Online Creative Writing Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

When looking for online creative writing programs, keep a few factors in mind. Look at the award level, program method, and the degree offerings, as all these vary widely by school.

How to Select an Online Creative Writing School

Online programs offer a variety of award levels to students interested in pursuing a career in writing. Online creative writing programs can be found through 4-year colleges and universities. Students should weigh the award level with program delivery.

Award Level

Online schools and colleges offer writing programs at the certificate, undergraduate and graduate levels. The required level of study varies on the industry and the student's individual goals; for example, a certificate in screenwriting may be a good option for creative writers looking to edit and market their screenplays more professionally. Students pursuing bachelor's degree in creative writing can improve their writing skills while receiving a strong liberal arts education. Those who want to work in literary publishing might pursue a master's degree in creative writing.

Program Delivery

Schools can offer students a variety of online enrollment options, such as full online immersion, self-paced study or low residency (hybrid) programs. Online immersion programs provide course instruction though video, voice and e-mail correspondence and generally don't require students to take classes on campus. These programs are well-suited for returning students and working professionals who want engaged feedback on their creative writing but prefer to work in their home or office. Some schools may provide students with the option for self-paced study, which may also be completed fully online, but allows students to turn in assignments at their own pace rather than follow a set course schedule.

Hybrid programs require students to spend at least part of their time on campus, such as one week at the beginning of each semester. This type of program may be beneficial for students who prefer a measure of face-to-face interaction with fellow writers and instructors but can't fit frequent on-campus attendance into their schedule.

List of Popular Online Creative Writing Programs

Online Certificate in Screenwriting

Screenwriters write and develop scripts for film, commercials and TV productions. The online certificate program is a professional program that teaches students how to write, edit and pitch a script. Some programs offer the certificate as a professional enrichment to candidates who hold a bachelor's degree prior to enrollment; other programs only require writing samples and a general interest in the field.

Discussing their work though video critiques, e-mail correspondence and live streaming conferences, students will typically meet online weekly to share their progress and receive feedback. Lasting anywhere from six months to a year, online certificate programs typically include courses in:

  • Plot development
  • Episodic and procedurals
  • Screenwriting for the Web
  • Film production

Online Bachelor's Degree in Creative Writing

The bachelor's degree in creative writing can take from 3-4 years to complete. A typical curriculum includes as many as 60 core credits in the humanities and liberal arts, some of which can be completed prior to enrollment in the online program. New students are often required to complete a short residency, during which they can meet other students, share their work and pick advisers. While working online during the rest of the semester, students correspond closely with these advisors about their creative work.

Online students might follow course packets and video lectures for many of the core classes on the Web. Students in upper-level courses often analyze and write about works of literature in addition to working on their own writing.

Many programs require students to meet for critiques, where small groups of usually 8-15 students discuss and read their work online (or on campus in a hybrid program). Critiques and group discussions are often followed by instructor feedback though e-mail. Graduation from these programs usually requires the student to not only fulfill credit requirements but also develop a portfolio of original creative work in a chosen genre. Creative writing students in bachelor's degree programs also have a chance to pick a concentration, such as:

  • Poetry
  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Screenwriting

Online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

An online master's degree in creative writing can take anywhere from 1-2 years to complete and often requires a strong background in English literature or a related field. Similar to other fine arts degrees, the online creative writing program focuses on developing and mastering a personal writing style while polishing a creative work that's ready for publication at the time of graduation.

Students in online creative writing programs share their individual work and participate in critiques though online correspondence with professors and classmates. Many graduate programs require a thesis that can take the form of a poetry chapbook, short story collection, novella or other creative work. A typical program combines a creative writing workshop with accelerated online courses in areas like:

  • Film genres
  • Literary theory
  • Multicultural literature
  • Composition pedagogy

Schools with Online Programs in Creative Writing

Southern New Hampshire University offers an online bachelor's degree in creative writing. Students have the option to take a general track or concentrate in poetry, fiction, non-fiction, or screenwriting. The program can be finished at one's own pace over six 8-week terms per year.

An associate's degree in creative writing is offered from National University. The major focuses on three writing genres: contemporary fiction, poetry, and screenwriting. Students pursue two of those at an advanced level. To earn this degree, students must have completed 90 quarter units, nearly a third of which are taken on-campus. Certain courses can be taken online. A master's in creative writing is also available, which is done entirely online. To be eligible for the master's program, students must have completed their bachelor's in English with a concentration in creative writing.

Online programs in creative writing come in many forms, from various degree levels to multiple delivery modes. Programs typically have required or optional concentrations in the subject area, the overall objective being able to effectively produce your own work and critique other's.

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