What to Know About MasterClass


Are you interested in an acting class taught by Natalie Portman, a tennis lesson from Serena Williams or learning novel-writing strategies from James Patterson? MasterClass offers opportunities for anyone with a creative urge to learn skills from experts.


(Courtesy of MasterClass)

Headquartered in San Francisco, MasterClass is an online learning platform that streams lessons delivered by recognized masters of their craft. It launched in May 2015, and within a few months, the site garnered 30,000 users, according to The New York Times.

Membership to MasterClass includes access to a catalog of 90-plus classes taught by internationally recognized chefs, photographers, athletes and more. MasterClass’s courses include music producer Timbaland teaching beats, creative direction from science fiction storyteller Margaret Atwood and cooking lessons from chef Gordon Ramsay.

With people confined to self-quarantine in 2020, MasterClass and other online learning platforms exploded in popularity.

Each MasterClass offering is about two to five hours long. Instructors narrate an average of 20 video lessons per class, with an average of 10 minutes per tutorial. Every class includes pre-recorded videos, a class workbook, interactive assignments and community activities.

Video lessons are accessible anytime by smartphone app, desktop computer and streaming media player, including Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. Users can also access offline lessons, a members-only newsletter and a member community.

MasterClass videos provide students with a jumping-off point for lessons. Students can follow along in a downloadable PDF workbook with assignments they can submit to their peers for feedback. Sometimes, instructors will invite pupils to submit work for critique.

Explore MasterClass here.

MasterClass costs $180 annually, which breaks down to $15 per month. This provides subscribers with unlimited access to all classes, including new classes as they launch. All MasterClass memberships include access to the mobile and TV apps, videos, and class workbooks.

Class previews are available for each master instructor’s course.

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Users who are not satisfied with MasterClass can request a refund via email within 30 days of a subscription purchase.

Annual membership renewals can be canceled through your account page, and there are no refunds for partially unused membership periods.

MasterClass might be worth it if you want to hone a craft or learn a skill but aren’t looking for a degree or certification.

What sets MasterClass apart from its competitors is that the courses are taught by notable creators and craftspeople. Whether you want to become a better storyteller, express yourself through interior design or simply cook epic scrambled eggs, MasterClass’s instructors can inspire pursuing new paths.

MasterClass encourages new enrollees to personalize this experience through an initial survey of interests and goals. The noted trainers, which include comedian Steve Martin and hostage negotiator Chris Voss, reveal motivations behind chosen career paths to inspire would-be practitioners who are watching the videos.

While MasterClass’s courses are full of information, they should not be confused with for-credit online college courses. MasterClass relies not on accredited academic institutions but on recognized masters who share what they’ve learned throughout their careers. MasterClass offerings focus on more creative pursuits – from ballet to poker – as opposed to academics and hard skills.

MasterClass extends beyond videos. Courses invite collaboration with peers and the application of new skills. If enrollees use all available resources, especially downloadable workbooks and community discussion boards, MasterClass might well be worth the money. Students willing to do the work can reap the rewards.

Before you commit to purchasing a subscription, you can try MasterClass Live, a free streaming option. Anyone with an internet connection can connect in real time with instructors like gymnast Simone Biles, Vogue Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour and “Gangsta Gardener” Ron Finley.

MasterClass is not accredited with, and has a failing grade from, the Better Business Bureau. Its average rating on Trustpilot is 4.1 stars out of five, based on 498 reviews.

Both MasterClass and Skillshare have something different to offer. Which one is right for you depends on your learning needs and preferences. Skillshare offers a broader course range, covering topics like nutrition, crafts, personal fitness and alternative medicine.

MasterClass has an edge when it comes to instructor name recognition. Course teachers include world-renowned experts, Oscar-winning actors and directors, Olympic athletes, billion-dollar business owners, famous musicians, and Michelin-starred chefs. Courses are hours long and span over dozens of tutorials.

Both platforms deliver most content via video, and they supplement lessons with bookmarks and workbooks. Both also break the curriculum into short video segments and enable students to access classes anywhere an internet connection is available.

Relying on celebrity instructors doesn’t limit MasterClass to arts, culture, sports and entertainment classes. The platform has business and science courses as well. Skillshare courses are taught by the platform’s users, which means the courses could be hit or miss, though the site encourages tutor and tutorial reviews.

MasterClass costs $180 for an annual pass. Skillshare offers free sign-up and free courses. More interested clients can opt for either a $99 annual membership or a $19 per month plan that works out to $228 per year.

MasterClass and Coursera market to very different sets of learners.

MasterClass invites recognized professionals to teach the subjects in which they’ve found success and often fame.

Coursera partners with universities and organizations to offer more than 3,900 academic courses and specializations, as well as certificates and online degrees.

Coursera’s offerings cover the arts and humanities, business, social sciences, computer and data science, math and logic, physical and life sciences, engineering, and languages.

MasterClass instructors are noted artists and industry leaders. Oscar winner Helen Mirren delivers acting lessons, for example, while chess virtuoso Garry Kasparov teaches would-be masters to play.

Coursera courses can be free or pay-per-course for expanded access, with available applications for financial aid. Rates vary for courses, specializations and degrees. MasterClass costs $180 for an annual pass.

Coursera may be better for resume-building, developing hard skills and earning new certifications. MasterClass nurses the creative muse and is tailored to people who want to learn for the love of the craft.

Anyone can create and sell online courses on Udemy, which boasts a superstore of more than 130,000 tutorials. MasterClass, on the other hand, features only celebrity instructors.

Both platforms include dozens of training hours and opportunities for experiential learning. MasterClass connects users with a learning community, while Udemy clients can operate individually or sign up in teams.

MasterClass requires a $180 membership, and classes cover a handful of disciplines. Udemy’s user-built courses cover a massive subject spectrum at regularly discounted prices, and Udemy users pay per course.

The caliber of Udemy courses may vary, but user reviews often accompany each class. People may find more practical, professional skills like programming and development on Udemy. At the same time, the platform offers a wider variety that may incorporate more offbeat pursuits, like mindfulness and body language. MasterClass has a more specialized course catalog, covering high-end cooking, sports training from professionals and interior design from award winners.


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