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Master Class

By AMANDA FRANZ

You’re a struggling novel writer. You work long hours trying to develop characters and make sure your plot follows the right path without leaving any major holes. You feel the cloud of writer’s block seep into your room, and you realize it’s time for a break. You lie down and bed and slowly drift off, trying to forget all the things you still have left to do. Regardless, you dream you’re sitting at your desk, your papers are blank and your pen seems to be out of ink. You start to think about the greats, the writers you look up to, and the ones that inspire you the most. A name comes to mind: James Patterson, the author of 19 consecutive number-one New York Times best sellers. Within an instant he’s sitting with you, talking you through everything. You suddenly wake up, feeling rested and silently wishing James had really been there to help you. Well as they say, dreams do come true.

 

Masterclass, an online specialized lesson system launched in May of last year, gives all of us average Joes and Janes the chance to cyber study under the pros. Co-founded by friends Aaron Rasmussen and David Rogier, Masterclass has raised $15 million for the online classes as of February of this year. This is made up from teacherdonations and the over 30,000 people enrolled in the $90 courses. I myself will be taking lessons from the Academy Award winning actor Kevin Spacey, thanks to my loving boyfriend, and let’s just say there were some tears when I received this unique gift.

 

As of now, there are eight masterclasses available online. Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman teach acting (separately), James Patterson teaches writing, Serena Williams teaches tennis, Werner Herzog teaches filmmaking, Aaron Sorkin teaches screenwriting, Christina Aguilera teaches singing, and Usher teaches the art of performance. If those classes aren’t interesting enough, there are more classes coming soon, including Reba McEntire teaching country music and Annie Leibovitz teaching photography. Masterclass is set up in a way where there are several different ways you can become involved in the class.

These are like normal classes in a school, but taught by someone you idolize. Each student has access to printable resources including a workbook and follow along sheets for each lesson. The courses vary in length, ranging from 10 to 35 classes, depending on how the sections are broken down. Classes are made up of a video lesson, a downloadable follow along pdf, and a lesson discussion section. In just

the Kevin Spacey class alone, I have 2,783 classmates registered on Facebook, so don’t ever think that you’re going through this alone. When someone posts a questions

to the page, everyone enrolled gets a notification and that person is guaranteed to get multiple responses. Just in the time that I started writing this article, 134 new comments have been added to the lesson discussion section for the introduction class.

“If they offered something beneficial to me I would totally take it,” said Matt Ferraro, UT sophomore cybersecurity major. “I think it’s smart to have the best in the business teaching what they know best.”

Ferraro went on to say that he likes the overall idea and if Masterclass keeps expanding the way it is now, he’s sure an instructor he idolizes will join in soon.
“It would be cool to have office hours with Kanye, maybe he could teach philosophy

since Usher is already teaching performance.” On your class page you can see how many contributions and comments you’ve made to the course and where to find them. Immediately after signing up you will get an email from the community manager for the specific course you joined. Here they will advise you to join the student group on Facebook, where you can connect with people taking the course and participate in student check-ins.

You will have your own Masterclass profile, which is like a social network website where people can look at your progress and classes. Here you can edit your picture, your name, and your description or biography line. Listed below your name is the amount of classes you’ve started, the amount of assignments you’ve started, and the amount of comments you’ve left. On the bottom of the page is a section where you can leave a review of the class, between one to five stars, and leave a written review of what you thought.

Longtime member Noey Torres is an expert on Masterclass, considering he is enrolled in Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, Werner Herzog, Aaron Sorkin, and James Patterson’s classes.

“I started with Dustin Hoffman’s acting Masterclass,” Torres said. “I bought it in hopes of getting an actor’s perspective on character development but his views on artistic thinking in general really took me to a whole other level in my own work. I don’t mind the workbook and other things but what I really like is interacting with other artists. I live in a town where you either

start your own import/export business or get into law enforcement if you want to get ahead. Masterclass has allowed me to interact with so many like-minded people. It’s been an experience.”

The coolest part of these classes is something normal college students take for granted. Normally when we hear a teacher talk about their office hours, we zone out unless this somehow involves extra credit or mandatory individual meetings. How would you feel about office hours if your teacher was Usher? At the bottom of your class page is a link to office hours with your celebrity teacher. Here you can submit a question via writing, webcam, or uploaded video. If your question peaks the interest of your teacher, they will personally take the time to answer. For example, a young man named Craig Hyde-Smith left a twenty second video question in office hours and Kevin Spacey replied to him with a two minute video answer.

With all of these resources available, the surprisingly low price, the ability to gift it to your friends and family, and the spectacle of the teachers, I’m surprised there aren’t more people enrolled. The best part: you have lifetime access to all the elements of your Masterclass.

Amanda Franz can be reached at amanda.franz@spartans.ut.edu

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