Online Courses: FAQ

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. If you know for certain that you wish to take a particular class, we recommend registering early. If you'd like to be added to a waitlist for a sold-out class, please email our Director of Education, Sharla Yates, at yates[at]creativenonfiction[dot]org.

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

For most courses you will NOT need to be online at any particular time. Assignments for CNF classes are given on a weekly basis; you should submit each assignment by a given deadline, but will have at least an entire week to complete the assignment. We realize that our students live in many different areas and have different work schedules, so classes are designed to be flexible. Most 10-week courses feature two live video conference sessions, which do require that you be online at a particular time; however, participation in these sessions is completely optional, and instructors make an effort to offer times that can 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 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 read the lecture and assigned readings, and post at least once per week in the class discussion; this should take about 2 hours per week. Other commitments, less regular, include submitting peer critiques and participating in (or watching) video conferences. Finally, most students wish to submit all 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 you to determine how much writing time you will need in order to produce essays or chapters for critique.

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 webcam for the optional video conferences (two times per class during Winter, Spring, and Fall terms). Aside from that, CNF classes are taught using a web-based class program that does not require any software other than a web browser (ideally, Google Chrome). The course platform 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.

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. If you can write and send emails with attachments and are generally comfortable online, you should have no problems.  We’ll send you login info for the class website two days before your class starts, so that you can familiarize yourself with the system.

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

Yes. We ask only that you stick to the word limit for each assignment. Additionally, please try to make sure the writing you submit for feedback fits the course; for example, an Experimental Forms course might not be the best place to submit the first chapter of your traditional book-length memoir.

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.

How much interaction can I expect to have with my instructor and with other students in the class?

In our courses you can expect to:

  • receive personalized feedback on work from your instructor
  • comment on your peers' writing and receive peer critiques in kind
  • discuss ideas with your instructor and peers
  • exchange writing, ideas, and book recommendations with other writers in our Community Page during and after classes are over

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

To create a better, more dynamic classroom experience for all, you are expected to participate weekly in class discussions in order to receive instructor feedback on your work. 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 assignment, you will receive detailed feedback from your instructor—both in-line comments addressing tone, dialogue, word choice, etc., and bigger-picture comments about how the writing is working as whole. In addition to longer assignments, some instructors assign shorter weekly exercises for which they provide a brief response. Finally, students are always welcome to private message the instructor at any point during the course with additional questions.

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

If you will only miss one or two weeks of a ten-week class, this does not pose a problem; you can reach out to your instructor to submit the assignments ahead of time (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 term.

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

We offer 2 versions of some of our more popular classes.  These versions are offered during alternate terms (e.g. Curriculum A in the Winter and Curriculum B in the Spring). Both 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. You can begin with either the A or B version of a class and move on to the alternate version if you wish to continue working with the same instructor or want to take more time to explore the subject.

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

Creative work that is reviewed and/or commented upon by your instructor cannot be submitted to Creative Nonfiction or True Story without substantial revision. Specifically, our editors will not consider a work for publication if more than 25 percent of the work has been read by Creative Nonfiction’s online instructors. You are welcome to submit to the magazines work that meets the above conditions, but will not be given preference over authors from the general submission pool.

Do you offer any scholarships or discounts?

Unfortunately, we do not offer scholarships at this time. We currently offer two discounts, which may be combined: a $50 early registration discount and a “refer-a-friend” discount. You and your friend should both note that you want to receive this discount in the “Order Comments” section of the checkout page when registering; you will each receive a $25 refund on your registration. You and your friend do not have to enroll in the same class to take advantage of the refer-a-friend discount; you only have to enroll in the same term.

What is your refund policy?

We understand that life can get in the way of your plans. We want you to be able to get the most out of your course, and our refund policy is designed to balance your need for flexibility with our deadlines and obligations to our teachers.

By 5pm EST on the Monday before classes begin (one week prior to start date):
You may request a refund (less a $50 application fee) or request a transfer to another course in the same term or future term (no fee).Transfer credits must be applied within two years of your cancellation date.

By 5pm EST on the Friday at the end of the first week of classes:
You may transfer your 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 of your cancellation date. You may switch to another class in the same term (subject to availability) for a $25 fee.

No refunds or transfers will be offered after 5 pm on Friday of the first week of classes.

Where do I find my online classroom?

To learn more about what happens after you enroll in a class, see our page on how the classes work.

More questions?

Please follow the links below for more information:

If your question is not answered, please contact Sharla Yates, Director of Education, at

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