Review: Is MasterClass Worth a Subscription?
An Honest Review of the MasterClass Annual Pass
In a world of free trials and monthly subscriptions, signing up for MasterClass’ $180 annual pass feels like quite a big commitment. I signed up in January and have watched 20 of the courses so far. Though it’s not quite what I expected from the myriad of advertisements it sent my way, it’s certainly still a valuable service.
Is MasterClass right for you? Find out below:
I’m a chronic multitasker, so the fact that the service lets you take as many classes at once is a plus. The website lets you keep track of your progress in multiple classes, so you can watch as many random videos as you'd like, with no constraint on finishing any one before starting the next.
Up to You
You get out what you put into it. If you only wish to watch, and never apply the information you hear, it would be easy to forget it all. Likewise, if you’re not saving recipes, bookmarking videos, and taking notes, a lot of the important messages will slip through the cracks of your mind. Going through notes and revisiting lessons when you find yourself needing the information in your life makes the videos worthwhile.
On top of videos, the courses also provide thorough class guides. I’m particularly fond of the team that works on these, they’re informative, engaging, and well-designed.
The User Interface could use some work. Namely, the note-taking feature to the right of the video player has some problems. As it is, it feels like an afterthought. With no formatting options, and a pervasive glitch where once you write too much the text box wigs out. But, what issues I’ve found are tiny, and the site is still functional. Most of the glitches are just little mild annoyances. If you frustrate easily when tech isn’t perfect, wait a year or two for them to iron out the wrinkles.
Not All Categories Created Equally
Additionally, not all categories within MasterClass are as robust. I signed up to take the Science and Technology courses but was rather disappointed to find only five.
If you’re more interested in the Arts, Business, Food, Design, or Writing you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of courses available to you. There are more than 150 classes on MasterClass, so you can keep on learning new skills for quite a long while.
Since some categories aren’t quite as supported yet, the service will be more of a value-add for people that like learning a little about a wide variety of topics. MasterClass is best for jack-of-all-trades types, ironically. If you are already an expert or master in a field and want to focus on learning more about it, skip out on this annual subscription. With any field that you’re adept in, you likely won’t learn much more from 15 videos that introduce the topics.
Diverse Course Quality
Genuinely, some of the courses have remarkable potential to teach you new things you may find of interest. I remember, for example, the Jane Goodall course left me wondering about animal intelligence in a way that I had never thought of before - and biology is my thang.
Not all courses are as phenomenal as Jane Goodall’s however, which left this reviewer teary-eyed by the end of it. Some courses feel hackneyed. Though some of the “masters” put their whole heart, soul, and ass into what they’re talking about, some feel far too shallow for what the subjects could be.
In some of the courses, I got a sense that the “master” didn’t really want to be there. I wondered if their publicist made them do it to improve their personal or brand’s public relations sentiment. In other courses, the “masters” just wouldn’t have much to say, or hold off on the juicy details to instead convince people that their field is cool (Looking at you, Terence Tao).
MasterClass has an impressively solid User Experience. From my limited time on the app, it appears that they take user suggestions into account and are active in adding new courses and improving their website and app. I do, however, hope they add a few features down the road. Namely, the ability to test your knowledge, connect with the community, and gain some sort of certificate of completion for the courses you get through.
After getting through the first course, I was itching to add a new certificate to my LinkedIn profile, but there was nothing of the sort. Considering that certificates are asked about enough to be on their FAQ page, I’m optimistic that the community might eventually convince the company to pursue something like this, along with more options to test what you learned.
The Bottom Line
So, is the $180 annual Master Class membership worth a purchase? It depends on what you’re looking for. If learning a little about a lot of diverse subjects sounds interesting to you, it’s one of the best options out there. If you’re looking to master a subject yourself, gain certifications to further your career, or are not particularly fond of learning, give this one a pass.
But I can say with certainty that I’m glad I chose to try it out. The lessons that have stuck so far have already made it worth the cost.