Theater Arts: the Future of Online Education

I just watched an online play that surpassed my expectations of what Zoom technology could accomplish in online education.

Teaching a 1,500+ person online class, we are at the forefront of creating immersive online experiences.

When we started Building a Second Brain, there was no script; there were no pre-recorded videos. But over the years, we refined our content with highly produced videos, dress rehearsals, fancy cameras and lighting, and tightly facilitated agendas.

Teaching online isn't like showing up in front of a classroom. It takes far more energy to hold people's attention when it's online. If you want to charge premium prices for an online course, it needs to be more performance than lecture.

Think about performing a dance, theater piece, or song on an instrument. You rehearse the lines, the movement, the timing over and over. When a dancer starts learning new choreography, it's awkward because your brain is trying to remember what comes next. The movements are disjointed; it's hard to get into a flow between doing the moves and remembering what to do. After many repetitions, muscle memory kicks in, and the body can focus on performing.

Think about the difference between a TED talk and a college professor's lecture. TED speakers are never rushing and end just on time. Most of them hire speech coaches and rehearse a ton to be that polished on stage. It's a performance.

But this Zoom play opened up a whole new world of possibilities that are the new frontier of online education: The intersection of online education and performance art.

The play The Most Beautiful Home...Maybe told the history of housing in the U.S. The actors were singing zebras who facilitated breakout rooms. Each actor had a green screen, and scenes were easily changed. Music was playing throughout the performance. Pre-recorded videos played and transitioned into the actors leading meaningful discussions on housing policy. The individual and group activities were designed as a game board in Miro. The actors' instructions were Windex-clear, moving people between discussions on Zoom and working on the activities in Miro.

I was blown away by the seamless integration of media and moving pieces. I can't imagine what it took to design and execute this play.

I was inspired to shoot for their execution level in our future cohorts of Building a Second Brain. We often look to top course creators for inspiration, like Marie Forleo's B-School or Seth Godin's AltMBA. Now I will spend the next few months watching as many Zoom theatrical performances as I can, learning from those who are experts in holding an audience's attention.