Wayyyyy back when I was in graduate school at Syracuse University, I heard a lot about this new thing called “distance learning.” I was getting my Masters degree in Instructional Design, Development, and Evaluation (and this pre-dated the internet by a good 5 years) and I had a graduate assistant position, so I spent a lot of time in the department office with professors who were working on big, prestigious projects overseas.
Much of the research and development of distance learning took place in Indonesia – a country bound by water, frequently ravaged by storms, and in need of a way to educate its huge population. At the time, distance learning was defined by remote classrooms connected by video feed and although I appreciated how the arrangement solved logistical issues, it still seemed so disconnected in my opinion. I didn’t see why anyone would ever choose distance learning if they had the option to sit in a classroom with a real, live teacher.
Little did I know!
I never would have predicted that today, 25 years later, distance learning would be one of the main methods my kids learn. And I don’t say that just because they’re homeschooled, though online courses do factor heavily into their curriculum, as they do for my college student (some courses in her program are taught exclusively online).
Besides schoolwork, they, like nearly every other kid in America, learn more than their share from YouTube and Periscope, among plenty of other sites. And of course, so do I, and thank goodness for that! Where would the craft and DIY community be today without the internet (which has basically replaced the whole concept of “distance learning”)? I can’t even imagine, nor do I want to!
So today I thought I’d give you a comparison between five of the biggest online learning sites for crafters. These sites are not all limited to crafts, and certainly there are other websites out there that have craft classes. But I chose these five because crafting and DIY make up a significant portion (or in some cases, all) of their offerings. All of them are self-paced learning sites, meaning that you can start and stop on your own schedule.
I hope you find this helpful and if you have feedback on any of these sites, or you have other sites to add to the list, please leave a comment below!
In alphabetical order:
Atly is a pay-per-class site with no monthly fee – you pay for only the classes you take. Once you purchase a class, you have access for life and class fees range from $5 to $150.
New this year, all Atly classes now have an extended, live workshop version of every class several times a year. These workshops include interactive webinars, Facebook groups, group chats, and personal feedback from the class instructor or teaching assistants. The cost of these workshops is higher than the usual classes, but offer a much more personalized and interactive format.
The course topics at Atly range from calligraphy, self-improvement, interior design, blogging, diet and exercise, and more.
Check out the course offerings at Atly.com.
Craftsy is also a pay-per-class site with no monthly fees – you purchase the classes you want and have lifetime access. The cost of classes range from $14.99 to $39.99, but Crafty often runs sales where many classes are discounted or even free.
The production values of Craftsy classes are consistently high because every class is recorded in Craftsy’s dedicated studio and the course format is consistent across all classes. Classes also have a dedicated message board for asking questions and sharing results and class instructors do monitor and reply on these boards.
Craftsy offers over 600 different classes and the topics range from sewing, drawing, photography, jewelry, paper crafts and more. Craftsy also has an extensive online shop that offers a huge range of supplies, including kits designed to go with their classes.
Check out the course offerings at Craftsy.com.
Creativebug is a membership site, so rather than paying for every individual class, you pay one flat monthly fee of $4.95 that allows you to take as many courses as you like. While you have unlimited access to classes while you’re a member, once you terminate your membership, you can no longer access them.
Like Craftsy, Creativebug’s classes are limited to crafts and DIY but in addition to knitting/crochet, art and design, paper arts, and sewing, Creativebug also offers a selection of classes for kids.
There are over 600 classes on the Creativebug site with more made available each week. Previews of the upcoming classes are on the site and much like Craftsy, the video production is consistently high-end.
Check out the course offerings at Creativebug.com.
Creative Live is perhaps best characterized by its big-name instructors (Anne Geddes teaches photography, James Victore teaches illustration, Tim Ferriss teaches business) and as the name of the site implies, live audiences in some of the classes. While some classes are recorded with just the instructor, others are made in front of a live audience.
Creative Live is also unique in that every day, several of its classes are playing live on the website and viewers can tune into for free and interact with the instructor through the chat function. Theoretically you can take the entire class for free, but because many classes run a full day or more, it’s hard to tune in without missing something. Creative Live does offer a couple of free replays of its class broadcasts, or you can purchase a full recording of the class to access at your own convenience.
The topics offered at Creative Live range from very technical (digital rendering for designers, producing electronic music with Logic Pro) to DIY (improvisational quilting, drawing, and paper crafting), along with business, financial, and software classes. The price per class ranges from $39 for a half-day to $150 or more for a workshop spanning several days. There are currently over 700 classes listed for sale and many of them come with downloadable e-books or materials.
Check out the course offerings at CreativeLive.com.
Skillshare is the largest of this group of online education sites, offering over 1,000 different classes. Like Creative Bug, it’s a membership site so for a monthly fee of $9.95 (a yearly discount is available), you can access as many of their classes as you’d like. They offer some classes for free so you can get a feel for their style.
Skillshare is characterized by classes organized into multiple short lessons that are project-based, so you can learn and apply the basics of the class while watching. Some lessons are only a few minutes long, making it easy to fit in a bit of learning between other tasks (and the site remembers where you left off if you don’t finish a lesson or a course in one sitting).
The classes offered span a wide range of topics including graphic design, photography, marketing, technology, gaming, DIY/crafts, writing, and more. Because many of the Skillshare’s classes are filmed in the instructor’s home or office and because of the sheer volume of classes, the production value can vary widely from a beautiful, brightly lit studio set up to a poorly-lit corner of someone’s bedroom.
Check out the course offerings at Skillshare.com.
I hope you’ve found this information helpful. It’s important to remember that most sites run periodic promotional specials, so if you’re interested in some of their offerings but aren’t quite ready to commit, sign up for their emails and see what deals they offer you.
Happy crafting and learning!