It seems like every time you blink, another free tool becomes available to help you create online learning resources.
One of them is Udemy – a web-based platform that enables anyone to create and deliver online courses for free. Simply open an account and you are provided with the tools you need to structure your curriculum, upload your content, and publish your course to the world.
I thoroughly enjoyed using Udemy. I found it to be a simple yet powerful tool.
Having said that, everything has its pro’s and cons, and this was no exception. In case you are considering using Udemy for your own purposes, I will share some of my experience with you now…
- Udemy is incredibly easy to use. Creating lectures, rearranging them and uploading the content is a dream. I jumped straight into it without referring to the instructions, and while I’m familiar with authorware, I expect it’s intuitive enough for Average Joe to work out too. If not, it’s carefully scaffolded each step of the way.
- The help resources are helpful. When I couldn’t figure out how to delete a lecture, for example, I found the solution via someone else who had raised a similar problem.
- Every course undergoes a quality review process by the Udemy team. If and when it meets their standards they will add it to the marketplace, which means it will be discoverable by the public. The turnaround time for this process is 3-4 business days, which I consider reasonable.
- When you publish your course, it is immediately live on the interwebs. That means prior to (and even regardless of) it being accepted into the marketplace, it will have a URL which you can promote to your target audience.
- The business model enables you to monetise your course by assigning a price to it, of which Udemy claims a 30% cut. This seems reasonable to me, as it is the same cut that Amazon takes via its Kindle Direct Publishing service.
- A coupon generator allows you create discount coupons at your discretion, empowering you to set the discounted price, the number of coupons, and the deadline. Of course, your cut will then come out of the discounted price rather than the full price. (The algorithm is slightly different for coupon-derived sales.)
- You can also add your course to the Udemy affiliate program, which makes it available for others to promote for a share of the spoils. Conversely, you can earn a cut by promoting other people’s courses too.
- Udemy assumes that the bulk of your course will be lectures. In fact, one of their standards is that the course contains a minimum of 30 minutes of video content. While I understand why they do this, I also suspect it encourages “padding” and might make the course longer than it ought to be.
- Another standard maintains that the lectures be 2-15 minutes in length on average “or appropriately long based on the instructional content”. I ran afoul of this one when I published The Wide World of MOOCs because – as you can see on the landing page – most of my lectures are less than 2 minutes each, which I argued was instructionally sound in light of the nature of the content.If Udemy had rejected my argument, I would have had no choice but to consolidate my Q&A videos into one long clip – which not only would have compromised the integrity of the instruction IMHO, but also would have affected the marketing as prospective students would not be able to see the full outline of the contents.Luckily though, the Udemy folk were true to their word and honoured the “or appropriately long based on the instructional content” aspect of the standard.
- Udemy’s predilection for video presents another unexpected quibble. Leaving aside academic arguments about the pedagogy of lectures – which I think, for the record, depends on the circumstances – the curriculum builder labels every stage of your course a “lecture”. This makes it awkward when, for example, you want to upload a reading list, or web links, or a template. None of these things is a lecture, but they’re called one nonetheless.
- While Udemy allows you to pick the thumbnail of each video lecture, it offers you only a limited selection. Typically you would want to pick the first frame; otherwise the video appears jumpy as it briefly shows the thumbnail drawn from somewhere midway before autoplaying from the beginning. Unfortunately, though, this first frame is often left out of the selection.
- The method for deleting a lecture isn’t obvious. Having to click the little pencil first as if you were changing its title doesn’t make sense.
- While rearranging the lectures is beautifully afforded via dragging and dropping, the same can’t be said of the downloadable materials. Murphy’s Law dictates that you need to make an edit or an update to the file at the top of the list, which means you must delete them all and then re-upload them.
- You have to send an email to the affiliate team to request them to add your course to the affiliate program. This is a bit clunky, and naturally you want to fire off the request straight away. The problem is, your course can be added to the affiliate program only when it is live in the marketplace – which it won’t be for another 3-4 business days!
Suggestions for improvement
In case anyone from the Udemy team is reading this, I respectfully suggest the following improvements…
- Relax the enforcement of the standards. If a particular course doesn’t technically meet a requirement, the review team should be authorised to make a judgement call on whether to let it slide.
- Consider labelling each stage of the course a “topic” rather than a “lecture”.
- Allow the course owner to upload a customised thumbnail like YouTube does. That way, if the system doesn’t automatically pick up the first frame as a thumbnail, the owner can plug it in manually.
- Place the trash can icon on each lecture’s banner so that it’s obvious how to delete it. A warning message should be sufficient to prevent accidental deletions.
- Enable the dragging and dropping of the downloadable materials in the curriculum builder for resequencing purposes.
- Incorporate an option during the publishing process to add the course to the affiliate program. Then, as soon as it is live in the marketplace, it is automatically added to the program.
All in all, though, I must re-emphasise that I thoroughly enjoyed using Udemy. I think it’s an excellent tool.
Not only can you use it to distribute your own expertise, but it’s so easy to use that the SME’s in your organisation can use it to distribute their expertise too.
Anyone interested in leveraging Udemy for workplace training should look into Udemy for Organizations which provides a private, branded portal with exclusive access only for your employees.
UFO might be a viable option for companies that don’t have an LMS, or for others that are seeking an alternative delivery platform.