Choose any digital learning tool currently on the market. Explore it, poke at it, twist it and see if you can break it (in a pedagogical sense, not a technical one). When you have a good sense of what it does, write a description of the tool, including the intended learners, content, and approach to learning. What are its strengths and weaknesses? How should it be evaluated? How could it be improved or extended? 2-3 pages
Udemy is an online course marketplace who’s mission is to “help anyone learn anything” according to their website which also states that every course is “available on-demand, so students can learn at their own pace, on their own time, and on any device.” The platform caters to learners and businesses offering over 35,000 courses ranging from photography to mobile development. At it’s core, Udemy offers an online course publication tool that allows instructors to create their courses and put them up for sale both on Udemy’s marketplace and the instructor’s own website. The instructor sets the selling price and shares the revenues with Udemy at varying rates, depending on who initiated the sale. The instructor keeps 97% of the revenue if the sale originated from their own website and 50% if the sale originated from Udemy’s website.
Besides the obvious focus on the students, Udemy has a significant focus on the instructor, offering several resources to aid instructors in creating courses. To start with, Udemy offers a free “How to Create Your Udemy Course” which utilizes the platform itself to deliver it. A support website is also available offering several articles such as “Getting Started: How do I create my Udemy Course?”. There is also a closed Facebook group is available for instructors to share experiences, get help and learn from each other. These resources focus on planning, producing, publishing, and promoting the instructor’s courses.
The designers seem to believe that instructors, as learners of the tool, need to understand how teaching online is different from teaching in a classroom. The support material focuses on guiding the instructors on best practices, media quality, and pedagogical styles that best work in this environment. On top of these resources prior to creating a course, Udemy enforces a course review process once the course is ready. This process entails a detailed inspection of the quality of the media, the course content organization, as well as the frequency of different media utilized. For example, a course with only text, only slides, or only videos – will be rejected. A mix of media, quizzes, and presentation styles is therefore valued by Udemy as essential for the learners (students) to succeed.
Judging by the content presented, designers see as barriers to developing an understanding of the subject matter is course planning and digital literacy. Starting with guiding the instructors on learning objectives and general planning of the course, the designers offer basic pedagogical knowledge. Moving on to the production of the course, the designers offer detailed instructions and specifications on audio and video size and quality as well as filming and editing tips, for example. Publishing instructions are also offered guiding instructors on pricing strategies, free course previews and other information about how to make the course more attractive to students. Finally, Udemy provides suggestions on how to drive sales of the course.
The features the designers are leveraging in this implementation revolve around cloud storage and Ajax. Cloud storage means that all the content is uploaded to Udemy’s platform and stored in their environment – including videos – for no extra charge to the instructor. This allows complete control of the content and delivery quality of the courses. Ajax is a ‘modern’ technique of creating web pages that allow dynamic loading of content, draggable elements, and addition of new sections without the necessity of reloading the page. This provides a fluid and intuitive interface that makes the job of creating the course content actually pleasurable.
On the student’s end, the interface is also intuitive, clean, and easy to use. Each section of the course is presented without distractions and provides clear actionable items to control the playback.
The success of this tool is publicized on their web page with numbers such as 9 million students, 35 thousand courses, 19 thousand instructors, 35 million course enrollments, 8 million minutes of video content, and 80 languages. Although these are all big numbers by any standard, I would also be interested in looking at the following numbers:
- Growth rate of the number of instructors joining the platform
- Time between account creation and course publication
- Average number of courses published per instructors
- Average revenue per course
- Course completion rates by students
I would also be very interested in interviewing instructors who have published courses on other platforms to understand what Udemy’s course publication tool is doing right or wrong. From personal trial and error, I’ve found Udemy’s interface the easiest to use and the one that provides the most scaffolds for the instructor. Their review process is also extremely helpful with attention to minimal details showing that there are actual humans reviewing the course content. This ensures course quality for the students and gives the company a high level of credibility as well as showing their care towards the learner.
Scale: 0 – Absent, 1 – Minimal, 2 – Strong, 3 – Exemplary
The tool is making effective use of unique features of this technology.
2 – Strong: Udemy’s uses the latest Html techniques to provide a good user experience. I would have judged it exemplary if there were a drawing tool embedded in the platform – something like a white board that would record my strokes and voice over from within the tool.
The features of the tool demonstrate an understanding of the target learner.
3 – Exemplary: Udemy course publication tool is setup in a way that it asks for information from the instructor in a structured and familiar manner using terminology commonly used by teachers such as course goals, course summary and other features one would expect in a pedagogical tool.
The design of the tool suggests an understanding of the challenges unique to learning the target content.
3 – Exemplary: Udemy’s wide variety of content, tools and possible interactions amongst instructors show a great care towards the main driver in education – the instructor. They understand that teachers, educators, and subject matter experts may not have all the TPACK necessary to become an online instructor. To supplement this, they try to provide content in various formats with several examples and support for them.