By Meredith Kurz
I'm so excited! September's coming, I can see it. The yellows, reds and blues of discounted spiral notebooks and two-pocket folders are reduced to a coin jingling price at Staples. I stock up every year.
September 1st is my New Year's Day. Like many New Yorkers, I'm a learning fool. I want to know everything. I'm greedy as a toddler for classes, courses, seminars and lectures. I want to start fresh; figure out something new. I love the feeling of a BiC Cristal pen and a notebook filling up. Socializing with other class nerds is invigorating. All this new learning starts in the fall.
Two bright NYU business students, Katie Kapler and Nihal Parthasarathi, won a $75,000 New Venture Competition in 2011 for a company called "CourseHorse.” CourseHorse is a clearinghouse of thousands of classes from educational venues throughout the city, which are funneled through one exceptional search engine.
I learned about it this past year, when my daughter gave me a gift certificate for a class in 'Narrative Journalism,' offered at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. The cost was less than a dinner for two. The payoff was the best six hours I've invested to improve my writing.
In the past eight years, CourseHorse offerings have grown from three classes to 973 -- just in photography. They now offer 75,000 courses for New Yorkers on their website.
One Sweet Search Engine
The best part of that website is not the volume of courses available. And it’s not the extraordinary range of classes, from low key cooking to complex programming. What has turned CourseHorse from a $4 million to a $154 million company is its search engine. With 75,000 classes you’d better have a decent way to navigate. They deliver.
How do you search? Let me count the ways. You can search by title, subject, age, date, college or venue, price, review grade, teacher, borough, age group, experience level and by number of sessions. If a class isn't available at the moment, you can save it and you'll be notified when it comes up again.
You can 'follow' a category so you get a heads up anytime something fresh comes in. What are your fellow New Yorkers curious about anyway? 253,695 follow the Arts, 116,819 follow Cooking, and 141,895 following Professional Training.
Prices vary, and you get 5 percent back for every dollar spent. If you have a IDNYC you can get a 15 percent discount. Sometimes, when classes aren't filled, they are offered at a reduced rate.
The newest addition to the stable of course options are private group classes. You can create your own. You can have a class on site, in your office, or you can do a food tour with a group, or a 'dream event' that you devise.
Classes, Classes and More Classes
Here’s just a sample of what you can find.
Art - I so want to make a sword, don't you? You can, in one of the metal working classes. It'll cost you, but if you were living back in medieval days I'm betting it would be equivalent. Beyond making weapons, the arts include, well, the arts, but also jewelry making, painting, and a class called "Taping Sh*t" that's the most popular class at Dirty Hands studio.
Cooking - If you're not married, you may like couples cooking (some of us don't like holding hands as we stir the pot). If you want to toss out that you've learned authentic Argentinian cooking in a chef's home, there’s a class for that. I confess, I've never woman-handled shellfish. If you're in the same boat (get it?) take "Ah Shucks: A Hands-On Oyster Primer.".
Tech - If there’s not a teenager within the six degrees of family separation you may need one of the of more than 150 Computer Basics classes. If you’re beyond that, even way beyond that, you’ll still find something.
Professional - Women still lag behind men in salary, leadership roles and general career movement. We need to fix it. There are quite a few of inexpensive, highly rated classes that address the issue, so root about. One of them, "Women Rising: Leading From Where You Are," which costs $36, got 326 top reviews, so you may want to consider it.
Performing Arts - Oh, you know you want to step on that stage! There are globs of inexpensive classes, like "Improv - Playtime for Grown-ups." The cost? $45. And there's a class where you can learn the new dance craze Kizomba. Its roots are Angolan, and it’s spread across the globe and it’s hot, hot, and hot.
Language - Wow! or should I say 'Ooh La' or 'Guau' or 'Vaah'! There are 23 Languages from Arabic to Vietnamese, with Farsi and Hindi in between.
Life Skills - Life skills seems to cover everything that the other categories don't, and isn't every skill a life skill?
And Lots More - Other subcategories include Sports & Games, Garden, Health (if you think you have it, there's a class for it), Bike, Brainy, Public Speaking, Personal Finance, Driving, Games, History, Literature, Math, Personal Beauty, Pets, Philosophy and Spirituality.
For the Kids - The number of classes offered for children would keep them in school every day and all weekend. There are 17 categories in all: Acting, Academic, Art, Camp, Cooking, Dance, Games, Gymnastics, "Life Skills" (I had to peek - courses like pet care, babysitting, debate, leadership, social skills, and gardening), Language (more on that later!), Martial Arts, Music, Play, Sports, Technology, Test Prep, and Yoga.