Thoughts On Online Classes


Lately there has been a massive surge in online classes and workshops being released on the web by various well-known artists and some not so well-known artists; all of whom are offering to share the fruits of their knowledge, ranging from mixed media to art journalling techniques.

These classes all offer a fantastic learning experience, particularly for those of us who don’t have that luxury of being able to attend a real life class because they live in the middle of nowhere or for those who have a hectic lifestyle or heavy work schedules. You can follow an online class at your own self pace, and best of all most classes are available *forever* so its kind of like buying into a visual art techniques book full of videos and tutorials.

That is the happy positive side of online classes, what of the negatives?

Well obviously I can only speak for myself on this subject; as a profoundly deaf adult who can’t understand a single word that is being spoken on the art technique video’s I always feel completely left out of the loop.

Which makes me ask myself this question; why should I pay full price for an online class when that teacher has made no special provisions for me?

If they havent captioned (subtitled) the video’s or at least offered a written transcript of the video technique, then I have no way of understanding what the class subject matter is about, or if there is a class assignment that I have to do?

If you’re not going to give us complete full access by way of captions on videos or transcripts then at the very least you could consider a disabled concession rate on the prices of the classes to compensate this.

I recently signed up for an online class in lettering, initially I loved the class, but after a few days of video lessons where I simply just couldn’t follow the videos properly because there were no captions, I kinda became disheartened, left out and gave up on it. As an online teacher offering this service then surely it is their job to make sure all of their students can understand fully what the class is teaching us?

Captions/Subtitles would also benefit students whose first language isn’t English as they too would be able to follow the classes better so it’s not just deaf students who would benefit from this.

I get really fed up of moaning about the lack of captions on art videos in the art world, art dvds are exactly the same – no captions, I’ve been saying this for years and still there are no changes.

Surely in this day an age where we have to make sure that public buildings and businesses have wheelchair access by law; we should also be making sure that deaf people are also included with the help of captioning and subtitles and given full access too?

I’ll get off my soapbox now…


34 responses »

  1. Trish I never knew you were deaf.. and to be honest never gave it a thought about deaf people taking online classes…shame on me.

    I did a class recently, “Mastering Twinks” there was not one video involved – all of the lessons were via pdf files, I have to say in a lot of ways I got more out of this class because I was able to read the lessons and took the time to do so.
    I have taken a lot of online classes, I should actually say I have paid for a lot of classes and to be honest I tend to get more out of the pdfs as I take the time to read them whereas I feel guilty if I take time out to watch the videos.

    I hope that people who put together these classes read this post and it makes them think like it did me.

    Your friend, Dawn

  2. I have the same problem and only sign up to classes when pdf’s are provided.. I then watch the videos with the sound turned off, just to see what they do and read the pdf’s! I so wish that the vids were subtitled.. I too would get my moneys worth then!

  3. I have the same problem – I’m also profoundly deaf and really need the subtitles. I only sign up to classes where PDFs are provided or if I do sign up to another class because I really want to learn e technique, I skip through the vids with the sound off just watching what is done. Yes, in today’s technology, subtitles should be provided by everyone.

  4. Trish, maybe they need some deaf awareness, perhaps they haven’t even thought about it and would be mortified to learn of their oversight. Drop them an email with the error of their ways.
    Be the Bodicea for your cause 🙂

    I learnt sign language for the deaf many years ago and learnt so much more about the deaf culture and their frustrations of life.
    Went to the cinema with a friend who took his blind friend and they wouldn’t give a discount because he couldn’t see and then they wanted to throw us out for talking in the effort to give him a narrative on the film so he knew what was happening.
    I am kinaesthetic – a hands on practical doing person so the videos work far better than books for me, however there are times when a bit more instruction or a written note would supplement the video.

  5. I totally get what you’re saying and will absolutely do a transcript of my video’s and add captions for my ArtLab and all future classes. As someone without a hearing disability, it’s just one of those things you don’t think about and totally take for granted. Thanks for pointing it out to me, I don’t want anyone feeling left out of anything I do!!

  6. I do my best to caption as much as possible as time permits, but in future, I plan to include (for paid classes, not necessarily BOD) a PDF with step-by-step photos and instruction to accompany the video. I talk *a lot* through my videos, but most of it is me, musing and not technique related. Where there is a specific product or an unusual step, I do try to caption, and that’s because I met YOU. Thank you for changing the way I do my videos. ❤

  7. Well, I completely agree, especially when I know you could teach rings around some of them. I doubt things will change, tho, since probably half of the ones I signed up for this year appeared to have been set up 30 minutes before they began…ok, I exxagerate, but that extra captioning step would only work with sufficient fore-planning and commitment of course. But I really appreciate the ones who caption important steps or products as they go along…that means it can be done.

    In practice, Trish, take heart: some of the videos have audio probs bad enough that we hearing unimpaireds can’t hear them, lol. xoxo

  8. Thank you for putting this out there, Trish – it’s so important! I’ve been contemplating offering an ecourse for awhile but have been unsure about the hows and when, so you have given me some very useful things to think about.

    I have one question: Do you like getting a PDF with lesson plan and techniques in addition to video lessons, or just the captions on the videos themselves?

    • Pdf’s are a good alternative if a teacher is unable to put on captions on their video’s, you could use the pdf’s to give written step by step instructions and even insert pictures in them – possibly stills from the video itself if the particular technique is hard to explain in the written word.

      The best advice I can give to anyone who offers paid classes using video’s as their tutorials; is to mute the sound on their video and watch it and see if they can fully understand what is happening without the sound on, if you can’t then maybe consider manually adding captions to those important parts that require clarification.

      • Thanks Trish for all the ideas – muting the sound to aid caption writing is brilliant! I also agree with you about PDFs having photos and set-by-step instructions – that’s what I prefer too!

  9. Wow, it makes me feel EXTREMELY rude and ignorant because I have never even given this a single thought. How right you are, to feel left out because you are BEING left out. Thank you for pointing this out to the art world.

  10. I previously captioned my videos and received complaints from hearing folks who felt the captions interfered with their ability to learn and wanted instead no captions and me to talk as I instructed. So in my new class I have provided full and complete transcripts for every video but have not included captions. At a certain point I think there needs to be a point where we are meeting everyone’s needs as much as possible within reason.

    I don’t know if at any point I will find that without feedback from hearing impaired students. And I don’t believe I have had a student who was hearing impaired so far {or if I did I was not made aware of it}.

    But I have tried to provide for that eventuality. And I have received positive feedback about the transcripts from students who felt they were helpful for hearing students as well.

    • Thanks for responding and giving your point of view, I can totally believe that hearing people would complain about the captions on a video because a lot of people don’t like watching foreign language movies for that very same reason!

      I think there must be other hearing impaired students in classes who are not fully understanding the content and they are perhaps feeling too inadequate or shy to complain or even admit that they are not getting the full learning experience. Surely I can’t be the only deaf or hard of hearing student out there?

      Its a funny disability is deafness; we are often put in a position where we feel we should be apologetic for our lack of hearing because we live in a predominately hearing and sound orientated world.

      • No, you are not the only deaf student out there. In my experience, many adults who become deaf later in life hate subtitles & many (but not all) adults without hearing impairments will complain about subtitles, I think they honestly don’t think that deaf people want to do the classes! I think also when people complain/ask about subtitles or various problems they are made to feel bad about it. I know I did a online class which came with pdf (fab!) but I couldnt see the video for various reasons & I was made to feel bad for saying that the video wasn’t working… I think subtitles for deaf / hoh is ideal but pdf transcript with photos would be a good compromise & would be good for all students.

  11. How about communicating with the teacher about your needs before you sign up?

    Not everyone has thought of everything & should be given a chance to work with you and/or work things out respectfully, in my opinion.

    I am glad for the info, and I will keep it mind for the future.

    • Recently I have emailed a few class organiser’s asking them about their accessibility for deaf students; whether there are pdf’s, transcripts or captions on the video’s and have had a lot of negative replies: ie no we don’t’ offer that nor are we planning to. I’ve even been cheeky and asked if they considered a concession rate for people with a hearing disability which again has not been welcoming.

      In short they expect me to pay full dollar for a completely lesser learning experience than everyone else.

      • Yes, I have also asked and had similar experience to Trish. The only exception has been the Kemshalls and Julie Pritchard’s online classes x

  12. You raise a very valid point Trish, I think that teachers offering classes should be more aware of this issue, and be active in solving the problem. I like the idea of a “deaf friendly” list of classes. Maybe you can offer to work with those that need extra awareness and point them in the direction of the tools to subtitle and you could proof the class before it was released as it were (getting it free of course LOL!) {{{HUGS}}}

  13. It is great that you bring this up Trish! I have never offered an online class, but have been considering creating Vlogs for a while. It honestly never occured to me to add captions, but now (thanks to you) it is something I’ll have to consider. (In my case, I’ll probably have to settle for a written transcript).
    One issue may be that creating subtitles would be incredibly difficult, time consuming and possibly expensive, but being aware of the need would be the first step.
    Thanks again!

  14. Very good point, Trish! I’m not hearing impaired, but I do get more out of handouts, text, and .pdf than I do from videos. One artist friend of mine who has been teaching various classes and workshops around the country for years recently posted a questionnaire about preferences for online classes. Out of more than a hundred responses, only 4 people preferred videos over handouts. The general consensus was that videos often contain as much fluff as instruction, are entertaining but often time-wasters, and if you truly need video instruction with art, it should always be in real time, not sped-up, (edited, of course, so that you’re not watching the paint dry…) which may take more time and patience, but teaches rather than wastes time. The best instruction uses video as enhancement to written material only when needed, and not the other way around. And yes, adding captioning is the least that a teacher can do to level the learning field for all students. But handouts are even better, best if they’re in addition to captioning, and if it’s a class video and not merely a “watch me do this” video, the video should be developed from the curriculum, and not the other way around, so the handout/captioning should be written first. But then I used to create educational materials professionally (which is why I don’t do it for fun…too much like work! LOL!), and this is for people who want to learn, not just play. Playing is good, and with the best of work it feels like play, but to get the most out of playing, you must learn something first. So bravo to handouts, captioning, or long, detailed written instructions that can be printed out, or all of the above!

    • All valid points, thank you for taking the time to respond.

      I agree a lot of video’s can be ‘fluff’ and not really concentrating on the techniques at hand, I find these kind of video’s more frustrating because Im looking at somebody smiling at the camera for half an hour without understanding a word they are saying!!

      ‘Old school’ instructions are the way to go about it I think; offering the classes in pdf files so that you can read it and take in the information. I always learn better that way and I am sure many others do too.

  15. Thank you for this Trish!
    I don’t do any online classes, so far just written work, but I have been planning to do some video in the future.
    I suspect that adding subtitles to video may be a bit too much for your average home video creator, but I will make sure that I put up written transcripts. I will admit, that it never occurred to me before reading this, as I suspect it has never occurred to others before.
    I am grateful to you for bringing it up.

    • Thanks for your response, if ever you do decide to go ahead with classes on video’s then I would be happy to help you figure out the best way to make the instructions easily understandable for all.

  16. When you bring this to the attention of online teachers don’t forget to mention making the audio loud enough for people who have hearing loss due to old age and cataracts that discourage rapid reading. I think a lot of people aren’t aware that some of us really struggle to make art. I notice your comment box has large type and I can see if I’ve made an error. Thanks

  17. Very good point to share with others. Owner of several groups and being a dissabeld Vet I am usually very aware of others issues. This is a toughy though… one thing about being a dissabeld person or rather a person with a dissability I have often noticed in my life… if someone has never experienced it we have to teach them. They are mostly ignorant and not mean. Kind folk if given the opportunity to change will try to do so,I guess being deaf with the online coarse hadn’t occurred to me either because no other deaf person has brought it to my attentions. Plus I am a visual learner myself being reading instructions with dyslexia are more difficult for me, which is why I love visual tutorials. I take for granted I am actually learning something however small it may be from their speaking. It should be automatically a choice on utube and classes for the hearing impaired. They should make computors that turn it into written word everytime, that would be so cool. I wonder why they don’t??? Maybe it’s because you are a minority. I have even wonderted what I would do for art if I were blind. I do have dragon naturally speaking or now nuance. That can be helpful if you don’t have one it’s only about a hundred dollars. I guess it would be kind to offer the sub titles but a lot more work if it takes typing everything a teacher says. Since it’s a choice and art classes are not mandated by law I guess you could be fighting an uphill battle. Then again perhaps if you could convince the teachers they might get a lot more participation from the deaf community in sales if they promoted such a task then they would gladly participate! I know being dissabeld myself sometimes computor has been my only means of connection to the outside world. So I can imagine there might be a large population of deaf people out there in computor land. Sometimes it even amazes me how many people are in wheel chaiurs that play art games with us and certainly many with mental illness. Thanks Trish for sharing. Sanna

  18. Wow. I honestly had never thought of that. That’s horrible of me, considering I have my own disabilities. In the future I had planned on doing my own videos or classes. I now know to include EVERYONE in my planning. Thank you so much for your rantings. I am listening. You didn’t waste your breath, you reached me.

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