Update: They’ve reversed the policy on this, and this post is no longer valid.
In case you missed it, Udemy has “dropped the other shoe” and announced changes to it’s pricing structure (link no longer valid).
Udemy has changed so much in the past 6 months, hasn’t it?
There is a consistent thread through much of how Udemy has changed over the past few months, and to me there is one incident that defines “why” all of these changes are happening.
Exactly on Thanksgiving Day 2015, a massive controversy erupted. Someone had stolen a course from pluralsight and posted it to Udemy. The original author, incensed that someone had stolen his work and put it up for sale, posted his grievance to the web about how Udemy was stealing their work for profit, and it became an international incident. Stories about Udemy being a home to pirates appeared all over the web, and in prestigious places like the BBC.
Except, it wasn’t 100% fair. Indeed someone had stolen his course, but it wasn’t Udemy that stole it. Like any business on the web, Udemy acts when it’s notified of pirated content on its site through the DMCA process, as they are required to by law. The author hadn’t given Udemy much time to respond, and Udemy got a black eye over essentially nothing. However, Udemy had the global lynch mob’s attention that week and the facts couldn’t stem the outrage, and it must have been painful for all of Udemy’s employees.
I believe it was a defining moment in the history of the company.
That incident gave Udemy executives and investors a real scare. Udemy’s reputation been attacked on many fronts that week not just the pirated course in question, and Udemy having a good reputation was essential to the future of their business. Udemy for Business is trying to strike deals with companies, and the Partnership team is trying to work to make deals globally. Once you have a bad reputation, it takes time to build a new one. And so Udemy had to get to work.
Recovering Udemy’s reputation became job #1 in December 2015.
First up, re-focusing on trust and safety. They already had a trust and safety team, but they needed to get serious about rule enforcement.
In December, thousands of fake reviews had been removed from Udemy in a bulk cleaning. In January and February as well. Strikes now had force. Some instructors who’ve abused the system for a while were kicked off Udemy entirely. In 3 months, there are not many courses on Udemy that you can point to as obvious scams. One has to say that a lot of the obviously bad stuff has been removed at this point.
Incidentally, this is one reason why courses about guns were recently banned.
Second up, instructor verification and stricter review process. Just try to upload a course today with a Lynda or pluralsight logo in the bottom corner, and see if it gets approved. I’ve seen instructors asked to prove their courses really were theirs. And some instructors are being asked to verify their identities again even though they’re live on the platform. This ensures the Thanksgiving incident doesn’t happen again.
Third up, student reviews. One major knock against Udemy has been “all courses are 5-stars”. The old review system was basically useless. Students could not use the star rating at all in selecting courses, and so buying a course was hit or miss. Yes, there was the 30-day refund. But I’m sure the person who refunds does not go back and buy another Udemy course. Once burned, twice shy.
And now, pricing. Go out to the wider web and ask about Udemy, and anyone who knows will tell you never to pay full price. How many instructors signed up because they thought every Udemy instructor must be a millionaire? (4000 students times $300 each = $1.2 million, wow!) How many students that paid full price ended up either refunding or regretting paying so much when almost no one else was? Do they become raving fans of Udemy after?
Again, if a student has a bitter taste in their mouth after their first experience, refund or no refund, that’s not good for any of us.
Underlying Udemy’s business model is trust. Students must trust Udemy. Instructors who try to game the system with fake reviews undermine trust. Pirated courses and PLR content undermine trust. A perfect 5.0 course review score on every course in a category undermines trust. And listing a course for $300 when Udemy frequently sells it for $10, and the instructor themselves will sell for $1 also undermines trust.
It’s all about trust.
Despite my success on Udemy (more than 10,000 paying students), the screen recording software I choose to use is called Screencast-o-Matic. This might be surprising, because I pay only $15 per year for the pro version, and it does a pretty good job at screen or webcam recording.
The question was asked in the Studio, so here is my setup.
First, I use the desktop version of SOM. I know there’s a web version, but I’ve never used it. So download and install SOM on your computer.
Second, I set my actual screen to the desired resolution. Either 1280×720 for 720p recording, or 1920×1080 for 1080p recording. Reference: How to Change Your Screen Resolution
Third, I make sure Powerpoint is set to 16:9 widescreen format, landscape mode. Reference: How to Change the Size of Your Slides
Fourth, I start the recording in SOM.
Fifth, I choose “fullscreen” from the recording settings. Because our desktop is already at the desired settings, we want to record the entire desktop.
Sixth, I hit F5 in PowerPoint to start the slideshow view (or select it from the menu). Reference: How to View a Slide Show
Then I hit record (the red dot) and we go.
She hit the marketing world hard with her 2010 book, Fascinate. Inside is one of my favorite quotes, that I repeat often.
Different is better than better.
The core of Sally’s message is that humans are born with an innate ability to be fascinating. Some of us have developed good sense of humor in order to make others laugh, while others know how to sweet talk their way into a party without an invitation. Being fascinating is not something you learn, according to Sally, but you need to unlearn being boring.
Fascination is a state of intense emotional focus.
According to Sally, there are seven fascination triggers that we can tap into:
We’re all trying to attract students to our courses. We’re all trying to stand above the other courses and get people to buy. We’re all trying to get people to WATCH our courses after buying them, implement what we teach, and leave us a great review. (And buy our next course!) So we all want students and potential to be fascinated by us.
I’ve always said that your unique advantage over other instructors teaching the same subject is YOU. The other instructor is not you, and you are not them. Don’t try to be them. Be you.
In fact, shed those boring parts and be more like who you really are. If you like to tell a joke, try to be fun and funny inside your course (without being annoying with it). If you suck at reading from a script, be yourself and talk freely (as long as it’s on point to the topic). There is always the chance of going too far with it, but the bigger risk is not going far enough. Be yourself, and people will like you for you. You have the ability to fascinate.
It’s a good book. Recommend picking it up if you get a chance.
Here are some interesting videos of Sally Hogshead talking about fascination.
The strategy of creating several small inter-related courses has been around for a while. The low prices that Udemy charges for courses encourages instructors to break up excellent large content into smaller pieces hoping to extract more revenue from the students. I am not a big fan of doing things solely for the goal of “more revenue”. Ideally what you want is to do things that are in the best interests of students. Provide more and more value, and that value comes back to you as revenue. But I can see the argument for several small target courses. I do this myself, although the purpose is NOT to make more money for myself.
In this video, I discuss the pros and cons of each approach.
Have you ever considered getting deeper into Enterprise Architecture and actually becoming TOGAF 9.1 Certified?
If so, I’ve just finished adding a lot more content to my TOGAF 9.1 Part 1 course.
30 sample questions added. I just yesterday added, in the conclusion section (section 7), 3 new quizzes that contain 10 questions each. Go ahead and test your knowledge of the TOGAF spec. Hopefully you will find the questions challenging enough, and will help you discover areas that you need more study on.
80 lectures detailing all the steps of the ADM. Over June, July and August, I’ve completed hours of new videos going into each of the steps of the ADM in more detail. This is not yet part of the core course, but I’ve added it as a bonus to those who really want to get deeper into the steps and phases.
All class slides available for download. Added a single 400 page PDF to the class that you can download and use offline to study for the test.
General cleanup and redo. Over the summer I’ve re-done some of the core lessons and added some introductions when it makes sense.
And we just passed 3400 students in that class! So thrilled!
<course image here>
Right now I am having my special end of Summer promotion called <coupon code> that can get you this course for only $15. There is only a couple of days left before I turn off the codes for that.
Hope to see you inside the course!
<url to course>
My friend Dennis Smith had me on his show “Late Night with You, Me, and Udemy” recently to talk about how Udemy instructors can get their courses taken down off pirate websites. The conversation also went into other topics relating to Udemy and online selling. I always love being on blabs with Dennis and others, and I think I should do more of them. Perhaps I should start my own show?
Perhaps not. But this is why I do video courses – to share what I know with a wide variety of people around the world. I do many of it for free on Youtube, and sell some too.
Check out this interesting chat.
Feel free to like it on Youtube, share the video on your social media, or leave a comment below and ask questions. Love to chat and interact with you!
If you’re just starting out on Udemy, you might not know where to begin when it comes to marketing your course. I created a video on Youtube that outlines some basic ideas when you’re just starting out.