Outline Your Class

While in the planning stage, it can be helpful to outline your class in preparation for filming. This article provides some helpful tips for structuring your class and points to some must-haves across all of your lessons.

In this article:

Recommended Class Structure

Skillshare classes, on average, include 20-60 minutes of pre-recorded video content broken down in a series of short 2- to 8-minute lessons (or videos). This is to ensure the class is digestible and organized in a clear sequence. Here’s the general structure we recommend:

  • Intro Video: A short, inspirational video that feels like a movie trailer. It summarizes what students can expect to learn in your class and sparks a personal connection between you and your students.
  • Project Video: A quick explainer for the project your students will complete.
  • Class Lessons: The sequence of lessons that teach fundamental concepts and/or outline the steps towards completing the project.
  • Conclusion Video: A final video to wrap up and summarize the class. This article will cover the essential elements of each of these class components so you can be sure to plan for them as you develop your class.

Planning and Scripting

While you’re still in the planning stage, it’s helpful to sketch out your main talking points, the format for each lesson, and what additional media you’ll need so you’re adequately prepared to start filming your class. The Class Planning Document is helpful for this!

Here are a few things you’ll need to consider in the planning stage:

Lesson Titles

Every lesson in your class should have a clear, concise title that explains the concept taught in that lesson. Put together, your lesson titles provide an at-a-glance outline of your class. Your current students use the lesson video queue to navigate your class while potential students scroll through the titles to see if your class is right for them. So titles really matter!

Similar to class titles, once you get closer to publishing we encourage you to revisit your lesson titles and give them a final polish. For more information on that process, refer to the article Class Merchandising and SEO.

Video Formats

Take note of how you plan to film and edit each lesson so you start to visualize the setup, your equipment needs, and how it will fit into your overall class. Some of the most engaging classes contain a mix of video formats, such as:

  • Talking head: A shot of you speaking directly to the camera.
  • Slide presentation: Simple text-based slides with a voiceover.
  • Screencast: For software demos or slide presentations on a computer.
  • Physical demonstration: For live tutorials, such as drawing or painting.

Media

Teachers also use a variety of additional media to augment their lessons, such as visuals/still images, examples, slides, B-roll, animations, graphics, and music. As a rule, for talking head shots, we recommend switching things up with a new camera angle, graphic, or slide every 30-45 seconds in your lessons, or every 3-5 seconds in your intro video. So take note of what media you’ll need now so you can prepare them for filming and editing later.

Video Length

We recommend keeping each lesson video concise: between 2 and 8 minutes is great. Estimating the length of each video in advance can help you plan ahead and visualize the overall scope of your class.

Talking Points and Key Concepts

Each lesson can include a demonstration of techniques, concepts, examples, as well as your unique perspective! Jotting down some key talking points that you want to make sure you cover will help ensure that you don't have to go back later and refilm anything you missed! Ideally, try to focus on one key concept or project step per lesson so you don’t overwhelm your students.

Some teachers prefer to write out a full script for each video. Other teachers create bullet points for each lesson and talk through it organically, making sure they hit on each point. Which approach you take is up to you — the most important thing is that your delivery on-camera feels natural, conversational, and not obviously from a script. For more tips about how to deliver your lessons on camera, refer to the article Teach with Confidence.

Planning Your Intro Video

Your intro video is basically the movie trailer for your class. It’s the first thing students see when they click on your class and the only part of your video content that non-members can see. So it should both adequately explain what the class is about and generate excitement for what you’re going to teach!

Each teacher approaches their intro videos differently, but we recommend a few key elements to ensure your intro video really snags your students’ attention.

  • Start off with a hook. Introduce the topic of the class in a way that gets your students excited about your class. Choose something that feels authentic to you and your teaching — see our examples below for a few ideas.
  • Introduce yourself and establish your authority as a teacher. This is incredibly important to your class’s success. Your intro is an opportunity to make an authentic connection with your students and also make a case for why they should learn from you. We recommend talking about your experience with the topic you’re teaching and sharing some of your professional accomplishments and examples of your work. Adding visuals to support your examples is essential!
  • Clearly highlight your class’s value proposition. Explain what core skill you’re teaching in this class. In addition, you need to explain why this skill is important in a broader context or how students can apply it outside of the class. One way to frame this in your video is to say, “Learning this skill is critical because ____,” and/or “By the end of this class, you’ll be able to ____,” filling in the blanks as appropriate.
  • Explain your stake in the class. This is optional, but recommended. What makes you so excited to teach this particular class? Why are you passionate about your work? Your class should be framed around your point of view as a professional in your field.
  • Mention who the class is created for. Call out who your target audience is for your class. For example, is it for beginners and hobbyists, or professionals?
  • Outline knowledge or tools your students might need. What specific background knowledge or expertise will your students need to jump into the class easily? What specific tools or software will your students need to complete the project?
  • Outline the structure of your class and the key skills students will learn. It’s helpful to do a short walkthrough of your class’s lessons and/or the major steps of the project.
  • Summarize the class project. Briefly explain what your students will be making in this class — you’ll dig into the project more deeply in your project video.
  • Sign off with some excitement! Closing your intro with a short statement such as, “Let's get started!” or “See you in the first lesson!” can help set the tone for the rest of your class.

To prepare for filming you should also consider the following:

  • Aim to make your intro video no more than two minutes in length.
  • To help establish a connection with your students, we highly recommend your intro video should include a visual of you speaking to the camera, otherwise known as “talking head.”
  • In addition to examples of your own work and the project, your intro video should include a variety of visuals to draw students in and keep your students engaged. B-roll is perfect for this, but some teachers also add animated graphics or overlays. Don't be afraid to get creative with this video!
  • Finally, adding some low volume, upbeat background music to your intro is a great way to enhance your intro video and set the mood for your class.
While we recommend adding music to your intro video as well as your conclusion video, it’s better to not use it for your lessons as music can distract from your teaching.

Take a look at the following classes to see some excellent and comprehensive intro videos:

  • In Khadija Karachiwala’s intro video for her class, Experience the Outdoors: A Beginner’s Guide To Watercolor Landscapes, she presents a hook (in the form of a rhetorical question) and the class’s value proposition in the first two sentences. She goes on to talk about her background and her specific reasons for teaching this class — these are important to students. Since this is a class focused on painting watercolors outside, in addition to excerpts from her lessons, Khadija has included a lot of B-roll of her walking through the landscape to augment what she’s about to teach.
  • In the intro video for his class, Cinematography Basics: Introduction to Lighting Techniques, Zak Mulligan starts off with a visual hook: some fun B-roll of him playing with different lighting setups. While this lesson B-roll is moody and cinematic (it’s a film lighting class!), his talking head footage is shot with a webcam in a small, light interior space. Switching between these two formats in his intro gives Zac the best of both worlds: he’s showing off his spectacular lighting demos but balances them out with shots that are warmer and more approachable.
  • Top Teacher Simon Ip’s intro for Lineless Illustrations in Procreate 101: Drawing with Color and Shape is all about the value proposition! He starts off with a compelling hook about the beauty of lineless art. He then goes on to outline the key skills students will learn which is accompanied by punchy graphic slides. He also uses some simple motion graphics and b-roll to add energy to his video.

For a comprehensive overview of what makes a great intro video, check out DIY Video Production: How to Create a Compelling Introduction Video by Lee Cohen, who has worked with some other Skillshare teachers producing their classes!

Planning Your Project Video

Your project video is how you present your class project to your students. Within this video, we recommend that you:

  • Explain the final deliverable. Or in other words, what the final format of the project will be. You may also want to add what you will be looking for in their projects or even what techniques or principles they should apply in their work.
  • Give context. Why did you choose this project for this class? What do you like about it?
  • Summarize the steps your students need to take to complete the project. Walk through the various steps and mention what materials or tools they might need along the way.
  • Remind your students to post their projects to the Project Gallery. It can be helpful to quickly explain to students how to upload their project to the class as well as reminding them that you’ll give feedback on their work.
  • Give your students their first action step. Sometimes just getting started is the most significant barrier for students when completing projects. What’s the absolute first thing your students need to do to initiate the project? Perhaps they need to check out the project description, download the project resources, or grab their materials.

Planning Your Class Lessons

Your lessons are the substance of your class — think of them as the "main course" of the class meal. As mentioned above, the average class includes 20-60 minutes of pre-recorded video content broken down in a series of short 2- to 8-minute lessons (or videos).

To keep your students focused, try to include no more than one core concept or step per lesson and make a point of defining that key idea upfront. During the planning stage, we recommend you jot down your main points for each lesson in your planning document.

Think about other ways to augment your lessons — add these notes to your planning document as well. Here are a few ideas:

Bookend Your Lessons

Create a “mental map” of your class by including consistent cues at the start and end of your lessons. You could add a brief title slide at the start of each lesson video, either edited in the video itself or that lesson video's cover image, and a brief slide at the end that summarizes key takeaways. These additions can helpfully orient students and create coherence in your class.

Vary Your Visuals

As mentioned, varying your visuals help make an engaging lesson! Consider ways you can use different video formats in your class, as well as B-roll, to augment your teaching. Slides or graphics can help guide your presentation, set the pacing of your class, and highlight core takeaways for your students. As mentioned above, for talking head shots, we recommend switching things up with a new camera angle, graphic, or slide every 30-45 seconds in your lessons.

Let Your Personality Shine Through

Feel free to draw on your own experience in your lessons. Share tips and tricks, or any hacks you’ve found. Don’t worry about the “right” way to do something – share your way! Anticipate where a student may struggle and mention strategies you’ve used to work through hurdles. Stories, anecdotes, and even jokes are also helpful to make concepts memorable and so students can connect with you.

As mentioned here and elsewhere, when it comes time to film your lessons, it’s important to maintain a sense of authenticity on camera and find ways to carefully explain your creative decisions to students. For additional tips on how to get comfortable on camera and deliver clear and informative lessons, review the article Teach With Confidence.

Planning Your Conclusion Video

In your conclusion video, we recommend the following:

  • Thank your students. Find a way to appreciate your students for embarking on this journey with you and congratulate them for completing the class.
  • Recap what they learned in the class. Walk back through your lessons and summarize the main points.
  • Include a key takeaway. While not essential, it can be helpful to reiterate the key skill or class value proposition here. You can frame it by saying, “If there’s one thing I hope you take from this class, it’s ____.”
  • Final reminders. Use this opportunity to ask your students to post their projects in the Project Gallery. You can also prompt students to follow you on Skillshare or on social media, and/or leave a review.

Just like your intro video, your conclusion should be short (less than two minutes) and feature you on camera (aka “talking head”) and may use similar music and visuals as your intro video to close out the class.

Resources

  • Class Planning Document: Use this template to organize your thoughts for your class and plan ahead for filming and editing.