I’ve taken a number of online courses this year, but two in particular stand out: Playing Big and TeachNow. Both are opening up to new participants again, so it seemed timely to share a review.
I should note that I’m very proud to be an affiliate for both of these programs (so yes, that means if you click one of the links here and end up buying, I’ll earn a commission). I’m signed up as an affiliate for all kinds of things, from web hosting to WordPress themes to online courses, but affiliate or not, I’m very choosy about what I actually write about here on the blog, or in my newsletter.
Whether it’s my favorite new music artist, my favorite novelist, an online course, or anything else, unless I love it, I’m not gonna rave about it. And if I do love it, I’m gonna shout it from the rooftops, whether it earns me any money or not!
So consider this a shout from the rooftops!
But as you’ll see, I’ve shared the things I’m not as happy with, too. Read on…
First: time-sensitive notice! Jen & Michele are offering a FREE kick-off to TeachNow that you don’t want to miss, and it’s happening TOMORROW, September 19! It’s called The Bottom Line of Teaching: More Contribution, Income, and Evolution. Click here to sign up for this free class!
I’ve taught workshops all over the country, and if there’s one thing I can say about myself with confidence, it’s that I’m a good teacher. But one thing any good teacher will tell you is that they can always get better!
Since teaching is a big part of what I do — whether it’s in the form of a class, a tutorial for a coachsulting client, or a blog post — it was a natural for me to sign up for Jennifer Louden and Michele Lisenbury-Christensen’s TeachNow program.
What you get
TeachNow comes in two versions: a “self-study” option and the “full course,”
which as far as I can tell is identical to the self-study version, with the addition of live calls with Jennifer and Michele every month or so, and more recorded interviews with master teachers. UPDATE 9/22/12: I just signed up for the full course (yep, I loved it so much, I signed up for TeachNow again!), and it is in fact quite different from the self-study option:
The full course is on the Ruzuku platform, which has the added benefit of online community interaction, and the content is “drip-fed” over the course of 10 weeks. There are also 5 live calls with Michele and Jennifer, and an amazing 45 master teacher interviews (one of my absolute favorite parts of TeachNow — so inspiring!) Plus several yummy bonuses, to boot. Click here to read more.
Whichever option you choose, the bulk of the course resides on the Ruzuku platform, [UPDATE 9/22/12: For this session, only the full course is on Ruzuku; the self-study option is on a separate website] which handily organizes the content on your personal front page so you can see at a glance which “assignments” you’ve completed, and which are still yet to be done.
To the right you can see a screenshot of the top section of my personal TeachNow home page. The darkened dots are assignments I’ve completed; the hollow dots are assignments I haven’t gotten to yet.
There is a LOT of content in this course. Jennifer and Michele have assembled a wealth of interviews with master teachers (I love these!), plus archived recordings of previous TeachNow calls, plus homework invitations and prompts of all kinds to move you forward.
And that doesn’t even touch on the content that is continually being added as TeachNow members contribute their voices to the “conversation” inside Ruzuku.
Yep, there’s a lot of stuff!
Whether you want to bone up on the nuts and bolts of teaching, or how to best care for yourself while you’re giving of yourself to your students, or how to promote and fill your classes, you’ll find gems inside TeachNow.
The downside of a lot of stuff and self-paced programming
You can see from my screenshot that I have a lot of assignments still to get to, and that brings me to one of my few complaints about the course: its self-paced nature.
Not that self-paced is, in itself, a bad thing! I love that I can complete the TeachNow modules on my own time. This is great! Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have signed up for TeachNow when I did if it hadn’t been self-paced, since I already had a lot on my plate. But with a full year to complete the course, I figured I could justify signing up, because I could (ahem) pace myself.
However, I also know that for me, personally, deadlines are magical things. With a supremely busy schedule, the sad truth is that if something doesn’t have a deadline, it often doesn’t get done in my world. And as a year-long membership, TeachNow really has only one deadline: when my membership expires at the end of my term. This means it’s up to me to create my own deadlines for this course. (See update note below.)
So far I haven’t been very consistent about that (my personal preference would be some kind of “drip-feeding,” that delivers content periodically, or even just a suggested schedule delivered regularly via email, with links to the recommended content). However, I’m using TeachNow as a way to strengthen my scheduling muscles, and as my January end-point quickly approaches, I’m motivated to get much better at that! 🙂
If you choose to do TeachNow, I recommend creating a regular time slot on your weekly calendar to interact with the course. Then stick with it. That’s what I’m doing after I get back from Istanbul.
UPDATE 9/22/12: The full course is actually delivered bit by bit, over 10 weeks. This is one of the reasons I decided to sign up for TeachNow again — to take advantage of the modular delivery, AND the bi-weekly calls with Michele and Jennifer!
This brings me to my only other complaint about TeachNow…
My frustration with Ruzuku’s “forum”
Overall, I think Ruzuku is an awesome platform for delivering course content. (I’ve also met some of the people behind it — one of whom was in one of my Creative Ignition Circles — and they are totally cool.) My one big frustration as a user is that there’s no real central forum where course participants can interact. Comments are spread out all over the site, attached to individual pages, which makes carrying on an ongoing conversation really challenging.
The Ruzuku folks have made efforts at improving this, and there is now an Open Discussion page, which posts the first few lines of each new comment in reverse chronological order (newest comments first), alongside the poster’s avatar. It’s better than nothing, but there’s still no way to see, at a glance, what conversations are happening, and where you might like to join in.
It’s too bad, because the people inside TeachNow are smart, creative and interesting, and it would be nice to have an easier way to interact. You may find it less frustrating, but for me, I feel like I have to jump through too many hoops to engage in the way I’d like. Personally, I’d prefer a traditional forum.
(I’ve contemplated using Ruzuku for my own online courses, but community engagement is a big priority for me, and until Ruzuku makes this easier, I’m sticking with hosting my courses myself [not for the faint of heart!] However, if you’re looking for an easy way to get your own course content online and you don’t need a forum, I don’t think you can beat Ruzuku!)
To sum up:
What I like:
- the semi-regular phone calls with Jennifer and Michele (I love connecting in real time, even if I don’t “raise my hand.”
- the master teacher interviews (and J & M keep adding more!)
- the depth and breadth of content
- the worksheets, homework invitations and readings Jennifer and Michele have assembled — top notch!
- Ruzuku’s visual index page, which allows you to check off each item as you complete it
- the people inside — brilliant and loving!
What I don’t like:
- the lack of an easy way to interact with other participants (you can leave comments, but there’s no real forum)
- the lack of structure in how the content is delivered (with the exception of the scheduled live calls in the full course option, TeachNow is totally self-paced) (UPDATE 9/22/12: I expect this issue to be largely resolved with the full version of this next session of the course, which is delivered bit by bit over a 10-week period.)
If you’re at all interested in sharing what you know, becoming more confident and grounded as a teacher, I highly recommend TeachNow. Five stars!
UPDATE 9/22/12: I’m so impressed with TeachNow, and truly believe it will help you succeed in your dreams to teach, so I’m offering a 1-hour coachsulting session with me if you sign up for the full version of the course via my affiliate link, or a 1/2-hour coachsulting session with me if you sign up for the self-study version via my affiliate link.
Playing Big Review
One of the most impactful experiences I’ve had this year was participating in Tara Mohr’s 6-month Playing Big program for women. Tara has crafted a 6-month women’s leadership and professional development journey that any woman can benefit from, regardless of where you’re longing to play bigger in your life.
Among other things, the transformations I experienced as a result of Playing Big helped me appreciate my true value enough to finally make the leap to run my online program for creative women, Time to Glow.
This is no small thing!
Still, I have to admit that the decision to invest in this course back in January was not without some nail-biting on my part. It’s not cheap! God knows I’ve spent a lot of money on things that I regretted — was I going to have buyer’s remorse after clicking that “Add to Cart” button?
I needn’t have worried. As I said in a recent interview with Tara (which I’ll be posting here soon), scarcely a week goes by in which I don’t reference Tara or something I learned in Playing Big, either in a one-on-one coachsulting session, or while teaching a class, or in my Creative Ignition Club clubhouse. That’s how much I got out of this program.
What you get:
Playing Big is much more of a live experience than TeachNow, with a 90-minute group call with Tara every other week for 6 months. Prior to each call, Tara also sends a link to a page of resources, including a reading or worksheet for that module, links to relevant blog posts and books, and several additional guest interviews to watch and/or listen to.
Most of my previous experiences with online courses had a weekly call, and I wasn’t sure how this every-other-week schedule was going to work, but I found it to be the perfect interval to process the material.
By “process,” I don’t mean reading or listening to the material; there was never so much that I felt overwhelmed by it. I mean that 2 weeks was the ideal interval to allow me to absorb the concepts and start to apply them in my life.
Unlike some intensive “boot camp” courses I’ve taken, Playing Big is the kind of program that fosters deep transformation over time.
In addition to the calls and the resource pages, there’s a private Facebook group to engage with other participants, and I found this was where a lot of internal shifts really blossomed. There’s simply nothing like sharing my own experiences, and reading about other people’s, to move me forward! (Which is precisely why I wish TeachNow had a more user-friendly forum.)
That said, I wasn’t totally thrilled with Facebook as a forum, either.
The downside of Facebook as a forum
Facebook is certainly convenient. A lot of people log in daily anyway (hourly, anyone?) And I love how visual it is, and how easy to share content.
It can be a bit… distracting, though, it being so easy to click over to see what’s up in the 27 zillion other groups I belong to, or my comment stream, or…
In addition, for a group of more than 40 or 50 people, Facebook gets a bit unwieldy. Messages fly back and forth at such a rapid-fire pace that it’s easy to miss something as it gets pushed down the stream. There’s no easy way to search for posts, no index, as in a traditional forum, which would once again be my preference.
In an attempt to avoid Overgrown-Facebook-Group-Syndrome, for my session of Playing Big, Tara divided us into three smaller groups. This kept the flow of posts manageable, and made my group easier to interact with.
On the other hand, it also segregated me from all of the other amazing women in Playing Big! I would hear them on the calls, and wish I could interact with them, but I didn’t have access to their Facebook groups, so that made it more challenging. (There was a roster of everyone in the program, however, so it was possible to contact people directly. Just one more hoop to jump through, and sometimes, much as I hate to admit it, one hoop is enough to keep me from doing something.)
Tara is trying out keeping everyone together in one Facebook group for the upcoming Playing Big session (including us “alums” — I am thrilled that I’ll be able to participate in the upcoming version of Playing Big, too, so you’ll see me inside if you sign up). It will be interesting to see how that works.
To sum up:
What I like:
- the transformative course content
- the bi-weekly pacing
- the people inside — diverse, brilliant and loving!
What I don’t like:
- Facebook as a forum
Despite my frustrations with Facebook, I really cannot recommend Playing Big more highly. Five stars!
In fact, I believe so strongly in this program, if you decide it’s for you and sign up via my affiliate link, I’ll give you a package of 4 one-hour coachsulting sessions, to be scheduled anytime that works for both of us during the 6 months of Playing Big. (That’s a $580 value.)
Which to choose?
With two 5-star reviews, it just begs the question, doesn’t it? If both of these courses sound perfect for you, how to choose between them?
Well, if you’re like me (remember, I’m a self-confessed over-committer!), you’ll sign up for both.
If money is an object, TeachNow ($200-400 (?)) is significantly less expensive than Playing Big ($874 or $164/mo).
If sheer volume of content is your aim, TeachNow has it (but it’s also got inspiration and transformation).
If you’re looking for regular, live interaction (over the phone), Playing Big has it (though the full version of TeachNow also includes monthly calls with Michele and Jennifer!).
If you’re specifically interested in teaching, go with TeachNow. You won’t regret it. But if you’ve got a niggling feeling that you’re just not playing as big as you’d like in your life and would like to change that, Playing Big‘s your course.
Either way, you really can’t go wrong. These three powerful women have created two rock-solid courses that I would sign up for again in a heartbeat
If you decide to do either of these courses, let me know! I’d love to hear about your experience!
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!
Rosa Conti says
LOVE this review Melissa!
Not so random that 2 days before my online gal pal Christie Halmick shared your review with me (because she knew I’d been looking into both), I’d already signed up for BOTH of these courses. I tried to ‘ignoring’ them both as I’d vowed to steer away from any more online courses (I’m a decade+ student junkie!) … but honest to goodness, they both kept finding their way into my inbox via one person or another, or I’d click-find stumble myself dab-smack into their sites. Divine steering! And then YOUR review … I SO know I’m in the right moment, right place, right here, right now.
Happy to connect journeys new friend!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Yay Rosa! Thanks for your comment here, and congrats on signing up for two awesome courses — I’m excited for you!
I’ll see you inside! 🙂