I’m a lifetime member of teachery.co, and I use their platform to create ALL of my courses.  It’s a wonderful platform – easy to use, simplistic, yet powerful.  I wanted to share what I love and trust with all of you in case you are looking yourself to create some online courses.  (*Disclaimer, I do receive a small affiliate fee for this referral, but this is absolutely a product that I love and obviously use myself!
 
I am preparing to present at our National Conference for MTNA.  My topic is “The flipped classroom” and how we, as teachers, can integrate online learning in music lessons.  In preparation for this event in March of 2018, I asked Jason Zook, the creator and founder of teachery.co to answer a few questions from me in an e-mail interview.  I was so excited when he agreed to this interview.  I know many of you might find this interesting as well, so here is the interview.  Enjoy!
 
1.  I read that you started Teachery after experimenting with creating some online courses yourself.  Looking at all of the accomplishments that you have had so far in your entrepreneurial career, what made you decide to commit to creating an online course platform?
 
As cliche as it sounds, it really happened by accident. When I tried to cobble together my first online course in 2013, I ended up with a really fancy WordPress website (paying a developer almost $2,000 for his time and efforts). As soon as I showed my online course to friends, they all asked what “course platform” I was using. That was a light bulb moment. From there I met my co-founder Gerlando at a conference and he mentioned he was looking for some side development work. One thing led to another and Teachery was born!
From that Teachery-birthing-moment, I’ve continued to believe that everyone has something to teach. That’s why we improve Teachery and why I continue to encourage people to jump into online learning.
 
2.  What sets Teachery apart from other course platforms?
I have two answers to this question: One is “I don’t know” and the other is “I know!” Haha.
I don’t know – Truthfully, I’ve only ever logged into one other course platform. And I think I spent all of 10 minutes until I realized there was no point in playing the comparison game. For me, and for us at Teachery, watching our competition would be a race to the bottom. We aren’t funded (by choice). We don’t have ALL the features (by choice). And we don’t want to keep up. We want to build our own little online course creation space and attract people that resonate with our decisions and ideas.
I know – All that being said, Teachery is built with user-friendliness in mind. My goal from the beginning was to make course creation intuitive and simple. You shouldn’t need a bunch of tutorials and walk-throughs to setup your first course. It should just work. As we’ve grown over the years, we have some more advanced features so we need help documentation, but we still believe Teachery is very intuitive and friendly to use.
Oh, and we also don’t charge extra fees to use Teachery. You don’t get punished and have to pay us more if you’re popular (selling your courses).
 
3.  To date, what types of courses have you seen created on Teachery?  
You name it, it’s on Teachery! There are courses on yoga, meditation, becoming a professional bowler, knitting, dog training, health and wellness, book writing, photography, parenting, coaching, art, mindfulness, productivity, crowdfunding, and probably 100 other topics I can’t think of at the moment.
 
4.  Is there a course creator that you have in mind who has successfully used Teachery to grow his or her business?  Can you elaborate on this?
We recently created a User Spotlight section in our documentation area to highlight these folks. While we only have a handful of spotlights up at the moment, there are hundreds of stories we’ve yet to tell. One that comes to mind right away is Kelsey Baldwin. Kelsey is a single mom who learned how to sell products on Etsy and make a good living. She turned her experience into an online course and was able to support herself and her daughter on revenue from that course alone. Kelsey has gone on to create multiple other courses and I’ve really enjoyed watching her journey (just as I have with many other course creators around the world!)
 
5.  How do you think online learning via a course platform such as Teachery can change the traditional form of education?
The numbers don’t lie: Online learning is disrupting formal education. It’s a $50B (with a “b”) business and it’s only getting bigger and bigger as people realize we’re in an on-demand learning economy. What I mean by that is we get to choose our teachers, our topics, and WHEN/HOW we want to be taught. No longer do you have to spend time in a fixed/rigid education system that might not work for your schedule or how you like to learn.
For me personally, I love the idea of being able to learn specific skills from specific people. If I want to learn photography from a local college/school, I’m probably not learning from someone who is taking photos for National Geographic or UNICEF. Yet, on Teachery, we have professional photographers who shoot photos for Nat Geo and UNICEF and you and I can learn from them on our own time. That’s extremely powerful. That’s the future of education as we know it.
I won’t get on a soap box about student loan debt… but let’s just say you’d have to purchase an astronomical amount of online courses to even come close to the average student loan debt a person incurs.
 
6.  If you could take any online course, what would it be about?  
That’s an interesting question, because I’ve never… not once… signed up for an online course of any kind. That may be mind-blowing coming from someone who owns an online course platform, but, I’m a consummate creator. I learn best from my own experience. I’m also extremely stubborn, so I believe I can figure everything out on my own. Hah!
That certainly doesn’t mean I think I know how to do everything, it just means that I gain incredible satisfaction (and enjoyment) from figuring things out through my own trials and tribulations.
 
7.  Are you yourself working on creating any additional online courses?  
I’ve been in creation-mode since 2013. In that time I’ve created, or co-created, over 20 online courses. That’s a lot. From a business perspective, running an effective online course can eat up a good amount of your time (especially if you’re trying to actively make money from your courses and support your students). My wife and I are trying to condense down our offerings and we may be creating a few courses together in 2018, but those will most likely be repurposed/updated version of multiple courses we’ve already created. 
 
8.  What types of additions and changes are you working on currently for the Teachery platform?
We brought on a second developer who has some ownership in Teachery this year. That was a huge decision for us, since it’s just been myself and my co-founder Gerlando since 2013. In the past six months we’ve completely redesigned our course editor, added a second course template (no small feat), beefed up our payment engine, created an affiliate system, and built out a ton of documentation. Looking ahead, we’re working on better landing/sales pages, much better image/file support within courses, and a ton of backend optimizations that will make Teachery extremely fast (and even more secure).
 
9.  As a lifetime member myself, I hope that Teachery is around for a very long time!  I’d love your comments on the future of Teachery.  
We’re super excited to have our Lifetime members, especially because we’re getting rid of that option very soon (crazy, I know!) The Lifetime Plan was an idea I had in 2015 and it’s not the best financial decision for us from a business perspective (haha!) For the first time, we’ll also be slightly raising our Monthly membership, but that won’t happen until we knock out a ton of new features.
The future is bright for Teachery. We haven’t spent a single dollar on marketing or advertising and have grown our audience and customer base solely through word of mouth. That was an intention I set at the beginning of Teachery, and I’d like to continue that way. I believe if our platform is great and our customer service is stellar, awesome folks like yourself will do our marketing and advertising for us. It’s worked so far, no reason we can’t keep doing that for many years to come!

At this point in my career, I’ve created and maintained 4 different websites:  this one (kathyrabago.com), my studio website (velocitymusicacademy.com), my online lesson website (pianoprogram.com), and the website I share with The Music Mentor Group (themusicmentorgroup.com).  Let me explain how I got into all of this….

Did you know that a requirement for a doctorate in music is proficiency in Italian, French, or German?  It’s a bit of an outdated rule, if you ask me.  The presumption is that you will need to be able to do research in one of these languages.  When I was working on my DMA, I wanted to write my dissertation about the creation of an online database for pedagogical piano literature.  For me, at that point in my life, spending class hours in foreign language classes was a bit pointless.  Now, of course I’m not saying that foreign language skills are unnecessary!  I already had a minor in German, so additional language study wasn’t high on my list with the limited amount of hours in a day.  So I petitioned my department head to let me sub my language classes for computer language classes.  My petition was accepted, and I began taking design classes from an amazing professor at UT who really sparked my interest in learning about website design.

Now, that was way back in 2003…..ancient times in internet history.  Website design was much more cumbersome at that time!  But that knowledge put a bug in me and made me want to learn more.  When I first started my home studio after graduating with my DMA, I read several tutorial on WordPress, which intrigued me with its unlimited, powerful options in web design.  So I created my studio website in WordPress.  The website you see here has been up since around 2005.  I’ve tweaked it and redesigned it over the years, but it has always been powered by WordPress.  Later down the road, when I opened my commercial studio, I once again used WordPress to create the website for Velocity Music Academy.

As a studio owner, or piano teacher, why would you want to create your own website?  Can’t you just hire out a designer to do it?  Sure you can.  But I was broke when I started my studio!  I wanted to save as much money as possible, and doing my own website was one way to cut expenses.  Also, I enjoy the freedom of being able to update my website anytime from anywhere.  If I want to change my tuition or add a class, or add information about summer lessons, I don’t have to contact my web designer and pay him/her to do it for me.  I just do it myself at my convenience.  Sure, it’s more trouble than hiring a designer, but it definitely saves you money and gives you total control over your own website.

So are you ready to get started and create your own website?  I’ll walk you through some steps to get it up and running.  This will be a basic website.  Now, it may not be as fancy or pretty as you want it to be.  That will take some time and a learning curve.  But you can definitely get your website up with some information on it with around 1-2 hours of work.  The beauty of creating it with WordPress is that once you have the basic structure down, you will have unlimited options in designing it for the future.  Let’s get started!

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  This means that if you decide to sign up through my link, then I will be given a small compensation of your purchase.  I hope you do use my link to sign up for these services in return for me sharing this information with you!  You will not be charged any more for your purchase, and these are services that I trust and currently use.  In fact, some of the prices are cheaper when you sign up with my affiliate link.  

Step 1:  Chose your domain name (URL).  You want this to be something that is available and of course easy to remember and spell.  For example, for my personal studio I use my name (kathyrabago.com) and for my commercial studio, I also use my business name (velocitymusicacademy.com).  I guess I’m not very creative in my name choice!  🙂  When you are thinking of names to pick, make sure that the name is not already taken by someone else.

Step 2:  Decide where to host your website.  There are many companies out there that can host your website.  Basically, this is where your website’s data lives.  I use Bluehost.  Why?  The company is reliable, the prices are cheap, and the customer service is awesome.  I’ve had some finger-bitting situations where I thought I lost all my data, and the chat customer support folks at Bluehost saved me every time.

For steps 3 – the end, I’m going to walk you through these in a video tutorial.  The written tutorial with screenshots is below.  Enjoy!



Step 3:  Navigate to Bluehost using this link.  (Thank you!)  Click on the “Get Started Now” button.  (This is a big lime green button).  Select the Basic Plan.

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Step 4:  In the “New Domain” box, enter the URL that you chose in Step 1.  If your name is already taken (bummer) go back and try again with a different URL.

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Step 5:  Enter in your information.  Under Package Information, the best deal is for you to choose the 36 month package.  Yes, you pay for it all upfront, but it is cheaper in the long run.

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Step 6:  You’ll be asked if you want some other add-ons.  You don’t need those right now, so just decline these.

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Step 7:  Yay!  Your hosting is now set up.  Click on the link to create your password.  Make sure your remember your password!

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Step 8:  Log on to your account.

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Step 9:  A nice welcome box will pop up.  You can click the X in the corner since I’m helping you.  🙂

Step 10:  Time to install WordPress.  Remember, WordPress is what you will use to design your website.  Bluehost is just your host.  Scroll to the bottom of your page and click “Install WordPress.”

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Step 11:  Click the Green “Get Started” button.

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Step 12:  Select a Domain for installation.  You probably just want to use your main site.

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Step 13:  Under Site Name or Title, please name your site.  This could be, for example, “Piano Lessons with Kathy”  Choose an Admin Username and an Admin Password.  You can keep the ones they gave you, or choose your own.  These will be your wordpress passwords.  Remember them!!  Check off “Automatically create a new database for this installation” and “I have read the terms and conditions….”  Click “Install.”

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Step 14:  Wait patiently for the check mark at the top of the screen to turn green.

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Step 15:  Check your email.  You will have an email from Mojo Marketplace.  Keep this email!  You will need these links everytime you update your website.

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Step 16:  From the email you just received, click on the Admin URL.  Enter in your username and password.  To retrieve your password, follow the password link from the email and click on the bottom right “View”.

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Step 17:  Time to start designing your webpage!  Login to your wordpress page using your username and password from step 16.  You can always get to your log in screen by typing the name of your website and then /wp-admin.  You will now see your dashboard.  This is where you edit all of your webpages.  Remember, your website will be very basic right now.  You can spend time later adding on a fancy template (called a “Theme” in WordPress).

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You did it!  Once again, this is just a basic, basic webpage.  To make it look nice, you’ll need to install a theme.  Most theme installations have videos and tutorials to help you do that.  If there’s enough interest, I can work on a tutorial for buying and setting up a theme.  Have fun!