You are able to post questions and comments and interact with the instructor of the class using the “Discussions” portion of the classroom interface. The usefulness of this depends to some degree on the responsiveness of the instructor. In the case of Dr. BBQ, he seems to stay on top of the questions and provides timely and often detailed responses to the questions. Other people taking the class can comment too.
A second way to interact is by posting photos of your creations in “Projects” portion of the interface. You can also write reviews of the class to share with others. As I mentioned, I am not a fan of all this interactivity, but I realize it is fun and useful for most people. For me it is out of the way and not in my face all of the time. So as long as it doesn’t impact my use of the classes I have zero complaints.
After this first time, when you launch the App you are taken to a screen called “My Craftsy”. There is a sidebar which contains emails sent to you from Craftsy, usually informing you of a sale or some Craftsy site related news. The main part of the “My Craftsy” screen has 3 tabs going across the top. The first tab called “Enrolled is the list of classes you have “enrolled in”. These are either paid classes or free classes you haves added to your shopping cart and checked out with. The middle tab: “Recommended” is for classes Craftsy recommends for you based on the classes you have signed up for. The third tab: “Wishlist” can be used to add classes you are interested in, but don’t plan to buy now.
There are buttons or links at the four outer corners. Starting at the top left, there is a button consisting of 3 thick horizontal lines. This opens up a sidebar with quick links to material on the Craftsy website. Clicking on a link accesses the link, collapses the side bar and brings you to a full screen view of the website. The top right corner has a magnifying glass icon for search. This searches for Craftsy classes matching your search terms. The results are displayed in a sidebar that opens up on the left side of the screen. The lower right corner features a button called “Offline”. It brings up a download manager where you can download one or more of the lessons in your classes. The download manager also shows you how this download will affect the free storage on the device you are using. You can pause, resume, cancel and delete downloads from here as well. The button found on the lower left at the bottom of the sidebar allows you to “Edit (your) Profile”.
When you click on a class in your class list you are taken to the video player window. This is laid out quite efficiently and has several nice features. Once again I am talking about the iPad App version. The PC version is similar from what I can see and the main difference is the controls are sometimes in different locations. On the iPad App the center of the title bar shows the class name, lesson name and number. The left side of the title bar has a link that takes you back to the “My Craftsy” screen that I just described above. On the right side of the title bar are two buttons. The first brings up a sheet where you can write a review for the class. The second brings down an illustrated menu with links to the various lessons and the sub-sections or chapters within those lesson. This gives you quick access to any part of the class you are viewing.
Down the left side of the video player window is a vertical column of 4 stacked buttons. The first 3 display similar behavior. Clicking on the button initially opens the item as a sidebar. There are small left and right arrows in the top right corner. Clicking the right arrow expands the view so it is no longer a sidebar, but takes up the full screen. The left arrow collapses the sidebar and returns the video player to a full width view. Pushing the big button The top button, “Discussions” is for posting or viewing comments or questions. The second button, “Projects” is for viewing or posting pictures of the items in this lesson. They call these lessons projects, hence the name. The third button, “Notes” is for leaving notes for yourself. The bottom button, called “Materials” has downloadable versions of all the recipes in the class and also has a rather nice metric conversion chart. It is one of the nicer charts I have seen, because it isn’t general purpose. The conversions are specific to units you would use in cooking, such as teaspoons, tablespoons, measuring cups etc. I plan to print out a hard copy to keep in my kitchen.
The bottom of the window contains the controls for the video player. The Play button is on the left side and there is the typical time line slider used for video players. It has a slider to scrub through the time line for the video to go to a different spot in the time line. There is a count up display of the elapsed time you have been playing the video on the left and a countdown time showing the time remaining on the right. This is all pretty typical of video player interfaces. One little nice touch is the time line has little vertical dividing lines showing the locations of the various chapters on the time line. To the right of the time line is a button to skip forward to the next chapter in the time line. To the far right is a button with loudspeaker icon. When pressed it brings up a volume slider. There is a second row with four buttons just below and to the right side of the time line. The first allows you to increase or decrease the playback speed. The choices a Normal, then 1.5x or 2X in the faster direction and 0.5x or 0.25x in the slower direction. I have seen these controls before on Podcast Apps and many people swear by them. I tried the 1.5x and 2x setting and to my surprise the audio was quite comprehendible. The next button allows you to jump back 30 seconds and replay the last 30 seconds. If you keep it pressed down it will repeat this action until you press the button again. The next button is for Apple’s AirPlay feature where you can stream the material from this device to another AirPlay enabled device. It produces the typical AirPlay pop up showing all of the AirPlay enabled devices on your local network. I use this for streaming these videos to an Apple TV device connected to my HDTV. Lastly there is a button to take the picture full screen on your device and hide all of the interface elements. Tapping anywhere on the full screen brings up the playback controls including the button to take you back out of full screen mode.