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Two of the best online learning platforms these days are MasterClass and The Great Courses Plus – while they’re similar in a lot of ways, they offer a lot of unique features and outlooks on online education and online courses.
In this article, we’re going to compare MasterClass vs The Great Courses Plus and see which is best for you. We’ll do that by looking at the following criteria:
- Range of Courses
- Student Experience
- Instructor Quality
- Course Quality
- Flexibility/Time Commitment
Note: It’s important to keep in mind the Great Courses and ‘The Great Courses Plus’ are two unique businesses. We’ll look to cover both here when relevant but our focus is on the subscription model, Great Courses Plus.
Can’t Wait? Here’s Our Verdict
Both options are great. And, as you can see, it’s a super-close contest. But for me, if you’re a general student wanting to learn a range of topics, The Great Courses Plus is the better option. A lot more classes, a lot more topics, taught by educational leaders, and a better price.
At the very least, Great Courses Plus has a full 30-day free trial which is worth trying out, even if you choose MasterClass.
However, that isn’t to say MasterClass is bad quality. if you’re interested in a particular field like writing, then you might like the MasterClass courses. I’ve taken a few classes like Malcolm Gladwell’s and thought they were great.
Courses on Offer
The Great Courses Plus offers thousands of individual lectures in hundreds of courses in a wide range of subjects. There are two or three new courses added monthly too.
Honestly, no matter how hard you try, you’ll never run out of options on The Great Courses Plus.
With MasterClass, there is a much more narrow scope of courses, with around 80 different courses at the moment (but that list is constantly growing).
However, there are few clusters of related content. So, for example, if you’re into writing there are four or five different courses you might be into. Same with cooking.
Winner: Great Courses Plus wins this one. There is about 10x the amount of content of The Great Courses Plus, so it’s an easy victory here.
One problem that most Online Class platforms have is the lack of student experience. It’s hard to develop that sense of community with students from all over the world.
The Great Courses Plus has a very academic approach to the content. That means each subject has in-depth lessons and some practical courses will have homework at the end of each lesson. This is for students to get the most out of their learning experience. However, it isn’t exactly engaging.
MasterClass, on the other hand, does attempt to include a lot of different engagement tactics. There are also question and answer videos where students record questions that they have from the course. The instructor then answers these questions so that other students can better their understanding of the topic. It’s pretty cool seeing Steph Curry record his answer to a student’s questions on shooting.
There’s also a student forum that has conversations about the course and its content. Now, not every forum is active, but the active ones are useful.
Also, with MasterClass, each course comes with a digital workbook that includes extra information, activities, as well as space for taking notes.
Winner: MasterClass wins here. Having fewer courses means that they can try to bring engagement tools into the student experience.
MasterClass is one of the leading online education platforms where anyone can learn from the most successful people in their respective industries. This unique quality of MasterClass is also one of its most prominent advantages. As a student, you can learn different skills from the best in each industry. For example, MasterClass offers a singing course taught by Christina Aguilera, and Samuel L. Jackson teaches a course on acting.
Now, this has its positives and negatives. Obviously, cooking lessons from Gordon Ramsay is a draw, but just because they’re famous, doesn’t mean they can teach. There are a few courses on MasterClass where the instructor is pretty poor (not the Gordon Ramsay one though, he’s great).
While Great Courses does not use celebrities as their instructors, it does have some of the most esteemed professors and experts serving as teachers.
Great Courses makes a point to vet their potential lecturers very thoroughly- many of the featured lecturers are professors from ivy-league universities. There are also employees from well-respected institutions. You can learn photography from a National Geographic photographer, or you can learn about the American Revolution with a professor at Princeton University.
Winner: The Great Courses Plus may not have the flashy names that MasterClass does, but their instructor quality is a lot better.
However, many MasterClass students sign up solely for the celebrity instructor. If that’s you, then obviously you’d rather MasterClass.
For the general student though, give me Great Courses Plus any day of the week (and twice on Sundays).
Obviously, course quality is an important factor when making a buying decision. MasterClass offers a pretty high standard to their courses. Each course has somewhere between 10-20+ individual lectures that cover a range of sub-topics. For example, here’s the outline for the Serena Williams course.
However, a lot of MasterClass courses don’t really seem to follow much of an educational structure. Instead, they’re more of a short conversation or anecdote from the celebrity lecturer. I’ve found a lot of the classes aren’t really designed with teaching the student at the forefront.
Obviously, the celebrity instructors are the selling point for MasterClass, so it makes sense that they’d double-down on making the instructor the star of the show. However, if you’re taking the class to learn a new skill, you may be disappointed.
With The Great Courses Plus, the quality of the course depends on the subject and who teaches. Some classes are more structured, and others have a more thought-provoking flair. If you decide to take a class in the arts, expect to see less structure. For more business-oriented programs, you can see a clear framework for each lesson. Either way though, they’ve got set learning intentions for students and you can learn quite a lot from taking Great Courses Plus courses.
Winner: For us, Great Courses Plus wins this category. While MasterClass courses are good, they feel more like a conversation with the instructor than they do an actual lesson. Whereas many of the Great Courses Plus set out to teach a particular skill.
Flexibility and Time Commitment
When it comes to MasterClass and The Great Courses Plus, you can watch the courses at your convenience. Courses on both platforms have about 20 video lessons, each lasting about 10 to 30 minutes. Some Great Courses Plus videos can be longer, but still an appropriate length.
You can pause or rewind as needed. Students can view lessons on their smartphone, tablet, computer, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, or any other streaming player.
Winner: It’s a tie here. Both offer ultimate flexibility and lessons that are short enough to watch when you don’t have a lot of time.
MasterClass has a few things going on when it comes to prices. You can buy an individual course for $90, which grants access to the course and all its supplemental notes and videos.
Although it seems a bit pricey, purchasing a course gives you access to it forever. If you want to learn about more than one subject, then MasterClass offers yearly access to all classes for $180.
In the long run, the price is probably worth it, but at first glance, it is a bit expensive.
Great Courses Plus starts by offering a full month’s access for free (which, you should sign up for regardless).
From there, there’s a simple pricing structure. You can either pay by the month or by the quarter.
I love the quarterly pricing structure. Too often you only get the option to pay an inflated monthly price or an overall-expensive yearly price.
Great Course Plus offers that awesome in-between price which is key.
The same pricing disadvantage you get with subscriptions applies to MasterClass and Great Courses: it is easy to purchase and then forget. Therefore, after deciding to purchase, you should set time aside dedicated to viewing each lesson so you can get the most out of your money.
With all things considered- cost, quality, content- in a showdown of MasterClass vs Great Courses, the winner is Great Courses.
Great Courses proved to be a bit pricier than MasterClass. However, it offers more content- over 700 different courses! It also has some of the most well-respected and well-qualified experts in their industry, serving as the teachers. Therefore, you can have confidence in your lecturer.
Great Courses Plus offers an easy payment option with $24.99 a month (and even less if you pay quarterly), you can sign up once and have complete access.
MasterClass uses its celebrity element to teaching. It can be fun to learn about an industry from your favorite personality. However, when it comes to learning a subject, Great Courses can offer you a bit more. Their lecturers may not be famous in the eyes of the public, but they provide students with their knowledge from experiences and studies.
All in all, MasterClass and Great Courses both offer people the chance to learn for the sake of learning. No matter which you choose, you can be sure to discover something new.