Earlier this year in The Professional QuilterGloria Hansen focused on how you can teach online without dealing with the technical aspects of creating a website, marketing to get the word out about your class nor collecting class fees. It works for the person who wants to show up at the virtual classroom, teach, get paid and then move on. For those who want to teach but also run the complete show, another option is to teach through your own website. Here’s an excerpt from her article listing some teachers who take this approach:
Popular mixed media artist/author Judy Coates-Perez (www.judycoatesperez.com) teaches color theory on a password-protected website that she created. “I prefer having control over how the class is presented and taught without having to format things to someone else’s technology/website,” she says. “I can also control class sizes and when I want to teach them.” Judy’s website is clean and easy-to-navigate with links to each specific lesson. Each lesson includes instructions, color photos and links to further information on the topic. Judy also set up a private Yahoo group for students to post pictures and discuss their work.
Canadian teacher and quilt artist Pamela Allen (http://pamed.homestead.com/home.html) rose to the challenge of online teaching in part because of a change in border regulations that negatively impacts on her ability to teach in the United States. To continue offering her classes to all interested students, she developed five online classes. She offers her students downloadable lessons, “mini-lectures” on the principles of art and art history, and “one-on-one personal critiques.” “I can teach my class how I want it, and I can immediately troubleshoot any problems,” she says.
Artist/author Sue Bleiweiss has been using the online world for years to share her vast knowledge and offer classes, such as for journal making. Her latest three-week class, Watercolor Exploration for the Fiber Artist, came about after hitting on a process that allowed her to work through ideas for creating new fiber artworks. “My goal is to make it as personal an experience as I can for my students, which is why I make it a point to be online constantly throughout the class checking my email so that no student has to wait too long for an answer to a question or feedback on a photo that they’ve posted,” she says.
Mixed media artist/author Alisa Burke (www.alisaburke.com/onlineworkshops.html) began offering online classes about three years ago. To make the experience more personal, Alisa includes video instruction. “Much of the class content is photos and video that I ﬁlm in my studio of me working and demonstrating techniques,” she says. “I ﬁlm and edit everything myself (camera on a tripod). I use iMovie and Final Cut Pro to edit my videos and then upload them to Vimeo (a video service), password protecting them, and then embedding each into a private blog.”
Artist/author Carla Sonheim (http://carlasonheim.wordpress.com) has a series of online classes with all of the right ingredients. Her popular The Art of Silliness class features one downloadable “activity sheet” per day for thirty days. Her goal is getting her students to “play” for ten minutes a day with pen and paper. Carla offers a dedicated blog and a Flickr site for her students to share, and to keep things fun she offers prizes. She also considers the comments and feedback extremely important to the overall success of the class, and she blocks out an hour per day for the month the class is in session to be available to her students.
Artist/author Diana Trout (http://dianatrout.typepad.com/blog/) teaches an online class called Inner Circle Journal with lessons and videos. “Since the format of online classes is so different from an in-person class, I will be offering different subjects that will allow students to go into more depth than in-studio or retreat classes would,” she says. “There is more time for thinking, playing and allowing time for paint and glue to dry. These are huge benefits! Also, the blog is interactive so that students can post their artwork and get feedback and questions answered.”
Each class is unique to the instructor. While these teachers have successful online classes, others do not. I’ve spoken with several students who were unhappy with the experience. Just as your reputation as a teacher spreads when teaching in-person classes, so does it spread when teaching online classes.
When contemplating whether teaching through your own website is right for you, Sue stresses that you do your homework. Whether you are comfortable with creating the class yourself or if you only want to focus on teaching and leave the technical work of the site to someone else, online teaching can offer the opportunity to reach a broader range of students while earning additional income. Before you have students start their homework, however, be sure to first do your own.
Please share your experiences with online classes, either as the teacher or the student, below.
If you would like to read more of Gloria’s article on teaching online, it’s included in the Fall 2011 issue of The Professional Quilter and available to IAPQ members. The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership here.