Thus far this week, the Mavens have posted eloquently about the energy and inspiration that comes from attending (and presenting) "live" writers' workshops. But the truth is, in this day and age, you don't even need to leave the comfort of your own home to attend (or present) a workshop. Online workshops for writers abound; I get advertisements for just a small percentage of them in my inbox or on Yahoo loops every week. Some of them are even free!
But are they worth it (especially if they're not free)? Can online workshops really hold a candle to the live variety? Or is there something about being there that adds something vital to the experience?
I have to be honest and admit that, as a presenter, I hate so-called distance learning. As a matter of fact, just yesterday I taught a course in my work life via teleconference and WebEx, and I found it as frustrating and irritating as I always do. The problem for me is that I take so many of my cues from the expressions and body language of the people sitting in front of me. But if I can't see their faces, I have to rely on them to tell me when I've confused them or put them to sleep. There's nothing worse than chirping crickets in a teleconference. The presenter has no idea what it means!
But while I'm all for the live version as a presenter, from an attendee's point of view, I sometimes prefer the online variety. Especially if I didn't have to pay for it. (Did I mention before now that I'm terminally cheap?)
Here are some reasons I like online workshops/conferences:
- If the presenter is covering something I already know or that doesn't interest me for some reason (maybe a portion of the lecture covers the element of romantic suspense or something I don't write), I can either tune out the lecture or skip over it if it comes in writing. (I know, I know, people do this to me when I'm giving an online presentation and it drives me crazy. But I did admit to being the student I hate to teach.)
- I can spend as much or as little time as I want reviewing a topic, particularly if the workshop lectures are delivered in the form of email. This, to me, is the single biggest reason to love online workshops--they're the ultimate in self-study guides.
- If the presenter of an online workshop is engaged and responds to your questions, you can often get more "bang for your buck" (or no buck!) in terms of individualized instruction from an online workshop than you can from one you attend in person. In a classroom environment, there are always limitations on the presenter's time and attention. By contrast, in an online environment (again, especially a workshop presented in the form of email or other written forms of communication--like this blog, lol), the only limit to the amount of attention you can coax from the presenter is his or her willingness to engage with you and respond to your repetitive requests for advice/information/what have you.
Despite my enthusiasm for online workshops, I haven't attended very many. (See comment regarding terminal cheapness above.) The ones I have attended have varied in quality, from Cobblestone's excellent Words in Motion conference just a few weeks ago and a very helpful course on crafting pitches I took through Candy Havens' Write Workshop Yahoo! group last year to quite a few others I've found much less useful.
YOUR TURN: How do you feel about online workshops? Have you attended any that particulary stood out, either positively or negatively? And are you as tickled as I am that Maveneer (my personal favorite, I confess) has pulled ahead (as of the time I wrote this) in the voting for Maven term of endearment?
Whatever your favorite MTOE, remember there are just two days left to vote!