My motorcycle shop has a sign above the reception desk that says:
You can have it good, cheap, or fast.
To some extent this applies to online learning. Of course, everything online is already fast. When you buy an online course, the delivery is (or should be) instantaneous. So that leaves you two options to pick from: good, or cheap. Which one do you prefer? Udemy has made their choice. And so have I. Here’s the story. In this post I’ll share my experiences with the teaching platform, and the pros and cons of teaching on Udemy.
Build Your Own Platform
Have you ever thought about creating an online course? Do you have one (or more) created already? My online teaching business has grown and changed a lot. I’ve made some initial mistakes by giving up too much control and participating in somebody else’s platform. It was great to help me get started, but in the end I lost on a lot of revenue, and I don’t have my customers information so there’s no real way to get in touch with my community directly. Besides, any work I did to drive traffic and promote my courses had the potential to leak away to elsewhere on the platform. I needed to have my own training site.
My goal was similar to the way I market my fine art photography. My work is available through Fine Art America, but I also have my own private fine art photography site where I can drive traffic to promote my work exclusively. When I asked Udemy about having a white label site, they wrote me back with a short response: “It doesn’t really fit our current business model.”
That was the beginning of the end. Their response didn’t fit my business model. I needed to be able to scale my business and own what I created. I’m passionate about the things I teach, and needed to be able to add more amazing content to help more people over time. I started looking around for alternative solutions to my goal.
Fast forward a little. After 3+ years of teaching on Udemy I’m stepping back to fully focus on my own “school”. This will give me the chance to dedicate myself more to working with my students towards amazing things. I’ve moved around a few online training sites, but I eventually ended up with my own site, Liberty Training Academy. I needed my own platform that delivers the best learning experience for my students. I didn’t want to participate in somebody else’s platform anymore; I wanted to own my “school” so I could ensure the very best possible experience for my students. Udemy heavily competes on price, which has made them the “Fiverr” or “appstore” of online learning. The price-point is low, which makes competing on high-end, quality learning experiences that deliver real results, virtually impossible.
I’m not saying Udemy instructors don’t deliver quality. I’ve been to their office and even attended their annual instructor conference in San Fransisco. My departure is bittersweet. I’ve met a lot of talented instructors there, and the majority of them are delivering something of value. Most of them stay with Udemy, hiding behind the idea of “mass sales”. It boils down to them wanting to rather have a small piece of a big pie than vice versa. I’d rather own the pie. I already reach a mass-audience through my bestselling books. Anyone working with me in one of my online programs deserves an online learning experience that is solely focused on making their goals a reality.
Low Perceived Quality
As a business owner, you have to choose what you compete on. A lot of companies exclusively compete on price, offering deals and promotions to attract new customers. This works well in certain markets, in particular when you’re “moving boxes” and selling consumer goods. Competing on price leads your customers to believe there will always be a next promotion coming up. It undervalues the product.
This becomes especially problematic when you’re selling yourself as a course creator. As an instructor, you work in the knowledge industry: sharing and selling your expertise. Do you really want to undervalue that experience by selling it off at an 80% discount? If you want to sell your experience at a lower price-tag, write a book instead, sell it for $20 (or less) and keep more of the profits than the few quarters Udemy pays you.
Low Prices And Poor Reviews
This week I’ve just delisted most of my Udemy courses. I’m tired of the low fees being paid and the irrelevant negative comments and feedback on my courses. The average barista makes more in tips every week than Udemy instructors. On top of that the barista gets paid a (minimum) wage too, instructors do not. The return on investment for instructors is simply not there unless you get the big student numbers (which very few do). If you are an instructor, stop waiting to be handed a piece of the pie, and make your own pie instead.
After attending the annual instructor conference, Udemy Live, I opted out of promotional campaigns. For the uninitiated, that means Udemy was no longer allowed to discount my courses, which for most instructors drive the majority of their traffic. People thought I was crazy. “It’s the kiss of death for your course”, they warned me. The opposite happened. My income went up significantly. But something else happened. Negative reviews disappeared. It was mostly four and five star reviews, all around. My little experiment had slayed the two dragons all instructors constantly complain about: low reviews and low pay. I’m not alone. The Udemy instructor’s Facebook group is nothing but instructors complaining about poor reviews and low payouts. There’s an undeniable relationship between the two that makes Udemy a poor choice for any online instructor who is remotely passionate about what they teach.
The Instructor Experience
Every learning platform will say they are designed with the student experience in mind. That’s great, but not enough. Most platforms forget about the instructor experience. To serve my students best, I need to have something I can rely on as well. Don’t be fooled to participate in somebody’s else’s platform. Everything I teach is about building your own.
I’ve moved around a bit before I found a home for my training institute. I wish I knew what I know now when I first started creating online courses. I would have been able to scale my business more quickly and easily. In true learning by experience fashion, I had to learn it the hard way. I’ve done the painful research for you already. I teach and share from my experiences, so you can get your time (and money) back.
Being an avid online teacher myself, I pieced together the top 5 list of resources I use myself all the time in creating and growing my online teaching business. If you’ve ever considered creating an online class, check out the free online teaching resource guide I created for you. I wish I started with these instead of collecting them after roaming around various platforms. I don’t want you to make that same mistake.Online Teaching Resource Guide
P.S. To be fair, I’ve shared my opinions as expressed in this article with Udemy and asked them for input for this article, which I have not received in time to be included with this review.