Education

Skillshare debuts new Spotify-like membership model for online education (exclusive)

Skillshare teacher Jeff Staple and student Mathew Kieser

Above: Skillshare teacher Jeff Staple and student Mathew Kieser

Image Credit: Skillshare

Students can now pay just shy of $10 a month to access hundreds of online courses on Skillshare.

The Skillshare courses were previously available for a flat fee — typically around $20 or $30 per course. That’s relatively inexpensive for a one-off course, but the bill racks up fast for Skillshare’s most loyal customers.

After the beta trial of the membership model, Skillshare found students save about $75 per month. With successful results from the trial, the company is planning to formally announce the new membership model on Thursday with a mass email to customers and announcements in a blog post and social media.

“This is something we’ve been talking about doing for a really long time,” said cofounder and chief executive Michael Karnjanaprakorn in a phone interview with VentureBeat.

Skillshare’s model is a little different to most online education. Cousera, Udacityand the like are making courses from elite universities like Harvard and Stanford available online. But Skillshare’s founders believe that the best teachers often have no formal training. Those with valuable knowledge to share with urban, young professionals may be entrepreneurs, or seasoned business executives.

Skillshare’s team believes that if you’re planning to take a marketing course, why not learn the ropes from Seth Godin instead of a crusty old professor? And if you need social media pointers, why not learn from an executive with a knack for Twitter like Gary Vaynerchuk? Skillshare offers courses taught by these two as well as hundreds of other industry experts.

Education on Skillshare is designed to be project-based (ideal if you’re building a portfolio), and students can work at their own pace. Online learners can juggle a class or two a month while working a full-time job.

Karnjanaprakorn said he closely modeled the Skillshare program on Netflix and Spotify. He’s optimistic that the subscription model, which has found some success in media, can be applied to online education.

“This move is key for us as we move to a lifelong learning model,” Karnjanaprakorn explained. “We want Skillshare to be the place where you can keep learning.”

Skillshare’s teachers still take a cut of the fee. According to Karnjanaprakorn, educators will make roughly the same amount with this new model, although that remains to be seen.

Last year, some of the best-known teachers, like Godin, pulled in as much as “six figures” in revenue, according to Karnjanaprakorn. Godin is a keen supporter of the service, writing on his blog last month about his appreciation for the Skillshare motto, “The future belongs to the curious.”

The New York-based company has raised just shy of $11 million in funding to date from Union Square Ventures, Spark Capital, and Zappos founder Tony Hsieh’s Vegas Tech Fund, among others.