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Viewpoint: Why self-taught learners are better at teaching

1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128… That is how the unread messages were piling up every 15 minutes. Her video has 1.4 million views and growing exponentially. Everyone was forwarding the same video to Eshna Kutty. Everyone was sending her, her own hoop dance video and doing it while wearing a saree and sneakers. Like all ‘overnight’ success stories, it has taken her ten years to be an ‘overnight sensation’. 

Signs of a curious learner

  1. Ability to deconstruct: she taught herself hula hoop dancing by watching YouTube videos, playing them in slow motion and then practising it. She saw every video on YouTube on that subject. When she started dancing, she had not seen a hoop dancer in real life. Her 10,000 hours of practice over ten years built her skill. Three years back she started teaching because she wanted to build a community of hoop dancers.
  2. And simplify it and make it fun: with her background in psychology and movement therapy, she reimagined hoop dancing as something more than exercise. She describes it as a form of creative expression.
  3. Build a community of learners: whenever she performed with other artists she envied them for the community that they had. When she started teaching that was the first thing she did and created a community of learners. The learners share their own videos and help each other grow when someone struggles to pick up a new move.

Learn from others mistakes

Eshna has been teaching people how to hoop. But what I want you to look at is just how she plans the class. She had seen people take their classes online by doing everything in the same way as they have done for in person classes.

  1. Onboarding is the most important part: in the weeks before the classes began, Eshna would call up each person and spend a few minutes to know what the person would like to learn and what they intended to get out of it. The participants told her that made them feel connected with the instructor. She says, ‘Content is only 30% of the impact in online classes. 70% is about building the relationship.’
  2. Make the learners know the other participants: making the participants feel a part of the community is another way to make learning a social experience.
  3. Being deeply committed to the success of the learner: Eshna made her entire plan known on her website. She invested in the best audio video equipment and invested in high end internet connections for the classes. She has two interns who help her answer learner’s queries. If someone did not know how to find a hoop, she would send them one. "That in turn made me an entrepreneur. I have a GST number now."

So what is she really, a dancer, an entrepreneur or an internet sensation? I am teacher first, she says without missing a beat.

Watch the interview. The first 30 seconds has the video that broke the internet. The interview begins after that.

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