Monday, October 10, 2016

The Proliferation of Online Classes

Swimmer


I'm swimming my way through the proliferation of classes online and I'm wondering what other people's experiences are like.   As you know, I've been teaching (mainly different aspects of design, but also some surface design) online for a number of years now..maybe seven years....and I also have a private online master class.  Meanwhile, I've been taking online classes myself - not in quilting - but in several other things.   So I've been thinking about some of the pros and cons of the online experience.

Feedback
From the teaching point of view I really like having personal contact with the students...which I do in all my classes...just writing lessons and then putting them out there with no discussion and no feedback seems very sterile to me. And with the lessons I've taken in other subjects, they are nearly always computer driven, and since I always have questions - I find that very frustrating! Especially when the computer makes a mistake!  Online lessons that don't have teaching feedback are no better than reading a book - and a well illustrated book is often easier to use - you can flip back and forth ...slow here...fast there etc.
Research shows  that two things are key to learning: practice and feedback.  The non-teacher present learning situations are therefore going to limit one's progress.

Timing
 Start date: Some classes run for a specific period of time, others you can start whenever you want.  I like the flexibility of starting whenever you want, though that might make problems for
 student/teacher accessibility or for discussions between students all moving forward as a cohort through a sequence of lessons.
Inter-lesson intervals: I also would like to be able to move forward to the next lesson at my own pace - sometimes more quickly than they plan, sometimes more slowly.  Some programs allow this, others don't.   I was very put off recently by a language learning site that required you to sign up for 3 months, but the amount of material that was offered I knew I would get through in just one month! Three month sign up for one month access to material didn't work for me.

Continued Access 
 Sometimes you get to the end of the course and you'd like to take a break and then review the material again....I was very miffed when  a site that promised I could do that at the end of the course completely reneged on that promise!  However, I can see that unlimited forever access could be problematic for the teaching agency....what I've done with the master classes of previous years is allow access for at least a full season after the class has finished.

Pricing 
 There does seem to be a usual rate of about $10-$20 per lesson where there is a "real" teacher available for feed back....and that seems very fair to me...but where the whole program is computer driven I feel that this would be too high.  A recent series of bridge lessons I surveyed wanted $15 per videoed lesson - no feedback available.  On the other hand,  most painting DVDs are in the $20-$30 range...BUT you have them for ever and you can freeze one frame and work from it in the studio.
Piano lessons with one teacher via Skype are quite high: about $75 per lesson.  And, remember, ANYONE can say they're a piano teacher, there is no professional license required!

Videos - too fast or too slow!
Surprisingly, although everyone says all students want videos, I have not usually found them to be very helpful.  If it's something I need to actually see I've found that on the video the action or position can go by too quickly, a clear series of photos or even diagrams would be more helpful.  And, quite frequently, the opposite is true, the person demonstrating on the video faffs around and I get bored waiting for the crucial bit of information!  When will she actually tell me the right key strokes?!!!!

Variety
 While there are a huge number of lessons out there, often none of them are exactly what you're looking for!  it would be good if one could contact the agency and say "how about making a class on this, or that, topic? "  However, when I have contacted the companies I've usually found that you can only email a salesperson rather than the creator of the lessons.   (But feel free to contact me if you have a yearning for something that you think I could write a course about!).

So...what are your experiences?  how would you like to see online classes presented?  What are you looking for in your classes?  Comment please!  or feel free to email me privately - there's a link up on the side bar on the right....I love to hear from you!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading...it's time for a nice cuppa tea, don't you think?
Elizabeth
 

15 comments:

Flora McLain said...

I love learning online. I would love for you to teach a Craftsy class on designing abstract quilts.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hi Flora, and thanks for posting! I do have two abstract classes - both with www.academyofquilting.com Take a look and see if there's anything you like - happy to answer any questions. I prefer working with the academy instead of Craftsy because it's a small company and the owner is very present in all communications - you don't get the feeling that you're working for a big corporation. also I notice that she is immediately attentive to any student who has a problem. I really like the personal approach.

Leigh Wheeler said...

I have found that I like the *idea* of online classes much better than the reality. For example, I have purchased MANY Craftsy classes, then don't end up watching them. I find that the best feature is the one that plays the video at double speed. The content I really need is limited.

There's two reasons it doesn't work out.

First, I'm a person that easily learns from print and pictures, so I don't really need the video. Occasionally, a tricky move makes video really helpful, but not often.

Second, I really already know a lot of things. I've taken so many classes, read articles, read stacks of books from the library, done a jillion samples in workshops. What I really really need is more studio time when I'm not tired. I have all the books, bought the kits, have the spare materials, etc. I just need the time to *DO* and practice. Trying to figure out how to post the pictures, look at other people's work, read all the comments... it's all a distraction from the doing and practicing, at least at this point it is for me.

The proliferation (and my current large library of classes) is easy to explain though. I am a sucker for a new technique, and I like the idea of making whatever it is they are pushing. I buy the class intending to do that 'later'. Then never seem to have time to listen to them. I think Craftsy calls that "Profit", LOL.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hi Leigh...and thanks for writing...it is SO is easy get seduced by all the glowing ads for workshops of any kind, it's very true. I've taken any number for painting and found very few of them have led to any growth on my part - even though I did practice! But if you're one of many in a room, and all the teacher does is demo - whether on video or live - you don't get the feedback you personally need to see where things are going wrong....or right!
If I were you, I'd think about Working in a Series...(yes I do have a book and a class!) but you could also work on this yourself: working in a series makes you focus on one specific group of things...so even if you just have ten minutes per day...that's ten minutes well spent in the furtherance of that one goal...and you will get there eventually.
I do so agree about the pace of teaching, I have turned off the vid, walked out of the classroom or lecture hall...so many times!! And in very many different media - good focused teachers who want you personally to succeed and have the skills and the organization to help you are so rare. All the best! Elizabeth

Ariane Zurcher said...

I have LOVED the online classes I've taken. I've taken more than a dozen from Craftsy now, which was what got me interested in quilting just over a year ago. My daughter is homeschooled, so she has also taken an online class through an online high school that was tremendous with hands on help and feed back. Whenever she had a question the teacher answered her within 24 hours, even on the weekend. It was a fantastic experience for her.
My own experience with online classes have been uniformly good. I enjoy being able to access the classes when I am able to, I love that I can replay and watch. The videos have been extremely helpful and I've only had one Craftsy class where I asked a question that was never answered. I think the instructor may now be retired and I would say that they should have a date listed of when the class was made, so one could know. Other than that, online classes have been fantastic and have led me to taking non-virtual classes as well as gone to Quilting by the Lake and just signed up for another two weeks there this coming summer as well as two other workshops for the coming year! I learn best by watching and then doing, so as long as I follow along and don't just watch, the online classes are terrific. I do think being able to upload photographs of ones work to get instructor feed back is essential, something that seems to not be working on the new Craftsy site, but I gather they are trying to fix that. I will look at your class on academy of quilting. Love knowing about it. I was not aware of it until now.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hi Ariane, thank you for your comments. online classes are a real boon and I wish they had been around when my kids were of school age...
getting personal feedback is nearly as good as private lessons!! wouldn't we all love those....
yes please do ck out my academy classes...I have six different ones, they're all about 5 lessons long...currently they appear at regular intervals, but next year I'm going to switch - from about mid February - to an "on demand" situation so that people can take the class at any time that suits them and at a pace that works for them.
You always have to be flexible and try out new ways of presenting information.
My classes focus (mainly) on design..helping you to design your own work....anyway, do take a look! and I'm happy to answer any questions.
www.academyofquilting.com

Anonymous said...

I have been amazed at the number of on line classes available to learn any skills one's heart may desire. After retiring 2 years ago, I knew I wanted to continue my art studies, and in particular, quilting but wasn't sure where to go so I started looking at YouTube and following some bloggers whose names I found in Quilting Arts magazine. This lead me to Crafsty and taking a quilting class to make my first art quilt, which was successful. However, when I tried to design my own, it wasn't. Then I discovered your classes on AQ through your blog, which lead to my successful second quilt (my own design this time!). I like Craftsy's platform and the ease of watching the videos. However, I am finding a well written lesson with good diagrams AND feedback is just as good. What I really like about your classes is that I am learning a process, not just a project.

I think learning and teaching have to enter in a symbiosis in a real classroom situation, and in an online environment but it is much more difficult to achieve digitally. if the learner does not practice, then the teacher cannot go on to the next level, at least not with very much success. But in a physical situation if the teaching is not so good, the learner has a chance to learn from other students. There is no such thing in an online situation. And, yes, feedback is critical.

My heart is into learning Spanish, ukulele, quilting and watercolor. I find myself in an online environment to learn quilting and watercolor, and both offer excellent instruction, good feedback and I practice a lot. I am learning to play the ukulele with a real life teacher, and I find the instruction and instructor precious. Lots of feedback and practice with the rest of the class, as well as lots of laughter and cultural knowledge shared along the way. For Spanish, I study on my own and I go through ups and downs. I am at the mid-intermediate level and my goal is to reach the advanced level. I try to write in Spanish in a journal every day, read in Spanish and hold a conversation once a week. For myself, I need to set goals and seek what I need. But it is very easy to be seduced. I have also purchased many Craftsy classes that I have watched but not done anything.

That's my experience. There is one thing I haven't read so far regarding online classes, and that is the awesomeness (is that a word?) of being able to take a class from an artist I and the world admire, and this, from my living room! How wonderful is that! Precille

Pat said...

The last “real time” classes I went to were disappointing. A “diva” instructor who constantly complained about how she was treated, the difficulty of working at the appropriate speed, the need to set aside a specific time and the requirement to travel to class --- all these made me turn to online classes.
So I, too, signed up for many classes on Craftsy (always at half price) and enjoyed some more than others. I found those that illustrated techniques were the most useful, sometimes more helpful than books because I could see the action required. Unfortunately, many were focussed on a specific project, and while I extracted useful technique ideas from them, I must admit that I only created complete works in one course. Some instructors were also more engaging. One course on colour, by a leading figure in the field, was so earnestly lacklustre in presentation that its usefulness was almost negated by my urge to sleep. For anything related to design principles, however, books have always proved more useful, as indeed was true for that instructor on colour.
Books, however, are proving harder to select than they were in the past. Local bookstores now stock almost no works on crafts and I have to resort to purchasing online. I often do find useful reviews on Amazon, but that hasn’t precluded me from ending up with books I hate. More than once the cover has seduced me into buying something which, if I had seen the contents while in a regular bookstore, I would have put back on the shelf. I have resolved, in future, to check out artists’ websites for examples of their work.
In 2015, I came across an interview with Elizabeth in the magazine “Quilting Arts”. As a result I bought her books and then, this year, took her “Series” course. I continually refer back to the books and know I will keep doing so, but the “Series” course was a revelation of what an online course could be. In most situations, the Craftsy instructors were slow to reply, and sometimes there was no response, although other students sometimes filled in the gaps. In the “Series” course, I received replies within a few hours at the longest, and often immediately. Furthermore, most questions on Craftsy were of the “how-to” variety. On the rare occasions when students submitted designs, the Craftsy instructors were primarily anxious to make students feel “good about themselves”. By contrast, Elizabeth made helpful suggestions, linked to the design principles we were exploring. In the end, I really did complete a series and felt I had been stretched beyond my comfort level to really achieve something personally satisfying.
In the” Series” course, I also liked the fact that I could learn from other students --- their thoughts, questions and submissions. I’ve been both a teacher and an enthusiastic student all my life, and I enjoy the sense of group effort. Admittedly not everyone who introduced themselves continued to participate to any great degree, but several did. So Elizabeth, I am wondering, if your courses are “on demand” whether that sense of a shared experience will be lost?
Pat

Elizabeth Barton said...

Thank you Pat and Precille for all your comments. I too have found a very mixed bag of classes both online and actual, and a mixed bag of "private instructors" too - I had a real duffer with the first piano teacher I tried, actually the first three!! but lucked out the 4th time.
I think that Craftsy itself limits the way the teacher can teach, I remember looking through their long application form and thinking "well this doesn't fit my style of teaching at all".
Re putting my academyofquilting classes on demand...I'm hoping we don't lose that sense of shared experience - we're trying to figure out a way to maintain it..but at the same time give the student the opportunity to start the class at any time and have the lessons delivered to them at the pace that they want. We're going to try to group the Classroom Forum discussions so that students at the same point can communicate. It's a difficult balancing act I agree... I wish more students would join in classroom discussion too...I do try to promote it!!
I only write classes about something I am personally really interested in, AND I think it's very important to respect the considerable intelligence of the audience - so many classes are "dumbed down" - I believe in writing at a much higher level so that we all grow as artists.

Ariane Zurcher said...

I'm pleased to say, as a result of your post, Elizabeth, I am now signed up for your upcoming class that begins October 21st, giving me just enough time to purchase the various materials needed! I have never dyed any of my own fabric AND live in NYC where one does not typically have an "extra room," basement or outdoor area to mess around in, so I'll have to be very careful that I do not ruin our floors by spilling fabric dye all over the place. This class will push me WAY outside my comfort zone as I am very new to quilting and as I said, have never attempted fabric dying. Very excited to learn!

Elizabeth Barton said...

Why thank you Ariane!! you can buy painters' drop cloths (plastic sheets) very very cheaply nowadays from places like Lowes and just use them over and over...I would also put a couple of old sheets down as well as the plastic.
The way I do it doesn't involve buckets of dye or water or anything. But a dozen or so leakproof containers would be good. I've used the heavy duty freezer bags - I gallon size, but now I actually prefer those plastic boxes you get lettuce and arugula etc in from the super market. they don't leak, they have lids, and you can easily stack them together when clean...or on top of each other when full of dye!!
my daughter lives in Manhattan, so I have some idea of what it's like!!
I'll see you in class! Elizabeth

Ariane Zurcher said...

Perfect, I love the plastic lettuce containers idea. I will definitely start stocking up. Everything else I've either got already or have purchased. Really looking forward to it.

Laura said...

I've taken many online classes, several from the Academy of Quilting (including yours on fabric dyeing this summer) and have bought many of the Craftsy ones (at half-price as well). I've only watched a couple of Craftsy ones, partly because I can't make myself set aside my "free" time to watch them. However, I really like the online classes (like yours) that have a weekly deadline and provide a platform where students can post their work and teachers and classmates can comment on the work. As a person who has a hard time reading and following instructions, I find the videos invaluable: I can SEE exactly how to do things. Sometimes teachers demonstrating things on a video include steps that are so ingrained in them that they omit them in written instructions. I appreciate teachers (like you) who are very responsive to the their students. I have had at least one who was pretty perfunctory in her comments. But generally, I feel that I get my money's worth from the online classes that have regular lessons and assignments and feedback in large part because I commit to doing all the work when I sign up. How can you learn if you don't do the work?? I'm always amazed at how many people pay their money (and presumably buy all the supplies) for an online class but apparently never do the assignments and never share their work with their classmates or teacher but just lurk!

Elizabeth Barton said...

I agree, Laura, deadlines are good - but not for everyone. I wonder if there's a way I can suggest deadlines but allow leeway for those who prefer not to have them? I'll have to cogitate upon that!
For the next class I'm writing - which is about the use of improvisational techniques in creating "modern" quilts...I'm trying to incorporate a number of very short videos...totally where a visual would be helpful.
I also prefer to have the instructions written out for me in full! If I have to take notes while watching a video, I get very frustrated.
and thank you for all the classes you've taken - mine and other folks! Elizabeth

Oufti said...

Living in Europe, I have not the opportunity to subscribe to online course neither in French because there are not many of them nor in German because they exist but my knowledge of the German language is limited. So I turn myself to courses in English on the Internet.
I subscribed to some courses at the former Quilt University. I chose classes with a bias toward design : flowers, landscapes and also machine quilting with the late Carol Miller (she gave me many common sense advices that I remember still now). I like the contacts with the teachers who were always cheerful and competent.
When the Academy of Quilting replaced the Quilt Univerity, I took you design course and it opened new horizons to me. Now as I attend your masterclass, I think it is the most valuable experience in quilt design i have ever had. Better than the live workshops I attend sometimes in my country. The feedback is very important to me and make me progress by myself.
I do not appreciate very much video courses. I registered to two Craftsy courses and I almost never go back to them. The content is limited and I am easily tired at looking. I like to do things not to look at them and I miss sometimes explanations because I do not understand easily some American accents by lack of practice.
I sometimes search for online classes by artists I have appreciated in exhibitions. I found some but the price is sometimes prohibitive. Till now I do not try one.