Updated: May 3
Update: This was originally written in 2018, post-COVID, but it still serves as a great guide to how you can get the most from e-learning and online courses.
Whenever I bring up taking an online class with my company, 383 Design Studio, I get very mixed reactions. Some people are really open to the idea, but a lot of my clients and potential students are still not sold on the idea. And I can’t figure out why. An online class, in my head, is the best of both worlds. Convenient, easy access, inexpensive, live instruction, recorded sessions. Why would anyone NOT want to take an online class?
So I started asking about their concerns, and I was very surprised to learn that a lot of people’s hangups about online training are based on what they ‘think’ it’s like, not what it’s actually like. So, let’s go through a few of the beliefs and dispel some of the misconceptions about e-learning and online training.
Misconception #1: I’ll get distracted if there isn’t a real person in front of me. This really comes down to planning and knowing yourself. Yes, you can train anywhere: on the beach or in the park. But if you know you get distracted easily, the beach or the park is probably not the best place for you to learn. Shut your office door and ask for all of your calls to be held or sent directly to voicemail. Or find a conference room where you cannot only be away from co-workers but also from any other work you might get distracted by on your desk. If you’re home, make sure you find a quiet place to work and let everyone in the house know that you don’t want to be disturbed for the next hour or two. Just because you’re not in a formal classroom, it doesn’t mean your surroundings shouldn’t be similar to a classroom environment (i.e. quiet, free from distractions, and conducive to learning.) And do yourself a favor: shut down your email and put your cell phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’.
Lastly, if you’re concerned about seeing a real person, many instructors will turn on their webcam at least some of the time (if not for the entire duration) of the class. So, you’ll definitely have the feeling of a real person being in front of you.
Misconception #2: I get bored with online classes. Sometimes this is a really matter of choosing the right instructor or the material. Because you’re sitting in front of a computer the entire time, it becomes really important to find an instructor who is engaging and creates engaging material. There are many instructors creating online classes. Some are better than others, so do your research. Watch samples of their classes or find them on YouTube to see what their teaching style is like. If you find yourself drifting off or uninspired by their voice or material, find someone else.
Misconception #3: Online classes don’t teach you everything. This was probably one of the most confusing responses I received. Perhaps because of the format, there’s this idea that there are limitations to what can be taught or demonstrated. But just about anything can be taught through an online format. (And I’m only saying ‘just about’ because I can’t think of anything that can’t right this minute, but you never know!) It really comes down to the instructor’s lecture, their demonstration and if it’s someone showing an actual task (like pattern making or sewing), how it’s filmed. And as I mentioned previously, you have lots of instructors to choose from so find one (or more) that’s doing it well, and start learning!
Misconception #4: My questions won’t get answered because there’s no one I can ask for help. Most instructors do understand that people are going to want to ask questions and that they can’t address everything in a few videos or even an FAQ page. So many will have forums or even Facebook discussion groups to help answer questions. They may have a chat room. live sessions or even allow you to email them directly.
In addition, there are many classes that are live (not pre-recorded), and they will usually allow for ‘Q&A’ at some point or allow you to ask questions via chat. So, like any in-person class, you do have the option to ask questions and have them answered in real time. At 383 Design Studio, we’ve started holding live, online office hours so that it feels as much like a real class as possible.
Misconception #5: Those pre-recorded classes get outdated too fast. I’d rather learn in real time. I can see how this could be a concern. However, if you find an instructor that regularly updates their material, you won’t have to worry about watching something that is outdated or doesn’t address the newest software updates.
Misconception #6: I know I’m not getting as good of a class. They’re so much cheaper than an in-person class. You do get what you pay for. But in the case of an online class, the reduced cost isn’t coming at your expense. Online classes are usually less expensive because you have less overhead to conduct the class (like room and possibly equipment rental fees, travel expenses for the instructor, printing costs for manuals and handouts), not because the student is receiving inferior information.
Misconception #7: I won’t be able to interact with anyone else in the class. As I mentioned previously, many instructors now setup discussion groups and forums where you can interact and share ideas. Some will also set up forums and it’s possible to make those live as well and include a webcam so you can see who you’re speaking with. I’ve even seen one instructor set up a formal meet and greet with past and current users. There are lots of options to interact and network with classmates and the instructor.
Although I’ve heard other random questions and concerns over the last few years, these were the main issues. And many seemed to be focused on how to make online learning feel as close as possible to traditional classroom learning . But you can put your mind at ease knowing that online classes have come a long way in terms of making the experience more approachable, interactive and finding ways to bridge the gaps between classroom and online instruction.
If you’ve been thinking about trying an online class but had some concerns that were addressed here, I hope I’ve been able to help you think more positively about taking a class. They can really be a great way to conveniently and inexpensively enhance your skills and grow your knowledge.
Mikelle Drew is a teacher and fashion designer working in the fashion industry for over 20 years using Adobe software and teaching Adobe for fashion design for over 10 years. Check out her digital fashion tips and tutorials here at the 383Degrees blog, on our YouTube Channel, or try one of her group classes.