It’s been a year since I heard about MasterClass.com from an acquaintance. I heard that it’s like an online school with renowned people as instructors. They aren’t just renowned; they’re also the top people in their respective fields. I was like, sure, it’s a nice idea. But I gave it a pass back then.
Things changed when, two months ago, a colleague of mine showed me the site. It’s the first time I saw it. I immediately found something interesting. It was Christina Aguilera’s class on singing. I tasked myself to check it out, and it led me to review that class and Usher’s. By the way, you should check out my reviews on Usher and Christina Aguilera’s class.
With two classes reviewed, it’s safe for me to give my personal review on MasterClass.com.
Before we proceed to the review proper, let’s go over what’s on paper out-of-the-way first.
MasterClass is an online learning platform that provides instructional videos to its members. Its main selling point is its instructors.
Director David Rogier and entrepreneur Aaron Rasmussen formed Masterclass in 2014. It was called Yanka Industries before. It is based in San Francisco, California.
The platform had just a few topics ranging from film and music to writing. Last year, the platform expanded to add more classes and instructors. Some of the new topics cover economics, politics, and video game design.
The instructors here are all world-renowned artists, celebrities, and personalities. To give you an idea of who you might be facing as your instructor in this site, let me tell you a few names:
There are more than 75 classes and instructors. The average number of lessons per class is around 20 videos. The average length of videos is around 10 minutes.
There are two payment or billing options: annual ($180) and a single class ($90). You also have the option to give annual or single class subscriptions to another person.
EDIT: As of now, MasterClass removed the single class and gifting option. You can now only opt for the annual all-access pass that costs $180.
Getting Straight to the Point: Why Spend Money on It?
In all honesty, the $90 single class is too expensive. It saddens me to say that it’s a marketing trick to make potential members choose the $180 all-access pass. The $15 per month is also a marketing trick to water down the high cost.
But the actual question is: Is it worth it? The answer is yes. But I understand that people have their own spending priorities and may not agree with my opinion. So, let me do a simple comparison.
Let’s put this service against SkillShare. SkillShare’s premium service is $12 a month while MasterClass’s all-access is $15.
The advantages of SkillShare are:
1. You can actually get free lessons even if you don’t sign up for a premium.
2. It has a premium trial and various promotions. Also, the premium can be canceled at any time.
3. It has more courses, instructors, and topics.
4. Some of its instructors are credible and popular YouTube personalities.
The biggest disadvantage of SkillShare is its content. The level and quality of the lessons may vary a lot. Some of the lessons are slides put together with narration. Also, better versions of those lessons are available from the web. Most of them can even be found on YouTube.
The advantages of MasterClass are:
1. You get insights from the highest level of pros in the industry.
2. You get to see the point of view of people who actually made it to the top.
3. You get to learn things that aren’t posted ad nauseam on the web.
4. It has a 30-day money-back guarantee.
The only disadvantage of MasterClass is its high paywall, which locks you down for a year. That can be rationalized by the 30-day money-back guarantee. A month is enough for you to decide if the service is actually right for you.
From my perspective, I would rather try and pay for MasterClass. It’s easy to sign up but do not miss using the guarantee
Besides, I can always browse on SkillShare to look for a course I want to watch. If I do, I can subscribe and cancel once I’m done. Before anything else, I would like to say that SkillShare isn’t inferior in any form. It’s just not what I need.
What I want to look into is the experience of a successful individual who has reached the world stage. Only a handful of them is willing to share what they know. I would willingly pay a premium to know what it’s like where they are now and how it became possible for them to get there.
Lesson and Video Quality: Are the Trailers Just for Show?
The trailers are the one thing I was scared of the most. Why? Because they made the service too good to be true, their trailers have:
1. A-list stars and personalities
2. High production value
3. All those instructors are said to teach for more than two hours of content*
*You can get the courses for $180, full-year access. This roughly translates to $2.40 (or less). Each course has an average of 200 minutes (3h20m or less) for all the lessons.
With my fingers crossed, I dived into it. I entered my information on the registration page telling me that they would bill $180 on my account. Quickly, I went to Christina Aguilera’s page and skipped the introduction.
And I was amazed. The quality was consistent. The trailers were not just clickbait for watered-down slideshow videos. I thought it was just for Christina, so I tried other random courses.
Once I was done checking, I felt relieved that my money didn’t go down the drain. One of the things I appreciated the most was that they didn’t try to direct the instructor’s personality. They allowed the instructor to speak what was on their mind.
They don’t appear to act like they were teaching. This made things more genuine. They were more like mentoring you and were speaking to you as if you’re alone in the room with them.
Also, I want to share that the videos are accompanied by graphical overlays. It makes it easier and faster to digest the lessons presented.
Short Video Lesson: Is it Effective?
The video lessons from MasterClass are as short as a monetized video on YouTube on average. Are those videos long enough to impart some meaningful lessons? The short answer is, yes. You aren’t required to listen to an hour-long lecture to learn the crucial information you need.
You should know that you can learn how to sing better and more properly by watching a 10-minute video. But you can’t master singing better and more properly in 10 minutes. The keywords there are “learn” and “master”.
For example, you can learn that you need to have breathing techniques to sing better. But you can’t do the proper breathing techniques you needed. To master a skill, you only need less time for learning. You actually need to spend more time practicing and accumulating experience.
Other Features: Does it Only Provide Videos?
The site provides commentaries and lesson notes for every video. The lesson notes are very convenient. If you want to go over some of the parts that got you confused, you can use the notes. The same goes for reviewing the whole thing without going through minutes of video.
Each video also has a comment section for the learners. As of now, those sections only have an average of seven to nine comments. I can assume that the community in MasterClass is still small. The way it’s set up and the number of courses is still few. I doubt it’ll be growing into something big soon.
Lastly, some of the lessons come with educational tools. Depending on the course and lesson, the site may provide some files and applications. In Christina’s course, you’ll get an app to track your progress and a 47-page workbook.
Nitpick Details: How Does It Compare to Other Platforms?
For now, I can say that MasterClass is selling a unique product. It can’t be compared to what other online education platforms (e.g., Udemy, RCampus, Learnopia) provide.
One, its courses don’t deal with the regular academic and college courses. You don’t get any recognition or diploma after you finish a course.
Two, it doesn’t provide a classroom environment. It does give you that mentoring vibe, but it’s definitely not a class. It’s a one-way interaction between you and the instructor.
From what I’ve read, some classes may allow you to speak to someone from MasterClass. But I’m sure there’s no way you can get in touch with the instructor.
Three, the progress of your learning is up to you. Getting MasterClass is like getting a book. There’s no one that will point out your mistakes when you practice and there will be no one to push you to do anything.
Is MasterClass For You?
If you thrive in a classroom environment or hands-on teaching, this isn’t for you. But it doesn’t mean that you won’t benefit from or enjoy it.
To be quite frank, there’s a lot of reasons I can think of for people to join. For one, I’m sure that the music classes from this site are the only thing people can get interested in.
If you like playing chess, they have Garry Kasparov. If you like fiction writing, they have Dan Brown. And if you like Science, then they have Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
If you’re interested in checking these amazing celebrity instructors, you can check them out here. You don’t even need the reason that you need to learn something to get this service. I, for one, don’t have a large interest in playing poker, but I enjoy watching Daniel Negreanu. Each instructor in MasterClass doesn’t only teach. They also tell you their interesting stories, which can be both enjoyable and inspiring.