Books & Blogs: Online Scrapbook Education

Each Thursday I review a book or blog related to scrapbooking.

Recently, I’ve taken a few online scrapbooking classes. I had every intention of reviewing each of the courses individually, but think I will review them collectively so that I can point out what works and what doesn’t work in online classes overall.

Scrapbook On the Road from Ali Edwards

I really enjoyed this class, which should come as no surprise to those of you who read regularly (thank you!). Honestly, the class topic really isn’t anything earth-shattering but the delivery is fantastic. The pdfs were well-done as were the videos. At $14 it was inexpensive yet provided great value. Even though Ali presents the class as a travel scrapbook, you really could use the information to create any sort of made from scratch scrapbook for another purpose (and I might just do this for Week in the Life). I like that this class is self-paced plus. What I mean is that it is self-paced plus there is a flickr group dedicated to the course. This way you (in my opinion), you get the best of both worlds: you can work at your own pace yet still get a connection with your classmates.

Would I take another class from Ali Edwards? Yes, without a doubt.

Big Picture Classes Pro-Press Releases by Nancy Nally

This is the only class I have taken from Big Picture Classes. I love their topics and would like to take some more of their classes but haven’t due to time constraints. I did take the time to take Pro-Press Releases by Nancy Nally because I am working on my first e-book and want to know the details on the best way to publicize this e-book within the industry. With your class purchase, you get e-mail contact with Nancy. I had a question and she got back to me by the next day. Overall, I think the class works.

Would I take another class from Big Picture Classes or from Nancy Nally? Yes.

Spring Training from Ella Publishing

I have mixed feelings about Spring Training from Ella Publishing. On the one hand, I liked their approach of focusing on different aspects of scrapbooking (e.g., photography, technique, writing). I also liked that the videos were short. The promise was that you would be able to participate each day even if you only had about 20 minutes. This they delivered. I did learn something from most of the videos.

What I didn’t like was that the video-quality was poor on more than one occasion. One video had construction noise in the background. In that instance, the instructor should have gone elsewhere (i.e., someplace quieter) to make the video. Some background noise is acceptable, but this was unacceptable. In a couple of the other videos, the layouts that were shown were cut-off in the video. This was frustrating one time, but when it happened again, I began to feel ripped-off.

To be fair, (to my knowledge) this was Ella Publishing’s first go with producing an online class. They did some things right (I think the price was fair and the breadth of topics was great), but there is definitely room for improvement.

I would like email reminders about the class because new content was made available on their site each day for the duration of the class. They took a chance by making you go to the classroom to get the content instead of doing email delivery, but I would prefer email summaries of the new content or the very least reminders that new content has been posted (perhaps students could choose which option they would like in future class offerings).

The deals offered as part of the class were either confusing ($5 off coupon for another purchase upon signing up…except I didn’t find the coupon until I logged in when the class started and it had already expired!!) or not worth my time (For me, saving a $1 off an e-book wasn’t worth the time it would take for me to go through the purchase process. I’d rather buy several things at once. I realize this is my personal preference and others might have been really excited to get the discount.)

Unlike all of the other classes I’ve taken, they did provide a feedback mechanism. However, I never received an email telling me about the survey, which makes me question how seriously they wanted feedback. I happened to login for another reason and saw they had a survey about the class. Again, they offered a $5 off coupon for completing the survey. Of course, it had already expired by the time I even realized there was a survey. I emailed Ella about my frustration over the coupon and Angie Lucas did send me a $5 off coupon code to compensate (thank you). Ella Publishing needs to do a better job at communicating to students in their classes. Perhaps I just missed all of their emails about the new content on each day of the class. Perhaps I just missed an email about the survey. Today (June 22, 2011), I checked my trash and there was nothing about the survey. The survey was available until May 31. Why didn’t I get an email reminder about the survey?

Overall, I think the content was good (not exceptional), but the communication was poor. Would I take another class from Ella Publishing? Maybe, I think I would if Ella communicates to its students the steps they are taking to increase the quality of the videos and improve communication with students. Without this step, I probably will not take another class from them.

(I know on Paperclipping I said I did not want to name the class I was disappointed in, but I decided to do it because I am an affiliate for Ella Publishing and know at least one person bought the class through me. I also knew I wanted to review the classes I have been taking and have told you before that I signed up for this class. I decided I needed to talk about it even if what I had to say wasn’t pretty. I did not use an affiliate link in this post.)

Blogging for Scrapbookers and Beyond Blogging for Scrapbookers from Shimelle Laine

I did enjoy both Blogging classes from Shimelle. My problem comes from that my blogging purposes seem to be a bit different than the blogging purposes of many of my classmates. That’s fine. It was nice to connect with other people who both blog and scrapbook even if we blog for different reasons. But this is important, because most of the content was geared towards the other type of blogger (those treating their blog more like a scrapbook and/or using it as a place to showcase their scrapbooking rather than using their blog for potential income). I found more of the content in the second class more relevant to my purposes.

That being said, I do think the classes were worth my money. Both sections were $15 each and Shimelle provided a couple of bonus videos after the class ended. The videos were of high quality. I would have liked a pdf of the content from the videos as well, because though the videos were short (about 10 minutes each), I like to skim pdfs and can do that much more quickly (I know a lot of folks love video, which is why I would like to have both options).

My real complaint (and I know this is not unique to Shimelle’s classroom model) is that the chatroom was overwhelming and there was open enrollment. I teach online and in-person classes at a college for a living. I think classes that are taught “live” should have a cut-off date for enrollment. I also think there should be limited enrollment. I would pay a premium for limited enrollment. Right now, I am teaching two sections of Introduction to Sociology. There are 28 students enrolled in each section. Could they be combined, yes, but you would lose a lot by combining the two sections. It was great to get a 100 or so new RSS readers to my blog, but it isn’t worth it if most simply just mark “all read” and then unsubscribe a short time later because they are so overwhelmed by all the new posts in their feed. I would prefer 30 new subscribers who will actually take the time to read my blog, than 100 that mark “all read” and move on.

Would I take another class from Shimelle? Probably.

What do you think about the online scrapbooking classes you have taken? Have you taken any that I mentioned? What was your experience? (Please keep your criticism constructive. Thank you!) Comment below or join the conversation on facebook or twitter.

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Stephanie

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  • Terri Torrez

    Thanks for posting honest reviews. I think one of the problems in the industry is that it’s so tightly knit that people are afraid to express negative reviews. Besides the need to warn other consumers, I think it’s critical for companies to hear negative feedback in order to improve. Providing constructive feedback shouldn’t be taboo. It should be part of our regular discourse.

    Kudos to you. And I’m really loving your blog. I heard you on #PRT and I’m hooked.

  • Terri Torrez

    I should also add — I’ve taken a couple dozen classes from Big Picture Classes. Most of them were over-the-top amazing and great value for the money. I love the BPC classroom and it’s all well-organized and well-executed. I’ve only taken one class that I felt the need to complain about and BPC was very receptive to my feedback and generous in their response. In truth, that class wasn’t horrible, it just didn’t live up to the very high standards I’ve come to expect from this company.

  • I like that you reviewed a variety of classes together in an honest and fair format!

    Your class size discussion caught my attention.  I work at a large university, so large class sizes are often the norm.  As a comparision, our Introductory Sociology clases range from 36-270 students for the fall semester.  Most of them are over 100 students. 

    How does this relate to us as scrapbookers pursuing online education?  I think that the important thing is how the person/company markets and prices their classes.  If it is marketed as a small intimate class, then I am willing to pay more.  I do expect it to live up to that claim.  Since scrapbooking & cardmaking are my hobbies, I appreciate the lower cost classes even if they are large.   I am very comfortable with the $15-20 price point, but I am hesitant to take the more expensive classes due to my time limitations and all of the great things that I learn from blogs.   

  • That’s good to hear about BPC. I’m always tempted, but just have to be really selective at this point in my life. I’m learning what features I like/dislike and will hopefully take some more classes in the coming months.

  • Thank you! It is so easy to not be critical but there is just so much out there that there really needs to be more people out there saying what they dislike and not just what they like. I was really nervous writing this post, because I knew it was not all going to be all be good, but I felt it was important. Thanks again.

  • I think that the online scrapbook education providers could learn from
    universities. I’ve taken college courses with 300 classmates and classes
    with 4 classmates. You get something different out of each format. Even in
    the 300 seat classes, you often get a smaller section of the class, too (2
    lectures, 1 section each week). Some of the online scrapbook classes could
    do something like this by setting up groups within a larger class (maybe
    some are already doing this). Classes could be offered in both formats, too,
    with the smaller classes costing more. It’s not for everyone, but the large
    class size is definitely one thing (besides time/money) that is preventing
    me from taking very many classes. If I’m not going to participate in the
    discussion forum tied to the class because there is just too much going on,
    then I might as well take the class as a self-paced course or not all and
    just search for similar information online. Thanks for commenting!

  • I liked the model that you mentioned above as a student and see the benefits now as an academic advisor. 

    When I started scrapbooking I took classes at a local scrapbook store, but now I am more likely to take online scrapbooking classes for the convenience.  I agree that it will help the teachers/companies to find ways to create that smaller class feel online. 

    Another interesting review could be of the Paperclipping membership (and/or other membership sites).   The membership sites offer another option for scrapbook education.   

  • Sherry Amorocho

    Thanks for your honest feedback! I have taken classes from Debbie Hodge’s site, and have been very pleased with content and price point. I like self-paced classes and enjoy the video and PDF content provided in the way her courses are set up.

  • Sherry

    Ditto:)

  • Thanks for the tip. I’ve heard good things about her site, but haven’t had a chance to check it out. I’ll definitely have to keep an eye out for something that sparks my interest and sign up.

  • I finally downloaded some of the paperclipping videos. I hope to start watching them soon!

  • Thanks!

  • Hi Stephanie
    I did both of Shimelle’s blogging classes too – the content is awesome – and I’ve only gone through about 1/2 of it. I found that the enrolment system was confusing, but the low price point is the only reason I could enrol. We are on a budget. 🙂 That said I did make a few connections and have lots of goodness from those classes. I didn’t notice you on the boards, but then I most went to post my link daily, rather than chatting about a lot of the prompts due to limited time.

  • HI Melissa,
    I only shared a link once or twice during the class. I usually had other content already scheduled and used most of the prompts as ideas for future posts. I tried chatting some about some of the prompts, but it was hard to keep up with the chat threads. Because of the pace of the class, I usually had to decide, am I going to look at the comment I made yesterday and see what kind of response there is, see what’s going on in the new thread, or check out a thread I haven’t looked at yet. I couldn’t keep up with it all. There were parts of the class I definitely liked but there were other things I would either change or see an alternate version of the class. Thanks for commenting!