When I was a boy, my grandpa would ask me the same question over and over. “What did you learn in school today?” The repetitive nature of his questioning helped to create an awareness in me that school was important and that I needed to bring focus and attention to it, to get the most from my teachers.
Today, I ask myself, “What did I learn today?” Did I learn to be a better writer, a better advertising professional or a better person? Many of these learning opportunities occur naturally throughout the day.
To stretch and learn new things, it takes the creation of new routines. Enter MasterClass. According to Ad Age, the online education startup sells access to celebrities in the form of video lectures for $90 a pop.
Amy Sezak, a spokeswoman for MasterClass, said 80 percent of the company’s revenue comes from annual subscriptions, which cost $180. Ah, the joy of revolving income—subscriptions for the win!
Interestingly, Hollywood talent agencies are among the company’s long list of backers. It makes sense. A celebrity can use the one-to-many platform to reach current and new fans.
How Well Does Online Education Work?
Only 4 percent of students complete online courses, according to a study by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.
MasterClass said all-access members take six to eight courses a year, though they may not watch all 20 or 30 videos in each class. “Completion is not a factor for how much you’ve learned; it’s not a proxy for how much you enjoyed a class,” MasterClass founder, David Rogier said.
To me, this is the key difference in “lifestyle learning” versus academic or a trade-based education. No accountability, no advancement.
Are Expert Doers Also Great Teachers?
Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School said MasterClass approached him about taking an advisory role with the company. Grant then penned an editorial, published last month in the New York Times, saying the most skilled experts in a field are often the worst teachers.
It wasn’t that they didn’t care about teaching. It was that they knew too much about their subject, and had mastered it too long ago, to relate to my ignorance about it. Social scientists call it the curse of knowledge. As the psychologist, Sian Beilock, now the president of Barnard College, writes, “As you get better and better at what you do, your ability to communicate your understanding or to help others learn that skill often gets worse and worse.”
I’m thinking back to the time when I learned to be a copywriter. My first interview was with the best copywriter in the business—Janet Champ at Wieden+Kennedy. She also happens to be an eloquent and generous teacher. Not everyone can be both, I get that. But not everyone who excels at their craft is a weak instructor. Far from it.