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Review: Atlas Obscura Online Course

I recently completed a writing course offered through Atlas Obscura. It was one of their “experiences,” and while I was skeptical of their ability to deliver on a good instructional seminar, I decided to enroll.

Overall, I enjoyed the course and I learned from it. The group was kept small (I feared that it wouldn’t be) — just 25 enrolled students, of which about 30% were absent during any given meet-up.

One thing I disliked, though, was how the learning platform was cobbled together. Atlas Obscura is using Eventbrite and Google Classroom, both of which requires you have accounts with those services. Sessions are delivered using Zoom, which has many well-known flaws. During every 90-minute class, time was wasted on tech support for Classroom, Google Drive, Eventbrite, Google Docs, and Zoom. Some students never did overcome their difficulties, which required the instructor to duplicate effort sending support material via email. And in the shared files area, it was apparent that Atlas Obscura personnel were uploading documents on behalf of struggling students.

The instructor was good, and the content acceptable, but the delivery platform made it feel like amateur hour. With a gross revenue of about $1000 per session, I’m disappointed that Atlas Obscura is running their courses on the cheap. I expect better for my time and money.

P.S.: One thing they aren’t skimping on is spam delivery. After signing up for the course, I began to receive multiple daily emails from Atlas Obscura. (And also, Eventbrite.) There’s no better way to drive a customer away.


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