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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

Sit Back, Relax and Learn!
by Heidi Hoff

I’m back at college following a seventeen-year break.  After spending several years at home raising a family, I decided it was time to dip my toes back into my career and take a few refresher courses. Though I chose to take writing classes at a local college, I did have the option of taking online courses from the comfort of my own home.

If you type “online writing classes” in the text field of your favorite search engine, you’re sure to get enough results to keep you occupied for hours. Confusion may set in as you try to decide which course is right for you. Moira Allen, a freelance writer for more than 20 years, gives some pointers in her article “Getting the Most From Online Classes” http://www.writing-world.com/basics/classes.html. A particularly helpful section of her article includes “Questions to ask When Choosing a Class." Her advice may help you recognize the right online class to suit your needs.

Once you’ve decided your interest lies in writing children’s stories, magazine articles or screenplays, you can start looking for sites that offer instruction in your genre. You will find a wide range of tuition fees and choices of courses to take. The best place to find out exactly what the course offers is the syllabus or description of the course content, suggests Teresa Widemire, a freelance writer who has taken a number of online courses. She also advises to check the background of the instructor to make sure he or she is accredited. Her own experience has taught her that if the instructor hasn’t been published much, he or she may not be able to give you adequate feedback on your writing.

Class size is another important detail that you should not overlook when researching an online writing class.  Heather Haapoja, a freelance writer from Minnesota, shares her experience with Barnes and Noble University. In her course, Writing for Children, she found, “There were so many people enrolled that it was impossible to get involved in the group. There were way too many posts every day for me to keep up. There was no posting of your work but the information was good and you could post questions to the instructor." Heather got to the point where she would log on for the weekly lesson and read the instructors posts. She does recommend the course but would mention her experience to others who were thinking of taking the class.

If you’d like to try an online course but are on a tight budget, look for sites that offer free introductory sessions. Barnes and Noble has a few but keep in mind the large class sizes. Many other sites will have links to sample classes where you can get an idea of how the courses are structured.       

Online learning offers many opportunities for those with scheduling conflicts and other responsibilities. It can also be a lucrative endeavor for those who are skilled and experienced enough to teach others what they have learned. If you’re lucky like children’s author Trina Wiebe, employers will come knocking on your door.  Wiebe’s career was extensively covered by her local paper leading an area college with an extensive offering of online courses to ask her if she would be interested in teaching. Putting together an outline proved to be challenging but once she asked herself what she would expect from the course if she were a student, the order fell into place.

Kathryn Lay, an online writing instructor for Coffee House for Writers, e-mailed the site owner with some ideas, her writing bio and teaching experience. She now teaches two courses for Coffee House and spends as many as 2 hours or as little as 15 minutes a day on her classes, depending on how much feedback her students require. Kathryn points out that to be an effective instructor, you should be personable and helpful to your students and make your lessons as informative as you can.

Here are a few online writing sites for you to explore:

Education To Go www.ed2go.com
Courses include: The Keys to Effective Editing, Crafting Your Short Fiction, Introduction to Internet Writing Markets and many others.

Barnes and Noble University www.barnesandnobleuniversity.com
Offers free courses but buying a couple of books on the related topic is recommended.

Writer’s Village University www.writersvillage.com
Specifically geared to writers, this site charges a low monthly fee per course or a flat fee per year. There are no instructors, instead there is a “group mentor” who posts the lessons and moderates the group.  Students critique each other’s work.

Online University @ LTU www.iuniversityonline.com
This site provides live instructors for their classes.

Coffee House for Writers www.coffeehouseforwriters.com
Offers courses for fiction, nonfiction and business writing. This site offers reasonable tuition rates and detailed course descriptions.

Writing Classes.com www.writingclasses.com
Limits class size to 18 students but tuition is pricey.

Heidi Hoff is a freelance writer and publisher of Preschool Planet, an e-zine for parents of preschool aged children. She lives with her family in beautiful British Columbia, Canada









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