The Beauty of Online Learning

One of the awesome features of the Internet (this fancy-schmancy invention in my lifetime) is the opportunity to learn so very much. Information and education are literally right in your face and at your fingertips, if you can just click around a bit and find it. From online encyclopedias to blogs to TEDtalks to online courses, the flow of information is a veritable ocean of discovery.

And I remember when I wanted to know something so very much that I called the public library, spoke to the information desk, and gave the librarian my phone number. She’d look up the information among her vast resources and eventually return my phone call. It could take a half day or more for me to hear the answer I sought. So yeah, I’m still in a bit of wonder at the beauty of online learning.

When it comes to writing, I’ve been thrilled with the online courses I’ve taken on using Scrivener writing software, Internet security for writers, and writing short stories. But this weekend took the cake. The three-tiered, plastered with frosted roses cake.

I attended WANACon.

WANA Con on my laptop
My cat came too!

How is this even possible? I ask myself. But it worked. Worked great, in fact. WANACon was a two-day online conference (Friday and Saturday) with presentations that covered craft, social media for authors, publishing know-how, and more. The online classroom allowed PowerPoint type presentations with the presenter on audio or webcam. During the presentation, attendees could interact through a chat window and ask questions to be answered as the presenter went or saved for Q&A at the end. All sessions were also recorded, so anything I missed, I can still listen to that class, see the slides, and download any handouts.

In between sessions, you could also text with others in the “WANACon Lobby” — through an open chat window. This was also where attendees hung out to find out when the next session was open for entrance to the online classroom.

Before and after the conference, there was an online gathering, like a conference cocktail party, where you could turn on your microphones and audio chat with your author friends.

And yes, there were even agent pitches! I moderated agent pitches on Friday and had the pleasure of entering the classroom and webcam chatting with the agent for a few minutes.

I still return to How is all this possible? Or rather HOW COOL IS THIS!!!

One of the best ideas for any professional is to attend conferences in your field. If you want to make it to the top and remain on top in your industry, you need to stay sharp, keep learning, make connections. And with WANACon, you don’t have to go to the conference because the conference comes to you. You can attend in your pajamas. Even your pink bunny pajamas if you want.

Ralph in pink bunny pajamas, from A Christmas Story movie
I’m ready for WANACon!

For me, this won’t replace in-person conferences. I will be attending the Romance Writers of America Conference in San Antonio this summer. However, I am convinced that online learning is a fabulous thing and an online writer’s conference is a great value for the money you spend.

If you have a chance, check out online conferences — whether you’re a writer or in some other profession. You might be surprised how much you can get from the experience.

ROW80 Update

And now I hope to surprise myself with oodles of progress this past week. Following is my update for A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life — with my goals for the round:

1. Read 12 books. I finished book #8, Spirit and Dust (YA fiction) by Rosemary Clement-Moore; read book #9, Cress by Marisa Meyer; and started book #10, The Up Side of Down by Megan McArdle (nonfiction)I expect to check this goal off at the end of the round.

2. Complete two drafts of short stories. I wrote three full chapters on one short story and dabbled some in two other stories. I may abandon one of those latter stories, at least for the time being. Honestly, it’s a little too like another story I wrote. But . . . consider this goal back on track.

3. Take care of ROW80 sponsor responsibilities. I dropped the ball. Intended to check in with everyone on Friday and got happily sucked into the online conference. My apologies, y’all! I’m rooting for everyone, though. My bad.

4. Edit at least once through Good & Guilty, young adult mystery. Oddly enough, I returned to my former WIP instead, Sharing Hunter, and edited a chapter there. I think it’s calling me back. Maybe I need to flip-flop working on these. Hmm . . .  Any thoughts, anyone? Not exactly on track, but still progress on a track.

What do you think of online learning? Do you have a personal experience with an online class or conference? And how was your week?