November 8, 2020

JF2259: Translate Classroom Courses to Online With Carla Cross #Skillset Sunday


Carla Cross is a long-time licensed real estate professional. She and her husband started investing in single-family homes in the late ’70s. As the author of 7 books for real estate professionals, Carla is a known authority on productivity and profits. She is a recipient of the National Association of Realtors Educator of the Year Award. With her background in sales, management, and training, Carla is helping her audiences ‘translate’ their classroom courses to effective online formats.

Carla Cross  Real Estate Background:

  • Licensed real estate professional, and author of 7 books for real estate professionals
  • She started investing in single-family homes with her husband in the late ‘70s
  • She is also the recipient of the National Association of Realtors Educator of the Year Award
  • Based in Seattle, WA
  • Say hi to her at:

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Best Ever Tweet:

“What’s challenging is when your teaching someone to do something you must be sure your teaching them in the right order” – Carla Cross


Theo Hicks: Hello Best Ever listeners, and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks, and today we are speaking with Carla Cross. Carla, how are you today?

Carla Cross: I’m doing great, thank you. It’s sunny… What can be better?

Theo Hicks: Yeah, it’s a little dark in here, but I do have some sun coming in. So, I feel you. Carla is a repeat guest. She was a guest in our first year, episode 154. So being a repeat guest, we’re going to do a Skillset Sunday episode. But before we get into that, a refresher on who Carla is. She is a licensed real estate professional and author of seven books for real estate professionals. She started investing in single family homes with her husband in the late 70’s, and is also the recipient of the National Association of Realtors Educator of the Year Award, which is going to be important for what we talk about today. She’s based in Seattle, Washington and you could say hi to her at her website, which is Carla, before we jump into today’s skillset, could you tell us a little more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Carla Cross: Sure. I come from a very closely related field to real estate, music. I started playing piano when I was 4, and I played by ear, and then took lessons, and I thought I was going to become a professional musician forever. I have a Bachelors in Piano and a Masters in Music Theory, but I couldn’t really ever figure out what I love to do, and I stumbled into real estate to help my husband when he was between radio DJ jobs. But I found out I love selling real estate, and those of you out there that are selling real estate or investing, you’re doing it first because you love it. Because there’s something about it, because it’s a basic security issue. And don’t we know that right now with COVID there’s nothing more important right now than the people’s security and the security of their homes. So I found I really loved it. The music was wonderful, but nobody ever died for a lack of music, I don’t think.

So I went into real estate and I’ve found I loved it. My husband went back into radio, but I stayed in real estate and became the top sales person, and became a top manager. Then I started teaching classes all over the US and all over the world. And the books that you see at the back of me, I actually wrote because I put them together as help tools for my agents first. So that’s really how it started. I’ve mostly done work with real estate agents, but I did write a book– I don’t know if you see it back there… But it was for buyers, “Buyer Beware: Insider secrets you have to know before you buy a home.” And that was at the time when Buyer Agency was just starting, and there were a whole bunch of misconceptions about it, both from the public and the agents. So, that’s why I wrote the book. But all the rest of them have been for the real estate professionals.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Thanks for sharing that. So the skillset of today is how to create a course– more specifically how to create a course, a seminar that is online. So take it away. Let us know exactly where we start if we want to create a course. I think the answer is pretty obvious, but how to actually do it might not be so obvious.

Carla Cross: Oh, absolutely. Obviously we have to– as I said, I do a lot of speaking, I do a lot of writing, I help real estate professionals become certified trainers in the State of Washington and all over the US. And of course, all of us have had to go online. Now I just did webinar– by the way, if you want to see the webinar about some tips on taking your classroom online, you can just go to my website and go to Free webinars and more, and you could see it. I’ll say it again at the end. But it’s a good overview of all the things you have to do.

So, what I discovered during that webinar was that about 90% of the classes that real estate professionals and affiliates – and that would be anybody like title people, and all the people that teach the real estate, 90% were live. We just weren’t doing much online, because we didn’t have to. So all of a sudden everything’s online. But you can imagine it’s kind of Fruit Basket Upset. The problem is first of all the classes, most of them aren’t really classes, they’re information dumps. And so for you out there, you can’t create a course online until you’ve created the whole format offline. Does that make sense? Because if you try to go online with it and you try to use all the gewgaw’s on any software, like small groups or polls, you don’t know where to put them. So, you don’t want to just buy some software, or rent it or whatever, course software, and then start in. You start by actually creating the course.

So when you create the course, the first thing you do obviously is write down all the stuff you know and then you organize it. And then you say “How am I going to teach this?” So those of you who are watching, of the Zoom calls or courses, or whatever you’ve watched online in the last 3 months, how many of them have been interesting? How many have been involving? When I ask the people on this webinar – and most of them were real estate trainers – I ask them how long they could focus on a 45 minute webinar, about 50% said only up to 10 minutes. Now these are trainers. These are people who want the information.

So basically, what I’m saying is be really careful not to copy all these people that are doing all these online things are. Because most of them actually are pretty awful. But I don’t have to tell you that. You know that, because you’ve had to watch them, right? So then what you want to do is think, “I’m writing this course…”  And by the way, don’t try to dump the whole load and tell them everything you know. Figure out what you can do – this big rule, 45 minutes only. I think Theo’s doing this interview, it’s about 20 minutes. Right Theo? It’s 20 to 25 minutes?

Theo Hicks: Yup.

Carla Cross: Okay. Because that’s enough. But you can get away with a course, especially if you have time for questions, no more than 45 minutes. You’ll just lose everybody. And you’re going to be exhausted. So, 45-minute segments. That doesn’t mean you have to do a whole course. Just segments.

So what do you do? You think about what do I want to teach? What do I want them to walk away with at the end of 45 minutes? Not “Can I dump everything I know about everything?” But, “what do I want?” So think in segments. In the industry now we call that micro learning, where we’re going deeper into something. Now you can do an overview, but you’re still going to have to involve them.

Let’s take a look at how you might involve them then, because you don’t have them in the classroom. And one of the things that I’ve discovered by teaching a bunch of real estate people and affiliates is this – we’re good talkers. And Theo, you know this from interviewing a lot of us, we’re pretty out there. At least when we’re performing, we’re performers, right? So it’s easy for us to get interaction with a group or crowd. But now let’s go online. Nobody’s really there. And even though I can see Theo, and Theo can see me, I don’t get that physical energy, because we’re not really there.

Now multiply that by the number of people you’ve got in your course, or class, or Zoom call. You don’t have the energy. So what are you going to do to involve them?

Let’s say you’ve got your course, and if you were going to teach it live, you would ask them a question. And they would talk, and that’s called discussion. Well, if you try that and you’ve got 50 people on a Zoom call, that’s going to be really awful. And usually you have to mute everybody anyway, because you know dumb things happen in a way. They go to the bathroom, or their kids come in, and whatever… So you’ve got to mute them, right? So what do you do? Take that question you would ask  – and talking about how to create that course – you could put a provocative question right at the beginning. And that question should give you some information as a spring board for you to go the next thing.

For instance, I talked to you about the question I asked, “What percentage of your classes you’ve taught before COVID were live?” And this was to a whole bunch of real estate trainers. And again, they said 90%. What was that? That was my spring board. So I can go “Yeah! And we can’t do it now. So what in the heck do we do?” Because we can’t just turn on the camera and talk. It’s death.

So, you’re going to ask a provocative question at the beginning of your course. And to get your answers, you’re going to use tools, if you can. If you’re using Zoom, Zoom lets you use polls, I use GoToWebinar for my webinars. But take a look at all those different platforms, use the ones that give you the kind of abilities that you need to teach the way you want to. You’ve got to be more than just talk.

So you’re going to ask a provocative question, then you’re going to take those answers and you’re going to comment. And that’s going to lead you to the next section. What else can you do, besides polls? Don’t beat the dead horse, don’t do too many, don’t do more than 3 or 5 in 45 minutes. They won’t even respond. I had a really good trainer with me– by the way when you’re doing online,  have somebody else there with you if possible… To do comments, to read what’s coming in in the chat, all that kind of stuff. Well I have a really good trainer I work with, so she was keeping track of everything… And we were noting – even though again, these were a bunch of trainers and you would think they’d want to tell us all this stuff… The biggest response we’ve got was 70% of them answered, in other words they answered the poll. Even though I thought those polls were like, “Hey, everybody would want to answer this stuff.” So why didn’t they answer? Oh, they were doing other stuff, they weren’t paying attention. So when you do your polls, know you’re probably not going to get them all, but shoot for a number you want to get, because that’s going to give you your spring board to go forward.

What else can you do? Well, in a live class, hopefully you’re going to divide them into small groups and have them do some work. And by the way, learn how to use different kinds of teaching methods besides lecture and discussion, because you need to have those teaching methods written in your course to translate it to online. It’s going to be a little different, because you can only use the software instead of using yourself inside the class.

So let’s say you want to them to work on something, you can divide them into small groups and have them work on something, and give you their reports back. That’s a really cool thing to do. And one version of Zoom lets you do that. I highly suggest that you do that, because everybody likes to talk. So you want to give them a chance to talk to each other, but not always to you, because you can’t control 50 people talking. Those are just two things that you could do when you’re doing this online course.

So what you always want to do too is as you’re watching these courses – and I watch lots of them to see how they teach. Not necessarily what I learn about everything, but how do they teach. So watch those and ask yourself how can I put that in?

For instance, the other day – this one’s pretty interesting… I saw one where the instructor said to people, “Get out of your chair and go find something in your office or home and come back and tell us what it means to you.” I thought that was pretty clever. Because you know how you sit in the chair and you’re like, “Oh, I’ve got to get out of here.” So she literally had them get up, go find something and tell the significance. Now, how could you use that in your course? Well, for instance if I was teaching how to take my classroom online, because I’d have a bunch of instructors, I could have them go get something, like a great book that they’ve read, that they want to share one thing out of it. And then I could have everybody tell us, or I could put them in small groups and tell each other, and then have them report. I thought that was very brilliant, to be able to get people involved, but in a kind of a surprising way. I’ve only seen that done once, and I’m going to do it in some way. So I suggest that you think of things to get them out of their chair. I’m not watching really the time, so you tell me, Theo, how I’m doing time-wise.

Theo Hicks: You’re doing great. Thanks for sharing all that. I’ve got a few follow up questions. I kind of want to focus more on the first aspect of it. Because you did elaborate in a lot of detail on the second part, which is actually how you teach it. So you’ve mentioned that obviously the first step isn’t to find a software, isn’t to find some technology to use, but to actually create the course first. You said that to write everything down and then organize it. How do I know if I’m ready to teach a course? How do I know if I have enough information in my head to create a course?

Carla Cross: That is a great question. When I said write everything– yeah. I was really kind of making the assumption that we have a lot of information. What’s really interesting is all of us are carrying around a lot more information about anything than we think we are… And when you start writing it down — in fact I can’t really grab it now, but I’m going to write a book on how to train and take those principles into online. Just like we’re talking about today.

So when I did the proposal, I wrote down everything that I can think of about the course. Now, it didn’t all come from me. Where did I go? I went to the notes on the webinars, the notes I’d taken. So when you’re going to do a course– let’s say Theo you want to do a course and you’re going “Wow, I know people need to know this, but I don’t think I know enough.” What do you do? Just like when you write a book, you do research. So you go “This is what I’d like. I don’t have enough information in that aspect.” So you go do some research, get some books, look on the web, all that kind of stuff. You will surprise yourself.

Here’s the big mistake we make when we create courses, whether it’s classroom or online – we make them too big. For instance in real estate, people will want to write a course on everything you need to know about listing property, and I’ve got an hour. No way. What about, instead, how to find people who might want to list their property. That’s one module.

So take those things apart and think about how deeply you want to go in each subject. As I said, you could do either an overview, or you can chunk it down and just do a bit of it and then go to the next one. Does that answer that question about where do you get the info?

Theo Hicks: A hundred percent. One thing, Carla – I know you know this. I know this… Anyone who does podcasts or any sort of content knows this… You can talk about one thing for way longer than you actually think. If you want to do a video on– a perfect example would be the podcast that me and Travis do now, where we’ll do a blog post that you can read in 30 seconds, so we can talk about it for half an hour and get through a third of the blog post. So I think that something else to– it kind of goes along the same lines of you know a lot more than you think, and then obviously if don’t have enough, you can research. So when you say write things down, do you mean sitting at your computer and just start typing it out?

Carla Cross: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I just can’t find my list of all the things that I wrote for this proposal. Because then what I had to do was, after I wrote them all, then I put them in some order.

Theo Hicks: That’s what I wanted to ask you next. So I’ve got my Word document, I’ve got my notebook full of notes. What’s the best way to go about organizing them?

Carla Cross: Well, there are several ways. One easy way is chronologically. For instance, my example of how to list property. Chronologically, the first part would be how do you find people that want to list property. Chronologically is easy, because it’s through time. You can also do it by subject. Here’s subject number 1, here’s subject number 2. What’s challenging is that when you’re teaching somebody to do something, you have to be sure to teach them in the right order. I’m just teaching one of my friends to read music who’s been a singer for many, many years. She’s sung in all these groups all over the world, and she said to me the other day, “I can’t read music.” I couldn’t believe it, that she couldn’t read music and she’d been able to do this.

Well, I bought a book to go through with her, because I do have a Masters in Music Theory, but I thought, “Oh my gosh. I can’t teach her all this unless I organize it and write it all down first. And I don’t want to spend 6 months.” So I bought the book. Guess what? The first thing this book teaches you to read music is the rhythm part. I wouldn’t have started there. But there’s a good reason why he started there. I don’t remember, but he started there. So he started with the very simple principles of reading rhythm. And then he got more complex. Then he goes into reading notes.

So sit down and say to yourself, “If I’m going to teach somebody to do something, what’s the right order?” So how do you find out? You try it. I taught piano and flute for many years. But even teaching instructor development… You’ll learn if you’ve got things out of order, because people will go, “Well, I don’t know that. I can’t get that. I don’t understand.” That means you weren’t clear enough in your instructions, and you didn’t have them actually doing something with it. So that’s a big part of it.

I’d really suggest you to [unintelligible [00:21:42].10] how to teach a course – I do have an online course and you can go to my website and see it if you want to. But that way you get all the principles I’m talking about. And you’re not just guessing at these things. You know, “Oh, I’m starting this chronologically and this is what I’m going to put in it, and this is why I’m going to put it in it, and these are the exercises I want so I don’t bore people to tears.”

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Alright Carla, is there anything else you want to mention as it relates to creating an online course? Or really anything else you want to tell people before we conclude the interview?

Carla Cross: I think no matter what we do today, we’re going to do it online, just like you and I are doing this online. And I know the first one we did was telephone, I believe. But we’re all going to do these things, Facetime kind of thing. So no matter if you don’t want to really create a course, all of these communication skills will help you. For instance, I own a real estate company also, and we’re teaching agents how to do online listing and buyer presentations. Because so much of the agents’ work now is not going to be face to face.

So if you’re an investor and you’re working with an agent– of course, having been licensed for all these years, I suggest obviously always work with a great agent that you interview and that you screen… Don’t just go to somebody because you saw them. But you want them to have great skills presented remotely, because they probably will. So I ask them that question, “Tell me about the skills that you’ve got presenting. Do you have an online presentation? Show me.” Because all hell can break lose, if they don’t know what they’re doing and they’re in your hands — so you learn this stuff to some extent, so that you could pass it on.

The other thing that I’d say doesn’t have to do with courses, but as Theo said, we’ve owned different kinds of rentals for a number of years… So everybody’s in security issues now, so with your tenants – be very kind to them, help them out any way you can; they will never forget you that way. It’s really important right now. I’m finding that in doing a lot of things for tenants, not because I have to, but because I want to… And what I’ve also found is that they really, really are responsive to that. They would really do anything for me and anything to stay there. So that’s kind of my advice to you just as a human being, and as an investor or a landlord.

Theo Hicks: Thanks for sharing both pieces of advice. Carla, thanks for joining us. You’ve told us how to create an online course. You mentioned first to actually create the course, which involves writing everything down and organizing it. You gave us examples of organizing it. Even if you think you don’t have enough information to do a course, first try writing it all out. And even if you don’t know anything, or don’t know enough, you can always go out there and do research, that’s what everyone does, whether they know things they’re not; they’re going to have to do some sort of research to do a course. So don’t feel bad or like an impostor if you’re doing research.

And then the second step is to figure out the best way to teach it, to get the information out there. You gave us a lot of really good tips, but I think the best one you gave was the first two of them. One, don’t do a massive dump; keep it short. And then have no problem doing a 10-part course to keep things concise.

And the second thing was some of the creative ways to get the audience involved when doing an online course. Put provocative questions and then have a poll, divide them up, and have them do different exercises and report back. Have them do things that gets them out of their chair, with the example of finding a book or something in their house to talked about. You mentioned at the beginning that if we go to your website, she has a free webinar where you can go into more details on this in 45 minutes… So make sure you check that out at her website. Again, thank you for joining us. Best ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a best every day and we’ll talk to your tomorrow.

Carla Cross: Right. Thank you Theo. It was great.

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