Going to School – On Line

By:  A. L. Butcher

Photo from Pixabay

Photo from Pixabay

It never hurts to refresh one’s knowledge or learn something new. Most of us don’t learn much beyond secondary school level English and for some that was a LONG time ago. Of course, as writers we want our work to be as professional as it can be; we’ve all seen the articles about badly written e-books, and work published by writers who simply weren’t ready. Sadly there are a few of those about and it doesn’t help anyone – not the writer him or herself, not other indie authors and certainly not the reader. Even traditionally published and edited books have errors, sometimes typos get missed.

So what can be done? Not everyone has the financial wherewithal to afford an editor or expensive writing courses but there are some online courses which are low cost or free. is a free basic writing course – and it IS fairly basic but still useful, especially for those whose first language isn’t English, or those rusty on the rules of grammar. The MOOC or Multi Open Online Course is a great tool allowing people from all over the world to virtually meet and discuss tips, critique basic passages and learn a few tips. The exercises are pretty simple, and so long as they are submitted on time a student can do the work when he or she chooses so this is good for those who work.


  • Students will be able to identify and correct some sentence level grammatical and punctuation errors.
  • Students will be able to develop four sentence types: simple, compound, complex and compound-complex.
  • Students will be able to recognize and use all four sentence types.
  • Students will be able to develop a clear topic sentence.
  • Students will be able to write a well-organized, detailed paragraph.

Why would you want to take this course?

  • As a pre-Assessment activity
  • As a petition for English placement
  • As a brush-up for students while in writing classes
  • As a brush-up for students who don’t/can’t enroll in an English class
  • As a resource for flipped/blended classrooms
  • To become a better writer ‘

There are more advanced courses – such as English Composition, Rhetorical Composition, Business Writing and many more. They are all set up by universities and taught by the tutors, so they are valid resources. A student does need to put in the time to study, to hand in the submissions BUT if a student isn’t as bothered about a certificate of participation then one can just log into the subjects and not submit the work.

For those looking for something more specific Coursera offers a course on writing Historical Fiction. I’ve done this one – although my genre is fantasy I read a lot of HF and the lessons here are useful for all fiction writers. Authors are interviewed about the course texts and discuss topics such as plausibility, research, characterisation, and inspiration. It is useful to hear what problems these authors faced and how they solved them. Of course some of the course texts are by authors long dead but I found it interesting of how styles changed. There are regional differences too – a book set in 17th century Britain is totally different to one set in ancient Rome, or Japan or the 19th century Midwest of the USA. I confess I didn’t read every course text and online resource, as I didn’t have the time but still managed to complete the quizzes and exercises. A student does not have to complete everything. The course states 2-3 hours a week – honestly I found it was more – but as I’ve said the student doesn’t have to complete everything.

There is also a course about Science Fiction and Fantasy which I’ve signed up to do in 2015. and that looks great.

I’ve also done several Open University courses, including Classical Studies, a course about Leonardo Da Vinci and a few others. The OU also offers several creative writing courses – . Although these are not free I would recommend the quality of the courses and the experience of the Open University.

Pros and cons of online learning


You can do it from your own home or workplace. All you need is an internet connection and a computer.

Often there are no set lessons – so long as the activities are completed by the deadline you can log in whenever you like.

The ones I have cited above are free, so ideal for someone on a low budget.

It’s a great way to learn and meet new people, who share an interest. It’s also a great way to find new authors, new books and new interests.

They often don’t require much prior knowledge and cater to people of all educational levels – unless otherwise stated. So if you haven’t studied anything for years you’re bound to find a basic level course to get into.


You have to make time to do them. Some stated a couple of hours a week – however I’ve found this is the minimum. Certainly those courses which need you to read a book or several articles or write an assignment require more than this.

It can feel a bit remote. Although there are fairly active forums it isn’t the same as actually being in a classroom and able to ask questions there and then. The online environment doesn’t suit everyone.

They are (mostly) just for interest, with no actual qualification beyond a certificate of participation, but for some at least you can pay the extra to get the credits. (The OU courses aren’t free but can be paid for in instalments.)


Even the basic courses are a way of re-affirming what one knows. If you have the time to put into these courses they are well worth it. Search around to find the course which suits your needs and budget and then go for it, you may surprise yourself.

To read more about the courses I’ve completed visit my blog:


A.L Butcher is a British author of fantasy and fantasy romance. She has two self-published novels and several anthology pieces, poems and short stories to her name. She also has a degree in Politics and Sociology and a Diploma in Classical Studies.

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