How do I teach creative writing online??


Deb Cooperman is a professional writer who loves teaching others – and she has. Her mission is to draw out your inner writer, and not be fearful of composing or expressing yourself.

She invites you to “unleash on the page and in your life.”

More important, she does this in a supportive format that is unique – orally and with gentle discourse among other students.

No harsh criticism, no picky editors, and no feedback other than what is requested.

Nice. Sorta makes one creative just thinking about it.

Check out her work and teachings at


Deb has delivered her writing classes mostly in-person, and occasionally meets students informally online.

Now, she wants to take her class fully online, but is not sure how to make that transformation.

She turned to me for design advice. I immediately saw how this could be done in a way that honoured her idea of a warm and supportive learning community, as well as augmented her in-class sessions.

The New Design

Pre-course emails

  • Correspond with individual students to introduce herself and prepare learners for the course; email is a great way to personally connect
  • Encourage students to respond and/or ask questions; get that out of the way ASAP
  • Ask them to explore the introductory materials, given below
  • Ask them to join a private online group (in Facebook, etc.) and say hello

Audio or video intro

  • Audio or video has a more personal touch, and can set the mood for an online ourse
  • Deb has a wonderful speaking voice and lovely teacher tone; just her talking inspired me to tap into my inner writer long dead from years of producing academic papers
  • In the intro email, Deb could set the stage for her method of teaching and the anticipated experience of the learners

Examples of her feedback model

  • Deb follows a feedback model inspired by Pat Schneider of the Amherst Artists and Writers (; this method is critical to her course
  • Examples of this method could be shared in the form of writing examples with audio recordings of someone providing feedback in the specific method
  • Modeling is the most powerful way to learn

Live group meetings

  • Provide 2 to 3 live group meetings during the course to
    • start the work
    • provide feedback on writings
    • summarize writing and feedback methods
    • share learners’ feelings
    • answer final questions
    • support storytelling, and
    • discuss next steps
  • Use free web conference tools, or purchase a service; overall, ensure technical stability

Emailed homework

  • Send 1 or 2 emails a week with short bite-size exercises to help learners work on certain writing elements; that is, warm them up to write freely
  • Have pre-made answers, FAQs, and community support in a private online group to provide help and share exercise outcomes

Course project

  • Outline the major project and post detailed instructions for it online as well as email in the beginning
  • The project consists of composing a piece of writing for the live session where the feedback method is used

Course End Survey

  • Send a survey before the course ends to ask learners for input on their experience and review of the course
  • Use free survey tools

Deb was over the moon about this design for her course because she saw it as doable in terms of technology use, her time, and more important, learner experience.

She really wasn’t sure how to start, and this design gave her many more ideas. This design will work for Deb.

BUT, once the course is live, scheduled interactions make a teacher’s time more manageable and learner-focused.

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