Note: This post contains affiliate links which means I’ll make a small commission if you purchase anything from MasterClass. However, it didn’t stop me from sharing the bad and the ugly about MasterClass below.
Over the last few months, I’ve completely immersed myself in the online education provider: MasterClass.
MasterClass is one of the highest profile online education companies going around at the moment. And I’m obsessed with online education.
I couldn’t resist signing up and getting access to instructors of the caliber of Malcolm Gladwell, Christina Aguilera and Aaron Sorkin.
But the question I kept on asking while reviewing the courses on offer:
Should you pay for it?
This is what I’ll answer in this epic review. By the end of this article, you’ll know the good, the bad and ugly about enrolling in MasterClass.
What exactly is MasterClass?
Here are the key points you need to know about MasterClass:
- They are a new online education start-up based out of San Francisco.
- They raised over $56 million and have already delivered their courses to more than one million students.
- Their video production is world class. In fact, their aim is to bring the quality of Netflix to the $100 billion e-learning industry.
- They get the world’s best experts. More on this below.
- It’s a pretty standard approach to online learning. You get access to lessons in the form of video and notes.
Here are just some of the instructors you can access with the MasterClass classes:
- Malcolm Gladwell teaches writing
- Annie Leibovitz teaches photography
- Chris Hadfield teaches space exploration
- Christina Aguilera teaches singing
- Ron Howard teaches directing
- Aaron Sorkin teaches screen writing
- Martin Scorsese teaches film making
- And many more
It honestly boggles my mind that I could access the teachings of so many incredible people.
It’s also relatively cheap compared to other online education providers (more on that below).
Who should take a MasterClass class?
After reviewing many of the different classes on offer, I came to the conclusion that MasterClass isn’t for everyone.
It’s ideal for more creative types of people such as writers, photographers, artists, musicians and painters. If you have a craft like these and you’re looking to learn from the best, it could be the right solution for you.
However, I’ve taken many different online courses before. Usually, I am looking to learn a practical skill that helps me do my job better, or build a better website, or something like this.
For example, I recently did an online course on writing better emails to my email list. This was very practically focused and I could use the templates they provided right away.
MasterClass isn’t like that. It’s more relevant for people looking for inspiration. They are true to their aim of bringing Netflix to the e-learning industry. The production is world class (I’ll explain this in more detail soon).
The other important point to note is that MasterClass isn’t ideal for people who need hands-on contact from instructors.
Instead, you’ll need to be someone who is able to learn at your own place.
It suits binge-watching inspiration junkies more than anyone. To be honest, that may apply to many of us. But it’s important to know.
Before explaining the quality of the video production (which is what I loved the most, let’s first go over the prices).
The price of MasterClass online classes
When you’re being taught by the world’s leading experts, you would it to cost an arm and a leg.
Surprisingly, this isn’t the case with MasterClass.
Each “class” with an instructor costs $90 (at the time of writing).
Here’s what you get for $90:
- 20-40 video based lessons (3 to 14 minutes each) with lectures from the particular “master” of the subject you’re learning about.
- Lifetime access to the program (all of the video content plus accompanying written material).
- Access to “The Hub”, the community learning portal.
Some class members are reportedly lucky enough to get personal feedback from the instructors themselves. However, I didn’t get any feedback and I don’t think you would be wise to assume this will happen to you.
Considering how high quality the videos are and compared to other online education providers, this is a very competitive price point.
What’s it like taking a MasterClass class?
Here’s what it looks like, taking one of the classes. This is the class on comedy by Steve Martin.
The class is organized into video based lessons. They are quite short (between 3 and 14 minutes each). It’s really easy to make the decision to watch one of them in one sitting.
Especially when you know how high quality they are.
Unfortunately, you need to purchase access to one of the MasterClasses to see for yourself.
However, you can check out the official trailer for Steve Martin’s class to get a feel:
This particular class is very interesting. Steve Martin provides many anecdotes from his comedy and films from a very long and fascinating career.
There are many insights to gain from the videos.
The lesson notes to accompany the videos are quite useful as well. Here’s a screenshot of one of them:
I also found the recommended reading to be pretty in-depth and useful.
What I liked best about MasterClass: The videos
Hands down, this is the best thing about MasterClass.
The videos are so well-produced.
I’ve done many different online courses, and nothing compares to these videos.
Check it out for yourself. Here are three of my favorite trailer videos for their online classes:
You can see the quality of the camerawork, the lighting, the sound and even the music.
I love this trailer with Hans Zimmer:
It’s kind of like MasterClass have taken their cameras inside the worlds of these incredible people, and managed to convince them the very best of their inside knowledge.
And then they’ve gone and produced these videos as though it was a movie production.
For example, here’s one more by Chris Hadfield about space exploration:
It’s a fascinating topic and such an insight into something I would never have access to.
This is exciting.
However, it also starts to explain what I would say is the bad side to MasterClass.
The bad side to MasterClass
MasterClass provides an inside glimpse into the world’s greatest minds.
However, do you really want to get this kind of access by paying for online education?
It gets back to what I said at the start of this article. I’ve done online courses that are practical and useful for my life.
A course in comedy or space exploration doesn’t fit the bill of being practical.
Maybe it will be for you. Perhaps you want to be a writer. Or a painter.
If so, all power to you.
But I think the majority of us have a more applied focus and want to take an online class in something that adds immediate value.
In my view, the MasterClasses aren’t practical enough to justify the time and cost of participating in them.
This is more of a personal critique. Perhaps it’s different for you.
Now, let’s get to the ugly side of MasterClass.
The ugly side to MasterClass
I think one of the greatest challenges of online education providers is to deliver courses while cultivating a community.
This is one of the best things about traditional education. For all of its faults, it’s amazing for meeting new people in person.
Some of my greatest friends today are from my time at university.
MasterClass promise you’ll find community from “The Hub”. Check it out below:
It’s not exactly the most inspiring place to be. It’s more of a bulletin board, and you don’t feel so welcomed to go and meet new people.
I think when you’re paying for education, you want to be surrounded by fellow learners.
At least, that’s the case with me.
Conclusion: Should you pay for MasterClass?
After doing several of the MasterClass classes, here’s my conclusion about whether you should pay for MasterClass or not.
If you feel like you’re lacking inspiration in your life, it may be a good fit for you.
Perhaps you’re a writer struggling with writer’s block, and you want access to the world’s best writers to see how they approach this situation.
Or maybe you’re an up-and-coming movie director and you simply want to immerse yourself in the ways of living and thinking of a high quality director.
Sometimes, we get inspiration from simply understanding exactly what it’s like to be successful on the world stage.
The great thing about these MasterClass classes is that you really do get an insider’s feel of what it’s like.
I think if any of this applies to you, it’s worth the money.
However, if you’re looking for a deeper learning experience, it may not be right for you.
By deeper learning experience, what I mean is something where you have the instructor by your side.
Where you understand the progress being made by fellow students around you.
Where you get that feel of being in a classroom.
MasterClass isn’t that. It’s more like getting access to premium video footage that takes you deep inside the mind of a real expert.
If that’s what you’re looking for, go for it! You can check them out here.
Check out Hack Spirit's eBook on the The Art of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Living in the Moment.
Here's what you will get:
- Learn what 'mindfulness' really is and the scientific benefits to practicing it daily
- Practical exercises to be mindful throughout the day (even at work)
- How to practice daily meditations to enhance peace and clarity of mind
- Learn how to practice Yoga and Ujjayi Breath
- Understand and implement the 7 key steps to practicing mindfulness
Check it out here.