Review: Highbrow


By the time I finished college, my email inbox was something I used strictly for business. All it was good for was updates on Amazon orders, emailing professors/employers, and the very occasional family reunion planning. There was nothing I looked forward to seeing in my inbox, and I had no idea that there was any other way to be about email. Now, there are many things that make me excited to check my inbox every morning, but the definite turnaround point was last September, when I discovered a service called Highbrow (use this link to get 25% of annual membership!). Highbrow is an email subscription service that delivers bite-sized courses directly to your inbox every Monday through Friday around 7 am EST. There are 140+ courses to choose from, in subjects from SEO Fundamentals to the Surrealists. In fact, one of my favorite things about it is that you can choose to learn a skill, gain knowledge to further or enhance your career, or just learn stuff for learning's sake.

Highbrow is BIG on the idea of bite-sized learning. Every single course is only 10 days long, and each email is meant to take no more than 5 minutes to read (aka absolutely perfect for reading while you drink your morning coffee!). You can also only enroll in one course at a time, which for me was definitely a good idea. I have a tendency to enroll in EVERYTHING and then get burned out a couple of days later. But each email, and each course, leaves you hanging on for more, eventually leading to a stuck habit and expectation of that little bit of knowledge in your inbox every morning.

Another super cool thing is that even if a certain subject just really catches your attention, and you want to learn more than a 10 day course can teach you, most emails have recommended resources and readings at the bottom. These are usually the only links that lead outside the email, since Highbrow's ads are generally pretty subtle, even to its free subscribers. However, that isn't to say that you will be able to completely avoid being sold a product; many companies have discovered that Highbrow is a pretty effective marketing tool, but the sales pitch is normally pretty mild, and you aren't forced to connect with the company or even visit their site.

Fairly recently, like many online learning websites, Highbrow changed from a completely free service to a combination, which has both free and premium subscribers. For $7/month or $48/year, premium subscribers get access to an extra echelon of courses, quizzes to test what they've learned after a course, and email delivery at 7 am local time, rather than EST. I give them props for the fact that the premium subscription is almost exclusively a personal choice, more of a decision to invest in the company because you support them and their teachers, rather than holding out all of the best content for paid learners only. Around 50-60% of their courses are still free, and if you aren't picky about exactly when the email arrives in your inbox, there's no pressure to upgrade to premium.

Long story short, Highbrow is pretty darn cool, and if you dread checking your inbox every morning, consider subscribing and adding a little knowledge to your morning routine.

Update: Since the writing of this post, Highbrow has moved to a fully subscription-based program. Sadly, there is no more free option. Ah well, we can't have everything in life, I guess!