Online Courses with the Writers’ Workshop Welcome Thank you for booking a course with the Writers’ Workshop. You’ve made a good choice! We’ve got passionate, expert tutors and we have a formidable record in helping students improve their work – from here to publication. Our courses are held online, to give you a simple, practical way to communicate with your course tutor and your fellow students. You can dip in and out of the course at any time. There is no requirement to be online at a certain time of day. Just make sure you have a few hours each week to do your homework and get involved. Our courses are hosted on The Word Cloud, our online community for writers. This Course Guide will teach you how to do four things: 1. Sign up to the Word Cloud 2. How to use the Word Cloud 3. How to access your course home page 4. How to make the most of everything your course offers These things are easy and fun – but do make sure you get prepared BEFORE the start of your course, otherwise you’ll be trying to learn how to use the Word Cloud at the same time as you’re seeking to absorb your course materials.
Signing up to the Word Cloud The Word Cloud is our social networking site for writers. It’s home to thousands of writers like yourself. Your course will be held on a private corner of the Cloud, accessible only by you, your tutor and your classmates – more about all that shortly. The very first thing you need to do is to become a member of the Cloud. To do this, just: 1. Go to our website (www.writersworkshop.co.uk) and click on the tab marked “Community”. 2. On the Word Cloud’s welcome page, click to “Sign Up Now” (see image below)
3. You are then asked a series of questions. Your “nickname” will be your username on the site. You can either use your actual name (with no spaces: eg “JaneSmith”) or anything else that takes your fancy (eg: “Writergal”). Everything else on your profile can be changed at any time, but your nickname will stick with you – so choose something you can live with. 4. Complete the questionnaire. Remember to complete the “Image Verification” box at the bottom and tick the T&Cs box. Then click “Sign up”. 5. Note that it may take as much as 24-48 hours for us to process your membership, as we personally review each new membership to keep spammers off the site. 6. As soon as you’re accepted, you’ll receive an email letting you know – and you can start to explore the Word Cloud.
Using the Word Cloud The more you get to know how the Cloud works before the start of the course, the better prepared you’ll be. In particular, it’s worth getting to know:
The Forums The forums are where people meet to critique each others work, ask questions, share views, and generally chat. Just click on the “Forum” tab to open up the range of options. [See image below].
To see what’s going on in the Forums, just click one of the headings – for example “Coffee Break” – and you’ll see a page like this:
If you want to view a topic, just click on the relevant heading and start to read the comments. If you want to start a topic, just click “Create Topic” (you’ll find the button towards the top left in the image above.) If you want to add comments to an existing topic just scroll to the bottom of the page, add your comment in the box provided, and click “Reply”. Your post will instantly be added to the discussion.
The Blog Or perhaps you want to write a blog – a public piece about something that’s happened to you, or launching a discussion topic for the whole site. Just click on the blue “Blog” tab, and you can read other people’s blogs or write your own. (The “Blog” tab in the pink menu bar is something else completely.) To write your own post, click “Create Blog”. Write your blog, click to choose from the various options you’re offered, then click “Submit”. To comment on someone else’s blog, click “Comments” (in the bottom right hand corner of the box with the blog in) and write your reply in the comments box at the bottom.
The Wall One of the best things about the Word Cloud – and a reason why it’s such a good place to host our courses – is that it’s really easy to make friends and exchange thoughts. If you want to make a public comment to someone, just click on their profile picture and you’ll be taken through to that person’s profile page. Scroll all the way down the page till you get to “The Wall” and you’ll see a space for “Your comment”. Add your comment, click “post” and the person concerned will be notified that you’ve posted. If they’re nice – and Cloudies always are – they’ll reply. Do bear in mind that these messages can be seen by everyone.
Your inbox and private messages If you want to send someone a private message, you can do so by navigating through to their profile page (eg: by clicking their picture) and select “Send Message” from the options at the top. If someone sends you a private message, your inbox will be highlighted, with the relevant number of messages marked. Also check out Requests (typically from people wanting to be your friend) and Notifications (which pop up when someone comments on a blog or forum topic that you’ve created.) You’ll find all these things on the left hand side of your profile screen just below “Your Status”.
Tip: Start to use the Cloud before your course. Just start launching discussions, joining in on other people’s discussions and exchanging messages with other Cloudies. That way you’ll be highly familiar with the way everything works well before the start of your course.
How to Access Your Course Home Page Your course is held on a private invitation only corner of the Word Cloud. Around 7 days prior to your course, the ‘Word Cloud’ will email you a link to your course home page. Click on that link and you will find the home page of the course. The first thing you need to do is click the “Request Membership” button. [See image below.]
That request will come through to us at the Writers’ Workshop and we’ll accept your request as soon as we see it. Once we’ve approved your request, you’ll see a new notification in your Inbox (as per image.) Once your request is accepted, you are fully signed up for your course. Do remember that we work normal office hours. If you request course membership on a Friday evening, it may be Monday morning before you’re accepted. If you have any problems, please call the office on 0845 459 9560, Monday to Thursday. Before you call, however, please make sure that:
You have signed up for the Word Cloud
You’ve given us time to process your membership request
You’ve navigated to your course home page (via the link which we’ve emailed.)
You’ve requested membership of the group.
Making the Most of Your Course The structure of the course Each week you will have:
• An introductory video • Lecture notes • A classroom discussion • A homework assignment • Feedback on your homework But don’t feel constrained! The Word Cloud is the ultimate in interactive learning. If you want to launch a topic for discussion, please go right ahead. If you want to make friends with your classmates, exchange ideas, offer critiques and support to each other, please do just that!
The Forum Most classroom discussion takes place in the Course Forum. To locate the course forum, you need to go to your course home page and scroll down a little, where you’ll find something like this1:
When you’re looking for your course forums, don’t go to the main Forums tab – as in the image below – because this just takes you through to all the public forums on the Cloud. You need to go to your course home page and locate the forum there.
Once you’ve found your course home page forums, take a moment to explore them. If you are logging in prior to the start of the course, you may not find much there – but don’t worry: they’ll soon fill up! Some tutors prefer to email lecture notes etc to students. Others prefer to post them on the Course Forum. Either way, the discussion will take place on the Course Forums. You can either click on one of the topics to see the discussion as it develops, or you can choose “Create Topic” to launch a topic of your own. Please feel free to start these discussions at any time and to participate in those that are happening on the page. This is where the learning happens! Please also note that as the course develops over time, there will be more discussions happening than you can see from the little window above. To see ALL the discussions generated by your course, please select “View All” (bottom right of the screenshot above) and you will see something that looks more like this:
Just scroll around to explore all the topics on offer. Remember that to comment on a topic, you can just click the topic heading, scroll down and add your comment in the Comments box at the bottom of the page. If you have something to say, don’t be shy of saying it! It’s your chance to get your questions answered. Don’t be surprised if these discussions get very lively. One recent six week course saw almost 100 discussion topics running (most of them started by students, but with lots of input from tutors.) Many of those topics had dozens of responses from tutors and students. The total material generated by the course was about the length of a good-sized paperback.
The Video The video introducing each course is usually embedded in a Forum topic. So for example the videos for the course above would be accessed by clicking, for example, “Week 6 Video”. Because video software can be glitchy, however, we occasionally pop the videos up on YouTube instead (where they’re kept private). If we have to do that, we’ll let you know how to view them. If you have any problem accessing your video, please just ask your tutor and they’ll be able to sort it out.
Homework and feedback Some tutors prefer to email homework assignment / feedback; others prefer to post it up on the forums. But either way please use the forums to discuss what’s going on and to share your views and your questions.
Making friends It’s well worth getting to know your classmates. Click on their profile pictures, and (a) write on their Wall, (b) ask to be Friends, or (c) send them a message. It’s absolutely fine to exchange thoughts and advice outside the formal structure of the course. We strongly encourage it!
The Wall The course also has its own ‘Wall’. Just go to the bottom of the Course homepage and you’ll see “The Wall” with a comment box at the top. This probably isn’t the place to launch a really serious discussion or to upload your own work (the Forums are best for that), but you should definitely feel free to say hi, crack a joke, introduce yourself, say what you’re feeling, or anything else. Think of the Forums as your serious classroom time and the Wall as a place to get a coffee afterwards.
Got any questions? If you’ve got questions about how The Word Cloud works, you are usually best off asking other Cloudies. They’re the ultimate experts, and they’re a friendly, helpful, welcoming bunch. If you have questions about how your specific course is going to run, you are best off asking your tutor. They’ll know how they like to run the course – what works and what doesn’t. They’ll be responsive and helpful when you have things you want to understand. For anything else, do ask the Writers’ Workshop office. We’re in during business hours Monday through to Thursday and are always available to help out.