No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to escape MasterClass ads. Gordan Ramsey, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Natalie Portman (to name a few) are there at every turn, whether I'm watching a YouTube video or merely scrolling through Instagram. Even SNL tapped into everyone's fascination with MasterClass by creating two different parodies that taught us how to TikTok like JoJo Siwa and quarantine like Britney Spears.
While MasterClass has steadily grown in popularity since it's release five years ago, Digiday reports claim that there's been an uptick in the number of people watching MasterClass trailers during the coronavirus pandemic, along with an increase in the number of existing subscribers engaging in classes. But the appeal for getting a world-class education from masters in cooking, interior design, photography, sports, and entertainment has always been present: MasterClass is one of Good Housekeeping's best-selling gifts, whether it's for men, moms, or anyone in need of a last-minute idea.
Like many of our readers, I've been tempted to give MasterClass a try, because, well, who wouldn't want to learn how to apply the perfect smokey eye from Bobbi Brown herself? Exactly. So I was ready to jump at the opportunity when MasterClass offered me an All-Access Pass to see what the hype's all about — here's what I learned.
First, what is MasterClass?
MasterClass is an e-learning platform that relies on A-listers in their respective fields to teach you the ins and outs of a specific subject . Unlike other sites that focus solely on hard skills, a MasterClass subscription gives you an in-depth look at more creative offerings, anything from ballet to poker. Although the course is done virtually, there's a personal element, making you feel as if you're actually in the kitchen with Gordon Ramsey or planting in a garden alongside Ron Finley.
Each class subscription, whether you opt for a Single Class option or All-Access pass, gives you the same tools and resources. The length of classes range from two to five hours, but all of them include a number of on-demand videos that can be watched anytime, a complementary class workbook with optional assignments, and an online community of fellow students. And if you're frequently on the go, you can access the videos or supplemental materials on the MasterClass app on any of your devices.
MasterClass regularly adds new instructors to their star-studded roster, but right now there are 80 instructors teaching online classes in the following categories:
Film and TV
Music and Entertainment
Business, Politics, and Society
Sports and Games
Design, Photography, and Fashion
Science and Technology
There's a diverse offering of courses and instructors, but some of the most popular Masterclasses include:
Ron Finley teaches gardening: The self-proclaimed "Gangster Gardener" teaches you how to grow your own food, no matter the size of your space.
Stephen Curry teaches basketball: Learn how to shoot, handle the ball, and score from the two-time MVP.
Gordon Ramsey teaches cooking: Choose from Cooking I or Cooking II, depending on how advanced your cooking skills may be. The seven-star Michelin chef takes you inside his kitchen to teach you restaurant-inspired dishes and techniques.
Chris Voss teaches the art of negotiation: The FBI hostage negotiator outlines his tried-and-tested strategies to help you in common negotiations.
What are the MasterClass subscription options?
There are two different ways to enjoy MasterClass: You can test the waters with one class, or hop around from class to class with an All-Access Pass. Here are the main distinctions between the two offerings: Single Class Pass and All-Access Pass.
Single Class Pass: Just like the name implies, this gives you full access to one online class. That means, you want to choose wisely to make sure you're picking something that'll interest you from start to finish. You get all of the same features — on-demand videos, a complementary workbook, and an online community — and it costs $90 per class.
All-Access Pass: On the flipside, this option lets you try out all of the courses on the site. You have the flexibility to start and stop classes at any given time, or take different classes at once. Similar to the Single Class option, you'll get on-demand videos, a complementary workbook, and an online community. It costs $180 for an entire year ($15/month), making it a more budget-friendly option in the long-run.
How does MasterClass work?
No matter if you receive MasterClass as a gift or purchase it yourself, the fun starts as soon as you sign in. Unless you have a specific course in mind, it may be overwhelming to choose between greats like Robin Roberts, Marc Jacobs, and Malcolm Gladwell. As soon as you narrow it down to one of the nine categories, it's easy to sort through the offerings until you find a solid match. When you click on a class, you can view a short video preview and a description of the course, including the outlined lesson plan. When you select a class, you'll be prompted with this short questionnaire:
Then you have the option to download the workbook and start watching the videos. The first video sets the stage for the course, giving the instructor an opportunity to properly introduce themselves and share their expertise. From there, you can follow the videos in order, or skip around. Most videos average 10 minutes, and courses typically include 20 lessons.
Below each video, there's a lesson discussion board where classmates can share their thoughts, learnings, and successes. If you feel compelled to respond, you can like and reply to each other's posts.
But if you want to delve even deeper into a subject (or simply, get the most bang for your buck), you can explore the course's community homepage. For Ron Finley's MasterClass on gardening, classmates are asking and answering questions about herb gardens, composting, and pesticides. Some are even sharing the fruits of their labor by posting pictures of the gardens that Ron helped them grow.
Is MasterClass worth it? My final review
Being a lifelong learner comes at a price — and that's exactly why many people, including myself, are skeptical at the cost of MasterClass. But here's the deal: If you use all the resources available to you, especially the downloadable workbook and community discussion board, then it's well worth your money. Unlike other e-learning platforms, MasterClass extends well beyond videos; all of the courses encourage you to join in on the action, test your skills, and put your learnings to work. It's simple: If you're willing to do the work, then you'll reap the rewards.
Before you commit, you can always try out MasterClass Live, their weekly streaming offering, for free. If you like what you see, then you might as well go for the All-Access Subscription option because you'll have the flexibility to choose between different courses and become a more well-rounded learner. Just think: A year of MasterClass could help you (or whoever you gift it to) roast chicken like Wolfgang Puck, deliver an emotional performance like Samuel L. Jackson, and shoot hoops like Stephen Curry. That seems like the best gift you can give, doesn't it?
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