What ever happened to your childhood dreams? Those plans to become an artist, a writer, or a pottery maker? For most of us, we sat those dreams aside as we pursued more practical work—but that doesn’t mean those longings went away.
Many of us have that old hobby we used to love, or that skill we always wanted to learn—but never thought we could. It’d be nice to finally be able to animate those superhero stories we always dreamed up, or create actually create a beautiful home from those sketches we have lying around. But we don’t have the time to go to an actual class, nor teachers near us, so those dreams must be out of reach—right?
Online learning libraries are out to prove those assumptions wrong.
There are thousands of online courses today, videos that teach you how to do anything from code to yoga. But with so many, it’s hard to know which one is reputable, and whether the ones you hear about are actually worth your time. In this review, we’re going to dive into one of the most recognizable names in online learning courses, Skillshare.
It seems like every podcast, YouTube video, or blog post is sponsored by Skillshare lately—but what exactly is it? Skillshare is an online library of learning videos and courses—focusing mainly on creative topics such as animation or photography. It was launched in 2010 by Michael Karnjanaprahorn and Malcom Ong, and has now grown into a massive company, boasting 20,000 courses and over 4 million students.
They want to help students “explore new skills, deepen existing passions, and get lost in creativity.” While they have almost every topic in their courses, the majority of classes are more artistic-leaning, for their motto is “inspiring discovery through creativity.”
You can create a Skillshare account for free—simply sign up with your email, Google, or Facebook account. This Basic membership gives you access to their free classes, as well as their community. You can upgrade to Premium as well, with a free two-month trial to see if it’s right for you. As part of building your profile, you’ll be asked to select three categories you’re interested in, so Skillshare can build you a personalized recommendation page.
Once you navigate to your homepage, there’s a variety of class options to choose from. Skillshare divides its classes into three larger topics—Create, Build, and Thrive. Each of these categories then have topics within them, with hundreds of videos in each topic.
You can always search for specific classes by typing a phrase or topic into the search bar, or browse through your homepage to see featured, trending, and popular classes.
Once you find a class that interests you, click on it to see a preview video and more information about the class. You can see how many students are taking a class, and who the instructor is—sometimes even being able to see what credentials and experience that instructor has. You can scroll through the syllabus to see what is taught, and reviews to see how well it is taught.
There’s also a section for further resources and projects—each class has a project that you create as you learn, that way you have something tangible to show at the end of your time. The projects tab allows you to upload your own for others to see, as well as to browse the projects of other students.
Once you find a class you’re interested in, you can “save” the video for later, or simply hit play and begin learning! You can skip forward or backwards in each video, go back to old videos to watch again, and see comments at certain timestamps that other students have made.
The two levels of Skillshare are Basic and Premium, each with their own strengths.
Basic is their free “subscription,” which you get simply by signing up with your email. This allows you access to around 2,100 free classes, as well as the Skillshare community. However, while these lessons are high-quality, most of them will be directed towards encouraging you to a paid subscription, whether that’s referring to other videos you could access or projects you could complete.
Basic has ads as well, which can be distracting as you’re trying to learn. There’s no option to download videos on the free version—which means no learning while traveling; and no teacher support to answer your questions or make connections.
Skillshare’s Premium subscription beings with the first two months free, and then $19 for each month after that. Alternatively, you can purchase and entire year’s subscription for $99, which comes out to about $8.25 each month. Premium gives you unlimited access to their entire library of videos, as well as allowing you to download them for offline use.
There are some perks for premium members as well: Skillshare has partnered with several other creative sites to give their members discounts, from $20 off Shutterstock orders to 15% off Adobe Creative Cloud.
For the low price, greater access, and perks that come with Premium, we think that Skillshare’s paid membership is worth the price.
There are more than just simple courses on Skillshare, though. They regularly run workshops for their students—more of the experience of a live online class. In these workshops, students take 2-3 complementary classes together, following a schedule set up by the teacher, learning alongside others students together for around 4 weeks. This allows you to build a full skill-set, as well as grow not only from your teacher’s instruction, but also through discussions with your peers—who are learning the same things at the same time.
Another aspect of Skillshare that you can utilize is the Groups feature. This is Skillshare’s “social media,” ways to connect with and message likeminded individuals. This is a great way to make connections, show off your work, network, and find others with niche interests. Be sure to utilize your profile to make the most out of this aspect—fill out your bio and headline, and show off your completed projects to showcase your skills.
The problem that plagues many online-learning libraries is that anyone can teach—and while Skillshare has that same set up, it has so far avoided the downsides. Though there is “no approval or application” for teachers on Skillshare, their videos have still been consistently high-quality. This is likely because of their reward system for teachers—they’re paid by the number of minutes watched, and poorly made videos will have low viewing numbers as students simply leave. Skillshare boasts of having “icons, experts, and industry rockstars” as their teachers, and that claim holds true.
Skillshare also works to update their content regularly, and the almost-daily uploads of new classes means that you can always find reliable information on even the newest updates to systems.
However, Skillshare is not accredited, so you cannot earn reliable certificates to share with your employers. However, since most of the courses on Skillshare are geared toward more personal and creative pursuits, this isn’t a large problem.
There has been issues with cancelling subscriptions to Skillshare—their site declares that they cannot help you get a refund if you purchased your subscription through the app. It can be difficult to contact Customer Service as well, and their Help Page is buried deep within their site.
As Skillshare has grown, they’ve continued to work on their customer service issues and ensure their reliability—so there’s a reason that their praises ring out across the internet.
At $19 a month (or $8.25 a month with the yearly subscription), Skillshare is already modestly priced—but there’s plenty of ways to find other discounts. They offer the first two months of a subscription free for anyone to test it out, and they’re not a company that wants you to forget and have to pay them—they’ll actually send you a reminder email three days before your free trial expires.
There are also many coupons you can find for SkillShare. Any blog or channel that is promoting them will often offer a 10-15% off discount code, and you can use the code Learn10 to get 10% off a subscription today. They also offer 50% off their premium subscription for students with a valid .edu email address, so it’s cheap enough for college students as well.
Coursera is another high-quality online learning library—though they focus more on academic subjects. Coursera is partnered with and backed by accredited universities, and so certificates from their can count as college credits or hold weight on a resume. Coursera offers different tracks for different learners—but you can also audit almost all of their courses for free, and still learn, though without being able to access assignments or the community as much.
However, Coursera is far more expensive than Skillshare. Individual courses range from $49-$99 each, and a premium membership that gives you access comparable to Skillshare’s costs $399 a year. Also, the topics on Coursera are far more niche than Skillshare’s—focusing mainly on academic topics, while Skillshare has far more creative pursuits.
Udemy is comparable to Skillshare in its variety of topics—and Udemy has a far larger library of videos to access. They have courses on everything from coding to baking, and courses for even the most niche subjects.
However, many of Udemy’s courses are lower-quality than Skillshare’s—and many courses are not updated, and may even teach unethical business practices. While you can earn a certificate on Udemy, because of their low quality and lack of accreditation makes those certificates basically useless on a resume.
Skillshare is an industry-name—and that’s for a reason. It’s low price and high-quality combine to make it a valuable tool, and a great resource for anyone. While you can’t earn certificates to show your progress, you can create tangible projects that prove the same thing. For those of us who always want to keep learning, or to get in touch with our artistic side, or even are just curious about how to do one skill, Skillshare is a great way to keep discovering and creating.