Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Choosing an On-Line Class

Zoo Lions (layout made in Building Pages class)
Since my local scrapbook store closed, I've become more interested in taking on-line classes. In choosing an on-line class, here are some of the things I consider:
1.  What kind of a student am I? I am a jump right in with both feet and complete all the lessons kind of student.  It bothers me to sign up for a class and then not "do it."  I am also a student with a very varied, "to-do" list a mile long.  I only take classes that will help me accomplish something on my list (which includes everything from catching up in my scrapbooking to improving my photography to working on mixed media art).
2. What is the media?  I don't sew, and I don't do digital scrapbooking/art journaling, etc.  So, I don't sign up for classes that work extensively in those media.  That actually eliminates a lot of potential classes.
3. What is the duration of the class and how frequent are lessons posted? My attention span for a class runs about three weeks - four weeks max.  If it's longer than that, I don't think I'll stick with it.  I also like classes which post lessons two to three times a week.  More frequently than that, and it's hard for me to keep up.  Less frequently, and I get antsy.  Both of these are related to my answer to question #1.  I can handle shorter classes with daily posts, but they need to be shorter (Tim's 12 Tags of Christmas is a good example).
4. Cost.  This is tricky, and I'm still not sure what my price-point is.  I have never paid more than $50 for an on-line class, and I'm not sure I would.  Not sure why, but that seems to be a tipping point for me.
5. Community.  I really like to have a forum where I can post my creations and have people ooh and aah over them.  Conversely, I also like to be able to look at other people's creations and learn from them.  This usually means it helps to take the class "live," when it is offered, rather than an archived class from a site.  I find that forums like the one that Shimelle uses works well. I hate Flickr and have run into some other forums that are hard for me to use.
6. Instructor Feedback. It's so helpful to have an instructor who is on-line, participates and answers questions.  Again, not all archived classes offer this, but I have to give props to Dina who monitors all her archived art journaling classes.  Taking an archived class with her is almost like getting a private lesson!
7. Materials. I have noticed a move recently to PDF lessons and videos.  I find these both very helpful.  I prefer classes with long, meaty lessons and lots of explanations and examples.

What are your thoughts? What do you look for in on-line classes?  Have you taken any that you would really recommend?


helena said...

somethng that I have been thinking about recently because I am not signed up for anything ar the moment. Like you I am an experienced teacher of adults and I think this impacts on how I think about being a student.

I like to have a tutor who delivers when they say that they will and I get very frustrated if the basic mechanics do not work (I have experienced both).

I like to learn technique and something that I can apply rather than just step through the creation of an album.

I agree that a lively forum is important and more than one prompt a week and that it is doable.

My absolute favourite class I've taken was Design Your Life by Cathy Z at BPS - it was 3 months but I learnt a lot and she is a fantastic teacher.

will be interested to see what other think

debs14 said...

I can relate to many of your comments. I too have to be able to complete it. It would drive me crazy to get half way through and run out of steam. I like the Shimelle classes for many reasons. Daily emails, but not necessarily daily pages to make. Month long projects. Imaginative prompts. Forums to browse through and get inspiration from. Reasonabley priced. She ticks all the right boxes for me.

JO SOWERBY said...

hi rinda,
i have to say i love a class where there is variety of work and learning. i like the choice to paper or digitally scrapbook. i have recently been given a 12 week gift for cathy z class which is brilliant. not the way i would usually work so g8 for learning new styles and also ideas around design. i also love her tutoring and wit, she is so hilarious.
price has to be a factor too, it has to be worth the money and as most are in dollars, the exchange rate helps too, haha!!!!
i like that most classes have handouts included and sometimes digital downloads, also a message board and forums to join in. galleries are g8 for inspiration.
anyway, new class notes tomorrow from cathy, take care,
Jo xxx

humel said...

Love this post, reeally interesting to see your thought process :-) So far I've taken on classes mainly because I liked the idea of them and I could afford them! I too am a 'completer', and doing the class live helps to keep me ontrack with that, so I do have a couple of Shimelle's older classes and I just do a little bit now and then because the impetus isn't there in the same way. The art journaling classes sound really good! :-)

scrappyjacky said...

Well,I'd recommend Shimelle's classes....but you already know how good they are...I like her daily prompts...but no necessity to do them daily...the friendly forum...the price....just everything....BUT....I don't actually have anything to compare them I haven't done any others.
Unlike you,I would like to do a digi scrapping class...but there's just so much choice...though I've seen more than one blogger recommend Jessica Sprague.
I'd also like to do a photography class...but with my very basic skills...think I might be better with an 'in the real world' one.
And I love your page....the photos are great...and the layout works to scraplift I think!!

Anonymous said...

I've taken a lot of online courses. I've finished almost all of them with one big exceptions: Ali Edwards Yesterday and Today. I think I will eventually get to it. Having permanent access to the videos and printing out the handouts is critical to me now. Like you, I take courses in order to accomplish something. I really wanted to get going on my childhood photos, but Ali's layouts didn't seem to match my visions, and I still haven't gotten it all reconciled.

The top two courses I've taken were both long--10 and 12 weeks. The first was Barbara Carroll's Photography 101 class at BPS. She gave constant feedback, and I learned so much about photography and my SLR (which was new at the time.) Katrina Kennedy's Through the Lens course was also excellent. I love photography classes because it encourages me to practice and I always learn new things about my camera. The other top class was Design Your Life by Cathy Z. There were multiple layouts to do each week, but I did them all and learned so much about design in the process.

There were several classes I completed, but did not particularly care for, primarily because the style of the instructor or their teaching method didn't match my own. I'm now much more careful in choosing a course. I frequently visit the instructor's blog before I commit to a class. I'm taking Jessica Sprague's Pen Tablet course right now, and I'm behind. It doesn't bother me, though, because I'm now using my pen exclusively and loving it. It had "rested" in its box for nearly 9 months!

Thanks, once again, for making me examine the things I do.

Julie Shoemaker said...

I find this interesting Rinda. The only online classes I have ever taken is for business. I have been looking around at online mixed media classes though and find this topic very interesting.

Amy said...

This is also a topic of interest to me at the moment. When online classes started I was a little slap dash in what I chose - it was a novelty thing for me. Fortunately most of those were free classes. Now I really weigh up the pros and cons.

Cathy Zielske's Design Your Life class is by far and away the best I have ever taken. She has set the bar in terms of what I now expect and unfortuantely many do not hold up. Oustanding knowledge and materials provided in an easy to understand format with clear instructions and a variety of examples. An active forum - both students and instructors - I do not like classes that run for a month and the instructor checks the forum once in the week - that is not good enough in my opinion ... we are all busy and if they can't find the time for the class they shouldn't put their hand up to take it. This applies to well known scrappers who I feel are cashing in on their reputation in the industry. A friendly and approachable style is also helpful - that is a draw back to online classes - not having face to face contact so it nice to get a bit of the instructors personality. One draw back from Cathy's class is that it was huge - she handled it very well, I found it a bit overwhelming .... JYC was a bit that way this year I thought.

On the other hand I do sign up for the odd class here and there because it is something that looks great and I'd like to learn about the technique. Usually they are free ones though - design and photography or digital based classes are interesting me the most at the moment.

Like Karen, I like to follow an instructors blog for a while before signing up - personality is important, and you get a feel for how imporatnt the class is to them and how they will approach materials and the students.

One thing that I'm finding is that so many very generous people post tutorials online free of charge - many things can be found without paying a cent. Jessica Sprague is an extremely generous instructor. I put her into the same category as Cathy Zielske, she runs fabulous free classes which inturn ususally end up with me paying for one of her classes or buying from her online shop.

I think I've probably said enough now! Hope you're feeling better today :-)

Sian said...

This is a really interesting post Rinda, and I've loved reading everyone's responses too. I'm interested to see how many took Cathy's class at BPS. I did it last time was expensive but well worth the money. I've been looking at Nic Howards embellishment 3 month class comin up there soon.

For value, Shimelle can't be beaten. I love her classes.

I have always enjoyed Get It Scrapped too; but I'm starting to find the forum and the way the whole site is organised a little complicated to use. And the prices have gone up too. But I can't fault the standard of the teaching and the friendliness on the boards,

Sorry, have to run now. Dentists appointment!

Nellie Mae said...

I love this post! I will definitely come back and read the comments as I consider which online class to take next! Thanks!!

sharyncarlson said...

Great post! And I've enjoyed reading the comments too. I apply some of the very same criteria and, like many people have mentioned, follow the instructors blog for a while before deciding to sign up. I have found the classes at BigPictureScrapbooking to be of great quality, with an active forum/message board and gallery. I've taken an instructor-led class but wasn't as impressed; this may be because it was a photography class? It was taught by Candace Stringham. Thanks again for posting on this topic! Very interesting to read everyone's thoughts!

Unknown said...

Great post, I like Shimelle's online classes, I have also done one with BPS - Got Paint which I enjoyed. I have done a photography one with Cheryl Johnson which was really good.

ComfyMom~Stacey said...

I like classes that are about a month in length, provide lots of materials, with few videos. I can't do video based classes, it's just not how I learn. I like them to have forums and galleries. My price point varies by what is offered. I like Shimelle's classes & that you can retake them for free. I've been considering a number of photography classes but most of the good ones are out of my price range. I'm sure some of them are worth the money, I just don't have it to spend.