Many people of different skill levels and experience levels want to flex their writing muscles with an online writing class. If you're one such person, here are a few tips for finding the best possible online writing class, one which will help you pursue whatever type of progress you wish to make as a writer.
- Decide what kind of writing you want to do.
Are you now or would you like to become a poet, a playwright, a screenwriter, a journalist? With so many online options ranging from college credit-granted classes to writer's group short courses, you will have to begin the weeding out process by deciding what kind of writing you would like to pursue. Once you've decided on that, you'll be able to narrow down your search process to this particular genre.
- Decide what level of writing course is right for you.
Online writing classes come at a multitude of levels: "for credit" classes and just-for-fun classes, beginner level courses, and classes for working pros. The level of class you choose should relate to your experience level, what you hope to gain from the class, and how much time and energy you want to put into the class. For instance, if you have been writing professionally for years, you're obviously not going to take "Beginner's Composition." On the other hand, if it's been a while since you've done any real writing, that might be exactly the course you're looking for. As another example, if you're a student looking to get some credits, going with a credit-granted online accredited college class about your preferred type of writing is the route you'll likely want to take. Sure, you'll have to do a lot of work, but hey, that's college. On the other hand, if you're, say, employed, or a retiree and you're just looking to write for fun, you may want a class with a lighter workload, or one that is very flexible so you can fit it into your work or activity schedule.
- Decide how much you can afford to pay. As you look for the right online writing course, realize a lot of them aren't free. You will probably have to pay something if you want to take an online writing course. It's up to you to do the cost/benefit analysis and decide what your spending cap is. Maybe you have a lot of expendable income and the sky's the limit. Maybe you're a college student and you have financial aid that will pay for the course. Or maybe you're a broke writer and you're looking for a course you can pay for with old baseball cards and a plate of brownies. In any case, be sure to check into class prices as you do your search.
- Check credentials.
Know who you're dealing with before you fork over any money or sign on any dotted lines. If you're looking for a college course, be sure it's accredited (call the school and ask if you have any questions or ask an advisor...). And if you're looking to really learn something even just for fun, be sure the school, group, or program you're dealing with isn't some fly-by-night thing. You want a good program.
What's a good program? In my opinion, good writing schools, organizations and groups have a record of providing the services they promise. They offer courses with clear syllabi with concrete lessons, not a lot of filler. They employ responsible and qualified teachers (see below) who offer you feedback on your work. They don't push products on you. They don't promise you instant success, or any success at all. They have clear refund and cancellation policies on record for you to check. And they respond to communications--they don't evade. Do a quick check on your program of choice, ask any questions directly, Google them, or post a "Anyone heard of..." question on a writer's group message board to see if they've got any bad history.
Also, check the teachers' credentials. Not everyone who teaches online is going to be a famous writer. In fact, few of them will be because famous writers don't need to make their money teaching online. Some writing courses don't provide much information on their teachers, but don't be afraid to ask for some anyhow. Other courses provide bios on teachers. For instance, if someone were to sign up for my online writing class, she would be guided to my bio page where she could read about where I studied, what I've written, and other credentials.
Good writing teachers should have some experience "in the trenches" in their field of expertise. For instance, you would never catch me applying to teach a course on poetry because I'm not a poet and have little background in it. If you sign up for a course on poetry and I'm the poetry teacher, ask for your money back! Additionally, good teachers should have a positive attitude about helping you become a better writer and shouldn't come across as rude or condescending. Tough is good; taking it out on you that they haven't written the great American novel yet, that's not so good. Of course, if you're taking a college class, you may have to take that particular class, so you're stuck. But otherwise, writer-to-writer respect should be a beginning baseline for any collaboration, including the teacher-student one.
- Check policies on refunds and cancellations and other fine print.
- Check the syllabus.
Ask to check out a course syllabus so you can see what you're in for. You should be able to see, for example, basically what's covered and for how long. You can see when projects are due, how much of the class involves writing, doing readings, working online with others. And check for the kind of feedback and assessment offered. Personally, I'm not a fan of courses that don't offer feedback on work unless the teacher is working with you one-on-one during the writing process already. If I'm paying someone to teach me how to do something, I expect part of that process is letting me know if I'm on the right track. Other people, though, prefer classes that simply give them information they can use on their own. That's fine, but know what you're getting before you sign up for it.
Writing is an essential skill and can be great profession or hobby. Online writing classes abound and finding the right school, the right teacher, and the right course can be the beginning of an enriching experience.