Skillshare might not have a course on “How to Enjoy Learning” (although this one comes pretty close), but if you’re seriously considering using their online platform to acquire new knowledge, then you’ve likely already developed this important life skill.
Michael Karnjanaprakorn and Malcolm Ong are the godfathers of Skillshare, having created the platform while living in New York in November 2010. The platform has evolved into what we see today: A thriving marketplace for learners and teachers. It has been steadily making its mark as the go-to digital platform for elective online learning since its inception over 10 years ago.
We took Skillshare for a spin with a Premium access trial and can’t wait to show you what we found. Read on to find our comprehensive—and honest—review of Skillshare, updated for 2023.
Table of Contents
What is Skillshare?
Skillshare is a digital platform designed to connect students (you!) with online courses taught by real-world experts, creators, entrepreneurs, and professionals. It’s built to teach anyone anything.
Course subjects span the gamut but typically revolve around sharing desirable creative and entrepreneurial skills. You can find classes like securing your WordPress site or how to paint fantasy woodlands in watercolor. All it takes is a quick search of their database to find a course built to teach you what you want to learn. If you’re not exactly sure where your curiosities are taking you, users can browse courses via predetermined categories on the site. These are always growing and changing together with the course content and include the following mind-bogglingly long list in 2023:
Animation, Drawing, Graphic Design, Illustration, Photography, 2d Animation, 3D Animation, 3D Design, 3D Modeling, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, Art, Calligraphy, Character Design, Cinematography, Comic Art, Concept Art, Copywriting, Creative Writing, Design, Digital Illustration, Digital Painting, Digital Photography, Editing, Fashion, Figure Drawing, Film Production, Fine Art, Hand Lettering, Handwriting, Lettering, Lifestyle Photography, Logo Design, Motion Graphics, Music, Music Production, Painting, Pattern Design, Photo Editing, Photo Retouching, Photographic Composition, Portrait Photography, Product Design, Publishing, Sketching, Sketchup, Storytelling, Street Photography, Surface Pattern Design, Typography, UI Design, UI/UX Design, UX Design, Vector Graphics, Video Editing, Videography, Voice Over, Watercolor, Web Design, Writing
Entrepreneurship, Freelance & Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Marketing, Productivity, Accounting, Bitcoin, Blogging, Branding, Business Analytics, Content Marketing, Data Visualization, Finance, Management, Microsoft Excel, Powerpoint, Project Management, Public Speaking, SEO, Social Media Marketing
Crafts, Culinary, Gaming, Health & Wellness, Languages, Baking, Cooking, Embroidery, Fashion Design, Flower Arranging, Interior Design, Jewelry Design, Knitting, Makeup, Pattern Making, Screen Printing, Sewing, T-Shirt Design
As you can see from these categories, the creative courses dominate on Skillshare (and I would say that most of the “lifestyle” categories could just as easily be labeled “creative”). If you find these categories a bit too much, Skillshare also narrows things down for you and lets you also browse by just 16 subcategories under the the headings of “Create,” “Build,” and Thrive.
But regardless of what you are looking for, since there are thousands of Skillshare courses to choose from, chances are high that you’ll find a relevant course for your knowledge gap.
Note that in 2022, Skillshare also launched Learning Paths to help you select among the huge variety of courses on the platform. These are curated collections of high-quality courses on popular topics. As of 2023, the number of topics covered is still quite limited at only 60+, but they are still regularly adding more, and the list of current learning paths is a good place to start your exploration of Skillshare.
Are Skillshare courses accredited?
Many users wonder, “Are Skillshare courses accredited?” The answer is no—since Skillshare is neither a school nor college, none of their courses will earn you “certificates” in the same way that other learning institutions can underwrite your accomplishments. Courses on Skillshare are in general produced by individual creators, and while there is in theory nothing stopping them from seeking accreditation with external bodies for their courses, I have never seen this in practice. For those who are, in fact, seeking accredited online courses, you should consider checking out other e-learning platforms such as Coursera or edX instead of Skillshare.
Most Popular Skillshare Courses
To give you a better idea of what is being offered on the platform, here is a list of some of the most popular courses on the platform at the time of writing:
- Digital Illustration for All: Discover, Cultivate and Share Your Unique Personal Style with Laci Jordan
- Writing The Truth: How to Start Writing Your Memoir with Mary Karr
- Character Animation Basics: Create a Dance Loop with After Effects and Photoshop with Bee Grandinetti
- Instagram-Worthy Photography: Shoot, Edit & Share with Brandon Woelfel
- Discovering Success: 7 Exercises to Uncover Your Purpose, Passion & Path with Emma Gannon
- Fun With Faces: Create a Stylised Digital Portrait with Charly Clements
- Style Your Space: Creative Tips and Techniques for Interior Design with Emily Henderson
- Mastering Color: Simple Steps to Create Vivid Art with Victo Ngai
- Productivity Masterclass: Create a Custom System that Works with Thomas Frank
With over 6,000 “teacher contributors on Skillshare,” there is a lot of talent on the platform that is vying for your attention. This includes many who are otherwise not widely known but who feel they have an important skill to share with others. But it also includes some particularly notable experts who are sharing content on the platform, including:
- Marc Eckō—entrepreneurship and brand creation
- Young Guru—audio mixing and recording
- Jessica Hische—lettering
- Guy Kawasaki—entrepreneurship
- Paula Scher—graphic design
- Yuko Shimizu—inking and drawing techniques
How does Skillshare Work?
Skillshare members get instant access to the platform’s course catalog. There used to be such a thing as a free membership that gave you access to a subset of courses, but this has been discontinued (and replaced with a free 30-day trial that gives you access to everything). All you need to do is conduct a search for your target skill to find dozens, sometimes hundreds or thousands, of related courses to choose from.
For instance, a quick search for “painting” classes yields over 6,000 results in 2023. You can easily refine your search with the built-in platform filters based on the following factors:
- Whether a course is a Skillshare Original or a Staff Pick
- Course difficulty (Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced)
- Course length (How in-depth do you want your training to be? Do you prefer courses that are less than 15 minutes in length or more than 60 minutes long?)
- How old is the course? Was it recently published? Are the tips still relevant today?
Once you’ve found a class that piques your interest, you can assess course quality by reading both its “About” section and reviews from past students. Clicking around to the “Discussions” or “Project & Resources” will give you a clearer picture of course contents and expectations. If it’s a good fit, you can get started immediately by simply starting to play the videos of the course.
Accessing the courses is very convenient. You can keep your courses in your pocket via your phone or fire them up in your workspace from your laptop. Because Skillshare classes are pre-recorded, you can learn on your own time, at your own pace. No more class interruptions from Full-Of-Questions-Timmy or Constantly-Cracking-Jokes-Tommy.
Thanks to the offline feature in the app, you can also easily take your learning on the road – very helpful for commutes with shaky internet connections and similar
Thanks to the “Discover” feature on the mobile app, you can get personalized recommendations based on your course participation and search history. This is a great feature if you’re hungry to learn but you’re not quite sure what you want to learn just yet.
A note on live courses on Skillshare
Note that there used to be Skillshare Workshops that grouped courses into packages that were taken on a specific schedule alongside other students. This was followed by the launch of live Chroma Courses in 2021. However, these were both discontinued and as of 2023, neither of these features are available any more.
Pro tip: Get Ideas in the Student Projects
Visual learners might consider browsing course options by viewing the Student Projects (previously the “Project Gallery”) in your Skillshare account. Here, you can see actual examples of completed work by other Skillshare members, as this photo gallery quickly displays the “final results” of others’ class selections and personal learnings. If you want, you can filter the gallery by Trending, Most Recent, and Top Voted projects, not to mention similar categories from the site’s “Course Browse” functionality.
When you come across an image that captures your ideal project outcome, click on the image to learn more details not only about the creator, but also the actual course they took to create such a masterpiece!
There used to be a “Groups” feature in Skillshare, which allowed you to connect with other learners in topic communities, but as of 2023, the Student Projects is the main way in which to connect with other students (which is a bit of a pity, as it excludes some of the less creativity-focused topics).
Review of Skillshare Pricing & Costs
No Skillshare review is complete without talking about the bottom line, so let’s get to it. Skillshare used to have a free membership with a range of free courses but has replaced this with only a paid membership and a one-month free trial.
Skillshare’s premium membership, which gives you access to the full catalog of 30,000+ courses, costs $32 per month if you pay monthly, or $168 for a full year if you choose to be billed annually ($14 monthly). To get 30 days of premium membership for free, use our Skillshare link.
My Review of Skillshare Courses
My honest Skillshare review? They knock it out of the park for me in a few big ways. First, the courses are both easy to find and easy to match my goals. The provided course descriptions, reviews, and project outlines help me understand quickly whether or not the course will meet my needs.
The courses are broken up into “chapters” as short videos, which means I can easily replay parts of the course where I feel I have more to learn. This ease of jumping back and forth between content helps me get the most out of the course.
The Skillshare dashboard is a wealth of inspiration. Given that most classes are short on Skillshare, the ability to quickly navigate to my saved lists of classes, see courses my favorite teachers are facilitating, and even view what’s hot across the platform—becomes important to stay motivated and inspired to learn new things.
The drawbacks of Skillshare are essential to consider and why I awarded the platform 4.2 out of 5 stars. Although they have been making strides in this regard in the last two years or so, the platform also has weak quality control for instructors, putting the responsibility on us, as members, to assess our options more thoroughly. This is added work that the platform could alleviate with only a few changes.
The Advantages (Pros) of Skillshare
These are main benefits of Skillshare:
New and varied content
The sheer amount of new content that is added to the platform weekly is enough to keep even the busiest of brains engaged. Whether you want to pick up a new skill to make your resume shine, restyle your home, or master a hobby “just for the hell of it,” you can easily find dozens of opportunities to level up your repertoire. Further, Skillshare’s payment plans for teachers means that there’s no shortage of excellent instructors creating new and high-quality content regularly.
Now, if only there was more time in the day to learn it all!
Easy to use all around
It took me all of 5 minutes to create my account, log in, browse for content I’m interested in, and find a course that fits the bill. I was diving deep into my first course in less than 20 minutes, eager to find even more content to devour.
Kudos to Skillshare for making an easily navigable desktop AND mobile platform and for including a start/stop functionality that syncs across devices.
Between the ability to “favorite” great teachers and save Skillshare classes to personalized lists, not to mention the Discovery section of the Skillshare app, I am never for want of new material to learn. And the fact that I get to learn on MY schedule makes Skillshare the equivalent of the 100 emoji.
Free trial available
Skillshare offers free Premium trials, giving new students a chance to “try before they buy”. You can always access a Skillshare free trial from their website. The cancellation is of a single-click, no questions asked variety.
Skillshare mobile app available
You can access Skillshare from your computer/ laptop via its website, or from your tablet/phone thanks to the Skillshare app. The best part? You can sync your progress in your selected Skillshare courses across all devices, be it your computer, phone, or tablet, as well as use an offline mode to learn while one the run.
The Disadvantages (Cons) of Skillshare
These are the primary disadvantages of Skillshare:
Not every teacher ROCKS
The varied quality of instructors can be a continual challenge on your way to knowledge gain. Since being able to teach effectively is a hard-won skill in itself, it would be naive to believe that every instructor on the platform excels at the basics of teaching.
A good quality indicator is the number of students a course has hosted, as higher numbers tend to correlate with higher-quality instructors. However, this isn’t always the case—some courses are just niche enough not to appeal to the “masses” anyway.
Skillshare has greatly improved on this issue, however, with its curated Learning Paths, as well as the possibility to filter your search results for staff picks.
No free courses outside of trial
The free courses offered via Skillshare used to be one of our favorite features of the platform, and they will be greatly missed. The longer free trial makes up for it for students who used the free courses to figure out whether to go for the Premium subscription. But for more casual learners who just wanted to follow a (non-premium) course now and again, they will have to look to other platforms for a free option.
Conclusion: is Skillshare Worth it?
The chance to learn for learning’s sake is reason enough for me to soundly proclaim that Skillshare is worth it. The hands-on projects and ability to connect with others, including experts in your desired fields of knowledge, makes the $14 a month fee a bargain. The onus is on YOU to determine which courses would bring you the most value, whether you aim to bolster your resume with sparkling competitive skills or assert yourself as a professional hobbyist.
Skillshare members can gain much more than just new skills from the courses. You’ll fall in love with learning again, meet motivated and skilled peers that will challenge and inspire you, and may find yourself addicted (nay, obsessed!) with gaining knowledge.
Add a line item to your annual budget for Skillshare access. Your brain will thank you for it!
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