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.
Right now I’m stuck at home, isolating myself from others because of the coronavirus outbreak.
It’s an opportunity for me to get stuck into MasterClass, one of the highest-profile online education programs going around at the moment.
Over the last few years, I’ve taken almost all of the available MasterClass classes. Now I’m going through them again.
I’ve put together this comprehensive review of MasterClass so you can decide if they’re for you.
By the end of this review, you’ll know the pros and cons of MasterClass so you can decide whether it’s worth paying for.
What is MasterClass?
Before we get into the review, let’s explain exactly what MasterClass is.
MasterClass is an online learning platform where the world’s most successful people teach the thing that made them successful.
MasterClass is unique for two reasons:
- They have the world’s most well-known instructors. Really. Gordon Ramsay teaches cooking. Natalie Portman teaches acting. James Patterson teaches writing. They even have Serena Williams teaching tennis.
- They have the best video production quality of any online education platform out there.
When you enroll in MasterClass, it’s really addictive. The video lessons are inspiring and entertaining.
You can binge-watch just like you’d do with Netflix.
But instead of dulling your mind with drivel, you’re learning while being entertained.
When so many of us are spending more time at home with the coronavirus lockdowns, MasterClass is a godsend.
For me, that’s reason enough to give MasterClass a shot, especially seeing as they have a 30-day money-back guarantee.
But I also want to make sure you are properly informed if you’re thinking of joining MasterClass. In this review, I’ll share not only the good, but also the bad about MasterClass.
To summarize, 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 have 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 videos and notes.
Who teaches on MasterClass?
Here are 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.
Who is MasterClass for?
To be completely honest with you, MasterClass isn’t for everyone.
It’s great for creative types such as writers, photographers, artists, musicians, and painters. If you want to improve these kinds of crafts, MasterClass may be the right solution for you.
But MasterClass doesn’t provide you with practical skills that help you make more money with what you do.
Let me explain with an example.
Recently I took an online course to help me write better emails to my email list. The videos as part of the course weren’t even close to as entertaining as the MasterClass videos. But I learned a practical skill and got access to templates that I could use right away.
You’re not going to get things like this with MasterClass.
Instead, MasterClass is more relevant for people looking for inspiration. They really are bringing Netflix to the online learning industry.
There’s another key point you should know.
MasterClass isn’t ideal if you’re looking for hands-on contact with instructors. They do have a Q&A feature (I’ll show you some screenshots soon), but MasterClass has gotten so popular that it’s hard to have a one-on-one feel with instructors.
Compare that to an online workshop like Out of the Box by Ideapod. I joined this recently and have direct access to the instructor. I’m getting really practical tools to change my life along with direct access.
It really depends on what you’re looking for.
MasterClass suits binge-watching inspiration junkies who want to learn at their own pace. 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 expect it to cost an arm and a leg.
Surprisingly, this isn’t the case with MasterClass.
There are two ways to get access to MasterClass. You can purchase an individual class or their All-Access Pass which gives you access to all of the instructors.
The cost of individual MasterClass classes
Each “class” with an instructor costs $90. You pay this for every class that you want to take.
The cost of the All-Access Pass
Your other option is to purchase the All-Access Pass. This gives you access to every single current and future class available on MasterClass.
The cost of the All-Access Pass is $180 per year.
MasterClass All-Access Pass
Individual classes vs the All-Access Pass
- 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 compared to other online education providers, this is a very competitive price point.
But, should you purchase an individual class or the All-Access Pass?
It depends on what you’re looking for.
After reviewing many of the classes, I think there’s real value in getting the All-Access Pass. MasterClass has a unique and intuitive interface that shows you related lessons from instructors you may not ordinarily consider. I’ve shared some screenshots for you to see in the next section.
If you have access to all of the instructors, you’ll probably have a great experience jumping from one lesson to the other.
If there are two or more instructors you are interested in, I think the All-Access Pass is a good option.
However, if there is only one instructor you want to try, then I suggest purchasing just the individual class.
What is a MasterClass class like?
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 (usually 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 for the production quality:
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 in-depth and useful.
How does MasterClass work?
Thankfully, MasterClass is fairly easy to follow.
The current set up for most MasterClass courses is that each course has 25 video lessons that you can watch and learn from. There are also worksheets and other items that you can download to help you learn along with the instructor.
These videos can be watched at any time, and they’re broken up into smaller parts so that they aren’t completely overwhelming. That means you can hop on and take the courses in five or ten-minute increments. You don’t need to have endless time to do it.
MasterClass All-Access Pass benefits
When you purchase the All-Access Pass, you can also experience a unique part of MasterClass.
It doesn’t restrict you to watching the lessons in a linear fashion, as you will find with most other online education providers.
Instead, you’re encouraged to move from one instructor to another.
Let me explain.
Check out the screenshot below. I’ve paused one of the lessons from Steve Martin:
When you pause the lesson, it shows you a related lesson from another instructor, in this case Samuel L. Jackson.
I love this about the All-Access Pass.
When I’m immersing myself in the teachings of Malcolm Gladwell, for example, I’m shown lessons from other writers on the platform based on similar topics.
It’s a brilliant way to use MasterClass and makes the experience quite similar to Netflix.
More on this shortly. First, I want to tell you a bit more about the video production quality.
MasterClass All-Access Pass
MasterClass quality of videos
Hands down, this is the best thing about MasterClass.
The videos are so well-produced.
I’ve taken 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 as though MasterClass has 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.
After taking many of the classes, I can assure you that they maintain the same quality of the trailers across all of the lessons you’ll have access to.
MasterClass is a highly professional and quality look into the minds of the world’s most successful people.
I love this.
Does MasterClass have a mobile app?
MasterClass does have a mobile app, and it’s great. I want to give you a peek inside the MasterClass mobile app.
As you would expect after looking at the quality of the videos, MasterClass has put some effort into making the design quite simple yet sophisticated.
Check out the first screen you’ll find when you log-in after purchasing the All-Access Pass.
I scrolled down to the writers as that’s what I’m most interested in.
I then selected Malcolm Gladwell. I really love this class.
Here’s what you’ll see.
It’s pretty clean and simple.
Here’s what it looks like accessing the written content.
Overall, everything checks out. It’s a good quality app. Personally, I prefer watching the videos on my laptop but I’m sure many others will predominantly use their phones.
Whatever works for you.
The pros and cons of MasterClass
Like with anything, there are pros and cons to Masterclass. Since I’ve spent some time learning all about the courses, I’ve been able to see both the good and the bad. Here’s what I think is worth it and what’s not.
The pros of MasterClass
I’ve talked a lot about how MasterClass is good, and it is. So, I’ll sum up the pros of MasterClass in this quick list:
- The quality of videos is very high
- The classes are affordable and taught by world-class teachers
- The user interface is easy to work and you can watch the courses from virtually anywhere
- These classes cater to creatives, and they really help to build up those soft skills
- Invaluable advice and teaching that you wouldn’t get anywhere else
The cons of MasterClass
Like with anything, there is some bad as well.
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.
Now, let’s get to the ugly side of MasterClass.
The thing that bothered me about MasterClass was the community.
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 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. Out of the Box, for example, has a thriving and connected community.
At least, that’s the case with me.
So, to sum up the cons of MasterClass:
- These classes aren’t meant to add practical value
- There isn’t a degree or certificate that comes with the skills taught
- The community isn’t interactive, so many of the courses seem to fall flat
How to use MasterClass
I’ve critiqued the practicality and the social learning aspects of MasterClass in the previous two sections. But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be for you.
The best way to think about MasterClass is that it’s an alternative to Netflix or YouTube.
What do you usually do when you get home? If you’re anything like me, you probably switch on the television and stream some shows or clips on Netflix and YouTube.
But now I have a different option. I can get an educational experience that’s also highly entertaining.
The thing about Masterclass is that the videos are quite short but highly engaging. They’re not too heavy and they’re easy to follow.
Watching MasterClass when I get home has now become a habit. It’s so easy to use and I’m really enjoying it.
If you’re looking for a formal education experience, it may not be for you. But if you have a curious mind and want to start consuming educational content but still be entertained in the process, I recommend checking out the All-Access Pass.
Gordon Ramsay’s MasterClass
I thought it would be useful for you to get a more in-depth look inside one of the classes, so I’m going to tell you more about one of the most popular: Gordon Ramsay’s MasterClass.
Check out the trailer for the class below. I think you’ll be impressed:
Ramsay’s class consists of 20 episodes. They range from teaching you the basics of cooking to creating an effective kitchen layout to mastering different types of ingredients.
Check out the screenshot below.
Each lesson contains videos that run up to 25 minutes, which is longer than the average MasterClass video.
Each lesson contains a workbook.
And you can join the discussion group.
So this all checks out and is what we’d expect.
But this is where it gets interesting.
Genefe Navilon from Ideapod provided a pretty comprehensive review of Gordan Ramsay’s MasterClass, and her conclusion mirrors my own.
She said that she began not knowing what to expect from Ramsay. She’s seen him being very crass on television and hadn’t previously warmed to him.
But after completing all of the lessons, she found there was an additional benefit to being a better cook.
The benefit was this:
She was much more inspired by her own life.
Here’s what she said:
“More importantly, I fell in love with cooking in a newfound way. Chef Gordon Ramsay is truly an inspiration. Just hearing about his success story was more than enough for my money’s worth. But it really was his honesty and candidness that I liked watching.
“I am someone who is also passionate about my work. And more often than not, I find myself pushing and pushing to achieve a “reward” in my head. As a result, I always chase for perfection and am not satisfied with anything less.
“But chef Gordon Ramsay imparted some wisdom in this MasterClass that truly resonated with me. And that is to find balance in your passion and work – how to never forget the reason why you do what you do. More importantly, not to forget that you love it.
“For the inspiration alone, I would recommend this MasterClass to anyone.”
I think this perfectly explains one of the benefits of MasterClass. It’s incredibly inspirational.
The best MasterClass classes (2020)
MasterClass is always coming up with new material, and the videos are endless. However, there are some courses that remain popular throughout it all. Here is a list of the best MasterClass classes for 2020:
- Misty Copeland’s ballet and artistry
- Dan Brown’s writing thrillers
- Ken Burns’ teaches documentary filming
- Neil Gaiman’s art of storytelling
- Helen Mirren’s acting course
While there are plenty of other courses that are amazing, these ones are either new and noteworthy or popular fan-favorites. There is so much that you can learn, and there’s really something for everyone on MasterClass in 2020.
MasterClass vs Skillshare
Like I said earlier, I love online education, and a lot of people ask whether MasterClass or Skillshare is better.
The thing is: They’re completely different. Both are online education platforms, but they can’t be compared. Skillshare does have creative courses, but they also focus on hard skills, like writing, marketing, and more.
MasterClass is really for those people looking for better personal development, and that means you won’t be getting a certificate afterward.
Skillshare is also cheaper, and you can even get started with a free trial. Some of their courses are just 10 minutes long, and many of them lack the deep insight that MasterClass courses have.
And last, but certainly not least, MasterClass has premium teachers and instructors. With Skillshare, people may know what they’re doing, but you’re not going to be learning from the likes of Gordon Ramsay or Natalie Portman.
MasterClass vs Udemy
Another online learning platform is Udemy. Udemy is currently the largest online education platform, but they focus mainly on learned, hard skills. Want to become better at marketing? Udemy.
Need to learn a new skill? Udemy.
Want to learn more about a hobby? MasterClass.
Udemy’s courses have a minimum length of 30 minutes, so while many of them are comprehensive, they’re going to teach you a hard skill. You also receive a certificate of completion, which allows you to share it with future employers.
You probably won’t be spending more than $20 or so on an Udemy course. While the price point is appealing, it’s not the same as MasterClass.
MasterClass vs Great Courses
One similar thing between MasterClass and Great Courses is that they offer a subscription service. Just like MasterClass’s all-access pass, Great Courses has Great Courses Plus, which allows you to stream hundreds of courses for a low monthly price.
Great Courses is somewhat similar to MasterClass in that they offer insight on both skills and hobbies. You can learn about writing, photography, and more with Great Courses, just like you can with MasterClass.
The main difference between these two comes down to video quality and instructor quality. With Great Courses, the instructors are knowledgeable in their field. However, they aren’t known to be celebrities.
Some may enjoy that they’re being taught by real, humble people rather than big celebrities. MasterClass can be a bit misleading in that just because you’re learning from celebrities doesn’t mean that you’ll be at their level.
However, because Great Courses doesn’t have the same type of funding and backing as MasterClass, they produce many videos and the quality shows. MasterClass’s video quality is supreme, and Great Courses is so-so.
MasterClass vs CreativeLive
Needing the best of hobbies and business? CreativeLive has DIY, photography, art, and design, while also offering, marketing and business classes.
Only thing is, they lack a bit of focus. Because they put so much of their time into multiple offerings, everything comes off a bit blasé. And while they’re a good online education platform themselves, they lack personal development skills that MasterClass is good at.
Through all of these online education platforms, my gripe with MasterClass and other online education platforms still remain there.
CreativeLive has over 10 million students, but still, there isn’t a community that is strong and thriving. MasterClass’s community is stronger than theirs.
That being said, while none of these education platforms are bad, if you’re looking for premium teachers, amazing video quality, and personal development courses, MasterClass hits home. But, that’s only if you can deal with the lack of certificates and community.
Frequently Asked Questions on MasterClass
We get asked a lot of questions about MasterClass, and here are the most frequently asked:
Does MasterClass have a mobile app?
Yes, MasterClass is available on mobile, and you can even watch it from your TV.
Do I have a time limit on my course?
If you buy one course, you can forever access that course. There’s no time limit to completing it, and you can go at your own pace. If you purchase the All-Access Pass, you’ll have access to your courses for as long as you have the pass.
How long are MasterClass courses?
Each MasterClass course varies in how much film there is to watch, but there is usually between two and five hours for every course. These are split up into smaller increments, making it easy to take a break.
Can I talk to the MasterClass instructors?
While I’ve heard that some students did get feedback from the professors, I’m not holding my breath. Because of their celebrity status, it has to be pretty difficult for them to come back and give feedback. I wouldn’t plan on hearing from the instructors.
How do I watch the courses?
You can watch the courses on your TV, phone, computer, tablet, or any other internet-enabled device.
What happens after I finish a MasterClass course?
You can start another one! Or, you can review the materials you haven’t gone over. There’s no harm in watching the course again, either.
Is MasterClass worth the money?
There are issues, as covered above. The community learning isn’t the best. The skills you learn aren’t so practical. So, with these in mind, is MasterClass worth the money?
Even with the issues, I think it is. It is a truly unique learning experience and really brings out the humanity of the instructors. You’d never get to learn from these brilliant minds any other way, so it’s valuable.
Personally, I love it, and the more I take the classes, the more I’m finding myself recommending MasterClass to others. You can even give MasterClass as a gift, which is perfect for those who love personal development.
While I do see the flaws, I think it’s fairly affordable and worth every penny I’ve spent.
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.
But most likely, you may be someone who simply wants to introduce more educational content into what you watch in the evening.
Sometimes, we get inspiration from simply understanding exactly what it’s like to be successful on the world stage. But certainly, we’ve got a lot to learn from the world’s most successful people.
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.