A few years ago, my son and I attended a 10-week Tai-Chi adult education course. It was awful and a class that started with about 20 people in it finished with just 3.
Last year I started teaching my own adult education classes. Since doing so, I have found myself increasingly angered by stories my students have told me of other courses – not just photography – that they have attended which have failed to live up to expectations. But I think it's clear to see why...
Consider this statement:
‘You find yourself looking at a website offering evening classes. There’s nothing on there about the tutor, the style of learning or anything other than a couple of generic paragraphs about what the subject is. Now, please pay between £150-450 and they will provide someone who will teach you to be good at it. That’s it. Have faith and just hand over the money. Now.’
When you visit a website researching an evening class, this is pretty much what you’re presented with, only in a less direct manner.
I can think of no other setting where you would be asked to part with that kind of money without knowing thoroughly what you were getting for it.
What if you go and the tutor is an idiot, unprepared or just dull? Or the style of course doesn’t suit your way of learning? How did previous students do on the course? Did they get a quantifiable benefit from attending it?
I believe the way courses are presented is fundamentally flawed. It asks for a whole lot of trust from students with no examples or proof from previous attendees that the course will give you what you need.
I think that institutions that offer evening classes should do open evenings for them, just as they do open days several times a year for their younger students. I think that individuals who offer courses should do taster sessions for them, too.
And here’s the bit you knew was coming….
This is exactly why I do taster days leading up to my courses.
After all, you might not like me, my teaching style, my approach. I do sound quite angry, after all… but at least I'll give you the opportunity to find out before you spend all that money on a course.
A £10, 90-minute taster session could save you a fortune in both cash and frustration. And even if I’m a personable bunny, how do you know you will see an improvement in your photography after 9 weeks?
This is why I show lots of my student photos on the homepage of my website and, of course, I ask them for endorsements which you can read online. As a tutor, I'm only as good as their work. I link out to their social media accounts (with their permission) so you can even ask them directly, if you wish.
I survey my students after each course and have a 100% satisfaction rate for the question ‘Did you feel the course represented good value for money?’
My point is, don’t pay out for a service unless you know exactly what it is, especially one where you’re being taught a skill. You’re putting a lot of time, money and effort into an evening class and you deserve to know what you’re getting. Ask questions before you part with your hard-earned cash.
What do you think?