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As college tuitions skyrocket to the most expensive they’ve ever been, online learning resources are popping up to fill the widening chasm.
Whether it’s picking up a hard or soft skill needed to catch a hiring manager’s eye, jump-starting your recreational creativity, or actually earning a master’s degree from one of the top universities in the US, online platforms are helping democratize higher learning for a fraction of the cost required to enroll in universities.
Of those many online resources, Skillshare may be one of the most exciting.
Like a ClassPass for learning, a Skillshare membership gives you unlimited access to over 25,000 adult learning courses across thousands of disciplines — perfect for advancing your career or learning a new hobby. Classes range from beginner to expert and fall into categories like design, illustration, business, technology, photo and film, entrepreneurship, and writing — and you can sign up for multiple without any extra charge.
Each class is comprised of short lessons and a hands-on project, and you can share the project with your class to get feedback from peers or collaborate with the community.
It’s free for the first month for new users. After that, it’s $15 monthly or $99 in one annual payment ($8.25 per month) for individuals. There are also volume discounts for teams that sign up together, and, in like with the mission of making learning accessible, students can get 50% off a Premium Membership with a valid .edu email address. And for every annual Premium Membership purchased, the site donates one to someone in financial need.
I started my own Skillshare membership because one of my all-time favorite authors, Roxane Gay (best known for “ Bad Feminist” and “ Hunger“), publicized that she was hosting a Personal Essays with Impact class on the site. If I had completed Gay’s course in the month-long span of the free trial, then I hypothetically could have taken a class curated by a prestigious author and recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts completely for free. In actuality, I adopted a slower pace and eventually decided to commit to the full year.
Skillshare itself makes truly continual, high-level learning feasible with its affordable access, good material, and variety. But, unexpectedly, the trial process also helped me figure out if, post-grad, I wanted to commit to courses again. In theory, I know I’m happiest when I’m learning. But, I wasn’t certain of it being put into practice until I tried it with the free trial, focused on a subject I was truly interested in.
The downsides to Skillshare to note are that, unlike pay-per-class learning communities like Udemy, you won’t have lifetime access to the courses you take while you’re a member. Once you cancel your membership, you lose access to your class videos and any downloadable material provided by teachers at the end of your current pay period. So, that means you have to make the most of the time you do plan to pay for the service (which may actually serve as a beneficial deadline for a service that relies upon personal discipline).
The bottom line
All in all, it’s a great tool for lifelong learners who want variety, expertise, and flexibility, as well as professionals looking for an affordable way to sharpen their career skills or hone their craft — or a blend of the two. For $15 per month, or $99 per year (and even less for those with an .edu email) you can take multiple classes across thousands of disciplines. It cuts out the fees and time restrictions of finding and enrolling in a community college course and gives you more variety than most pay-per-class online learning platforms. If that sounds appealing, I recommend trying it free for the first month to see if you can fit it into your lifestyle too.