In-depth answers from Dana, Gotham’s Dean of Students.

So What IS the Difference Between the Zoom Classes and the Online Classes?

Back in 1997, when online everything was new, Gotham launched online classes. We thought long and hard about how those classes should work, how to get as many people under the Gotham ‘tent’ as possible, and decided that offering classes that didn’t meet in real-time was the way to go.

If classes unfolded over the week for however many weeks of the class, with students checking into class when they could to participate, instead of being tied to their computers at a specific time, then would-be writers from Paris and San Francisco and the UAE could take class together without worrying about a time difference.

And then, an unintended but equally lovely benefit of that format emerged. People who lived in the NY area and COULD take classes in person but who either worked late or had a long commute or needed to attend to story-time with their kids when classes were happening started taking the online classes, too…along with our students in Bangalore and Denver and London.

And that’s the way it’s been.

Until March of 2020. When Zoom became a global ‘thing’.

So now, people from all over can experience us live by taking our Zoom classes. But it’s a wholly different experience than taking class with us online.

Zoom classes are just like in-person classes. You attend class every week at a set time for however long the class meets. You listen to your instructor deliver an interesting lecture, maybe you ask a question or respond to a fellow student’s comment, you do a writing exercise, perhaps you share it with the group, and if you’re in one of our 10-week workshops, you participate in the critiquing process, giving and getting feedback on a developing piece. And then you’re done for the week.

True you’re not sitting in the same room as your cohorts. And you can’t go out for a coffee or a beer together after class. But it’s in real time. You are there, together. You see each other on the screen, you interact, you share in the collective energy that only a live experience offers.

Our Online classes unfold as they have since ’97: the week’s material—lecture, assignments, work up for critique—posts, say, on Tuesday. You engage with the class a bit at a time throughout the week, reading the lectures, commenting on the Blackboard, submitting your weekly assignments and critiques. And then Tuesday comes around again and the cycle repeats.

The quality of the lecture is the same as in the Zoom class. The creativity of the weekly assignments: same. And the expertise of the instructors? That’s the same, too. But you log-in when it’s convenient. During your lunch hour. Or after your long commute. Or once the kids are asleep. With a glass of wine. Or a pint of vanilla chip.

Being able to live somewhere other than New York and take class as if you lived in New York might be the very thin silver lining to the awful global reason we’re now able to offer Zoom classes in the first place. And we expect those classes to be on our menu from now on. But we’re lucky to have the online classes for folks from Belgium to Brooklyn who like the asynchronous format better. More choices, more writerly folks under that Gotham tent.

Which option is best for you? Call us and we can help. Or…should we Zoom?