As mentioned in my introduction post in this series of reviews, I want to take a close look at a number of online learning platforms which focus on the niche area of creative and crafty pursuits. First we’ll look at Craftsy.
Here’s a quick video tour showing some of the features mentioned in this review.
Multi-mode for everyone
I wanted to start off by confirming the myth of “Learning Styles” has been soundly debunked. So PLEASE stop saying you’re special because you’re a visual learner, or an aural learner. You’re not special. (OK you’re special, just not like that.)
Two things do hold true for all learners:
- We all learn better when we learn through multiple modes.
- The highest bandwidth learning experience is always going to beat out the less rich experience.
Therefore, live, in-person will be better than online, and video will be better than paper. And providing the same content in video, as well as in printed text and images will always beat out one single mode. However, learning tactile hands-on activities while watching a two dimensional recorded digital video is likely to pose challenges.
So any of the online learning platforms I’m reviewing in this series will need to work around this problem if they are to teach creative and making activities. How they do so and to what effect is what makes them different.
What’s in the Craftsy box?
The Craftsy platform includes:
- Video player for online streaming.
- Apps for Android and iOS for offline viewing.
- Note taking and bookmarking capability.
- Downloadable PDFs
- Comments and questions marked along the timeline and appear as you watch the spot.
- Responses from instructors and students.
- Project sharing, comments on fellow learner’s projects.
Tips to get the most out of Craftsy:
- Watch the entire course all the way through while you craft or in transit.
- Add bookmarks and take notes.
- Return back to the class when you’re ready to tackle the tasks and you have your materials ready.
- Use the browser to skim to specific tasks and steps.
- Challenge yourself to complete classroom activities, take photos and share your work. The feedback from other students can be a great motivator.
Overall impressions of Craftsy
Craftsy videos are very well produced, well lit and usually at good angles to see all the action. However, there are limitations to the studios. In videos which require information about soaking knits or yarn for example, they don’t have a sink or show a real situation. I’ve noticed more on-location shots in Interweave videos for example. So in that sense it is limiting.
Some criticize the pace for being too slow. Another way to say it is: it’s thorough. I appreciate that instructors don’t skip over things. If an instructor says you need to continue on a row, they show that again step-by-step. If you think it’s slow, do something at the same time you’re watching.
I like to knit or spin while watching the videos, though I don’t necessarily follow along at first. I return later and work on specific tasks or techniques when I’m ready. For example, in the Shetland shawl course, I have watched all the videos, but go back to watch techniques when I’m working on a specific part.
The “Improve your knitting” class with Patty Lyons is one of the classes which was great to do right along with her. I paused, rewound, played back and inspected her actions to learn new methods for forming knit and purl stitches. If you thought you knew everything about knitting, that is a great course to go in depth on techniques to save you time and improve ergonomics.
There is a massive and growing catalog of craft-focused courses. Mainly the courses would appeal to beginners and experienced amateurs.
That is one consistent criticism I have come across: good for beginners, not too attractive for more experienced learners. I think this is one of the issues of per-class purchase. They can’t assume any prior knowledge or experience so beginner, redundant topics will be covered again and again. While that is fantastic for beginners, an experienced learner with feel like they purchased something they can’t make use of… ‘why do I need to see how to spread fondant *again* in every video’? Still each instructor will likely have their own tips for even beginner skills.
As Craftsy has introduced new areas, they tend to start out with the more essential and basic classes. Later they seem to expand those topics with content which will be appealing to those with more experience. For example, in the topic of Spinning they started with one basic handspinning class about using a Spindle and then they added more well-known authors and instructors with more detailed exploration of methods and techniques.
More than crafts?
The Craftsy courses focus almost entirely on crafts, baking, and photography. There are some courses for budding businesses, mainly in their Art & Photo section and cake sections. Baking is big business!
Craftsy also sell craft supplies alongside their classes business. Some classes come with bundles where you can purchase a specific kit. Be warned though, some courses don’t come with the same exact materials the instructors used in the course.
Craftsy’s special sauce: Their app
Most of the creative learning platforms I’m reviewing only offer live-streaming access. That limits where and how you can learn, which is an unfortunate limitation for a medium that is attempting to increase accessibility.
The app for Craftsy is stellar. You can select and save videos to watch offline. So if you’re going on a long journey, or away from your nice fast wifi, this is an excellent option.
You can also add bookmarks and notes for future review.
Tip: Keep an eye out for discounts
Craftsy is dangerously addictive. I notice people mentioning they “stock up” on courses when a sale comes along. It’s a very clever marketing tactic on Craftsy’s part.
The classes are easy to watch and the marketing incentives are enticing. Sure, you might not have considered that course at the full price, but at 50% off it suddenly seems pretty attractive. When the price gets down to around the mental $10 or £10 mark, you might start comparing to other small purchases and then they look down right affordable. It seems that many Craftsy fans tend to rely on the sales and discounts to come around, and then pounce. The learners feel like smart shoppers and Craftsy still earn great income at scale.
So – to play the game right, make sure you’re subscribed to their newsletter and keep an eye out for discounts before you buy.
Also, if you’re going to make a purchase, consider going to the instructor’s website or blog. They often have their own affiliate code which allows them to extend a discount directly to fans. The instructor also gets hopefully a little bump in their commission, which is nice too. You might have noticed I linked to Patty Lyon’s website (http://pattylyons.com/online-review-improve-knitting/) to refer to the craftsy course. From her site you can save $20 by using her referral link.
Have you used Craftsy? I’d love to hear what your favorite class is, or which class would you not recommend?