MasterClass Review: Why All The Hype?

Catherine Cooke

11 April, 2020

MasterClass

Masterclass Review

MasterClass is the celebrity-powered educational community. This platform is a bit different, as it has VIPs teaching online courses. For example, you can learn basketball from Stephen Curry, acting from Natalie Portman or cook ‘with’ Gordon Ramsay.

This San Francisco elearning platform was founded in 2014, right now you can find about 80 classes (courses) on it. Each class has an average of 20 lessons (each lesson is about 10 minutes).

But of course, you want to know if MasterClass is something other than flashy names and superb videos. Ultimately, you want to know if you’ll really learn a craft with its courses.

To find all that out, I’ve written this detailed MasterClass review.

Fun

The first thing to note about MasterClass is that its courses and lessons are fun, perhaps this is because you get to watch celebrities teaching you something you are passionate about.

Well Produced

After watching 10 seconds of the first video, you’ll realize that MasterClass videos have been very nicely put together. They have a very engaging cinematic aura.

Top Instructors

Of course, a big selling point of the MasterClass is getting to learn a craft from worldwide recognized professionals. For example, Gordon Ramsay teaches cooking, bestseller author Dan Brown teaching writing or Spike Lee filmmaking.

Affordable

MasterClass is cheap if you compare it to other educational platforms, however, it also has very few courses compared to alternatives like Udemy or Skillshare.

Generous Refund Policy

After you purchase your MasterClass membership account, you’ll have 30 days to request a refund, not bad at all.

No Free Courses

Sadly there aren’t any free courses with MasterClass, so you won’t be able to check any course before you subscribe to it.

Not The Greatest Community

Of course, don’t expect Spike Lee to (online) answer your questions about how to best set a camera for a certain scene. The instructors are the face of the class and they won’t be engaging with the community too much. This is something they should work at.

Very Few Courses

Another issue is that you won’t be able to find many courses at MasterClass, currently they have less than 100. Other platforms offer thousands for similar prices (of course not as well produced as MasterClass’)

Educational Goals

Even if the courses have some structure and goals in place, there isn’t that much educational value. It’s more of a TED Talk (on steroids) about a topic.

Only Certain Topics

MasterClass doesn’t have the largest range of topics available. You can find courses in sports, filmmaking, cuisine, writing, business, science and politics.

Can’t Read Reviews

There is a 5-star review system for all the courses, however, you can’t really read reviews from past students. So that makes you wonder, where those reviews came from, and how come all the courses are between 4.5 to 4.7?

MasterClass Review Verdict

MasterClass is a good option for those looking to enhance already existing skills with the experience of top instructors. It certainly has more of a motivational vibe than formal educational goals. It’s also really well produced, so you’ll enjoy the lessons.

Who Is MasterClass For?

This is a tricky question as MasterClass is a bit different than other educational platforms. I would say that MasterClass should appeal to:

Professionals or enthusiasts that have already deep knowledge of the topic. Checking out a MasterClass course will (most likely) motivate you to keep on improving and perhaps it’ll teach you a couple of things you didn’t know.

If you are a big fan of the instructor, it may be a good idea to watch his/her MasterClass. For example, if you are a basketball point guard and love the way Stephen Curry plays, watching his course may be eye-opening – but don’t expect to get his 3-pointer stats.

However, if you are looking to learn a craft from scratch, MasterClass courses won’t be your best alternative. There are other platforms like Skillshare, Udacity or Udemy that will fulfil more educational goals.

How Much Are MasterClass Courses Really?

One MasterClass course can cost you between $70 and $90 (lifetime access). You can use a credit card (Visa, MasterCard, AmEx or Discovery) and PayPal to purchase from MasterClass.

There is also a MasterClass membership account that will give you access to all the courses of this educational platform (about 80 at the moment). The price tag for the full-access account is $180 per year.

To cancel your renewal membership, you’ll need to send an email to MasterClass’ support (support@masterclass.com), there’s not a direct way to request this from its interface – meh.

MasterClass 2 passes offer

MasterClass 2 passes offer

At times MasterClass runs a promotion where you can get a 2×1 account for the same price (e.g. you could give 1 account to a friend). But be aware that this extra account is only free the first year after you’ll be requested to pay the full price for it.

If you think that a friend or a loved one can benefit from a MasterClass course or account, you can buy a gift card for them from MasterClass’ website.

There is a refund period of 30 days, which is quite good especially if we consider that there isn’t a free trial or free courses to assess MasterClass’ quality.

How To Open A MasterClass Account?

MasterClass makes it very easy to open an account with them. Follow these steps:

How to open an account with MasterClass

Register with MasterClass

  1. Visit MasterClass.com and click on ‘Get Started’ (see image above)
  2. Choose to log in with your own email, Facebook account or Google account
  3. Confirm your email ( or Facebook or Google account)

That’s it, it’s that easy.

Examples Of The Most Popular MasterClass Course

Let me share with you what kind of courses you can find at MasterClass, 4 examples for you:

Stephen Curry Teaches Basketball at MasterClass

Stephen Curry teaches basketball at MasterClass

  1. Chris Hadfield Teaches Space Exploration – This retired astronaut from Canada has created a MasterClass (or at least put his name on it) to ’share the hidden depths of purpose that are behind space exploration’. Passed students rated this course at 4.5 out of 5.
  1. Stephen Curry Teaches Shooting, Ball-Handling, and Scoring – In less than 4 hours, this course will teach you some good tips if you are a point guard and looking to improve your game. Other students gave 4.5 (out of 5) feedback to this course.
  1. Samuel L. Jackson Teaches Acting – This (almost) Academy Award winner has 4 hours and 47 minutes about acting. Passed students gave the course a 4.5 out of 5, and some of the lectures touch topics like physical characterization, creating a character or how to work with directors.
  2. Daniel Negreanu Teaches Poker – With two World Poker Tour championship titles, this professional poker player will (try to) teach you how to understand the position, review hands, game theory and tournament strategy in under 8 hours. Passed students rated this course (again) with a 4.5 out of 5.

Evaluation of MasterClass Courses

Browse the categories

MasterClass makes it easy for you to browse its collection of courses, its 80+ courses are organized in several topics.

Master Class Categories

Master Class Categories

You can find courses about films and TV, games and sports, business, politics, culinary arts, writing, music and more.

Video presentation

Each MasterClass course comes with a very rounded video that is presented by the instructor of the course, they also mention what will you learn and what to expect from them.

MasterClass review a course

Masterclass video presentation

I have to say that they are very convincing, candlelight short shots with haunting music and a great script. They feel more like a film trailer than a course introduction – hell, they are even called ‘Class Trailer’ (see screenshot above).

Remember, the purpose of this ‘Course Trailer’ video is to make you purchase a MasterClass account, so don’t get seduced for its swankiness and try to really assess if it’ll be the best option for you.

Class sample

In addition to the Course Trailer (see the section above), there’s also a sample class where you can get a feel of how a usual lesson is. But being 100% honest, it’s very difficult to get an idea of what to expect with this sample class in a 3-minute video.

Refund the course/your subscription

Since there aren’t many good ways to judge the quality of a course as MasterClass lacks a proper review system, and there isn’t a course syllabus you can check, the best option you have is to purchase the course (or a membership MasterClass account) and refund it before 30-days if you are unhappy with it.

CriteriaComment
Ease of use

MasterClass is easy to use, as it’s well-structured and the user experience is smooth.

Opening an account is also straightforward: use your own email or your Facebook or Google account to access MasterClass.

Convenience

There isn’t a set date where courses start, so you can learn at your own pace.

With their iOS app, you’ll be able to download lessons to watch them offline. Strangely, this option isn’t available for Android or desktop users.

Available platforms

You can enjoy MasterClass on your desktop and Apple and Android mobile devices. Android and iOS users have rated the apps with great feedback (4.8 and 4.9 respectably).

It’s also possible to watch the lessons on your smart TV. Since the courses are beautifully produced, you may want to enjoy them on a larger screen.

Official certifications:

MasterClass won’t offer you any completion certificate. Check educational communities like Coursera or edX if you need one.

Categories

There are only a few topics that MasterClass covers. You’ll find courses about film and TV, music, cooking, writing, business, politics, sports and games, design, fashion, photography and science.

However, some categories may have only 1 or 2 classes (e.g. the science).

Free courses

MasterClass doesn’t offer free courses.

Content quality

MasterClass creates its own content, and they produce the courses amazingly. However, the content itself is normally nothing groundbreaking. In my opinion classes are more of a TED talk than a proper course.

Languages

The courses are only available in English, with subtitles available. Some courses (about 5) do offer subtitles in Spanish and German.

Instructors

Of course, the instructors (or Celebrities) are a major selling point of MasterClass, they are big figures in their industry.

However, there’s not a teacher-student exchange, it’s more like a seminar from a VIP. Also, in my experience there’s barely any follow up on the questions students may have.

Course requirements

There aren’t any formal requirements for the courses, anyone can join.

Course structure

MasterClass normally offers courses that are 20 lessons long and each lesson is about 10 minutes.

Each course has a video-presentation that you can watch before enrolling. It’s also possible to watch a lesson sample, but you won’t find on the course page much information about it or a syllabus.

Quizzes & tests

MasterClass courses don’t have quizzes that you can complete to assess your progress. There aren’t either any mandatory assignments, but every course will have some sort of optional interactive resource for you to complete.

There is a PDF workbook you can follow to get more juice out of each lesson as it summarizes it’s key learnings.

Payments & refunds

Use PayPal or a credit card (MasterCard, Visa, AmEx or Discovery) to purchase from MasterClass. There is a 30-day refund policy.

Support

MasterClass claims to have an around the clock support team, 7 days a week. You can reach them via email. You may have to wait to hear back from them.

MasterClass’ knowledge base is complete and easy to use. Most of the time it answered my questions about MasterClass.

Overall rating

MasterClass is a great platform if you are looking for inspirational videos with very famous professionals. However, other platforms like Udemy, Coursera or Skillshare are focused on learning and enhancing already existing skills.

Will MasterClass Help Me With My Career?

I doubt any employer will give you a raise or a new position because you’ve watched a MasterClass course.

Do you imagine reaching out to Warner Bros asking for the lead role on its next Batman or Superman movie on the grounds that you watch Samuel L. Jackson 5 hours acting course?

That won’t happen, will it?

But you may pick a couple of good tips from Samuel’s course that may give you a confidence boost, or listening to Samuel’s old stories may motivate you to pursue your acting career.

Is MasterClass Legit?

Totally, MasterClass is a legit company and it does what it says. They won’t scam you. However, as I said during this MasterClass review, its approach is a bit different and far from MOOC (Massive open online course) institutions such as edX, Udemy or Coursera.

If you are a big fan of one of the instructors, and you would like to hear her or his stories, and get a couple of tips on how they perform their craft, you’ll be happy with MasterClass. You’ll be extremely disappointed if you expect a MasterClass course to teach you a skill or a craft.

MasterClass space exploration course

Space Exploration course at MasterClass

How is Chris Hadfield (former NASA official) going to teach any of us how to become an astronaut from our bedroom with an 8-hour course? But if you are passionate about space exploration, you may enjoy what he has to say – perhaps a cool space documentary is what you are looking for.

Last Thoughts: Is MasterClass Worth It?

I have mixed feelings about MasterClass. Let me explain myself:

I do appreciate the power of having top instructors (celebrities) to grab someone’s attention, in fact, some of their stories can be very motivational. I also acknowledge that the course production (the video lessons) is top, some filmmakers would like their movies to look as good.

But I do think that MasterClass courses won’t teach anyone a skill from zero, they feel more like a seminar with a VIP. On top of that, finding information and feedback from other students is nearly impossible. In my opinion, the MasterClass community is not the most engaging one, primarily because it’s difficult to get instructors to answer questions.

A MasterClass yearly membership is not too expensive when compared to other educational communities. However, their course offer is very limited. Also, no certificates issued at completion.

All in all, I would encourage you to check Skillshare if you are looking for top educational courses with reputed professionals, or Coursera and edX if you are looking to earn an accredited certificate.

Catherine Cooke

Hey. I am Catherine and have been working as a freelancer for many years now and I believe that you are in charge of your own destiny. If learning a new skill or having a career change is something you want to do, then there is no better time than the present. If you have a question please feel free to ask me anything or leave me a comment.

Alternatives

Udemy: You won’t find celebrities teaching at Udemy, and the video courses may be sloppier produced, but when it comes to content, you can be assured that some of its courses are going to be more practical and effective than MasterClasses’ – they actually will teach you something.

Skillshare: Most instructors are normal people, however, Skillshare has some (almost) celebrities teaching courses, and the course quality is actually very high. For example, you can watch an SEO course from Rand Fishkin – probably the most famous SEO expert out there.

Coursera: If you are after a platform that offers more formal education (e.g. accredited completion certificates) and has better-structured courses and educational goals in place, Coursera (or edX) may be what you are looking for.

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