Do you remember when learning new skills used to involve textbooks, notepads and courses at an adult education centre? It became starkly apparent how much things have changed when I sat down to produce this Skillshare review. To be honest, it made me feel a bit old…
Now I really do feel old(!) so I’m going to get straight into this Skillshare review. It covers learning on Skillshare, as well as using it as a platform to produce and profit from courses of your own.
Skillshare is an online course website that makes tens of thousands of courses available on a monthly or annual subscription basis. The site covers almost every imaginable topic, and the courses include official offerings from well-known companies such as Etsy, Buffer and Moz.
As well as offering course subscriptions if you want to study, Skillshare also allows you to sign up as a teacher, and produce your own courses. You can then earn money from Skillshare based on the number of people who decide to consume your course materials.
SkillShare is a legitimate online training company. It’s been in business since 2010 and holds an impressive Trustpilot score of 9.2 at the time of writing.
As with many companies that deal with thousands of people, there are some negative reviews of Skillshare online. These often seem to relate to people who’ve neglected to cancel membership subscriptions. We delve into that in more detail below.
With nearly 30,000 courses, Skillshare covers almost any subject you could think of.
Skillshare includes courses on:
- Technical Subjects – from Windows Server administration to Search Engine Optimisation.
- Creative Topics – from photography to crafts.
- Writing – spanning business texts, self publishing and creative writing.
- Business and Entrepreneurship – from basic freelancing to venture capital.
- Finance and Accounting – including book-keeping and courses on specific financial software.
- Programming – from app development to data science.
- Lifestyle Courses – covering everything from cookery to language learning.
Whilst completing this Skillshare review, I used the search function to search for a wide range of different topics, from “MacOS” to “Garageband” and from “freelance rates” to “book keeping.” In every case, I found plenty of courses to choose from.
Skillshare works on a subscription model. You pay a fixed fee per month or per year for unlimited access to every course and workshop on the platform. This differs from the likes of Udemy and Coursera, where you usually sign up and pay for courses individually.
Skillshare offers a completely unrestricted free trial for one month, so you can sign up, complete several courses and see what you think, before committing to spending anything at all. You do have to provide your card details to do this, so you must remember to cancel if you don’t wish to continue after the trial.
If you sign up to Skillshare with this link, you can receive a two-month free trial instead of one.
SkillShare costs $8.25 (or GB£7) per month if you pay annually up-front, or $15 (£13) per month if you prefer to pay monthly.
SkillShare also offers team plans for companies, and these start at $99 per user per year.
The Referral Scheme
Skillshare offers an interesting referral scheme, where you can offer your friends a two-month free trial, gaining a free month for yourself for each who signs up. This is a potential way to continue studying for longer without paying out.
Signing Up and Getting Started
The sign-up process for Skillshare is very straightforward. You just provide the basics of your name and password. There’s also the option of signing up via a Facebook or Google account.
There is a month’s free trial, but you’re also asked for your card details so that payment can be taken if you choose to continue. It’s worth noting that this is where you select whether to pay on a monthly or annual basis. As such, you’ll want to ensure you select the right option before proceeding.
After this, you’re encouraged to select a few subject areas you’re particularly interested in. This is so that Skillshare can make suitable course recommendations. You can also save a few courses to your profile to begin your own learning path.
I’ve already mentioned Netflix once in the introduction, and it won’t be the last time! The experience – from the course recommendations to the huge library of content on tap for one subscription fee – does make Skillshare feel very much akin to a “Netflix for learning.”
Just to labour that Netflix analogy a little more, choosing what course to focus on on Skillshare can resemble the pressure of choosing what to watch on Netflix.
There’s an enormous amount of choice, so it can feel quite overwhelming at first. However, the site does do well in giving you lots of ways to drill down to the classes that will be of most interest.
As well as offering you courses based on the preferences you set during setup, there are also “Recommended Lists” that group courses that fit well together. (These are a little like the specialisations on Coursera, which you can read about here).
The search facility is useful if you know exactly what it is you want to learn about. The “Browse” menu in the top left is also handy if you want to drill down into specific topic categories, such as “Freelance” or “Web Development.”
As anyone can create courses for Skillshare, the quality and production values can vary from course to course. That said, with only a couple of exceptions I thought the quality was good – and in some cases, surprisingly good.
In order to assess the best courses to take, there are user reviews for every one, and these help you get a strong sense of what to expect.
One flaw is that you can’t see the overall review score while you’re browsing the courses. You have to click into each one individually. The best strategy I could see was to look at how many students each course had gained (presumably a sign of quality) and be guided by that before checking out individual reviews.
Of course, a big bonus of Skillshare’s one-off subscription is that you gain access to all courses anyway. That means that if you’re not “feeling” a course for any reason, you can always drop it and try something else – even if it’s for no better reason than the instructor irritates you. This obviously beats being stuck with a course because you’ve paid individually for it. (That Netflix / Blockbuster Video analogy is on the tip of my tongue again…)
The Learning Experience
If you’ve taken any online courses before, you’ll know what to expect from Skillshare. There’s a video window that plays the course content, which is usually divided into bite-size classes. It’s worth noting that course and lesson durations can vary, from minutes to many hours.
Underneath the video window is a selection of other information, which includes an instructor profile, links to supplementary information and project details (see below for more on those). The quality of this information can vary, with some courses providing a wealth of extra material and others not giving you much at all. One bad point is that some course instructors use this space to try to promote their own products and websites.
The video player is exactly what you’d expect, but it’s well featured. You have access to closed captions, and you can do things like speed up playback and rewind 15 seconds if you didn’t catch something.
All in all, it’s a decent, functional learning environment, and it works well.
Projects and Community Activities
Many courses also include a project element, where you can act on what you’ve learned and present a related project to instructors and fellow students.
This introduces a pleasing extra layer of interactivity. Due to the millions of people on the platform, there is a decent amount of interaction, with people “liking” and commenting on other people’s projects.
Skillshare workshops are in addition to the available courses, and give you a chance to study in a more interactive way.
These run during set time periods, and involve specific assignments and lots of interaction with fellow learners. They’re a good way to introduce a bit more accountability, beyond simply disciplining yourself to watch training videos and read supplementary material.
Skillshare does encourage users to share the projects they are encouraged to complete as part of each course, suggesting that this could be an alternative way of demonstrating new knowledge.
Skillshare doesn’t issue certificates when you complete courses on its platform. In this way it has more in common with Udemy than with Coursera and eDx, both of which allow you to download certificates and connect to them from your LinkedIn profile. If you’re looking to boost your official credentials, rather than train casually, you may wish to check out one of those platforms instead.
As part of completing this Skillshare review, I also downloaded the Skillshare app to my iPad.
It’s slick and functional, and keeps your training progress synced with what you do on your computer. The Skillshare app isn’t exciting, but it does what it’s meant to do. It means you can continue your courses while you travel, commute, or even lie in the bath! As with so many things I suggest on HomeWorkingClub, this is a much more productive way to spend downtime than playing games or scrolling endlessly through Instagram…
Another interesting part of Skillshare is that you can decide to teach on the platform instead of learning. (The same applies to Udemy, which we review here).
You can make money on Skillshare by creating your own lessons and courses. You’re then paid a royalty based on the number of minutes of your classes Skillshare users watch.
While this isn’t intended to be a full Skillshare teacher review, I did have a look into some of the practicalities and numbers around teaching on Skillshare. A key point is that you don’t earn any revenue until students collectively watch at least 30 minutes of your training materials in a month.
The money paid to teachers comes from a “royalty pool.” Skillshare states that this comprises 30-50% of the revenue they earn from premium memberships. It’s fair to say this is a far from small amount!
Skillshare state that their top teachers earn in excess of $100,000 per year.
I dived into this a little further and found that Skillshare teachers typically earn around $200 in their first month of adding a course to Skillshare. “Top teachers” apparently earn “upwards of $3000.”
I’d be interested to hear from any teachers who work on the platform. Obviously as Skillshare works on a “royalty pool” system, they can’t provide a “royalty per minute” figure, or similar. The downside of this is that what you can hope to earn isn’t particularly transparent.
One criticism I’ve seen in other Skillshare reviews is that it’s hard to access support from a real person.
Despite a good, extensive knowledge-base, and lots of FAQs and instructional articles, real support is only courtesy of a ticket system. This is a bit of a shame, and I would like to see the addition of live chat or even phone support.
As mentioned near the start, I have seen some negative Skillshare reviews, largely relating to subscription payments. It certainly struck me as odd that the company has such a poor reputation on the Better Business Bureau – a reputation very much at odds with its positive score on TrustPilot.
Not having live chat or phone support doesn’t help this situation. However, plenty of the reviews are along the lines of those pictured below:
Anyone who’s read my content for any length of time will know I don’t tend to have a lot of patience for this kind of thing. I personally think that if you sign up to something, make use of a free trial and then forget to cancel, it’s a bit rich to head straight for the Better Business Bureau and leave a one-star review!
Furthermore, some of these complaints have been signed off as satisfactorily resolved.
Anyway, I did wonder if I would find it’s unnecessarily difficult to cancel, but I found the option with no trouble. (You click on the profile icon, go to “Account Settings,” then “Payments,” and click “Cancel Membership”).
Believe me, I get very annoyed when online services make it hard for you to cancel, and especially despise firms that make you phone them or email to complete a cancellation. However, I found it perfectly easy to cancel Skillshare.
If I’m ever unexpectedly charged, I will update the review. Similarly, if any readers have any information to share on this, please leave a comment.
Now I’ve completed my Skillshare review, I can no longer resist the temptation to go back to my original analogy, describing Skillshare as a “Netflix for learning.”
Unlimited access to nearly 30,000 courses for less than ten bucks per month is a great deal, even though the quality of them can vary. Thanks to the free trial, you can try (extensively) before you buy, making Skillshare well worth a look if you have a thirst for knowledge. It’s especially good if you like the idea of having the freedom to flit around learning about a whole range of different topics.
For some, however, this wealth of choice could be a disadvantage. I can imagine people skipping from one course to another, never settling on any one topic. The fact that these courses aren’t “official” (even though some are created by companies and industry names) also means that while this training will teach you new skills, it’s not going to bolster a resumé.
The one thing all online training has in common is that it rewards those who take it seriously, put real effort in, and actually work to apply the new knowledge. Really, how much Skillshare will work for you depends on whether you are one of those people.
- A slick platform with a functional complementary app.
- A low subscription cost for what’s on offer.
- A huge range of different courses.
- The possibility to make money from producing courses of your own.
- A strong community feel.
- Courses from big-name companies, particularly in the world of online marketing.
- A generous free trial period.
- Courses aren’t accredited and there are no certificates.
- Course quality can vary.
- The level of choice can feel overwhelming.
- Support options could (and should) be better.
- Some negative online feedback.
To conclude this Skillshare review, here are some alternatives to Skillshare that you may wish to consider:
- For a similar range of courses, but with the option to buy just one at a time, check out Udemy.
- For slightly more formal courses, delivered in league with colleges and companies, Coursera and eDx may be more appealing.
- For other free and cheap training options, check out this article.
If you sign up to Skillshare with this link, you can receive a two-month free trial instead of one.
- Ease of Use