Instructor-led versus Self-paced...that is the question.
I have done both now, and I can honestly say that instructor-led classes, which are live and attached to active forums & galleries are much more motivating than self-paced classes, which are open all year round.
In some classes, the instructor participates daily in the forum as well so you can get comments and feedback from her. The atmosphere in the forum is always positive & helpful. You can go on any time and ask questions or write about your thoughts, and you can be sure that SOMEONE will reply with feedback, answers, helpful advice or just friendly comments. The gallery, where you post you assignments in the way of lay outs, photos, before/after photos, allows you to give and receive feedback from classmates. In some classes, the instructors will try to comment on each and every post in the gallery.
Instructor-led classes are offered several times a year with an opening and closing date. Registration begins a week or two before the class and often, pre-homework is assigned to help you prepare for the first day of class.
Class materials are copyrighted and not meant to be shared with others, but if you are a member of the class, you can print the materials and keep them in a binder. This keeps you off the computer constantly so you can read your lessons in any location. I have a separate binder for each class.
Some classes have limited enrollment, so you must be ready to sign up as soon as the registration opens. This is so that the instructor can give personalized feedback to each student. Other classes allow for open enrollment. In this case, thousands may be taking the class at the same time!
Students come from around the world. I have classmates from all over the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia...just to name a few. It's really fun to hear about everyone's experiences & ideas.
Self-paced classes can be good and bad. I have taken a few that I just gave up on immediately because I just had no clue. Others are okay as long as they are video-based, and if you do all the projects. There will probably still be a gallery for you to post lay outs or photos, but it won't be very active. You can, however, look at other people's work and get ideas.
There are several parts of an online class one must be aware of:
The Basic Lesson (includes printable lecture style materials)
The Forum - a way to communicate with classmates & instructors
The Gallery - a way to post your work so others can see and give feedback or encouragement
Chats - some classes have weekly chats that you can participate in, usually about 1 hour long.
Private Messaging - a way to communicate privately with classmates
Daily or Weekly emails - a way for the instructor to notify you with information regarding the class
I found that depending on my time commitments & busy schedule, I could not always participate in all levels of the classes! I think I only did one or 2 of the weekly chats, but I loved posting my work in the gallery & checking the forum every day. In one of the classes I am taking, I often exchange private emails with some of the other students, and that makes it really fun. Plus, getting daily emails from your instructor is an added bonus...so much better than all that junk mail!
One more thing, some instructors give you access to the materials forever, so as long as you can access their site, you can access all your classes, information & galleries. Others close off the workshop once it is finished, so it's best to print out your materials if you want to keep them.
Oh, and I almost forgot. Before signing up for any online courses, stock up on your printer ink. You'll need lots of it!
Next up: So, what classes did I take and what kind of progress did I make? I even post photos and lay outs!