Review of Craftsy.com – online crafty classes

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.

Video tour

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?

My_Craftsy

The Craftsy platform includes:

  • Video player for online streaming.
  • Apps for Android and iOS for offline viewing.
  • Note taking and bookmarking capability.
  • Downloadable PDFs

Interactivity includes:

  • 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.

Read reviews of Patty Lyons courses

Craftsy’s catalog

craftsy-_catalogThere 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?

10 thoughts on “Review of Craftsy.com – online crafty classes

  1. I’ve taken a few craftsy classes and this review seems spot-on! I don’t think the pace is too slow, though I do get frustrated with the repetition. I’ve noticed that craftsy has been upping their prices pretty steadily since they began, likely to still make a profit on their 50% off sales, which is irritiating. Most classes used to be under $20 full price, now the ones I want to take are $40-$50 easily.

  2. I’ve bought a couple of Craftsy classes – I think they’re very good classes, but I have to admit, I haven’t made it through to the end of either of them, in part because of the slowness/thoroughness you mention. I think partly this is just a function of video for me, though – I read really quickly, so often tend to look for written instructions over video’d ones; in fact, I avoid online videos generally (that aren’t TV shows/films, that is).

    I’ve never found the interactive part with questions very appealing, but I’m sort of that impatient student who’s not very interested in other people’s questions.

    • Forgot to say that one was Patty Lyons’ techniques class that you discuss above, the second was Stefanie Japel’s Knit Lab: Fit Your Knits.

    • Yeah I do wonder how many courses I have completed watching. And I know I haven’t “completed” most of the classes I signed up for. Meaning doing all the projects, completing all the tasks. I think the q+a is useful where you’re getting additional info or clarification. But then sometimes it feels like the students are just poking holes for the sake of it. It doesn’t necessarily increase a sense of community or participation.

  3. As feedback to Craftsy, I’ve mentioned that it would be great to have advanced courses that dive right in and don’t start at the beginning– but I’ve taken some beginner Craftsy classes and found them helpful, even as a fairly advanced knitter. Patty Lyons’s class is terrific, and I would really recommend Sally Melville’s technique class also. I wish I had learned some of those techniques years ago. Laura Nelkin’s course on knitting with beads is excellent. I think the newer classes have a more brisk pace, for what it’s worth — I’m slogging through some of the older ones, and I find that the newer ones often teach as much in a lot less time.

    • Ah! That is good to know! I guess they can’t require prerequisite classes but they could bundle stuff together. I love Sally Mellville’s class as well. Thanks for the tips about recent improvements!

  4. Pingback: Review of Creativebug – fun friendly quick online learning | nearlythere

  5. It had been awhile since I had been on Craftsy. I took a look seeing your post and picked up two more classes, one by Gudrun Johnson, the other by Franklin Habit. Thanks for the reminder of the classes. 🙂

    • Oh cool! Did you click from the teachers’ sites? I think Gudrun had a discount link on her site. I wonder if Franklin Habit does. I’d love to hear how it goes.

      I need to finish my hap! I fell out of love with my edging colour choice. I think I need to stop second guessing and just do it.

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