The old adage of “you learn something every day,” applies to a platform like Skillshare, which aims to teach all sorts of talents to anyone who signs up.
This isn’t as much about academia as you might think. It’s not an alternative to your average school courses, though there is a significant focus on the arts, in addition to courses on lifestyle and business applications. These are instructional, and perhaps inspirational, in nature, where someone talks you through the process of doing something.
It’s not like MasterClass, where a celebrity or established expert in a given field relays their knowledge and experience. Much of the content comes from everyday people in the same way YouTube has become a repository for do-it-yourself videos. The difference here is that Skillshare doesn’t only stick to video. It also offers documents and a community of peers who you can share ideas with.
The main compatibility is through the website on any computer, though there are apps on iOS and Android as well. You won’t find apps for streaming boxes, except for devices, like the Chromecast and Apple TV, which you can use to cast content over. With an Apple TV, use AirPlay to push it over to the TV, much like you would with a Chromecast.
Skillshare offers a free 7-day trial that unlocks everything, so you can jump right into any class you want. The trial period is less than it used to be, where it was once 14 days. It is short, and you do need to cancel before it’s up, or else you will get charged as a subscriber.
You can access some classes free of charge without signing up, but it’s not always clear which ones are. For instance, there is a Free Classes section, though when clicking on it, not all the classes presented actually are free. You will need to dig a little to find because they’re not labeled.
You have two options: go with a monthly plan at $9.99/month or pay $119.88 for a full year. Unfortunately, you save nothing from signing up for 12 months, so if you prefer to go month-to-month, it’s ultimately going to cost you the same in the long run. The only real advantage in paying for a year may come in the discounts you get from affiliates, like Adobe and Squarespace.
Currently, there are over 35,000 classes in just under 20 categories. On top of that, you have workshops, which carry a commitment to follow them over weeks at a time to learn something at a more granular and graduated level. Skillshare separates the categories into three broader sets: Build, Create and Thrive. You may also want to type in a search query if you’re looking to learn about something more specific.
The reason why is because the sets and categories are fairly broad, so you wouldn’t know what’s actually in there. For example, there are plenty of classes on cooking, sewing, podcasting, and various other topics.
As a subscriber, you can download videos to watch on your phone or tablet offline. Otherwise, you will stream everything, and videos vary in length. Some are long, at 10 minutes or longer, whereas others may be short one-minute snippets. It also depends on if the videos are in a series, or in workshops. Some are standalone, but you don’t always know that until you click on one.
The production values also depend on who made the video. Skillshare labels some as “Original” meaning they’ve been made in-house, and you can bet those will be the best. Others created by users must meet a certain standard or they don’t stay on the site.
If you want to be on the other side of the equation, you can teach a class on Skillshare. Naturally, this means you would have to produce it yourself, and the site offers a path to doing it right. Once you do and it goes live, you can earn money by referring students to sign up for paid accounts, and through royalties from views.
The pool of money teachers dip into is about 30% of the company’s subscription revenue. Except, a “view” isn’t just someone clicking onto the video, it’s how long they watch. The minutes add up to determine what the royalty is. Not only that, but minutes only count when subscribers (or those on a free trial) actually watch. Free content won’t draw a dime.
It’s hard to say how useful it is until you try it. It’s also easy enough to go on YouTube and find videos to learn things without spending anything. Skillshare tries to differentiate by ensuring a higher level of quality. You also can’t be sure how much depth each class offers.
I also have to point to the community element in all this. Some classes and workshops promote dialogue between students, kind of like a comments section without the toxicity you normally see on the web. That may be part of the problem because fellow students appear loath to critique another’s work. Think of it like a classroom where students are afraid to raise their hands and criticize anything. It’s hard to learn in an environment like that, and that does cast a pall over Skillshare as well.
It is a little more fluid within workshops because you and other students try to meet the same deadlines. If you end up collaborating, it opens up more opportunity for engagement. Since so many of the classes are practical, you don’t get much discussion over ideas on how to do things differently, or even why other methodologies might work better. Granted, I can’t be certain how widespread or consistent this sort of thing is, given the breadth of content, but I did come across it with different videos.
Skillshare is not like Khan Academy, which is free, or like the various platforms out there to learn how to code. It doesn’t excel in mathematics or science. YouTube is still a formidable alternative, even if it is hard to nail down the best content. MasterClass is on another level, especially when you want to learn from the very best.
You have to try Skillshare throughout the short trial to gauge its value. That will be the only way to know for sure whether it can teach you something.