Issue #8

Issue #8

Hello world and welcome back!

My slowly withering attention span has caused a Youtube glut over the past few weeks, and with Masterclass continuing to push digital advertising, most time is spent watching Gordon Ramsey toss an obscure fish into a pan I can’t afford with a seasoning I don’t know how to pronounce. Nice!

For those unfamiliar, Masterclass has more recently emerged as another e-learning platform - key differentiators from most platforms include the highly recognizable instructors (Jane Goodall, Penn and Teller, Hans Zimmer, etc.), less traditional classes (Conservation, Art of Magic, Film Scoring), and a focus on visual quality and experience. This intro dives into the topic, so would recommend checking out their site, it is quite impressive. Online courses have picked up during these times, so thought I’d share some of my thoughts on this more unique case.

The branding, marketing, visuals, and story that Masterclass presents is engaging, with the opportunity to expand into realms rarely covered in typical online courses. I’m sure it will continue to raise money and serve hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts interested in niche subjects. And this may prove to be “successful” across many interpretations. But my question stems from what both sides consider success and if/how it will achieve that. As students, employees, and learners, we have more recently witnessed the benefits and drawbacks of e-everything. From a high-level view of the platform and its value prop, my biggest questions:

  • What are they really selling?

Ties into desired outcomes, but doesn’t seem clear what course content/value they are looking to provide. Is it the stature of the professor, the unusual learning plan, the enticing visuals, or all of the above? How much can be gained through 3-5 hours of content on a somewhat vague subject?

  • Who is the intended audience?

There is a disconnect between an amateur and novice. The mindset, skill, and baseline process is inherently different. The classes are not broken down by skill level, so I don’t think they can push the technical side of the crafts.

  • What are desired outcomes?

This one has me stumped. One of the courses with Steph Curry is titled ‘Steph teaches Shooting, Ball Handling, and Scoring’. Even as a basketball fan who used to play, I cannot pinpoint what type of player needs these lessons and what they will get out of it.

The lessons seem to be centered around more visual-type activities: cooking, sport, film/photography. Yet my uncertainty is on the basis of my experiences in college, in which the appeal to certain classes was the standing of professors who were at the top of their craft, leading the field in research and academia. In my experience, I was (in general) not overly inspired by these classes - not to say the professors were not brilliant, but the art of teaching is its own craft. I’d usually ask myself after a thorough understanding of a subject how I would teach it differently. Learning styles are personal, but they acted as a simple way of determination. Teaching and doing don’t always align, meaning these skilled professionals may not be able to effectively communicate the fundamentals to a broader audience.

For any course, the structure and curriculum determine the intended outcomes and emphasis. For Masterclass, it seems harder to determine which structure is most beneficial to the users, instructors, and site as a whole. In my mind, I’d think it boils down to two forms of teaching: free form, in which the instructor takes full reign based on the course, and diving into the small nuggets of advice that have taken them from good to great. Or, set curriculum applied to all learners, in which the masters are confined to sticking to baseline fundamentals (along the lines of most Udemy/Coursera courses). There is undoubtedly a happy medium, but it would seem more profitable to reach a broader audience pushing toward option 2. On the scale of 'edutainment’, entertainment does seem to reign; regardless, the potential for viewership is extremely high and I do think the entertainment appeal is extremely strong. I am sure there is some truly applicable knowledge dispersed throughout the material, but interested in how the more abstract classes play out.

Yearly subscription of $180, so if you’d like to help a young blossoming mind, venmo @sachit-bhat :)

Round 🎱

Product I’m Using

I run through quite a lot of articles, videos, blogs, etc. each week, and have begun using Pocket more consistently to save content. My goal going forward is to share weekly prompts in the prior issue, so this could be helpful in saving anything that might be of relevance.

Video I’m Watching

I TA'ed for a Systems Engineering course in college, essentially the management of the processes/stages in building large-scale systems (Space Telescopes, Stadiums, Metro Systems, etc). An interesting application of similar concepts.

Post That Has Resonated

I’ve been following Derek Sivers for about a year now and a few of my books that I read this year were from his list. I’m planning to do something similar but will be structuring the thoughts section differently.

I read this article a few weeks before starting the newsletter and it stuck with me. Weekly posts seem to give me ample time to write and throw out the 90% I don’t like.

Thank you all for reading! I just hit 100 subscribers this past week, which is a huge accomplishment - I do genuinely appreciate you for taking time to read and provide input. I am continuing to experiment with new ideas and forcing myself to write and record my progress, so the more perspectives the better.