Over the past year we’ve noticed the website, Craftsy, crossing our radar very frequently. Some of our blog contributors have signed on to be instructors and more and more of our friends are talking about Craftsy classes. Looking around their site, we can see they have a lot of interesting workshops and classes, and the format looks very appealing. As former educators we were more than a little curious– Is this a format that people can really learn from? Is a class well-planned? It is more than a tutorial? Is it similar to a live course? Is it better than a YouTube video? Is it more appealing for people who learn from both visual and auditory instruction? What IS UP with Craftsy?!
We’re not shy, so we asked VP of Production at Craftsy, Emily Lawrence, and she was nice enough to answer all our questions. Plus she told us all about a new FREE class you can take and also gave us FIVE PASSES to a class for a great-looking top, The Sassy Librarian Blouse. (Learn how you can access your free class and enter to win the other after the interview.)
Kristin: Thanks for talking with us, Emily. What is your role at Craftsy?
Emily: I’ve been at Craftsy since the very beginning two years ago, so my role has changed a lot. I started off producing our classes— preparing for the filming, directing the video shoots, editing— and now we’ve built an amazing great group of producers, designers and editors to make sure we’re making classes that are useful and inspiring. It’s fun and satisfying to NOT do so much as a one-woman band! The one part of my job that hasn’t changed is my very favorite: I get to plan our educational content, developing curriculum and finding just the right instructors to teach at Craftsy.
Kristin: Can you give us a little background on the company?
Emily: Craftsy was launched in May of 2011, but we were founded in the spring of 2010 by couple of brilliant eBay veterans who wanted to create a new approach to online learning.
As a result, we have a crackerjack group of engineers who are continually innovating; they come up with amazing new features that make the classes more effective. They’re also fun and quirky to work with, so every day at the office tends to hold something unexpected, whether it’s a nerf gun war or a breakfast cereal bar.
Kristin: Tell us about the format of a Craftsy class.
Emily: A Craftsy class is typically 10 lessons long, often around 5 hours worth of video.
Each class is in-depth; if we’re covering a project, we teach you the whole arc from start to finish; if it’s a technique class, you learn lots of different approaches. In every class, we try to diagnose and trouble shoot the common problems a student is likely to run into. But of course we can’t predict every issue that you might have and this is where the Craftsy platform shines.
The class format enables students to ask questions and get help from both your instructor and your fellow students– It’s like being able to virtually raise your hand in the video. Here’s how it works: If I run into a problem with my quilt block 12:44 into the video for Lesson 3, I can pause it and say “My points aren’t matching— What did I do wrong?” That question then appears like a pop-up bubble below the video. You can even take a picture of a block and add to it to the question so everyone can see exactly what’s going on. If you’re working through a class at night, you can usually ask a question before bed and get help from classmates by morning.
Also, Craftsy classes never expire. You can watch the lessons and follow the techniques over and over again. I’ve definitely had the experience of going to a workshop and feeling like I couldn’t remember all the details once I got home. With a Craftsy class, the material— and the achieved Q & A from both you and your classmates— is always available.
Our students love our platform, so another wonderful part of my job is reading the email we get from crafters who enjoy the great access to learning we provide. My inbox is a happy place!
Kristin: What sets a Craftsy class apart from a typical YouTube how-to video?
Emily: YouTube is an incredible resource and I use it for quick fixes all the time, but our classes do something different. Here’s how they stack up:
- Interactive help. Our instructors log into the class several times a week to answer questions, and fellow students are always chiming in as well. You also get to see the existing Q & As, so you learn through those questions as well. Finally, you can post photos as part of your question, which really ensures that you get the help you need.
- Curation. We carefully curate our instructors and our course offerings, so you know you’re learning from amazing teachers.
- Quality. The streaming video lessons are shot in HD and often from the student’s point of view, so you get the best perspective possible to learn the material.
- Length. Our courses are the equivalent of a multi-day live workshop.
- Control. Each lesson is chapterized and all the material is searchable; this means that you can skip around, search both the video and the Q & A, and go right to the sections you need. You can also take notes to yourself to remind you of spots in the video you want to visit again.
Kristin: What’s the difference between an Online Class and a Workshop?
Emily: At Craftsy, we offer two formats: online classes and workshops. Craftsy classes are video-based, Craftsy workshops are photo-based. Both include help from the instructor and your classmates, detailed handouts and downloadable patterns.
Workshops typically cover one project, classes are more in-depth and they may cover several projects or techniques.
Kristin: Do you have instructional designers on staff? Do they help with the lesson plans?
Emily: I’m so glad you asked! I think our instructional designers (we call them pre-producers) are the secret to creating an amazing class. The process of teaching in a video-based environment is very different from a live teaching experience. When you’re in a live classroom, you can walk around the room and see where people may be having trouble and then take the opportunity to address some of those points with the broader group. On camera, we need to anticipate those moments. Our pre-producers spend months working through the material with the instructor to make sure the lessons are presented clearly and thoughtfully for this medium.
Kristin: How do you get bloggers ready to be instructors?
Emily: Some bloggers are great instructors— and they teach tutorials on their blogs all the time— but by and large, we work with people who have put themselves in front of students face-to-face. Our mission is to connect great teachers with students around the world. We think that teaching is an incredibly undervalued skill, and we’re thrilled to be able to support, cultivate and reward outstanding teachers in a meaningful way. We’ve had the best experience working with experienced teachers, because teaching is a skill that takes practice.
Kristin: Do the instructors come to you for filming, or do you go to them?
Emily: Right now, about half of our filming takes place in Denver (where Craftsy is based), and half of it is filmed on location in our instructor’s studios or shops. I love filming in the teacher’s space– seeing the way they organize their creative space inspires me– but not every space suits our filming requirements.
Kristin: If someone thinks they have what it takes to be a Craftsy instructor, how to they submit their proposal to you?
Emily: I love getting course proposals! If someone is interested in teaching a class, they should first become a student by taking a Craftsy class, then request course proposal guidelines from us at email@example.com.
Kristin: How do I choose the right course for me?
Emily: Check out the itineraries at the top of the course catalog; they identify each class in a given cluster and outline the progression of skills and techniques so you can figure out where to start.
Kristin: Can you tell us anything about the future of Craftsy?
Emily: Craftsy is growing so quickly right now; we’re developing quilting and garment sewing classes left and right. I can tell you that we’re going to be working with some instructors whose modern quilts I find incredibly inspiring. We’ll be releasing one new class a month in our quilting and sewing categories for the rest of the year, so if you don’t see the class you really want right now, check again soon.
FREE CLASS: Sewing Machine 911 with Claudia Miller
Everyone can sign up for this informative class for free! It’s a great opportunity to learn more about your machine as well as check out the format of a Craftsy class. Don’t miss it! Here’s what you’ll learn in Sewing Machine 911:
- How to familiarize yourself with the parts of your machine and how they operate.
- How to perform basic skills, like threading the machine and winding the bobbin.
- How to pinpoint signs and symptoms of common problems.
- How to clean your machine to keep it working well and lengthen its lifespan. (You need this, right?!)
Sign up for this free class HERE.
GIVEAWAY: The Sassy Librarian Blouse with Christine Haynes ($29 value)
The pattern for this adorable vintage-inspired blouse is only available through the Craftsy class. If you sign up for (or win!) The Sassy Librarian Blouse, here is what you’ll learn:
- How to create eight different vintage-inspired blouses from one pattern.
- How to take proper measurements and choose the correct pattern size for a great fit.
- How to lay out and cut fabric for best results.
- How to add stylish detail with buttonholes, pintucks, darts and more!
- How to mix and match blouse components like necklines, collars and sleeves.
ENTER TO WIN
To enter to win one of FIVE passes to the Sassy Librarian Blouse class (a $29 value), tell us about how you learn to sew best. Do you do well with written tutorials? Love to take classes in real life? Need someone to hold your hand? Think videos are awesome? We’re very curious about your experiences! We’ll announce the five winners next week.