As we celebrate our one-year podcasting anniversary, we are excited to share that Will Mannon, the Course Director of Forte Academy, will be co-hosting the Reshaping Education Podcast alongside our Founder & CEO, Ish Baid. As we prepare for the launch of Season 2, we had a chance to catch up with Will to learn what inspired him to work in the online education space, why focusing on the student experience makes a difference, as well as what he’s hoping to add to the show.
Will Mannon: I was working at a large tech company in San Francisco. The work was fine, but I was looking for more of a challenge. So I took an asynchronous course through UCLA. I have to say that the quality was not very good. I started looking for what else was out there. Then I found an online writing course called Write of Passage. I signed up for the first cohort and enjoyed it. I took the companion course, Building a Second Brain, enjoyed that too. After taking those courses, I sent an email to one of the founders, David Perell, with a couple of suggestions about improving the course. Things took off from there. I started working part-time for Forte Academy.
Will Mannon: There was no live component. The teacher was a bit checked out. I never met anyone like we're talking right now over Zoom. There was such a lack of connection and lack of results, frankly.
Will Mannon: As the Course Director, I'm responsible for student experience, ensuring we deliver an exceptional experience for all of our students in both courses.
Within our 13-week cycle, I could work with the instructor to plan the changes to the curriculum or design new components, meet with mentors, and help with training. So yeah, many different activities depending on where we are, but it comes down to many Zoom calls and a lot of writing.
Will Mannon: Great online courses have a live component. Ten years ago, courses were predominantly single-player where you are just getting information. It was all about the transmission of information. However, nowadays, you have these different ingredients. You have the course materials, course curriculum, that's one component, but you also have the live calls. You have a community that is ongoing throughout the entire course duration. So, you're experiencing a lot more as a student than just information transmission.
As course creators, though, we need to make sure that all of those components are personalized to a given student, ensuring it's supporting their learning journey without friction.
At Forte Academy, we love to say we want students to be challenged but never confused. The whole point of the course is to challenge yourself to learn new things, push you to explore new areas, and build a personal knowledge management system. Challenge is good. But confusion means there's some aspect of the student experience that isn't clear. We haven't communicated expectations. We haven't shared materials on time or something like that.
My job is to make sure students are challenged by the course material, but never confused by the structure of the course.
Will Mannon: Ish and I were on Clubhouse early this year. Clubhouse was new and exciting. We had a lot of fun. So I kept coming to these Clubhouse rooms, and before long, Ish and I were co-hosting the Clubhouse show.
Online education is a budding and fascinating industry. We were having fun interviewing people each week, learning from people who are building CBCs, and doing research. It went from Clubhouse to the podcast, and we never stopped.
I'm excited to bring a different perspective on the online education space to the Reshaping Education Podcast. Ish and I are both in the trenches and get to see how the space is changing daily.
Will Mannon: You cannot overstate the importance of having an audience to launch a course. You can start small and grow over time. It takes commitment to the process and focusing on delivering a phenomenal student experience.
Connect with Will Mannon:
Next, listen to this episode where Will shares how to build and scale live online courses.
Danielle Desir is an author, freelance writer and the host of The Thought Card, an affordable-travel and personal finance podcast. (danielledesir.com) Follow on Twitter: @thethoughtcard