Many aspects of online teaching are counter intuitive. One that I personally grapple with is the idea of competition.
If someone is teaching your topic online, they are in competition with you. Right? Well, it is not as simple as that and in the long run, these fellow teachers will likely be benefiting your business more than anything else.
Competitors are validation that there is an active audience for you to serve. Furthermore, they are actively involved in nurturing and growing your audience. Online education has enjoyed a surge of popularity since the early 2000’s, and it is all to do with how students perceive online education (i.e. it is trustworthy, and it does work.)
The endless stream of hurdles that you will face at the outset of online education might have you peeking over at other online teachers who are experiencing success. No matter how much you might be tempted, don’t copy what they are doing.
Firstly, remember that students will be drawn to you rather than the information you impart. So if you try and imitate someone else, you will undoubtedly come off as a cheap imitation. Secondly, you are denying yourself the best weapon in your arsenal… your own voice!
There really are no quick fixes in this marathon, and I can tell you from experience that when your work is copied… it is quite obvious.
What To Do When Someone Copies You?
If you are successful, you will be copied. It is that simple.
In some ways it is a compliment, but it can be upsetting and sometimes border on plagiarism. With all of the benefits that come with freedom of access, plagiarism is an unfortunate byproduct of the online world. If there is outright copyright infringement, you should issue a DMCA notice to take down the materials in question. In the much more likely scenario that you can simply see that your ideas, presentations, sales copy, and even style has been ripped off, you will just have to console yourself with the fact that this particular competitor does not understand. They don’t understand that they are losing their own voice and doing a poor imitation of yours.
Your Style Is Your Secret Weapon
Remind yourself again and again that your voice, your way of communicating, even the way you present yourself to the world, this is the real advantage you have in the competitive field of online education.
If we take as a given that you are delivering quality information, and you have put thought and effort into building your curriculum, then it really comes down to the connection between teacher and student. This connection will exist for some and not for others. Remember that no matter how hard you try you cannot please everyone!
The best thing you can do, and a way to deal with competition, is to double down on who you are. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? To what kind of person (avatar) do you appeal? If you can answer these questions, then you will not have to fight so hard to find students.
Those With The Most In Common, Fight
The last thing I will say on this topic, and it is yet another counter intuitive concept, is to be mindful of who we are competing with.
You share more in common with your competitors than with most other people in your life! They not only share a passion for your craft but they also want to teach online. They have a knack for technology and an entrepreneurial spirit. Logic tells me that our competitors should be our friends. So why isn’t it so?
Maybe it just takes the courage of one to reach out and make the first connection.