Some universities, such as the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Southeastern Louisiana University and the University of Texas at Austin, host personal enrichment, non-credit and informal courses taught by community members — like me. Community members are welcome to pitch course ideas and set their own per-student class prices. The best part is you don’t need teaching experience, just a strong knowledge of your topic.
Could I be an informal instructor?
Do you write computer programs but build really cool robots in your spare time? Are you tired of talking about real estate and want to talk about stocks? Do you work in accounting but sell your handmade jewelry on Etsy? You’d be the perfect informal instructor. And in addition to acquiring a little extra money, you’ll inevitably learn more about your interests as you prepare your course.
Classes can cost anywhere between $50-$300 per student for either a four or 10 week course, though a portion of that fee goes to the university. The cut taken by a university may differ from place to place, so make sure it is worth your time to teach an informal course before signing up.
I usually make about $200 for my four-session English language history course. Each session is about an hour and a half long — unless I talk too much. Since I’ve taught it more than once, I don’t typically have to do much planning. But for first timers, you may want to devote a few hours to lesson planning.
To teach a course, most universities require instructors to pitch their course ideas. The University of Texas was very specific about what information was important, so be sure to check with your specific universities’ requirements. For me, all I did was fill out the form, but I had done my research and wrote my answers well in advance.
Southeastern Louisiana University’s website includes a template syllabus to get you started. But even if a college or university doesn’t, building one is useful to get an idea of how much content you’ll be able to cover. Check out these tips from Cornell University about creating a syllabus.
Don’t Forget to Advertise
You’ll want to think about how you’ll attract students to your course. I promote my English class in the newsletters of a few local literacy teaching associations. If I did more promotion, I would probably draw more students, but I still do fairly well.
Many community colleges also offer non-credited courses as well. A simple Google search for non-credit, enrichment or informal courses in your area is one way to start, and if there is no instruction on how to pitch a class on your desired college’s website, you can always contact someone in the department for more information. Another possible option is searching job posting websites like Indeed.com, which produces more than 3,000 hits for a non-credit instructor.
If you do decide to teach a class, remember that it’s informal, and your students will likely not be specialists. That’s why I think it’s better to teach a hobby than a career: It’s ultimately a chance to chat with people about your passion.