Hetch Litman's picture
Hetch Litman from Somewhere in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest is reading The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O'Connor November 13, 2011 - 10:17am

Hey all,

Hope this is in the right place but if not , mods, please feel free to move.....

Anyway, I am very interested in taking one of the offered online course but for some reason I can't find any information on how they work. Mayhaps it is an oversight, or perhaps I'm not looking in the right place but either way I need some help.

Can anyone give me a basic overview of just how an online course works. Is it video based like a classroom or bulletin board based? How does it work?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Nathan's picture
Nathan from Louisiana (South of New Orleans) is reading Re-reading The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste, The Bone Weaver's Orchard by Sarah Read November 13, 2011 - 11:12am

Mark Vanderpool is probably the best person to talk about this, but having taken 3 myself and hoping to take more -it's not video or classroom based. More like a bulletin board but not quite.

A thread gets posted by the Instructor like this one, where it's a lecture, and you can ask any questions you want -a discussion follows. It's great, insightful stuff, and then within 48 hours (usually), a follow up thread with the Assignment based on the Lecture is created. You read the assignment and get to work. 

Now all this varies -I've taken classes where the assignments are due in 3 days, 48 hours, or 5 days -it depends on the class, dates, situtation. But bascially everyone agrees to post their assignments on the same day by a certain time -and it starts to look like the Workshop does -where's it's everyone's stories, and then you go through peer review like the worskhop. You don't have to read and review everyone's work -usually the people assigned to your group (about 5 or 6). However, the more of these you take, the more you Want to review and you could very well end up reviewing everyone's. It gets to be a cool, tight bond that way -and a Fulfilling learning experience that strengthens you as a writer.

And then the Instructor will review your work. Now this setup Also varies. It could be a random thing where the teacher drops in and posts his feedback while also speaking to the other feedback you received and weighs in, or the teacher could pick 5 different students every week and post feedback to those stories (and everyone gets a turn in the rotation), or you might have a teacher post feedback to every story every week. I've seen it done all three ways. It just depends on the teacher and class -but every which way I"ve seen it, has been highly effective. Not only that, you get So much bonus material and learning tools -You'll see what I mean if you take a class but it's concentrated. People in there are Serious as far as wanting to improve and wanting to help You improve, and you will learn more on writing in one of these intensives then you will in a regular college course. That's my guarantee. 

You will not regret taking an intensive -you will be Relieved that you did. And you will get more than your money's woth if that's a concern. The classes are freaking Stellar -and not to mention, a really good time! You'll also speak to your instructor on the phone for phone conferences -along with the rest of the class -those are both Insightful and Fun. You can also log into the intensive 24-7, talking other students and the instructor if they're there about whatever in different forum threads you create. It can be More about writing, more questions, or it could be about poetry or Star Wars. Whatever you want. It's educational, social, and beneficial to the fullest possible capacity. It really is. I cannot recommend these classes enough. No matter what class you take, or what structure it follows, you will come out a better writer. 

And I'm sure I'm leaving stuff out or forgetting key points -again Mark can speak to any question you have. 



.'s picture
. November 13, 2011 - 11:20am

You should try it out for yourself. I went in to it not exactly sure how it worked and I'm pretty satisfied with the experience and results. I'm taking Craig's class now and I just finished Mark's class. If I could afford it, I would take more. 

chickie's picture
chickie from Memphis, TN is reading subterranean kerouac November 13, 2011 - 11:40am

I just finished Mark's Class, Zen Mind Beginners' Fiction Workshop and this is how it worked:

After signing up, a link to the class appeared on the Online Classes | My Classes tab.   

On the class webpages, there were tabs labeled Class Dashboard | Lectures | Assignments | Homework | Discussions | Class Members.

When the class began, the first Discussion, began by Mark, was for introductions.  I found myself referring back to these self introductions frequently during the class.

The schedule went something like this:

  • Monday:  Lecture posted, discussion following in comment section below.
  • Tuesday:  Assignment posted.  Sometimes there was a reading assignment first, and the writing assignment was posted on Wednesday.  Discussion in comment section below.
  • Friday:  Assignments usually due by midnight, more or less.  You upload (usually a doc) online and everyone in the class can download it from there.  There is a link to each person's assignment under each class assignment heading.   Much like in the larger workshop, there is space below each entry for critiques, conversation, and posting documents like LBLs (Line By Line critiques).
  • Weekends:  Most folks used this time to write critiques of each other's work, participate in discussions, and beg Mark for mercy for being late. 

After the class, on Saturday, Mark did a telephone conference.  (Unfortunately, I missed it.)

Mark's part was to set the agenda, post lectures and assignments, answer all questions posted by students, and to critique many, but not all assignments uploaded by students.  Over the course of the class, all students received critique directly from Mark and had the option of asking him questions directly and getting detailed answers.

Like any class, you get out of it what you put into it.  I was online at the class site everyday while the class was in progress.

This is the only class I've taken here or at The Cult, the previous location of the workshop, so I can't say how this generalizes to the other offerings, but I imagine they aren't a whole lot different. 

Hope this is somewhat useful.  Feel free to PM if you have any specific questions.

Hetch Litman's picture
Hetch Litman from Somewhere in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest is reading The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O'Connor November 13, 2011 - 7:24pm

          Thanks everyone for the help. I went ahead and signed up for the class and am excited to see for myself just how much I can get out of this. 400.00 sure is a lot of money in the economy but some things need  to be put in important places in our lives. The only kinda letdown is that you would think in this internet age filled with effective webinar, go to meeting, and skype-y goodness that a live classroom sans old dusty chalkboard wouldn't be out of the question for a class like this with especially given the price. but sheee-it, what do I know.... 


    My main problem in writing, insofar as I can see, is my direct inability to finish anything, and when I saw this:

"If you are a person that thinks that you might be a good writer, but are unsure of how to get a story started or finished this is the workshop for you."

I had no choice but to break out the trusty Barclay credit card (Hey, this purchase'll get me a free itunes giftcard as well. I think like 35.00. That's writing muzak, man!) and purchase the class. I guess we will see how it turns out. Who knows, mayhaps Ill even finish something for once.

PostScript: I may take up people on their offer and PM with questions so look out ;)