Did Somebody Say Free Classes?

I’ve been caught in a cycle for the past few months that looks a little something like this:

  • Week 1: Existential crisis
  • Week 2: Less panicking, careful consideration of my career and school options
  • Week 3: Decide I’m not decided enough for grad school and can’t afford to waste my time on a random pursuit like massage therapy
  • Week 4: Comfort myself with fulfilling projects until the next existential crisis

Therefore, when T-Mobile decided that one of its T-Mobile Tuesday perks was going to be a free class from Shaw Academy, I was elated (and very skeptical). I’ve wanted to take up graphic design for so long but could never justify it. If I’m going to go back to school, the results need to be tangible. I’ve been doing the freelance/work from home thing for a few months now and it is not all it’s cracked up to be.

When I looked through the reviews for Shaw Academy, they were pretty mixed. Some people were saying that they got charged when they were doing the free trial, some said the lectures were obviously not live, and some had other complaints about it. After seeing that it was accredited and digging around on the website, I decided that I would try the regular free trial and, if it went well, later on I would redeem the T-Mobile credit for another class. Part of me also figured that T-Mobile wouldn’t give credits to a scam school, but then I remembered that they did the whole free year of magazine subscriptions thing and figured it was pretty much on the same level.

I signed up for Principles of Graphic Design and was quite taken aback. I enrolled on a Wednesday or Thursday and the class started the following Monday. That seemed way too convenient. Then, the same day I signed up I got several text messages and 3 phone calls with verification codes for the email account I used to sign up for the class. I’m not saying that the school tried to hack my email…. but that has definitely never happened to me before. (If you do not have 2-factor authentication set up for your email accounts, you should definitely get on that!) The key thing is that they didn’t ask for my credit card information.

Despite the red flags, I logged in on Monday and attended my first lecture. There was definitely a real person teaching the class. However, it was also very definitely not live. You do have a chat option, but you aren’t talking to the professor. Instead you can talk to support. I very cheekily asked how to partake in the “live chat” that the professor kept referencing and got no response. However, this past week I attended my fifth lecture and they had a drawing for someone to receive a free year-long membership and you had to put your name in the chat. I opened the support box and noticed that support had been asking questions to help me stay engaged through the lecture. I was quite surprised.

While the first week was very basic, I must say I have actually really enjoyed the subsequent lectures. I went in knowing nothing about Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign.* After week 2, I asked my best friend to send me a picture to Photoshop and ended up making a picture of her dog being sucked into a black hole. Progress!

*In my high school photography class, we only had one assignment using a digital camera and I didn’t have Photoshop at home. I played with sharpening, contrast, and saturation, and that was it. Then, in my college photography class, we had a few more assignments where we used digital cameras, but I still only did super light editing. It’s been… 4 years since I even did that, so for all intents and purposes, I knew nothing.

I just finished my third week of lectures (meaning I’ve attended 6 in total), and I don’t feel like an expert on any of the Adobe programs, but I know where to start.

Overall, I have really enjoyed Principles of Graphic Design. The whole email thing still seems really shady… and I usually have issues with my web browser crashing after I’ve attended a lecture, but I’m not too worried. (Mostly because hubby can fix anything that happens with my computer and I know whoever it was didn’t successfully breach my email account.)

If you want to take a class and actually have proof that you know what you are doing, then this is not the program for you. You can theoretically get the equivalent of an associate’s degree through the program, but it’s not worth actually paying for, in my humble opinion. For one, there is no homework. You just take these 20 question quizzes on the material and as long as you get the answers right, you’ll get a completion certificate. Of course, if you’re interested in pursuing graphic design, I don’t think a degree matters anyway. You just have to have a good portfolio. This program works for me, though, because I’m just learning because I want to. I’m not necessarily going to do anything with the material other than make my blog look better.

When I finish this course, I am undecided on what to take next with the credit from T-Mobile. It would make sense to take the Advanced Graphic Design course, but I feel like now that I’ve gotten my feet wet with Photoshop I might be able to figure out the rest of what I want to know from YouTube tutorials. The other course I’m interested in taking is Digital Media Marketing. Luckily I have until November to decide. (Thank you, T-Mobile!)

If you’re feeling adventurous, I would definitely recommend taking a free course. Maybe consider making a new email account just for the class, though.

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