Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why take an Online Classes?

Online Classes??

That is what people say to me when they ask me what I do for a living. First I have to explain to them what a Fiber Artist is and then how I teach classes over the Internet. “This is the wave of the future and pretty soon you will be able to do all types of classes on the web”, I tell them. People that have grown up with a computer see this a future trend, but people around my age….44….are still leery about the computer and a hacker stealing their ID. My great aunt, who is 93, just can’t get over the fact that I am making a living as an artist, plus this computer monster that has taken over the world. But now, computers are getting so simple to use that several years ago I was approached to design a Fiber Collage class for an online website. Now, I have a Masters in Art Education and had taught for 12 years in the public school system, so I saw this as an excellent opportunity not to waste this expensive diploma hanging on my wall.

Online art classes come in 2 categories, Projects and Creative Learning, in my opinion. Some classes that you can take will show you how to make a project, so you end up with the teacher’s example. (To me that is like coloring in a coloring book or following a dress pattern) The 2nd category is what I like to call Creative Learning. This is how I was trained to become an art teacher…to help the students think out of the box and try new techniques. I write my lessons like I would like a lesson plan in a classroom and shoot a lot of photos to go along with the lessons. Keeping it simple and using a lot of visuals is the way I like to do my workshops. I guess I write the lesson as if I was going to take it. I have taken many online classes and the teachers are really creative, but their lessons are wordy and don’t make sense. So, you will encounter a lot of different teaching styles out there, like you would in a classroom.

The Pros in taking an online class is you can do it on your time schedule. You don’t have to waste gas and drive anywhere. You don’t have to drag around all of your art supplies, they are right there in your studio. You can download the lessons and you have a mini book to keep of the class. You meet other students from all over the world and see how they interpret the lesson. You can experiment without feeling like you have to make your project perfect, so there is no pressure. The cost of the workshops cannot be beat!! I charge around 60.00 for a 6 weeks workshop and if I had to teach it in person I would have to charge around 350.00 a student.

Yes there are some Cons to taking an online class. No immediate feedback from your teacher and other students. No one on one, in person learning while you are working on your project. That is the biggest Con and there probably are several more, but I can’t think of any.

How I teach my online class is everyone in the class are given a password to an online forum and you can download the lesson from the forum. The forum is there for students to share, ask questions, and make comments about each lesson. I download the photos that are in the lesson, that way you can get a clear picture of what I am demonstrating. Plus, in the future I am working on having videos accompany my classes. The forum isn’t in real time, since there are students from all over world in different time zones. But if there is a new way for me to communicate with my students, I will find it. I am really big on the learning experience and want to make it a positive experience with all of the students. When the class ends, I have a Yahoo group and groups set up for everyone to keep sharing their work. Just because the 6 weeks might be over, doesn’t mean I am not there to help.

If you are considering on taking an online class, choose something that really interest you and you will be more apt to do the lessons. You need some motivation, but it is a really inexpensive way to try out new crafts and meet wonderful people.

Hope to see you online!!