Online courses: what Helen Ivory thinks



When did you run your first online course with The Poetry School and how were you briefed?

In 2011 I wrote the course ‘Transformation and Magic’ for the PS. The PS approached me and asked if I’d like to teach an online course for them, after teaching some day schools.  I suggested Transformation and Magic – a theme close to my heart. I was sent some examples of existing course documents which other tutors had written, as guidelines to the kind of thing the PS does, and some downloaded samples of the online live chat work-shopping sessions.  I was told that each of the five modules must culminate in an exercise which would generate the poems discussed in the workshops.

Was the experience anything like you expected?

I’ve taught online before for UEA, so a bit. The only difference was the live workshop sessions which I’d never done before. It was a bit like discussions on Facebook, with me orchestrating proceedings. I’ve never typed so fast!

How many students are typically on a course and why do you think someone should choose an online course from the Poetry School?

Twelve students on each course. I think people choose to study online generally because of the flexibility of working in their own time from their own home. It’s not always easy for people to get out, so studying online opens lots of opportunities for them. It’s also a great way of communicating with others who share your interests and also to study courses that are not available in your area. The Poetry School is a recognised and respected organization and its courses are taught by practicing poets who are experienced tutors. The courses are also tailored around very eclectic and exciting themes.

How do the “live-chats” run and what happens to all the feedback after the evening is over?

They run like normal creative writing work-shopping sessions. Participants share their poems a week or a few days before the live chat session, the tutor will put up a running order the day before, and we go through each poem one at a time. The next day, the Poetry School post a transcript of the chat so people can look through the chat in their own time.

Is there the opportunity to continue discussions in an online forum?

Each course has a wall which works like social media, so you can chat and share links and contribute to threads or begin threads.

Are you running any courses in the future?

I am just beginning to teach ‘Wunderkammer: Writing the Curious’ as a summer school for the Poetry School. It over-subscribed last term so I was asked to run it again.

Also, for my new job working with UEA and Writers Centre Norwich, I am developing some online courses in poetry and prose. These will be non-accredited University quality courses which we will launch in January 2015. They are toolkit type courses which will allow participants to work on their image-making, metaphor building and narrative writing skills, and so on.

Thanks Helen.


Helen Ivory was born in Luton in 1969 and began to write poems at Norwich School of Art in 1997, under the tuition of George Szirtes. She won an Eric Gregory Award in 1999. She is an experienced creative writing tutor and workshop leader and has taught both undergraduates and in adult education for around ten years. She has also run workshops in schools and is a freelance tutor and mentor. She is currently an Editor for The Poetry Archive,  Editor of the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears, and Course Director for Creative Writing for Continuing Education at UEA. Her fourth Bloodaxe Books collection is Waiting for Bluebeard. (2013)  She is Co-editor with George Szirtes of In their Own Words: Contemporary Poets on their Poetry (Salt 2012).

3 thoughts on “Online courses: what Helen Ivory thinks”

  1. What a great breakdown on what actually happens, been tempted but not actually taken part as yet, this was really encouraging. Thank you both.

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