If you have recently become interested in looking into the online learning sphere, odds are MasterClass was the starting point. With tons of big-name celebrities and stars, including Steve Martin, Natalie Portman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Samuel Jackson, and Gordon Ramsey (just to name a few) MasterClass is one of the most advertised and well-known online course out there, easily outpacing many others like Udacity, Coursera (Coursera Plus review), or edX, and only rivaled by long time contenders like Skillshare.
One question people often have regarding the platform, however, is whether it's actually worth all the celebrity endorsements and wide praise. Is it actually something to consider spending your time, money, and effort investing in; or is it just another celebrity-pushed fad.
Well, in this review, we are going to look into exactly that. We'll go over what exactly MasterClass is as well as what it offers, who's it actually for, and ultimately if it's worth your money.
So, without further ado, let's see what MasterClass is all about.
What is MasterClass?
Started back in 2015 in San Francisco, California by film editor and director David Rogier and entrepreneur Aaron Rasmussen, MasterClass is an online e-learning platform made for creative professionals around the world.
The company is most well known for using A-list celebrity talent from numerous different fields in order to teach you the intricacies of their particular craft. This method is wholly unique from other different platforms that often are reaching for a very specific demographic and use professors or industry leaders as the instructors.
Here, rather than just learning hard skills for a specific business or as the stepping stone for higher education, MasterClass gives you an in-depth look at how to perform a task by a myriad of different professions. These can range from filmmaking or directing, gardening or cooking, or even ballet or poker.
As with other massive open online course providers, also known as MOOC providers, MasterClass has a huge library of online content. In their case, with rare exception, the vast and overwhelming majority of their courses are via video “lectures”.
That said, none of these things innately make MasterClass all that different, in and of themselves, from any other online learning platform. All other MOOCs use video lectures to varying degrees, with many of them even using them as the primary form of instruction. Similarly, while course platforms like TreeHouse are quite narrow in their focus, others like edX and Coursera are similarly a bit varied in their different topics.
What truly distinguishes MasterClass from all the other MOOCs out there, outside the obvious celebrity instructors, is the casual nature of it. Rather than consider this as something of an “online university”, it's much more accurate to consider it as “the Netflix of e-learning”. The classes are much less pertinent to your getting a job or a higher level of education than the other types, while also being much more sprawling in the different options available.
As we go further into this, we'll discuss the pros as well as cons that come with this different style of teaching.
Is MasterClass a Legitimate Platform?
To answer the question of whether MasterClass is a legitimate platform, you have to first question just what your reasoning is for using the platform. If you are someone that is looking for something that is much more on the fun, lighthearted, and entertaining side of learning, then MasterClass is a great option.
As stated earlier, your MasterClass subscription actually gives you a more robust and varied number of courses and subjects to choose from than a large portion of other MOOCs. Unlike many of its alternatives, which focus primarily (and sometimes exclusively) on computer programming and software coding, MasterClass is just as likely to present a subject on ballet as it will on becoming a writer. The options are very numerous and will likely appeal to everyone on at least one subject.
The problem, however, is that very few of the actual subjects can definitively be used in a practical and applicable state. The general theme of most courses surrounds theoretical use or a “how it's made” type of approach. This means that, while you may enjoy a video on how to be a great tennis player like Serena Williams, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll be anywhere as good.
In fact, many of the courses are noted as being things you can watch at your own leisure or in your spare time. It means that you actually won't be in much of an “educational” mode, but rather more of a fun “entertained” mode.
A good example would be watching a high-quality documentary on guitar playing compared to taking a 3-month virtual course on playing the guitar. Even if both may cover some of the same information, with one, there is an expectation of practicality while the other is largely for entertainment.
What Features Do They Provide?
If you are able to get past the fact that, fundamentally, MasterClass is a different character when compared to most of the other online learning platforms, then it becomes a very real joy to use and engage in.
Classes and Categories
Arguably MasterClass's greatest strength comes by way of its numerous and varied subjects and categories. While this can vary between strength or weakness depending on what you are looking for, MasterClass does not focus much on the more commercially or educationally desired or relevant skills. Compared to many of the other platforms that may focus exclusively or heavily on IT or different college courses, MasterClass is meant to accommodate a much larger and sprawling student base. If you're someone that wants to learn about acting or cooking, as opposed to computers or web design, this will be much more up your alley.
The platform has over 10 separate categories for which there are over 100 different classes available:
- Design & Style
- Arts & Entertainment
- Sports & Gaming
- Science & Tech
- Home & Lifestyle
- Community & Government
Each class includes roughly 20 different video lessons, each ranging in length from around 5 to 15 minutes long, some even being up to an hour-long.
Workbooks & Written Materials
As is often the case for online learning platforms, the vast majority of the content is the video lectures; which makes complete sense. Since you aren't there physically, the best way to foster any type of personable connection is by way of a video. That said, the classes do also come with an in-depth workbook as well.
This workbook can both be downloaded and read as a PDF as well as printed out and read physically if you are so inclined. They include a summary of the class while also including some additional references and materials. While you'll still need to go over and watch the videos, the workbooks are an excellent form of review.
The workbooks also include different assignments to help you practice what you've learned. For example, if you are looking to become an actor, an assignment might be to mimic the designated actor's voice. Similarly, if you are trying to understand a certain subject matter, the assignment may be to conduct research in the library to better understand it at an even deeper level.
Finally, workbooks may also include several different resource links to more thoroughly help you understand your specific subject. As an example, Gordon Ramsey's workbook includes a link to an interactive guide that can actually show you where different in-season vegetables are to buy.
Star Powered Instructors
These courses are all taught by world-famous celebrities and A-list stars that are most well known for that specific subject. And while you may at first feel that this isn't all that impressive for anything in relation to an actual education, that isn't to say there aren't some very real gems worth considering here.
A great example that will likely often be used in regards to MasterClass will be the world-renown food chef, Gordon Ramsey. On the platform, this Michelin-Starred Chef has several courses on cooking that can only be found on MasterClass.
And while certainly not every course or class on the platform will be at that level, many actually will.
The reason this is so important to consider is that, while the production value does make each class come across more like a documentary or a piece of television, if you can actually treat it with the same importance as you would a standard educational course, there is actually a fair bit of information that can be used and applied that simply would not be available even in other more structurally established online platforming courses.
In addition to having a wide array of different courses and subjects, MasterClass can be watched in multiple areas along with different devices, making it a much more effective learning tool as a result.
Whereas most other platforms may relegate you to using the computer alone, MasterClass has a pretty sleek design that can be accessed on your smartphone or tablet, your TV apps (such as Roku and Amazon Fire TV), and even Apple TV.
In addition, while this is not the case for all classes, there are some lessons you can watch offline. Again, while it is important to stress that this isn't the case for every lesson or every course, this is something that the vast majority of other platforms charge extra for. TreeHouse, as an example, requires you to pay for the Courses Plus or the Techdegree plans (both considerably more expensive than either their base plan or MasterClass overall) in order to watch or use lessons while offline.
Impressively, MasterClass also grants its students access to an online community known as “The Hub”. There, people can network and interact with one another. There, you can come together with fellow students to get feedback and go over different topics as well as practice different learned skills from the classes.
The downside to the platform's community, however, comes by way of the fact that, because the platform doesn't present itself as a more stereotypical classroom or online educational setting, very few people actually feel the need to confer with one another as they likely would on other platforms.
That said, as more people begin to use the platform, invariably the community section will begin to grow and increase in overall size, making it much more reliable as a result.
How Much Does MasterClass Actually Cost?
Originally, MasterClass had a number of different cost choices. As of now, however, they have largely deferred to their annual charge of $180 per year.
Is MasterClass Expensive?
No matter where you go when talking about MasterClass, the pricing is always up for heated debate on either side. Some people feel that the price is a steal when compared to every other online learning platform's annual price tag, while others feel that the value that you get from MasterClass is objectively lower than that of other said platforms.
Here, we're going to briefly go over it so that you can gauge for yourself whether you feel the price is justified or not.
Interface Design & Visual Quality
The first thing people will notice about MasterClass is its interface design and visual quality. Both of these things have been recognized again and again, with many regarding videos on MasterClass as being on the level of television shows.
While this in and of itself wouldn't justify the price, the fact that it is heads and shoulders more impressive than any of the other platforms while having a price as low as it does, comparatively, makes it that much more reasonable as a consequence.
Subject Matter & Additional Content
Again, MasterClass lives and dies by its subject matter library. With well over 100 different classes across its 10+ different subjects, it has a larger pool of different and varied options compared to almost all other MOOCs out there.
In addition, the amount of additional content offered with the platform, while not wholly expansive, is pretty impressive. In this case, we're talking about the written workbooks. These books can either be printed or turned into a PDF.
The workbooks have notes from the instructors as well as links to different and more compelling things that greatly supplement the class information with different tools to get even more out of the class.
User Accessibility & Community Options
MasterClass is incredibly accessible as a learning option. Whereas most other MOOCs can primarily only be learned while at a computer, this isn't the case for MasterClass. Here, you can learn from any smartphone or smart tablet. You can also use various tv apps, such as Roku or Firestick, in order to watch the lesson on your television.
The community options, unfortunately, are nowhere near as in-depth or thriving as they are with other learning options. This is largely due to the lack of an incentive as well as most people taking a less serious approach to learning on the site.
Accreditation & Practical Use
First things first, it's important to clear up any myths regarding accreditation or certification when it comes to online learning platforms. While certain options, like edX, offer certificates that are accredited for higher education or potential job positions, that actually isn't the norm. In reality, these are very rare, with the majority only helping accentuate your portfolio with specific IT projects. Still, these added projects don't assure a position in any firm and will largely require additional factors to confirm a job position.
That said, while MasterClass does not have any of these factors going for it, it is a bit unfair to use that wholly against them. Still, the fact of the matter is that, while completing a course from Codecademy or TreeHouse may not guarantee you a job position, they do look better on a resume than any knowledge or completion gained from MasterClass, which will have all of no sway on whether an employer will actually hire you for a position.
Similarly, while many other MOOCs will result in an education that is recognized, to varying degrees, as being around the university level, MasterClass' courses and lessons aren't as educationally focused. As I said earlier, the vast majority of users on MasterClass use it as a fun or casual way to pick up some extra knowledge on a task, with only a very small number currently trying to treat it as an actual form of education.
Not only that, but many of the courses are inherently a bit less practical than many would like. While improving your chess or cooking skills are certainly doable, understanding more of the universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson may be much more of a theoretical situation that won't exactly prove useful in any situation.
When taking everything into consideration, while certainly, the cost is not incredibly affordable for absolutely everyone, there is more than enough content available (and at the level of quality it is presented in) on the platform that the price tag is certainly reasonable.
That said, if you are someone looking to grow in their career, if you only have the money for one option, it would probably be better to invest in one of the other platform's courses or plans and come back to MasterClass to help with things that are more of a hobby.
Do They Offer a Certificate upon Completion?
Unfortunately, one of the most noticeable drawbacks to MasterClass is the fact that they do not offer any form of a certificate upon completion. As the lessons are not graded and are more for general understanding as opposed to actual course knowledge, there is no final exam that is graded in order to “pass”.
When you do complete the final lesson in the class, you can download and print out a congratulatory document that acknowledges your completion of the course. That said, this has no bearing in any way towards a potential job or higher education. Similarly, as it can be downloaded at virtually any time, it is largely meant as a way to show that the class in question has been completed.
Again, this form is not any form of certificate and has no established significance at all, and should not be confused with any certificate that you'd get on other platforms.
Who Actually Benefits the Most from MasterClass?
Those that benefit the most from MasterClass are largely individuals that aren't actually looking for a deep online education. If you understand that the platform is much more casual and entertaining compared to the learning alternatives, one can actually get a fair amount of knowledge and information from the courses. Similarly, if you are looking to improve in any of these areas, MasterClass is an excellent supplement for any established course you are working on outside of the platform.
For those that are seeking an established education similar to that of Coursera or Codecademy, they may not find this to be that useful for them.