By Brian Heuberger

A significant benefit of the internet innovations during the recent decade is the ability to take courses and learn new skills online.  However, many online instructional videos provide inadequate learning experiences.  The Denver-based Craftsy has addressed those problems and has rapidly emerged as the premier craft education website.  Craftsy provides comprehensive online classes that enable people to learn crafting skills, collaborate with their instructors and classmates, and take action to maximize their skills and perform their favorite crafts.  

Craftsy originated six years ago in Denver.  As online educational programs and instructional videos became prevalent on the Internet, CEO John Levisay and his small team of co-founders recognized several flaws with the online instructional programs that were available.  Many instructional videos are made by amateurs, provide limited information, and offer minimal collaboration abilities.

Image: Craftsy.

Image: Craftsy.

“We looked at online education at the time,” said Craftsy CEO John Levisay, “and we felt that the promise was just not being lived up to.  What was passing for online education was either a PowerPoint with a voiceover, a kind of subpar camera put in the back of a classroom, or YouTube videos by people not qualified to teach.  It just wasn’t driving great learning outcomes or satisfaction for customers.”

Craftsy implemented many strategies to generate a learning platform that is far superior to other online options.  

“Job one was to build the best online learning platform out there,” said Levisay.  “We built a platform where you can watch the instructional videos at anytime anywhere, but still be part of a classroom where you can ask the instructor a question and have conversations with fellow students.  The second pillar was extremely high standards in regards to TV production quality.  And unlike a lot of places, with YouTube being the big example, we wanted to curate the top experts to instruct our courses.”

Craftsy fulfilled these goals to provide a website that maximizes the learning experience for amateurs or professionals who want to learn or improve their crafting skills.  The Craftsy website produces and offers about 400 videos, including several different videos for knitting, sewing, baking, gardening, painting, and photography.  Each class covers a different topic and consists of about eight instructional videos.  For instance, the classes can teach students how to make different shirts, bake certain foods, quilt new patterns, or utilize different photography techniques.   

The ability for the students to receive instructions from experts is especially beneficial.  Whereas many online instructional videos are made by amateurs, Craftsy has elite experts teach the videos and lessons for each class.  This assures students that they are receiving advice from credible experts who have achieved greatness at the given craft and who are qualified to teach the material. “Our team will research and acquire the best possible teacher for each subject matter.  For cooking, they’ll look at culinary schools, best-selling cookbook authors, prestigious bloggers, or TV personalities.  And we do that for every category.”

The interactive virtual classroom also makes Craftsy classes superior to other online instructional videos.  Being able to ask the instructor questions provides an authentic classroom environment that helps students clarify information, solve problems, and hone their skills.  

Image: Gigaom.com

Image: Gigaom.com

“If you get to a part in the video that you don’t understand and you have a question or thought,” explained Levisay, “there’s a button that says ‘ask a question.’ The question is then tied to the exact time signature in the video, the instructor gets the message in an inbox, and the instructor can answer the question in an email or text.  However, the answer will also display at that time signature of the video so all other students can also see your question and the instructor’s answer.”

The collaboration with classmates also fosters the social atmosphere of a real classroom.  For instance, in a classroom a student can ask a question, get an answer from the instructor, and the many classroom dialogues might benefit other students.  The virtual classroom of Craftsy provides this educational benefit by allowing students to communicate and exchange ideas with  one another.

“If you look at the right rail while you’re watching a video for the class,” said Levisay.  “On the right rail you can see questions, the instructor’s answer, and you can get in and participate in the discussion as well.  You might see some discussions with 30 different people taking part in the conversation.”

“We provide actionable inspiration and creative empowerment by giving people the skills they need to do things that they didn’t think they can do.”  

Craftsy also allows students to download course literature, acquire crafting materials, and share their designs with other users.  All of these ingredients have provided an optimal learning experience for students and have created a recipe of success for Craftsy.  In just six years, Craftsy went from a small startup with a handful of employees to a thriving business with over 200 employees and over 10 million customers.

Although financial success is crucial, Craftsy also takes great pride in inspiring and motivating its customers.  “We provide actionable inspiration,” stated Levisay.  “As opposed to Pinterest and other sites, when you see amazing projects that users have posted on our sites, you can take the class, buy the materials, and three days later you’re making it.  Rather than just inspiration, we provide actionable inspiration and creative empowerment by giving people the skills they need to do things that they didn’t think they can do.”  

Craftsy is now aiming to continue the impressive and rapid growth of the company.  As more people understand the many benefits of online education and the superior advantages of Craftsy classes, the company should perpetually grow and solidify itself as the premier source for people to receive exceptional crafting educational services.