We spoke to Alyssa Demirjian, Content Lead a Skillshare about how they’re connecting teachers and students around the world.

Cover image: Skillshare Teacher Kate Arends, founder of Wit & Delight.


Tell us about what your team does.

Skillshare’s mission is to provide the creative community with access to high-quality learning. We believe that everyone has the power to unlock their creativity, and that everyone can teach. As of fall 2016, the Skillshare community has more than 8,000 classes! They’re all online, average 30 minutes each, and are available for students to take at their own pace. Many classes are free to join, and students can unlock unlimited access to all classes for $12 a month.
The Skillshare creative content team works as an in-house publisher on the Skillshare platform, working with influencers and brands to create classes, establish best education practices, and inspire the community to create classes of their own. (We actually only create about 10% of the classes you see on the site; 90% are submitted and shared by the community.)
Our team also produces a range of other kinds of content, including short videos for social media, audio-only interviews with creative leaders, and written thought leadership for the Skillshare blog.

Skillshare Teachers Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips, Directors of the Graphic Design MFA Program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).

What makes a Skillshare class unique?

We produce classes across a range of creative categories, including design, photo, film, entrepreneurship, writing, and culinary. There’s a lot of planning that goes into a class: what’s the right topic scope? what’s the right balance between insightful and entertaining? how can we anticipate student trouble spots, and empower them with resources? This ensures that classes are high-quality and useful. In addition to video lessons, every class includes resources, a discussion section, and a project workspace, so that students are able to take what they’re learning and apply it in real ways. Plus, we see a lot of engagement with students learning from one another. Scanning a class discussion section is always rewarding. It’s a beautiful thing to see people want to share what they know and help others learn. It’s a very inviting and open community.

What are some of the best stories you’ve heard from students?

Many students take Skillshare classes to gain professional skills for their industry, enhance their chance at a promotion, or make a career change. The other week, a designer who was trained before the days of “computers” emailed us to say how much Skillshare classes have helped him succeed in recent projects. He’s taken classes in the Adobe Creative Suite as well as modern design styles, and credited them not only with his success, but with his ability to thrive in the industry long after some peers have retired. Knowing we’re helping people throughout their whole careers is a huge part of our mission.

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that students all have different needs. Our role is to provide them a community to help unlock their unique potential.

Skillshare Teacher Lindsey Summers, Teen Fiction Writer and Wattpad Star.

Who are some of the names and brands your team has worked with to create classes?

So many! We collaborate with a mix of creative legends, brands who are leaders in their space, and individuals who are working in new and interesting ways. So much of our philosophy is about representing knowledge as it’s actually being used in the world. And, we’ve seen time and time again that by collaborating with these high-profile names, the community is inspired to share what they know, creating this virtuous cycle of education that grows the whole community.

You can learn graphic design from Ellen Lupton, Aaron Draplin, and Chip Kidd. Top photography classes have been taught by National Geographic’s Ami Vitale and Chicago’s top street photographer, Trashhand. You can learn marketing with Seth Godin, write creative nonfiction with The New Yorker’s Susan Orlean, and learn music production with Jay-Z’s sound engineer, Young Guru.

When we work with companies, it’s always education-first. You can learn business skills with MailChimp and Squarespace; photography with VSCO; and culinary tips (like knife skills!) with Plated. We’ve also partnered with institutions who have a long history in education, like Cooper Hewitt and the Smithsonian Design Museum.

Another great part of being online is how quickly we can move when new technologies are introduced. We’ve partnered with DJI for classes on drone photography, and Shapeways for classes on 3D printing. Students have loved these kinds of classes, and repeatedly tell us this is information they can’t find anywhere else.

Teacher Jamal Burger, Toronto-based Street Photographer.

How does Breather help you create the content you create?

We’ve been growing our team pretty rapidly since closing our Series B fundraising earlier this year, and we quickly realized that we were short on space. It was no longer feasible for us to ask the whole office to stay quiet for a day-long shoot — we needed some, as Breather says, “peace and quiet.”

So, we started experimenting with filming “interview-style” class shoots in Breather spaces, which we could affordably book for just 4-6 hours at a time, the length of a film shoot. The background is clean and white (great for filming), and the noise control is perfect. Plus, in NYC, they tend to be in very accessible neighborhoods, so we can pop in out for coffee when we take breaks — a big plus for our team!

Skillshare Teacher Paul Trillo, Filmmaker, with the Skillshare Film Team.

If you could describe what you and your team do in one sentence, what would it be?

We’re bringing creative education from the ivory tower straight to your living room, and we’re not doing it alone. We’re doing it all together, millions of Skillshare students strong, so we can all do more, better.

Skillshare Teacher Phil Jimenez, Comic Book Artist and Writer, with the Skillshare Film Team.


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