MasterClass is, without a doubt, one of the most talked-about online learning platforms out there. In the online learning community, MasterClass is mainly known for two things – its Hollywood-level production quality and countless A-list celebrity instructors.
But, as with all learning platforms, the long-term success comes down to the quality of the content. Beautiful sets and A-listers are great for marketing, but if there is no legitimate educational value to the platform, the students will eventually be looking elsewhere.
Looking at some statistics, the content seems to be of value. According to Nekisa Cooper, the VP of Content of MasterClass, about 75% of Masterclass have moved beyond their initial class category of choice.
For example, people who are initially drawn to business classes tend to go for music courses next. While people from the sports and games category head over to improve their culinary skills next.
Data such as this drew me to see what all the fuss was about. With great excitement, I purchased the annual membership of MasterClass. And, having now taken several MasterClass courses in full, I can finally share my thoughts on this online learning platform.
So, is there more to MasterClass than glossy production and celebrity endorsements? Let’s find out.
Table of Contents
What is MasterClass?
MasterClass is an American online education platform established in 2015 by David Rogier and Aaron Rasmussen. MasterClass online courses typically take 2-5 hours to finish in full and feature practical exercises, video lessons, and PDF-workbooks. The selection of courses is extremely varied.
You have practical classes on hard skills such as video game design and poker. And, you also have a huge selection of classes on soft skills such as negotiation and leadership. These, of course, are only some examples from the massive course catalog of MasterClass.
To give you a clearer idea of what to expect from this learning platform, I listed the 11 categories of MasterClass courses.
- Arts & entertainment (notable instructors: Natalie Portman, Jodie Foster)
- Music (notable instructors: Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, deadmau5, Hans Zimmer)
- Writing (notable instructors: Neil Gaiman, Dan Brown, Malcolm Gladwell)
- Food (notable instructors: Gordon Ramsay, Massimo Bottura
- Business (notable instructors: Chris Voss, Bob Iger)
- Design & style (notable instructors: RuPaul, Annie Leibovitz, Marc Jacobs)
- Sports & gaming (notable instructors: Tony Hawk, Serena Williams, Garry Kasparov)
- Science & tech (notable instructors: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Chris Hadfield)
- Home & lifestyle (notable instructors: Kelly Wearstler)
- Community & government (notable instructors: Paul Krugman, Dr. Jane Goodall)
- Wellness (notable instructors: Jon Kabat-Zinn, Joe Holder)
Even name-dropping a small part of all the instructors of MasterClass, the list of tutors is awe-inspiring. This is because MasterClass has a strict policy of only working with “renowned personalities from their respective fields.”
Thus, MasterClass can boast the most impressive tutor list of all online learning platforms.
Who created MasterClass?
MasterClass was created by Aaron Rasmussen and David Rogier.
Rogier came up with the idea for an innovative online learning platform while a student at the prestigious Stanford University. He then asked his friend, Rasmussen, to join the company as a co-founder, chief technology officer, and creative director. Together, the two men fleshed out the concept of MasterClass in its current form.
Since Rasmussen decided to part ways with MasterClass in 2017, Rogier is currently the sole founding member still part of the company. Rogier also continues to serve as the CEO of the company.
In addition to his work with MasterClass, Rogier is also a public speaker (despite his open struggles with a stutter) and a well-known angel investor.
His accomplishments have also garnered him various accolades. In 2020, the “40 under 40” list of Fortune magazine named Rogier as one of the most influential leaders in media and entertainment. The same year also saw Variety taking note of Rogier by naming him in their Hollywood’s New Leaders list.
How much does MasterClass cost?
In 2021, MasterClass changed its business model from selling individual classes to only offering an annual subscription, which continues to be the case in 2022. Whether this is good news or not depends on your dedication to online learning. If you are strictly planning on purchasing one MasterClass course, the benefit-cost ratio might be a bit off.
In that case, I would advise going through the MasterClass library and see whether more courses on the subject of your interest are available.
A full annual subscription to MasterClass costs $180 per year. Or right around $15 per month. The annual subscription includes unlimited access to a library of 100+ expert-led online courses on all platforms. It is also worth mentioning that the MasterClass catalog is constantly evolving as new courses pop up on almost a weekly basis.
In addition to the video lessons, the subscription also includes access to the dynamic MasterClass community, downloadable workbooks, and even offline lessons. In a nutshell, MasterClass will give a dedicated learner plenty of content to chew on.
And, while we are on the subject of payment, the refund policy of MasterClass is also worth mentioning.
MasterClass is confident enough in its service to offer a satisfaction guarantee. So, if a student decides that the content is not up to par with his/her expectations, he/she is eligible for a no-questions-asked refund within 30 days after purchasing the annual membership.
In a nutshell, the service can be tried entirely free of risk. For those already decided on making the purchase, read on as we will list the favorite MasterClasses of E-student.
What MasterClasses we reviewed
Here’s a selection of the MasterClass courses we tested during our review:
“Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling”
“Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling” is a MasterClass for all aspiring and experienced novelists, screenwriters, and comic book authors. Here, the fantasy maestro Neil Gaiman helps creatives reach their maximum potential.
The Neil Gaiman MasterClass is brimming with actionable writing techniques, tips for enhancing self-creativity, and interesting stories from Gaiman’s own career. The whole class feels like a friendly, intimate conversation with one of the most well-loved writers of our time.
“Bob Iger Teaches Business Strategy and Leadership”
In “Bob Iger Teaches Business Strategy and Leadership”, Bob Iger breaks down all the essentials of running a successful business while also being a great leader for a team.
The MasterClass is full of engaging stories from Iger’s own career. In this class, you will also get a detailed view of some of the largest deals in movie industry history, such as the Disney acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel. Not perfect, but it’s a good class for people owning or planning on starting a business.
“Chris Voss Teaches the Art of Negotiation”
“Chris Voss Teaches the Art of Negotiation” is my personal favorite of all the MasterClasses I have taken thus far. A highly captivating negotiation class led by the world’s number one business negotiation expert, the one and only Mr. Chris Voss.
In this MasterClass, Voss teaches you how to become a master communicator, both in your daily interactions and in high-stakes scenarios.
This MasterClass is practical, entertaining, and beneficial to people from all walks of life. For me, the Chris Voss course alone made the MasterClass membership a worthy investment.
“Jon Kabat-Zinn Teaches Mindfulness and Meditation”
“Jon Kabat-Zinn Teaches Mindfulness and Meditation” is a mindfulness course for people skeptical of spiritual practices. The instructor, Kabat-Zinn, is one of the pioneers of Western mindfulness.
In his MasterClass, he teaches students scientifically proven ways of using mindfulness to reduce stress, improve sleep, and even manage pain. This is a great class for anyone looking to improve their daily well-being.
Pros and Cons of MasterClass
Now, it’s time to summarize what I liked and didn’t like about the MasterClass learning experience.
To begin with, let’s go over the biggest advantages of MasterClass:
Excellent production value of the online courses
Production-wise, all the MasterClass online courses are in a league of their own. The courses are well-produced, with excellent cameras and professional editing. The video lessons come with crystal clear audio and video, and many of the courses feature additional clips on the subject matter.
For example, the Chris Voss MasterClass, focused on negotiation tactics, features legitimate audio and video recordings from various hostage negotiations.
Clips such as these further enhance the educational value of the MasterClass courses. And, they also make the lessons significantly more captivating and entertaining than the classes of other similar learning platforms. After years of taking online courses, I’ve grown used to bland content where the lecturers do nothing but talk in front of a green screen, but MasterClass goes the extra mile in every way to make their courses presentable and engaging.
Thus, as far as the course quality goes, MasterClass is unparalleled in its approach.
Variety of classes
Are there any other online learning platform subscriptions that offer expert-led courses on both gardening and US presidential history?
Despite a relatively small course catalog, the MasterClass content library covers a very broad range of topics. The course list includes disciplines such as singing, cooking, guitar, acting, photography, and interior design. Also present are topics that people would not expect to see in the average learning platform, such as space exploration.
In this regard, I think MasterClass has one of the most diverse collections of online courses on any knowledge marketplace. Plus, the selection gets updated on almost a weekly basis. So, whether you are into science, personal development, or spirituality, you will find a befitting online course from MasterClass.
And, all of them are expert-led, unlike alternatives such as Udemy which tend to be very hit-or-miss in terms of their instruction quality. This is the next big advantage of the platform I’d like to discuss.
Consistency of instruction quality
What do people like James Cameron, Armin Van Buuren, Gordon Ramsay, and Neil Gaiman have in common? They are all some of the most well-respected and influential people from their fields. They are also all subject matter experts who have spent considerable time mastering their respective fields.
And, they are also MasterClass teachers.
MasterClass has arguably the most tightly curated content and instructor selection of all online learning platforms. Their online courses are led by leading scientists, influential business strategists, and legendary CEOs. In the arts and entertainment category, you will even find courses led by Hollywood A-listers like Samuel L. Jackson and Natalie Portman.
I have yet to come across another online learning platform with such a high course-instructor quality consistency as MasterClass. There are alternatives such as Skillshare that sometimes boast an impressive selection of instructors as well, but their line-up still does not come close to that of MasterClass.
So, Whichever MasterClass online course you end up choosing, you can rest assured that the instructors know their field and that the content is of high quality. MasterClass vets all their instructors very carefully.
Excellent user experience
Of all the learning platforms I have tested, the user experience of MasterClass is the best of the bunch. Perhaps rivaled only by Mindvalley. Whether you are new to online learning or have tried several e-learning platforms before, you will have no trouble getting to know the interface and finding exactly what you need.
I like how the online courses are split into clear categories. There is a separate section for each discipline, such as cooking, music, and photography. In fact, even within a category such as music, there are subcategories you can choose from – vocal training and guitar lessons to name two.
And, after enrolling in an online course on MasterClass, you’ll enjoy the simple and effective online course dashboard, navigation, and the ease of jumping right back into where you left off, similarly to Netflix. In fact, that’s the best comparison I could make: MasterClass feels like watching Netflix, but instead of watching The Office for the sixth time, you are learning from experts.
Now that we covered the advantages of MasterClass, it’s also time to go over the cons. After all, no platform is perfect.
These are the main disadvantages of the MasterClass online learning platform:
No option of purchasing individual classes
During most of its lifetime, MasterClass used a business model of selling lifetime access to individual classes. However, as of 2021, MasterClass is only available as a subscription service. So, people interested only in a single course must carefully examine whether the annual subscription is worth it.
While the selection of courses on the platform is superb, I would still have liked at least the option to pay for programs one-by-one. Not everyone wants to have active subscriptions on their credit card, and not everyone wants to have access to the entire course library.
But, considering the age of subscription services we currently live in, I doubt that we’ll ever see individual online class purchases becoming available on MasterClass again. More and more online learning platforms are slowly switching to monthly or yearly subscription services, and it’s just the way the tides go I guess.
Lack of content on tech topics
While the MasterClass line-up of courses is excellent for writers, filmmakers, designers, and other creatives, the same cannot be said for programmers or coders. The platform is seriously lacking in content for techies, and as someone who is interested in the digital world, I would love to see MasterClass get some tech celebrities on its platform.
I want to see Steve Wozniak teaching programming or Vitalik Buterin teaching Ethereum with the same MasterClass-level content quality I have gotten used to. But maybe that’s just overly wishful thinking – after all, the platform is largely targeted towards students interested in learning the intricacies of arts and entertainment.
Still, on a personal level, the lack of content on these types of topics is a serious disadvantage for me personally.
Review conclusion: Is MasterClass worth the subscription cost?
Having now taken several MasterClass courses in full, I can confidently say that MasterClass is indeed worth the investment. I must admit that the celebrity tutors and the shiny marketing had me wary at first. But, there is legitimate value to be found in all of the MasterClass courses I have taken.
MasterClass has a very impressive list of instructors and top-notch content quality to support the celebrity line-up of instructors. But, none of these tutors have just phoned in the content for a quick check. All of the syllabi are carefully developed to have a genuinely positive impact on the lives of the students.
The sheer entertainment factor of MasterClass makes it easy to get lost watching and forget that this is a learning experience after all. Throughout this review, I compared MasterClass to Netflix and it’s really perhaps the most accurate way to describe it. Think of Netflix, but swap out TV shows with learning content from experts: that’s what the platform boils down to.
For a student willing to go the distance and do the work, the $180 membership fee is a good deal. However, I would have loved to be able to buy courses separately, and I would also would have liked to have more content on technology, programming, and other tech-topics. But, for now, that’s not the focus of the platform, and let’s be clear: what they do have available is almost always top-notch quality.
Overall, I strongly recommend the platform, as long as you’re interested in the subjects covered.