MasterClass is a leading online educational platform designed to inspire. The draw: a line-up of heavyweight instructors. Members can learn the craft of TV writing from decorated showrunner Shonda Rhimes or how to hit the perfect forehand in tennis from 23x Grand Slam Champion, Serena Williams.
The entire catalog contains over 150 classes, across 11 categories, from Arts and Entertainment to
Business, Sports and Gaming, and Wellness.
I completed bestselling author, professor, and cultural critic, Roxane Gay’s course: Writing for Social Change. Gay holds a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Technical Communication and currently resides at Occidental College in the inaugural position of Presidential Professorship. As a consumer of Gay’s written work, from her 2017 memoir Hunger to her culturally astute tweets, I was eager to learn more about the process behind her resonant words.
Each course has an average of 20 videos, running around 10 minutes apiece. Some lessons are upward of 3 hours, but courses can be completed at your own pace, with the ability to bookmark your place and pick up where you left off. Every course is created by the instructor and highly tailored to their specific experience and expertise. In Writing for Social Change, Gay disperses her journey to success throughout, as she distills lessons from her own work and from those who influenced her, like Audre Lorde. Gay is an incredibly encouraging instructor who emphasizes the importance of valuing your own voice and digging deep to find the “why” of what you write. Doing so results in the most organic and palatable piece of work.
A particularly impactful portion of the course is the Writer’s Workshop session, where Gay sits down one-on-one with young writers to review their personal essays. Here, you see her preceding lessons take life, as she pushes the writers to further refine their already strong works. Her eye is sharp and
automatic for identifying the strands in need of retying to elevate a story.
● Develop an ethos of inclusion that becomes inherent to your writing.
○ Remember though, that inclusion is not universality, so you can never satisfy everyone.
● Writing is a form of activism.
○ Say something meaningful, while staying true to yourself.
● Focus ideas on 1-2 per piece.
○ What do you want to accomplish in the end?
● Research from credible sources is imperative to the writing process, even in personal essays.
○ If you write, then you are a writer.
Notes: Each video provides a notes section to jot down your thoughts as you watch. Notes are automatically saved and can easily be revisited at any time. A timestamp function would enhance Notes, so a particular quote could be found quickly. Downloadable Class Guide: This is a supplemental piece, not intended as a follow-along. The class guide is a thorough overview of the course, with engaging graphics and some bonus details.
Sessions by MasterClass: A new format with a 30-day curriculum of assignments. A community of online classmates and instructors are available to provide feedback and engage in discussion.
Membership Plans and Cost
Masterclass offers three membership tiers: Individual, Duo, and Family, each with slight variances in features. Across the board, members have access to the same catalog of courses, their corresponding bonus class guides and content, and compatibility with the user’s device of choice.
Individual: $15/month | $180/annually | 1 account, 1 device
● The cheapest of the plans, with a couple of tradeoffs:
○ No option to download content for offline viewing.
○ Only one device can be active at a time – sorry, no sharing your login with friends!
Duo: $20/month | $240/annually | 1 account, 2 devices
● Ability to download videos for offline viewing.
● Share away with your favorite friend!
Family: $23/month | $276/annually | 1 account, 6 devices
● Best value if you plan to split the cost and/or share amongst multiple people.
● Access to every feature.
Broken down by monthly cost, MasterClass is not an outrageously expensive subscription service, however, it only bills annually, so the user pays upfront for the entire year. Such an immediately large payment is not feasible for all interested consumers and can be a roadblock in committing to the service. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee, but a free trial period and the monthly plan would go a long way in broadening access. A complete list of course titles can be browsed without a membership and used to inform your decision.
Is it worth it?
MasterClass succeeds in presenting a wide and impressive catalog of instructors who provide the quality content promised. The aesthetic is uniform across courses, with crisp video quality, consistent formatting, and seamless weaving of graphics. The result is an immersive and intimate documentary-like
experience with some of the most notable, and otherwise inaccessible talents of this age. And while MasterClass may bring those talents closer in reach, the lack of a monthly payment plan is still a sore spot. With an abundance of free resources on the internet, MasterClass is a luxury subscription service – certainly not essential, yet a uniquely valuable resource for expanding knowledge, buildingskill, and providing pure entertainment.