Keep On Learning
Photos: Potter courtesy of CourseHorse; Dustin Hoffman courtesy of MasterClass
BY KITT WALSH
A mind is a terrible thing to waste, even when you are on the other side of half a century on the planet. Not only does continuing to educate yourself give you something other than your grandkids to use as a conversational gambit, but stretching your brain may help prevent dementia and gives you something interesting with which to fill your hours if you are lucky enough to be retired.
The term “continuing education” used to evoke images of basket-weaving or scrap-booking classes at the local community college, but the internet has changed all that, literally bringing a world of knowledge to your door.
CourseHorse is the first marketplace that helps people discover and enroll in trusted local classes in three markets—Chicago, New York and Los Angeles (with more markets planned), as well as attend courses online. You may enroll in classes like Voice Over Home Studio that helps you set up a home studio and teaches you how to make an audition tape ($63.20) or a private tutorial on Adobe Illustrator to help awaken your inner graphic artist ($200). You can learn to Write for TV ($495) and brush up on those rusty Essential Grammar skills ($395) you have forgotten since learning them in school (where do those damn commas go, after all?)
If you are headed for a second career, you can refresh your skills with instruction in the latest computer software like How to Install a Firewall ($2995) or learn all about the Cloud and Big Data ($695).
CourseHorse has plenty of classes ranging from casual programs (such as cooking and art) to professional courses (like finance and programming), boasting some 70,000 topics with more being added all the time. The company works with 1,500 class providers and has 200,000 members, nationwide.
Online classes are held in a “virtual classroom” and are available by a live webinar, video conferencing or some may be attended just over the phone. All courses are easily searchable and are reviewed online by former students using the familiar star-rating. The classes may be purchased via a credit card (or gift card) and attending one earns you points to use for discounts in attending another.
Evan Fain, Vice President, Business Development & Marketing says, “Learning is a lifelong pursuit and CourseHorse’s goal is simple–to make that pursuit easier.”
MasterClass kicks things up a notch. When you sign up to take classes with this company, you are walking with giants. Dustin Hoffman will teach you acting, James Patterson will help your craft your own bestselling novel and Serena Williams will assist you in finally perfecting your backhand. For a $90 enrollment fee per class, you are given access to choose online video classes –called “immersive online experiences”–with legends in their respective industries. How would you like to learn photography from Annie Liebovitch or train your voice with Christina Aguilera? (Her class even features a range finder that allows you to determine your full vocal range.)
Each class includes video content specifically chosen and created by the instructor, a class workbook, optional “homework” assignments and suggested community activities to be engaged with your fellow students. Each video (2-5 or more hours in length, depending on the class) can be accessed at any time and, though the workbook recommends a schedule for you to complete the course (to avoid procrastination), all videos are accessible to you for life. Feedback and interaction between students is encouraged even after the course is completed.
While you don’t get one-on-one live instruction from the teachers, during their “office hours” each chooses questions to answer that they think will be most valuable to everyone taking the class and the teacher’s videotaped answers are posted. Also, there are special opportunities available. James Patterson held a co-author completion and chose a student to write a book with him!
So you know what you are getting into, each instructor posts a Lesson Plan of the information they will cover in the class as well as a Syllabus.
Classes can be taken on any device on which you have an internet connection and your enrollment fee guarantees you will be kept updated on new classes and those special chances to interact with the famous instructors (Who knows? You may be singing on The Voice or, after doing the suggested Masks and Mirrors work, do a walk-on in Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards series. Though these aren’t offered yet, MasterClass welcomes such suggestions.)
One of my personal idols, Aaron Sorkin, is teaching Screenwriting. He wrote my favorite TV series of all time, The West Wing, and in one of his 35 video lessons, Character Development, he shares how he created the characters of Toby and Josh. He invites students to The West Wing Writers Room to break down Episode 5 of that show and even shares how to write great dialogue like he did for The Newsroom, The Social Network, Moneyball, Steve Jobs and A Few Good Men.
While you may never write dialogue like Sorkin or make a film like Werner Herzog, MasterClass does afford you a unique opportunity to be the best you can be.
“Every bit of what I learned I want to share with you,” says Usher in his class on Performance. “What I’m doing is igniting the light inside of you through my experiences. I want to offer you something that will last forever.”