Digital Learning

The “Mixing Up Media” class I’m taking made me reflect on how high speed internet has transformed quilting education. I’m talking about classes devoted to a technique or project rather than “how to” videos, though the latter make it so easy to get help. I managed to sew a few beads onto a quilt thanks to a video.

Over the past four years I’ve taken several online quilting related classes but the number of in person classes I’ve taken has decreased. In fact, I took all but one of the in person classes because I wanted to experience specific big name teacher-quilters.

Why is this happening? There are lots of reasons. One, as my skills increase I seek more difficult/obscure classes that aren’t often given in person, simply because they don’t attract enough students in my locale. Two, the price of online classes is usually less than in person classes. Three, online classes have a much more flexible, forgiving schedule, often with the option of watching a video of the class several times. Four, I dislike hauling all my equipment and supplies to another location. Five, I don’t have to deal with the possibility that one needy/unprepared student will hog all the teacher’s time.

Every day I discover new online class offerings. The latest to hit my inbox is iquilt, which appears to be sponsored by the American Quilters Society and Bernina sewing machines. Its classes feature the now standard videos and online Q&A with the instructor.

My own experiences are with Craftsy and Academy of Quilting. I know there are other sources of online quilting classes, such as Annie’s Catalog, QuiltEd Online, Creativebug, and CraftU. Some charge per class while others have a monthly subscription.

Craftsy is the heavyweight of online craft course suppliers, with oodles of courses besides quilting. Cake decorating, anyone? They claim to offer over 700 classes. The site map for Craftsy gives an idea of the range of offerings. Craftsy also offers tutorials, a blog, supplies and a quilt pattern marketplace. You can interact with the instructor and fellow students, post photos of your class work, and rewatch the videos indefinitely. If you’re interested in a Craftsy class I urge you to watch the free sample so you can get a feel for the instructor before you plunk down your class fee. The instructor of one class I took had a mannerism that drove me crazy, so I never finished the class.

I used to take classes from Quilt University, which was bought and turned into Academy of Quilting after its founder died. These classes are much more print based, though some instructors have added little videos. There is a forum to interact with the instructor and other students, but I’ve found it to be little used except for one class I took from Elizabeth Barton. Classes are available for only six to eight weeks, which means you can’t go back and review a class after it closes. I download instructions so I can return to them later, but I have no idea if that’s kosher. Please don’t rat me out.

Individual teachers such as Leah Day also have online classes which often feature more advanced subjects. Elizabeth Barton runs an online year long master class that’s popular enough to have a waiting list.

With so many tempting choices, is an online class right for you? That depends in part on how you learn. Some students learn best with an instructor by their side to guide them and answer questions right away. Others take to a video format and are comfortable with written questions and answers and working independently. It may be a function of one’s age or previous educational experiences. I took online courses when I got a masters degree so I was already familiar with that type of class.

If you’ve taken any online quilting related courses I’d love to hear about your experiences – both good and bad.  My experience has been positive, in the main, though I wouldn’t give all the classes five star reviews.




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4 responses to “Digital Learning

  1. I worked in academe and everything you said here applies to the broader world of online education. I have not yet tried an online craft class but your review has gotten me thinking about the possibilities. And I’ve heard lots of good things about Craftsy!

  2. DeeDee

    I absolutely love Craftsy. I’m not just a quilter; I also like to sew other things and I’m a knitter. Craftsy gives me access to teachers that I would never be able to see in person. With lifetime access I feel like I get a lot of bang for my buck, especially when things are on sale.

    I do still take the occasional class from my local quilt shop, depending on what they have available. They do multiple block of the month programs and you get to hang out with like minded individuals and chat and learn and they give away extras. We also get a discount on anything we buy on meeting days. I’m in the Farm Girl Vintage block of the month right now. The price is reasonable and I’m enjoying it quite a bit.

    For knitting classes I only take ones from Craftsy. My LYS cannot get the instructors that I get on Craftsy and as many years as I’ve been knitting (over 10 now) I just don’t have many more subjects I’m interested in learning about. I’ve mastered so many techniques that I just plunge right in when I see a pattern that I love. Craftsy offers classes on types of yarn and wool and when to use them, color theory, how to make flattering garments that fit, and advanced lace and beading techniques. These are things that yarn stores just don’t offer.

    I also have taken many college classes online and find that online learning suits my learning style very well. I think in this day and age, digital learning is going to be the main way to acquire knowledge and skills. I really enjoy it.

    • Thanks for bringing in the knitting perspective. I hadn’t realized that some of the same limitations of LQS classes also apply to LYS. And also thanks for pointing out the one thing online classes can’t do – bring the in person, real time interaction with like minded quilters/knitters.

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