was giving away free classes to families affected by Coronavirus closures, lots of teachers experienced a huge influx in students. (I did, too!)

I started teaching with the intention of teaching just a few classes a month. I already work full time as an English professor; I don’t need another huge time commitment taking away from my main focus as a professor! My plan is to teach primarily in the summer months with an occasional class during the school year in order to stay active on the platform.

Still, during school closures, I was able to offer classes at more competitive times because my schedules was less restrictive than usual. This allowed me to teach a lot of students in a short period of time.

This is the advice I followed when I got started, and I think it’s still super useful:

  • Parents are not very willing to take a big financial risk on a brand new teacher. Instead of offering expensive, multi-week classes when you first get started, offer one-time classes that are safely within the recommended hourly rate.
  • Be willing to teach to just 1 or 2 students when you first get started, and beyond. You won’t make as much money, but you will build a following and earn reviews that will help your credibility.
  • Offer something that makes you stand out; find your niche. However, don’t be so niche that there isn’t a market for your class.
  • Share your classes with friends and family.
  • Join the various teaching and parenting Facebook groups where you are allowed to promote your classes and talk about what you’re teaching.

How much will you get paid?

It really depends on a number of factors. The website advertises $40/hr, which I think is pretty accurate. You’ll hear stories of teachers who make thousands of dollars a week, and that is certainly possible, but it’s not the norm. The good news is that there isn’t a huge workload that goes into the classes. It’s not like an MLM where you have to spend money to make money (and of course, with MLMs, you’re much more likely to lose money than make any.)

The pay structure is straightforward:

You set the prices for your classes, within a recommended price range ($10-15 per student, per class hour). So, when I offer a fun, social, 1-hr class like my Writing About Animals: Discussion Class, I will typically charge $10 per student. (For a more rigorous/academic one-hour course like Feminism & Frozen, I’ll charge $12.)

Outschool takes a 30% cut.

So, for that one-time class, if I charge $10 and have 6 students enrolled, I keep 70% of that $60 and end up with a PayPal balance of $42. It’s your responsibility as a teacher to keep your own records for taxes. (I put 30% of my Outschool income into a savings account for taxes next year, just to be careful.)

Of course, if I only had 1 student in that class, I would only make $7 for that class. If I spend a lot of time on prep work, I have to take that into consideration as well.

Multi-day classes, which meet for several weeks in a row, are priced for the total class, but you can use the same approach to figure out what to charge: what do you want to charge per student, per hour? Some examples of my multi-day courses, which I generally assign a $10-13 fee. That means it costs about $50 to take one of my 4-week courses.

Are there any drawbacks to teaching on Outschool?

It takes time to develop a following and get students.

The 30% fee is a little steep, but then again, you don’t really have to do any of your own marketing if you don’t want to. Your presence on the platform is a recruitment tool itself. Once you see Outschool’s cut come out and you set aside your taxes, your take-home pay can be underwhelming until you get your footing.

(By the way, Outschool spends a LOT of money on targeted advertising. If someone ends up finding your course on the site, there is a good chance that they will be reminded of it every time they sign onto Facebook or Instagram through targeted advertising.)

The online teaching community can be a little intense.

If you’re accustomed to higher education, it can be an adjustment to suddenly interact with students’ parents regularly!

There is definitely a learning curve for figuring out how to offer classes, list the times, choose cover pictures that you have the right to use, respond to parent concerns, understand the rating system, etc.

Outschool Perks

There are definitely some perks in addition to self-employment.

  • Every time you refer someone to the site and they take their first class–anyone’s class, not just yours–you get a $20 credit that you can use towards your own kids’ classes. All you have to do is share links to classes. I’ve gotten hundreds of dollars in free classes for my kids this way!
  • There are so many cool classes for kids to take.
  • So many of the students are really amazing! The best part about teaching on Outschool is that I get to spend time talking to so many great kids about important topics like writing and feminism.
  • You don’t put any money into it! You do have to put time into creating and planning your classes, and there are some administrative tasks like replying to parent emails and class requests, but there are no unexpected costs involved.
  • You can decide how much you want to teach. During the summer, I’m offering several classes a week, but during the school year, when I’m back to work, I’ll easily be able to reduce my course load.

Who should teach on Outschool?

I think this is really important: the people who will have the most success on Outschool are GOOD TEACHERS.

Whether you’re a teacher by trade or by passion or both, Outschool classes seem to be the most successful when they are taught by people who understand course design, classroom management, distance learning strategies, and how to engage with a wide variety of students.

If you have questions about signing up to teach, feel free to contact me or post below! I’ll do my best to answer your questions. I am just one of many thousands of teachers, but I’ve been on the platform for about five months (since before school closures) and feel pretty confident in navigating the system.

Thanks for reading!

Join me for a class about Diversity & Young Adult Literature! (UPDATE: CLASS IS FULL)

Update: This class is now full. If you are interested in signing up for a future class on this topic, please use the contact link below to send me a message and we can talk!

After giving it a lot of thought, I have decided to launch a series of live discussion classes for adults. I’m kicking this off by offering a 4-week class on diversity and YA lit! This is a class for adults–specifically, adults like me: people who are busy with tons of responsibilities but who crave intellectual conversation about literature and culture with like-minded peers!

Here is what you need to know:

Live classes. This class will consist of four 60-minute Zoom chats with everyone who is enrolled. They will take place on Monday evenings in June.

Max capacity: 8 people. This isn’t going to be some Zoom webinar. This is a small, conversational group. Minimum enrollment: 3 people.

Dates: Mondays, June 1/8/15/22, 7pm EST. (If this time doesn’t work for you, contact me and let me know what works better. We may be able to work something out!)

Homework: None. You don’t have to read anything. Don’t have to write anything. Just show up ready to discuss the role of diversity in YA and middle grade literature. You don’t even have to be an expert in the genre! If you have an interest in YA lit, middle grade lit, or teaching, or diversity theories, you can join us! This class is all about discussing ideas. Each class will include a short presentation and then focus on discussing these ideas.

Cost: $40. But if you sign up with a friend, you both get a $10 discount and can take the class for $30 instead.

Theories we’ll be discussing: Who does diversity benefit? Why do children need diverse books in their lives? What is the importance of the #ownvoices movement? What are “windows and mirrors?” What are the successes and failures of today’s YA/middle grade publishing industry? Is your own reading list diverse?

Can teenagers join? Yes.

Important note: This class is taught from an intersectional feminist perspective. Diversity is important not just for the whole, but for the individuals who are part of groups that have been discriminated against. White privilege is real and white fragility isn’t a reason to avoid hard conversations. Justice is often about more than just equality. Racism is real. Reverse racism is not. Black Lives Matter. Ableism is a problem. Neurodiversity is important. Every individual has value. Anti-trans views are not welcome in the class. This isn’t a class where we try to teach you that diversity is important; this is a class for people who believe in and understand the importance of diversity and want to discuss how that belief impacts their engagement with the YA lit world.

How to sign up: Contact me to sign up. I will update this post if all 8 spots have been filled. Payment can be made through PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, Facebook Pay, or the CashApp. Zoom invitations will be sent out through email.

I hope you join me!!

Things I have ALMOST bought, adopted, or acquired during quarantine:

a hedgehog.

a trampoline (except that they are literally ALL sold out, except for the ones that cost $1500 or more). (Sorry, kids, your summer quarantine joy is not worth my $1500.)

every dog on PetFinder.com within 50 miles.

patio furniture worth thousands of dollars.

patio furniture worth $500.

2x4s to make my own patio furniture.

every single thing sold by Zulily.com.

Trolls: World Tour a SECOND time, even though it cost $20 to rent the first time.

a buzzcut hairstyle for myself.

Things I have acquired:

a pet toad named Lucky.

way too many art supplies.

a bunch of cheap crap from Oriental Trading Company.

total impatience for people who are awful, and a growing unwillingness to tolerate anyone’s nonsense.

a complete inability to tell how much time has passed between any two events.