How Skillshare Democratizes Business Skills by Making Them Accessible to Professionals Seeking to Thrive in the Digital Era
Updated: 4.18.18 Personal Development

How Skillshare Democratizes Business Skills by Making Them Accessible to Professionals Seeking to Thrive in the Digital Era

By: Jon McDonald

The Crunch: In our fast-paced, digital world, technology has changed the way we live, work, shop, and even how we get an education. Skillshare has helped revolutionize the professional learning experience with bite-sized courses in numerous industries, taught by experts. Michael Karnjanaprakorn created the learning platform in 2010 to keep up with the rapidly changing demands of the digital era. Students take project-based courses to learn new skills at their own pace, and anyone with high-level expertise and passion for a subject is invited to teach with Skillshare. The courses are particularly attractive to freelancers and full-time workers looking for a side hustle.

Michael Karnjanaprakorn first had the idea for an autonomous, cutting-edge learning experience as a student at the University of Virginia and VCU Brandcenter.

Michael thrived in the hands-on, project-based graduate program as it offered him the opportunity to learn a variety of business skills in a step-by-step manner. He went on to ply his trade for Hot Potato (acquired by Facebook in 2010) and served as an early employee at artist portfolio network Behance (acquired by Adobe in 2012) before starting his own business in 2010.

Photo of Michael Karnjanaprakorn, CEO and Founder of Skillshare

Michael Karnjanaprakorn founded Skillshare to democratize digital learning by bringing hands-on teaching methods to online students.

He decided to adapt his project-based learning experience into a teaching platform called Skillshare. At the time, digital transformation was beginning to affect the way businesses work, communicate, and create content across retail, tech, and creative industries.

Skillshare similarly transformed the online learning experience through a series of segmented, creative skill-building courses and workshops that help professionals and freelancers find their footing in whatever industry they’re interested in.

“Skillshare’s classes are all broken up into shorter lessons, so that students can take classes at their own pace. Each class has an accompanying project that allows students to put new skills into practice and get feedback from peers and teachers,” Skillshare Digital Marketing Manager Brooke Young said. “This sense of collaborative learning and community is something that sets Skillshare’s learning experience apart from other online learning programs.”

The courses are designed for a workforce that needs to learn at a more personalized pace, and those who want to establish skills that will help them prosper in the future.

The Need for a Cutting-Edge Digital Learning Platform

To keep up with industry changes, Michael recruited professionals and experts in popular fields to design classes with the goal of democratizing learning. Skillshare’s teachers differ from traditional college professors in that they offer a hands-on, segmented approach to learning, which allows students to learn experientially at their own pace through short lessons.

Skillshare classes last an average of 30 to 40 minutes and typically include video lessons and a class project.

“Each class has an accompanying project that allows students to put their new skills into practice and get feedback from other students and teachers,” Brooke said. This format creates a collaborative sense of learning, as well as a feeling of community that sets Skillshare apart from other programs.

When Valerie Jauma decided to pursue her passion for design, she was afraid to let go of her eight-year career in client services to transition into the design industry. “I spent many years in a career that had nothing to do with art or design, always with the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that a change needed to be made,” she said.

Valerie was able to continue working while taking Skillshare courses and eventually quit her job to pursue her passion full time. Skillshare helped Valerie gain a comprehensive design skill set that was up to date with the latest technology.

In her time with Skillshare, Valerie learned Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and other digital design tools, while also brushing up on her technical drawing skills with popular Skillshare professors Elizabeth Olwen and Bonnie Christine. Valerie then practiced what she learned for another six months before starting her quest for employment in the design industry.

“After much practice, thought, and development, I found my personal style to be romantic, loose, and playful, filled with motifs inspired by architecture, art, and the city streets of Europe,” she said.

Valerie found a job in the design industry that excites and challenges her on a daily basis, and she says that she wouldn’t have achieved her dream without Skillshare.

Learn from Successful Leaders with a Passion for Their Trades

Michael said he believes that anyone who wants to share their expertise and wisdom has what it takes to become a Skillshare professor. Prospective teachers can impart their knowledge in fields such as design, photography, business, entrepreneurship, film, fashion, music, technology, writing, and more.

“Because our teachers often have a wealth of experience in their industry — and have their ears to the ground — they can create classes on emerging and trending topics that other learning sites might not have yet,” Brooke said. Skillshare is always looking for the latest advancements in all industries regardless of market demand, and classes can be easily created on the site.

Professor Bryn Chernoff brings out the untapped potential in students through her calligraphy class. Bryn is a calligraphy and hand-lettering expert who started a studio called Paperfinger to advance her passion for the timeless art form.

In her class, students learn modern, hand-drawn calligraphy techniques, as well as illustrations that are ideal for everything from wedding keepsakes to commercial work. Her acclaimed career includes work that’s been featured in Town & Country, Martha Stewart Weddings, The New York Times, The Knot and many other publications. Bryn offers both workshops and private instruction.

Skillshare has a free monthly Teach Challenge geared toward those interested in teaching on the platform. “Users in the program are guided through the process of creating and marketing their first class,” Brooke said.

The challenges give hard-working, determined prospects the opportunity to publish their first class in 30 days with milestones to keep workers on track, and provide one-on-one support from the community team and a Q&A with an established teacher.

Through the Teach Challenge, participants can also win prizes such as a feature article on the Skillshare blog or Instagram, microphones, Amazon gift cards, or the opportunity to be profiled on the company website.

Addressing the Rapidly-Growing Freelancer & Side Hustle Market

Skillshare gives students the opportunity to develop the skills that modern companies desire. The website also has connections with businesses that work together to produce classes on specific topics.

“These classes allow companies to establish themselves as credible experts in particular topics and give back by sharing their knowledge with a broader audience,” Brooke said. Ultimately, Skillshare seeks to help students attain their ideal job by understanding the demands of the particular industry.

Photo of Skillshare Digital Marketing Manager Brooke Young

Skillshare Digital Marketing Manager Brooke Young spoke with us about the platform’s appeal to freelancers.

The learning platform is also mindful of emerging trends in the professional world. Workers are often adding to their 9-to-5 job responsibilities with freelance work or side hustles. Freelancers are poised to make up 50% of the US workforce within a decade, and Skillshare encourages students to seek out those opportunities.

“Skillshare offers an approach to learning that caters to a rapidly growing demographic known as the independent class,” Brooke said in reference to freelancers. Employers seeking more autonomy in the workplace often reach out to highly-skilled freelancers for design, copywriting, photography, film, and other artistic needs.

Those who don’t fit under the freelance umbrella often do additional work in their fields, or advance their professional skills to pursue other passions. A full-time job doesn’t prevent many Skillshare alums from developing a side business to earn extra money.

“With technological and economic changes making autonomous work easier and more desirable, meeting the needs of this new class of workers becomes increasingly important,” Brooke said.

Skillshare Offers Benefits to Professionals in Pursuit of Passion

Michael’s platform has become a beacon for students seeking a contemporary learning style that focuses on an individual’s work, schedule, and passions. He built Skillshare in the image of the hands-on program that helped him learn as a young student.

And Skillshare is more than a platform for gaining knowledge — it is also designed to make it easy for professionals who want to share their knowledge with others. Aspiring teachers have the opportunity to create a class on the platform and give back some of the wisdom they’ve gained from their industries over the years.

Students from all walks of life who have a desire to enter a new industry — or excel in their current roles — can benefit from Skillshare.

With experienced professors and in-course support, Skillshare has democratized the learning experience by offering knowledge to all professionals pursuing their passions.