April 19, 2024


Sapiens Digital

Skillshare – Review 2020 – PCMag Asia

You know the saying, “Never stop learning.” Skillshare helps you make good on it. Skillshare is a website where you can learn any number of skills by watching video lecture series on them. Many of the courses have additional materials, like worksheets and readings, plus interactive community spaces where students share their work and give feedback to each other. To date, Skillshare has covered an expanse of subject matter, although it’s been shifting to focus on skills for creative types. “Creative” encompasses a lot, however. Next to softer skills, like learning the nuances of memoir writing, you can also find courses for learning HTML5 or the software program After Effects. Skillshare offers a world of educational content that can benefit your career, indulge your hobbies, or simply help you accomplish something new. It doesn’t cost much either. It’s an Editors’ Choice for online education. 

Skillshare is a fun place to feed your brain, but it might not have the kinds of courses you’re looking for. For example, MasterClass may be better if you’re looking for inspirational words and advice from people at the very top of their fields. If you need to learn study more traditional academics topics, like trigonometry and organic chemistry, Khan Academy is the way to go. 

Skillshare Pricing and Plans

Skillshare has a free level, Premium membership ($19 per month or $99 per year), and Teams accounts. The free version is ad-supported. It gives you access to select video classes and their related content, such as PDF workbooks and community discussions.

Premium membership removes ads, unlocks the entire catalog of courses, and lets you download classes to the Skillshare mobile app to watch offline. When you pay for the annual membership, you get perks from affiliates, too, such as discounts on Shutterstock, Adobe Creative Cloud, Squarespace, and more.

Skillshare Teams subscriptions cost $99 per person per year, the same as a Premium annual subscription. This tier of service is designed for organizations who want to give their staff or members Skillshare accounts while administering them under one account. If you have 20 or fewer people on your team, you can create and pay for a Teams account online. If you have more than that, you’ll need to get in touch with someone at Skillshare.

Skillshare overview

How Much Do Other Learning Sites Cost?

The cost of online learning is all over the map. Some companies charge a membership fee while others sell access to specific classes only. For example, Teachable and The Great Courses sell specific courses rather than membership to the whole catalog of content, and the price varies based on the price the instructor sets. 

MasterClass sells access to its entire catalog for $180 per year, or you can pick one course for $90 (which we don’t recommend). LinkedIn Learning, formerly Lynda.com, is only available to LinkedIn Premium members. There are a few different options within the LinkedIn Premium membership options, but you’re looking at a minimum of $29 per month. Membership comes with other benefits besides online courses, including increased access to people and information on LinkedIn.

Khan Academy is 100 percentnbhytu free. It’s a nonprofit organization, and you can make a donation to the site if you want to support it monetarily.

What’s Inside Skillshare?

Let’s look at what Skillshare has to offer. The site broadly lumps classes into three categories:

Create has subtopics for creators of all stripes: animators, creative writers, filmmakers, artists, graphic designers, illustrators, musicians, photographers, UI and UX designers, and web developers. 

Build has subtopics related to business: analytics, freelance and entrepreneurship, leadership and management, and marketing. 

Thrive only has two subtopics at the moment: lifestyle and productivity. 

There is more to find on Skillshare, and you’ll want to use the search bar for anything that doesn’t obviously fit those categories. Take cooking for example. Skillshare has plenty of classes on cooking, but you might not know it from the categories. 

Skillshare course and video outline

What Are Skillshare Classes Like?

Classes don’t have a fixed format. Some contain a handful of videos that run about 10 minutes each. Other classes have 50 short videos of only one or two minutes each. Some classes have assignments, and learners share their creations with other people who have taken the class. Some teachers stick around to give feedback on student work or answer questions, while others clearly haven’t logged onto the site in a long time.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of courses: Skillshare Originals and classes that are created by individuals. When individuals create a class, they can earn money from it. More on that in a bit.

Skillshare Originals are courses produced by Skillshare. Some are cocreated with partners, like Mailchimp, Patreon, and Eataly. They may have celebrity or semi-celebrity instructors, and the production quality is guaranteed to be high. An Original class almost always contains several videos of about 8 to 10 minutes each, clearly labeled and meant for you to watch in order. Because the videos are fairly short, you can watch them in fits and spurts, pausing and resuming the class as needed, making it truly self-paced content.

To be fair, the best classes from the user-created content are similarly structured: short, sequential, labeled clearly. Since we at PCMag last reviewed Skillshare, the company has started auditing user-created videos and pulling those that don’t meet Skillshare’s quality standards. There are still thousands of videos, and you can tell which ones are good because they get high ratings from learners and many students sign up for them. 

While you, the learner, may never know how much work went into creating a class, the best ones clearly come from a detailed outline but don’t force the instructor to read word for word from a script. In this way, you get clarity and intimacy. The instructor knows where the lesson is going and can take you there in an authentic way. It’s counter to the scripted style of most classes on LinkedIn Learning, where all too many instructors have an overly corporate and sometimes robotic stage presence.

Skillshare class description

Getting Started 

To use Skillshare, you create an account and choose some areas of interest so the site can suggest classes. 

There are a number of ways you can find classes, such as browsing topics, checking out recommended or trending classes, or using the search bar. When you find an interesting course, you can bookmark it to watch later. Your account saves and keeps track of all the courses you bookmark, and you can organize them into playlists.

When you click to enter a course, you see the video player at center, a list of all the videos in the course to the right, and a complete description of the class and teacher below. You can also see how many students have expressed interest in the class. Skillshare members can rate videos overall and rate whether they’re suitable for beginners, people with experience, or people at all levels.

The Learner’s Perspective

We watched several classes while testing Skillshare, including courses on interior design, interior styling, memoir writing, personal essay writing, cooking, applying for jobs, and more.

The interior design class was thorough, clear, and well produced. The instructor used very short videos, which were labeled clearly and sequenced appropriately. She wore a lavalier microphone on her shirt and filmed the class with a good quality camera. She combined shots of her speaking about interior design principles with example images of designed rooms. This instructor provides some neat resources, too, such as apps and websites for virtually designing rooms and exploring color palettes.

Among the writing courses, Roxane Gray on essay writing, Ashley C. Ford on personal non-fiction writing, and Mary Karr on memoir were all fantastic. Except for a few cutaways to book covers and websites, almost all of these three classes consisted entirely of the writer talking.

You can turn on closed captioning, speed up or slow down the video playback speed, pause, skip ahead, go back, and so forth. When videos are short and have accurate titles, you can easily jump back and rewatch a particular moment from the course. 

Community Features and Interaction

When courses call for learner participation, you can usually join by looking at the discussion area below the video. Often you see instructions for what to share, such as pictures from a room you redesigned or a personal essay. Other learners can then comment on your work. People seem to follow an unspoken rule on Skillshare: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. All the comments we saw were positive and seemed to show students in good spirits. That type of feedback is less effective than a deep critical analysis, but it’s something.

If you want more interaction and community engagement, you can try Skillsh
are Workshops. Workshops are classes that come with a more structure and community involvement. They run between set dates and generally have a timeline that students should follow, such as “finish the first project by this deadline.” There isn’t anything magical separating Workshops from other classes, unless having deadlines and a community of other students motivates you to follow through and do the work.

Some of Skillshare’s non-workshop classes come with projects anyway, which are developed by the instructor. They’re entirely optional. Other students who take the class can’t see that you watched the class videos but didn’t participate; that’s true of Workshops as well.

The amount of participation varies dramatically. In the writing classes, for example, a good number of students uploaded essays. In a sewing machine class, however, no one had posted pictures of their sample projects. A Workshop about watercolor painting had a healthy amount of activity, though much of it was from a skillshare community manager or students posting about how much they love watercolors.

What I didn’t find were debates about the crux of any topic, like theory or purpose. In other experiences with academic online learning, instructors are always trying to get students to help each other learn by fostering deeper discussions. Why do we do what we do? Is this the best method and why? What are the shortcomings of this process or school of thought? That’s not the realm of Skillshare learners. MasterClass has glimmers of it but it comes less from the community and more from the instructor. 

The Teacher’s Perspective

With Skillshare, anyone can be a learner or teacher (or both). Teachers are responsible for every aspect of their course, from designing it to uploading videos and materials. Teachers who host courses on Skillshare earn money by referring students and other teachers, as well as through royalties.

How much can Skillshare teachers make? According to the company, the royalties calculation works like this: First, Skillshare creates a pool of money each month for royalties, which is 30 percent of the Premium membership revenue. Second, Skillshare adds up the number of minutes that Premium members (both paying and those on the free trial) watched your videos. You must have at least 30 minutes watched across all your videos to qualify for royalties each month. When students increase the playback speed, it decreases the time watched; if a learner plays a 10-minute video at 2x speed, the teacher earns 5 minutes. Finally, Skillshare adds up all the Premium minutes watched for the month and calculates a percentage per teacher. If a teacher gets 1% of all minutes watched, they get 1 percent of the royalty pot.

See the Skillshare Teacher Handbook for more on creating classes, payment, and other details.

Indulge Your Creative Skills

Skillshare lets you dabble in learning new skills you might even find some classes that challenge you in a meaningful way. It’s better than it was in the past on quality control and focus, shifting toward skills for creative people, even though those skills may cover business development, using software, or memoir writing. With its low price and great range of content, it’s easy to recommend Skillshare to anyone looking to learn new skills or sharpen existing ones. It’s a PCMag Editors’ Choice service for online courses. Other Editors’ Choice services for learning online are MasterClass for inspiration and advice from A-list experts and Khan Academy for academic learning.

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