Class Junkie?

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life39 Comments

"…and I also teach scrapbooking classes on the Internet."

This is often part of any sentence whenever I'm asked what I do for a living.

For a lot of people, head scratching ensues, but for those of us who have taken online classes, we just nod knowingly.

I have many students who tell me not only are they repeat students of mine, but they're class junkies in general, and specifically online class junkies.

Personally, I have always wanted to get into taking online classes too, but never seem to either a) complete the class once I sign up, or b) find the time to get my money's worth.

But I recently decided to change all that.

Here's my confession: for a person who makes her primary living as a graphic designer, my skills in Adobe Illustrator border on pathetic. Sure, I can change the colors of a logo (pretty much the only thing I really know how to use it for), or maybe I can create some random shapes, but my skill set is on the exreme end of low.

I recently saw an ad for a class at a site called SkillShare. Have you heard of this place? It's on online learning community where you can, for very affordable prices, learn all manner of things. I saw an ad for a class called, Learn the Ins and Outs of Illustrator, and the description sounded like just the thing I could use for a leg up on this program. At $20, the price made it even more enticing. So I signed up and dove right in.

At first, I was a little surprised. There were no handouts, and the instructor didn't seem to answer my questions as quickly as, well… as quickly as I like to answer my own students' questions. I wasn't even sure I liked his video style at first (lots of ums and buts in his voice overs.)

But then it happened: I started learning things that I never, ever freaking knew about Illustrator. And I'm talking core things that people should know, but I never did.

And I said outloud: Best $20 I ever spent.

Even though the format wasn't as slick and didn't hold my hand for every step, I felt like I was sitting in the office of a much more talented designer who was very casually telling me, "So this is how you do this."

The class project was to copy a poster design, so I copied the same one the instructor used for his example:


Look ma! I made this in Illustrator! Sure, a few things I still need to tweak, but I learned a ton. Then our instructor told us about another site with cool Illustrator tutorials and through that site I made this:


I know. Get out! The cuteness…

And now I feel like I've got the online class bug. 

Sometimes it's really challenging to find the time to refine and develop skills, and yet I know this is something I really need to make time for to grow and learn in the business of design.

My question for you today is how many of you are online class takers? or bonafide junkies? What appeals to you? What style of instructor makes you feel like you're getting what you need? What are the things that make you keep signing up?

Leave a comment today. I'd love to hear what you think.

Thanks to Brad Woodard for a truly enlightening class. I feel pretty energized and inspired to take more!

Cathy ZielskeClass Junkie?

39 Comments on “Class Junkie?”

  1. #1
    Terri Torrez

    I’m a class junkie. But I only take live classes and I try to only take them if I have time to complete them. I never complete self-paced. I need the deadline and the communication with teacher and community to motivate me.

  2. #2

    I take about 3 online classes a year mostly from BPC. What do I like? I’ll try not to make this sound like just a CZ tribute (but truly you are my fav online teacher by a long way).

    I like a class with: a teacher who is flexible eg OK that people want to only do a particular size or who change the title; a teacher who is aware the class is international and covers a range of people; an active community who comment and chat; energy and challenges from start to end; a teacher who is open about being a learner as well as teacher; material presented in different formats so we can choose the format we prefer

  3. #3

    Total addict. I generally have 3 or 4 online classes or challenges going at a time – I think of it as my second college career only this time I’m taking FUN classes and learning stuff I actually ENJOY! I learned my way around Photoshop Elements via Jessica Sprague’s classes. I changed the way I think about scrapbooking via Big Picture Classes and I will take pretty much anything taught by YOU, Ali Edwards, or Stacy Julian. I fell in love with art journaling and mixed media work via classes from Christy Tomlinson. There is so much out there to learn and I just wish I didn’t have to work so I could have more time to play with my online classes!

    I like a teacher who is interactive, who leaves constructive comments in the gallery, and who enjoys what she is teaching. The more enthusiasm a teacher brings to the class, the more likely I am to be engaged.

  4. #4

    I have only ever signed up for 4 classes, and your current Clean and Simple is the only one that I have kept up with. And now, I am afraid, I have been bitten by the class bug. You are easy to listen to, your tutorials are awesome and I have learned more than I ever thought I would have. I too want to have something completed by the end of the class, and your C&S workshop makes that entirely possible. I will definitely do more online classes in the future, but hope you have not set the bar too high…

  5. #5
    Sherry Eckblad

    I am definitely an online class junkie and even though I keep saying I will not take anymore, I do. I like you jump head first in the beginning but then don’t finish the class. I think I get overwhelmed when they give you everything at once. I am a learn by seeing kind of person so really like that in a class. I don’t want all the information at once I want to be fed it a little at a time. Hope that makes sense.

  6. #7
    Donna A

    Not a junkie yet but with the last one leaving for college in the fall…I began with Scrapgirls to learn Digital scrapbooking, migrated to Jessica S. to improve general PSE skills and then fell in love with the variety of classes at BPC. I like videos, digital downloads and a teacher who answers questions and works with the class as it goes…basically you πŸ™‚ at one point I told my son I would sign up to listen to you read your grocery list because I was sure I would learn something. I don’t give this praise lightly as I have taken other classes of an equal nature to Clean & Simple that were far less impressive. I found more value in your first 2 weeks than my whole last class. Keep up the good work. What I don’t like is a lesson that is audio only…or perhaps the slide shows where the pictures don’t change …they are mentally annoying to me. One feels the need to watch the screen but there is really nothing new to look at.

  7. #8
    Cindy Barger

    Total online class junkie. Too many to count (and perhaps too embarrassed to admit). Many I have not finished (ok, MOST I have not finished), but knowing that I have access to them at any time is a good feeling. I just can’t pass up a good class when it is offered.

  8. #9

    Wendy Smedley turned me into a total junkie. Before she got ahold of me I’d only taken a few πŸ™‚ What I love about classes, in addition to the actual learning, is the motivation factor. They give me ideas, they motivate me to create and share, and they can even help my perspective shift. But, for me, the best outcome is that at the end of it all I’ve made stuff or done stuff that otherwise wouldn’t have gotten done. And that is amazing.

  9. #11

    I think I’ve taken 5 or 6 classes at BPC.
    Unfortunately, I’ve never finished a one. Sad, I know. I lack serious self motivation.

  10. #12

    I am forcing myself to not sign up for any more classes until I am finished the ones that I am currently in, or have been in. All I can say is thank goodness that there is lifetime access for most of the classes that I have taken. What a stroke of genius that is…I can now go back and finish what I didn’t have time for!

  11. #13
    Kristi B

    I have taken at least 20 online classes. There are 2 I haven’t finished & it bugs me πŸ™‚ If I find the classes interesting – I will sign up!

  12. #14

    I’m a junkie, and trying to scale back to what I will actually keep up with πŸ™‚ I like a teacher that is engaging, and content that is inspiring whether or not I actually complete the assignment. Multiple formats – video, pdfs, audio, message boards & galleries – are a plus. BPC does a wonderful job and I’m kinda spoiled. I almost never feel bad about not finishing all the projects because I learn a so much through the presentation, get so much inspiration, and as someone else said, have shifts in the way I think about things. It’s all good.

  13. #15

    I’m a junkie. Most are ones at BPC. I’ve not completed several of them on time, but I like that I can go back and finish up later. I like the format at BPC with videos, pdfs, and message boards where I can ask questions and get answers. You are one of my favorite instructors along with Ali Edwards, Stacy Julian and Mou Saha. Since I just got Lightroom on my computer, I’m going to be watching the tutorials on Adobe. And must learn more about my Silhouette so am looking for tutorials on that.

  14. #16

    Total class junkie since I took my first BPC class in 2006(then BPS). Also love Christy Tomlinson & Studio Calico classes. I JUST found SkillShare a few weeks ago via a twitter friend & quickly signed up for label design class. I can’t stop!

    Love your designs! Your learning means we will sooner or later learn from you – so woot on that!

  15. #17

    I am an online class junkie. Now that I’m retired I have to pick and choose. I have favorite instructors that I take all of their classes. Stacey, cathy, and Heidi Swapp are my main three. I pretty much stay with BPC.

    I no longer take self paced classes…I can’t get into them and they turn out to be a waste of money for me.

  16. #18

    I’m not a junkie but I was going down that path! I’ve learned the hard way that I can only handle one class at a time, and that I also need a break between classes. It’s hard when a teacher I like is teaching and I know I really don’t have time. πŸ™

    I started as many others did with PSE at Jessica Sprague. While her style of scrapping is, I found, not really mine, her skills at taking me through the basics of that software were excellent. Your ME class was one of my all time favorites. Ali is also right up there with you. I think she is one of the clearest teachers – really good with making sure she SHOWS what she is saying. By now I know where things are but a newcomer really doesn’t always. You and Ali are both very good at this as well as keeping it real. Your handouts are clear and easy to use, plus have your own creative sense about them. They are products I know I will use later on.

    “at one point I told my son I would sign up to listen to you read your grocery list because I was sure I would learn something.” This is soooo true! You sell me with your sense of humor as well as your skill base. I have only taken one ‘bad’ class where the teacher was not prepared to teach ACDSee for Mac. Saying it’s like the PC version was far from true. Her videos were crap also and I was ready to yank her droopy hair off her face each time she shoved it back. (Petty? yeah, but…still, a teacher should have camera skills if s/he’s doing video.)

    Recently, I’ve taken two Lightroom classes. One was pretty good but really too much info for this brain to absorb in 1 week, and no further access to the numerous videos without further payment. That’s a dealbreaker for me from now on. The other LR class was with CreativeLive where I was able to watch about half live and still need to go back and refresh what I’ve already forgot! LOL! I love that BPC gives you that lifetime access. I have gone back to a class or so that I didn’t finish at the time and I’m ok with that.

    Once LR5 is finally out (I use it for my digi supplies mainly) I’ll be back reading all Julianne Kost’s blog posts about using the new version- that and the Adobe videos. Learning is good!

  17. #19
    jen s

    I sign up for a few of them – but then likely don’t finish or find the time to even start them… I wish I could find more time to really devote to this sort of thing… But how to you walk away from NHL playoffs to learn how to use your dslr?! πŸ™‚

  18. #20

    oh so true πŸ™‚ dare I say it – Go Bruins!…. I have signed up SO many online photo classes – never past Lesson 1. I think learning the dslr will have to be an in-person class.

    Having said that, Cathy’s C&S class is the FIRST one I have EVER been current in. πŸ™‚

  19. #21

    I’m definitely an online class junkie but I usually don’t finish them. Your Clean & Simple is the first “live” one that I’ve actually been keeping up with and it’s even spurred me to work on finishing your Design Your Life one that I started back in 2011. Most of the classes I take are with BPC or Jessica Sprague (for PSE). I think in future I’ll try to stick to “live” classes.

  20. #22
    Gina T

    I think I have a slightly different perspective. I believe in life-long learning. I started college as a non-traditional student at age 37. I loved it. But I have a chronically ill son who is hospitalized often. The hospital is two hours from home. The thought of an untimely hospitaliztion and not being able to finish a semester made me anxious all the time. The thought of all the time and money down the drain. . . I wasn’t able to finish my business degree.

    I started classes at BPC after winning the Get Organized and be Inspired (??) book from Stacy’ Julian’s website. But that same creepy feeling came back when my son would go back in the hospital. THen I found Jessica Sprague and the life-time access. I took all her classes and was able to finish on my time-frame. I can’t tell you how awesome that was. To be able to take that time for “ME”!! I just had to do it in 15 minutes here and there.

    When BPC went to life-time access I was elated. I have been in a class at all times for the last few years. Even now when my son is hospitalized ever 3-5 weeks for two week stays each time. I am so grateful for BPC and all you teachers! I am so isolated due to this chronic illness but now it doesn’t seem so burdensome. I always have these classes to look forward to! May sound corny, huh but it’s true.

    I love all your classes best, then anything from Stacy and Ali. But I will truyly always be in a class as long as they are afordable. Sorry this got to be kind of long. I hope maybe someone else in my situation will see it and try it.

    I dont think I am a junkie or an addict, these classes are a lifeline for me. An opportunity I would not have otherwise. Thanks for all you do Cathy!!

  21. #23

    I’m also an online class junkie! I’ve done quite a few, mostly through BPC and Jessica Sprague. I like videos, but sometimes find it hard to get the time to watch through, so a handout can sometimes be the better option when time is limited. I love that these sites both have lifetime access, so that I don’t have to feel rushed to complete the content and can come back at anytime. And the classes are awesome fun!

  22. #24

    Honestly, I’d like to take more than I do. I need a purpose this summer especially, before it goes to waste.

  23. #25
    Annet M

    I have only done your MMEW class last year (and didn’t finish my documentation due to crazyness of life). I did enjoy that though. However, I’m commenting because I feel the same about photoshop and everyday think I can do that, but I am probably not doing it right and it never is quite right. So I might click on the link above and do the photoshop class if they have one!

  24. #26

    Hi Cathy,

    I’ve taken several online classes through a variety of providers/instructors. I like classes that either teach me something very new ie DYL or ones that focus on journaling ie 31 Things by Ali or almost any class taught by Shimelle.
    The classes I feel that engage me the most have high input from the instructor and a positive message board which is filled with constructive chat and feedback. Random chat doesn’t enagage me so much.
    Like another commentator, I also like it when the instructors take into account the international students and cater to chats or spelling variants etc.

    Classes particularly appeal to me when they are adapted for digi scrappers and resources are made available in a variety of formats.

  25. #27

    I love taking online classes. Previously I took more technical classes and now I’m taking more journaling/life documenting classes.

    For technical classes (software programs, etc), I want in-depth tutorials and class materials so I can really study and practice to acquire the skill. I want to get feedback/critique from the instructor. I don’t require much else from the instructor other than their teaching, skill, and occasional attention.

    For the past year, I’ve been taking more journal/scrapbook/crafty classes. The ones I find most engaging are ones where the instructor is very genuine and willing to share part of their story. I love taking the everyday and finding the meaning in it. I like the challenges and prompts. I like the class supplies (often digital elements or templates). I’m more motivated to do them when I feel the instructor is teaching a class about making your life more meaningful (through scrapbooking/documenting).
    I’ve signed up for classes where I’m to make a mini-book or a certain project. I find those to be less rewarding. I complete the project but it doesn’t feel like I put my soul into it. I just tried to make whatever the instructor first created.

    I also don’t like it when I sense the instructor is more interested in promoting their business or “phoning it in”. I want to feel they are passionate about their work and teaching and not just trying to keep up with a trend or offer what they think will get the most registrants.

    Thanks for asking πŸ™‚ (keep doing what you do because I love what you do)

  26. #28

    I earned both of my Master’s degrees online. The first in 2000 was when online anything was in its infancy. The second, just this May, was a Master’s out of necessity, so I sure enough was not about to sit in a classroom and be trapped for hours. So, one could call me a junkie.

    I love Big Picture Scrapbooking and Jessica Sprague’s classes because they stay there. Cathy, I still have an unfinished MeTAV project from the ’09 class. Yes, I am lame. But I need classes that allow me to be, um, lame. It’s taken me two years to work on my One Little Word from 2012, and I started and stopped MMEW (but I am doing great keeping up this year). I like classes that offer small bits at a time. The year-long BPS classes seem to fit me quite nicely. Just do this itty bit this month.

    I love video tutorials. What you put on this site is awesome, as when I have not done something, like recolor a png file, in forever, I usually find something on your site to help.

    I can’t do super long or dragging videos, though. They make me sleepy.

  27. #29
    Kary in Colorado

    I am definitely an online class junkie. I enrolled in Stacy Julian’s very first BPS class (I think it was 2006) and have never looked back! I shudder to think how many classes I’ve taken at BPC–upwards of 100 (it has been six years . . .), plus classes from Shimelle and Jessica Sprague, where I learned PSE. Not fond of Jessica’s style, but she is great at teaching PSE.

    I love BPC classes, obviously. I will happily take any class you, Stacy, Ali Edwards, Amy Sorensen or Elizabeth Dillow teaches! I just get more done when I have a class or two going and I appreciate the inspiration. I don’t always keep up, but that’s okay. I love to learn new things.

  28. #30

    Yep, I love taking classes, BUT they have to be a topic I’m interested in, at a time I can at least follow along, and at a reasonable price. Love BPC and Online Card Classes.

  29. #31

    I have tried taking online classes but have never kept nor finished them. As soon as I hit a challenge, and can’t get a quick answer or support, it seems I get frustrated and quit. BUT, am currently taking your Clean & Simple and this has been totally different. I got behind in the first 3 weeks and I thought “oh here we go again…” but you were awesome in helping me solve my issues and I caught up and have since been waiting for Thursdays to get the new assignment. Best class ever! I have learned so much.

  30. #32
    Margy Eastman

    I love online classes. I was really a junkie and decided I’d better reign it in. I’ve loved your classes, Cathy – and DYL was “my first.” Rignt now I’m trying to finish a conditioning class for my little agility dog…don’t laugh! You’re right, though. It’s amazing what’s available. I’ve loved the BP classes, and Jessica Sprague launched me into PSE. I’ve taken a few photography classes from Candace Stringham as well. And now there are more online agility classes. It’s amazing!

  31. #33

    Total class junkie here…but it’s only for big picture classes and Jessica Sprague. I have 4 young children…so not a lot of time, but that doesn’t stop me from going crazy over classes. When the class descriptions come out, I get giddy over all the eye candy and can’t control myself and have to sign up…if I could only find the time! At big picture, I have yet to finish your Me: The Abridged version, Design your Life, and am behind on Clean and Simple. But that doesn’t stop me from trying!! So thankful for forever classes!!!

  32. #34

    I’m a total junkie too but now a selective junkie. I was burned twice by expensive classes with disorganized, incomplete handouts and poor structure. Now I only take classes from people I “know”, you, Ali Edwards, Jessica sprague, Karen Russell and a few select others. I’ve also learned to pass up classes that look awesome but I know I have some big commitment during class time and won’t be able to be as attentive as I’d like to the material. I know I won’t go back once the class is no longer “live”. I love an active chat board with encouragement coming from every post. Love too those international gals! Love a class with a gallery for inspiration although I don’t post my own work. Most of all I’m looking for organization! When are you teaching next????

  33. #35
    alyce d.

    I feel like the minority here, I’m NOT a class junkie, have never really considered taking one. But as a heavy photoshop user – who wants to learn illustrator (and finds it painfully different…) I’m really inspired!!!

  34. #37

    I love to take online classes. I prefer self-paced classes that I can revisit as often as I want (or live classes that give me access to recordings). I have several self-paced classes & workshops that I need to catch up on. (I’m “behind” in your class too right now. But such is life sometimes.) Thanks for the inspiring post. I’m eager to check out the sites you mentioned. And eager to log into one of the many classes on my “still need to do this now that I’ve paid for it” list. πŸ˜€

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