This article was submitted anonymously, by a disenchanted student.
I excitedly signed up for MatadorU’s travel writing program, lured in by grand notions of getting paid to travel the world and getting published on the Matador Network. And it was great. I didn’t really get paid to travel, nor did I get published on the Network, but the program itself was fabulous. Every week, a new lesson would become available to me and I would devour it, hungry to learn a new aspect about a craft I already knew. The assignments were challenging and interesting and I loved the feedback.
Here’s how it worked: One of the faculty members would review your assignment after you posted it to your MatadorU blog, and give a detailed commentary about what you did right, what could have been better, and ways to revise the work.
But like all great things, it changed. My favorite faculty member left the school to pursue other avenues, and the administration appeared to receive an overhaul. I began to get emails about changes – to the interface, the course, the feedback. No longer would students receive feedback on every assignment. We’d only see it on the first, sixth, and twelfth assignment. Needless to say, this caused quite the controversy among us students, and the forums were flooded with complaints and concerns. We felt cheated, like we wasted our money when we signed up. MatadorU was not holding up their end of the bargain. The faculty was quick to respond to us, but to no avail. And then they doled out the kiss of death – we were told that in the real world, writers struggle with no pay and no feedback until they’ve developed relationships in the industry and created a career for themselves.
But here’s the thing. MatadorU may be a part of the real world, but it’s a school. And students sign up for schools to learn and receive feedback. Every student now signed up for MatadorU is receiving a decreased learning experience. If we wanted to experience travel writing the hard way, with no feedback, then we would have just gone through it alone. But instead, we signed up and paid for a program to learn about it. I have already paid my dues writing for no pay with no feedback. I wanted to expand my career set. Not to mention that not providing feedback in a cumulative program is a recipe for disaster. Without someone to stop and say you’ve botched a procedure, you’ll keep doing it wrong. Several students (myself included) have voiced the opinion that now that we know our assignments aren’t being looked at, we have no motivation to do them. And so my MatadorU work sits undone, waiting for me to have a spare second to feel like it would be a worthwhile endeavor to complete.
I don’t cancel my membership only because I already paid for it, and the resources available are useful. A market blog has job opportunities and contests posted weekly, not just with Matador, but with other publications as well. And, the community is fabulous. Students love to chat on the extensive forums and the instructors always get back to you. They’ll even offer to email or Skype with you. The “Student Stoke” board is usually brimming with accomplishments posted by students and is always met with encouragement from staff and student alike, as well as social media shares.
Bottom line: If you sign up for MatadorU, do it for the networking and opportunities first and the course second.