Online Courses: FAQ

I'm interested in a class that's marked as "Curriculum B" -- what does that mean?

If a class is marked as Curriculum B that simply means that we offer 2 versions of the class--Curriculum A and Curriculum B. These versions are offered during alternate sessions (e.g. A in the Winter and B in the Spring). Curriculum A and B classes address the same basic subject matter (e.g. Personal Essay writing) and have the same level of difficulty, but they offer different lectures and readings. Students can begin with either the A or B version of a class, and can take the alternate version if they wish to continue working with the same instructor or want to take more time to explore the subject.

Do I need to be online during a particular time or day in order to participate in the class? Does it matter what time zone I'm in?

For most of the class you will NOT need to be online at any particular time. Assignments for CNF classes are given on a per-week basis; participants should submit each assignment by a given deadline, but will have at least an entire week to complete the assignment. We realize that our participants live in many different areas and have different work schedules, so classes are designed to be flexible. Classes will have two live video conference sessions during the 10 weeks, which do require that you be online at a particular time; however, participation in these sessions is completely optional, and we will make an effort to offer times that will accommodate most students. If you are not able to participate in the live conference you will still be able to view a recording of it during the remaining weeks of the class. Please note that there are no video conferences during our 4-week summer classes.

How many hours per week will the class take?

This depends largely on your own interests and devotion to the class. We ask that all students post a comment for the class discussion at least twice each week and read the lecture and assigned readings; this should take about 2 hours per week. In addition, the majority of students wish to submit all three of the major writing assignments for the class in order to receive instructor feedback, and here the time commitment is highly variable. Some students write only on the weekends, while others write or revise for some time each day to produce these works. Still others join the class with essays already written. Your writing time is a large part of the time commitment for the class, and it is up to each student to determine how much writing time he or she will need in order to produce three essays or chapters for critique. Other time commitments include time for optional activities such as video conferences (one hour each) and Group Review critiques (approximately 3 hours, up to 3 times during the class).

Do I need any particular software or video capabilities to be able to take an online class with CNF? Does it matter if I have a Mac or a PC?

The only aspect of the class that has a specific software/hardware requirement is the optional video conferences (two times per class during Winter, Spring, and Fall sessions). Aside from that, CNF classes are taught using a web-based class program that does not require any software other than a web browser (such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Safari). It is compatible with both Mac and Windows systems and can also be accessed from a smartphone or tablet. All class materials will be posted on the class website or will be found on web pages that are linked to the class website. While we do provide a free subscription to Creative Nonfiction magazine for all online students (or a free ebook for international students) these materials are not used in class.

To participate in the optional video conferences you will need a webcam and microphone. All newer-model computers have these elements built in, but you can also purchase an inexpensive webcam for about $20.

You will also need a word processing program of some sort on which to compose your writing; if you do not have any type of word processing program currently installed on your computer you can download one here for free.

Do I need any particular computer skills to participate in the class?

The program used for CNF classes is designed to be easy to use and should pose no problems for someone with basic computer skills (i.e. ability to write and send emails with attachments and use the internet). In addition, two days before your class starts you will be given access to the class website so that you can familiarize yourself with the system. 

If I take a CNF class, can I submit work I have already written?

Yes. Class assignments are designed so that you can submit work you have already written in fulfillment of the assignment, if you wish to receive feedback on this work. You may need to reformat or revise your work somewhat for the purposes of the class; there is also a word limit on each assignment.

Do I need to have work already written in order to take any of the classes?

No. Beginners are welcome, and beginning writers will be guided through the writing process as the class progresses.

What interaction will I have with my instructor and with other students in the class?

Class participants interact in three ways:

First, they discuss questions about writing and the writing life via our class discussion boards. Students can respond to these questions at any time throughout each week, and can also respond to one another’s posts. Your instructor will also post comments on the discussion boards and answer any student questions in this way.

Second, students share their work through our Group Review process. After each of the three major assignments is submitted students have the option of exchanging their writing with two or three classmates for constructive critique (students can also choose not to participate in this exercise). For each major assignment you will also receive personal feedback from your instructor. Boot Camp classes are slightly different in that you will post a short response to a writing response each day and will then choose 1,000 words at the end of each week to submit to your instructor for comment.

Third, students and instructors communicate in real time via video conferences held twice during each 10-week session. There are no video conferences during the summer session.

How many students are in each class?

Our classes have a maximum of 14 students and a minimum of 6. Class sections often fill up before registration ends; registering early ensures that you receive a space in the class of your choice.

How much work can I submit to my instructor for feedback?

In each class you can submit three assignments of up to 3,500 words each for instructor comment. With instructor permission you can split the word count unequally among these assignments (e.g., two assignments of 1,000 words each and one assignment of 8,000 words). All work must be submitted during the course in order for the student to receive instructor feedbackfeedback will not be provided for late assignments submitted after the course ends. Again, Boot Camp courses are slightly different in that participants submit 1,000 words to the instructor each week.

I’m only interested in getting the instructor’s feedback on my work—do I have to participate in the online discussions or the Group Review?

While we cannot mandate that students participate in class activities, most students find that being part of an online literary community is one of the enjoyable aspects of the class. If you are primarily interested in working one-on-one with a professional writer, please consider our mentoring program.

What kind of feedback can I expect from my instructor?

For each of the three major assignments you will receive a detailed written critique from your instructor. In addition, some instructors assign shorter weekly exercises for which they provide a brief response. Instructors choose weekly readings and post their own written lectures. Finally, students are always welcome to email the instructor at any point during the ten-week course with additional questions.

I'm going to be away for part of the time that the class is in sessiondoes this mean I shouldn't take the class?

If you will only miss one or two weeks of class, this does not pose a problem; you can plan ahead and submit the assignments for those weeks before you leave (or, if you choose, omit them). You should let your instructor know at the beginning of the class which weeks you will miss. If you think that you will have to miss more than two weeks of class (meaning that there will be more than two weeks when you will not have internet access), it is probably best to wait for another session.

Will the work I write in these classes be published in Creative Nonfiction?

Writing that is submitted to your instructor during a Creative Nonfiction class CANNOT be published in Creative Nonfiction or True Story, regardless of quality, because it represents a conflict of interest for us. Students are welcome to submit to the magazines any of their writing that has NOT been read and commented on by Creative Nonfiction's online instructors.

Do you offer any scholarships or discounts?

Unfortunately, we do not offer scholarships at this time. We currently offer two discounts: a $50 early registration discount, and a “refer-a-friend” discount. When a student joins the class with a friend both parties receive a $25 dollar discount (this is in addition to the early registration discount). Each student in the pair should note that he/she wants to receive this discount in the “Order Comments” section of the checkout page when registering. Participants do not have to enroll in the same class to take advantage of the refer-a-friend discount.

What is your refund policy?

By 5pm EST on the Monday before classes begin (one week prior to start date):

Students may request a refund (less a $50 application fee) or request a transfer to another course in the same term (no fee).

By 5pm EST on the Friday at the end of the first week of classes:

Students may transfer their enrollment credit to a future course (less a $95 processing fee for 10-week courses or a $75 processing fee for 5-week courses). Transfer credits must be applied within two years from your cancellation date.
Students may switch to another class in the same term (subject to availability) for a $25 fee.

No refunds or transfers will be offered after this deadline.


More questions? Please contact the Director of Education, Sharla Yates, at yates[at]