Introducing Udemy’s Learning Advisory Board

Not actually our LAB! This is the Science Center NEMO in Amsterdam. Photo credit: @sunemilysun

Not actually our LAB! This is the Science Center NEMO in Amsterdam. Photo credit:

By Jessica Ashraf, Teaching and Learning Specialist, Udemy

In my last blog post, I described how Udemy is using learning science to develop new product features and instructor resources. Now, I’m excited to share the launch of our Learning Advisory Board (LAB), which will take those initiatives further.

What does the LAB do?
The LAB is a group of experts and pioneers in education who are helping Udemy deliver the best learning experiences for our students. They’ll be collaborating and consulting with us on many fronts, from giving feedback on product features and prototypes, to educating Udemy instructors and employees about how students learn online and sharing best practices for teaching online and building a great learning environment.

Why do we think it’s important to have a LAB?
We believe external partners help us see beyond our own office walls and incorporate fresh, innovative thinking from diverse niches of education. Online learning is still a fairly new and quickly evolving field, and it’s important to stay on top of current developments and discussions. Gaining a deep understanding of how people learn and teach most effectively allows us to make better informed decisions about Udemy’s product and growth initiatives, which, in turn, helps ensure students get what they need and want when they come to Udemy to learn.

Who are our learning advisors?
We are fortunate to have assembled a stellar group of highly knowledgeable and widely respected experts in the field. Each brings their own particular expertise and will be working with us in varying capacities.

EDITED_SMALL_ab_photo_2016Abbie Brown
The idea for the LAB was already floating around our office as I was listening to “Trends and Issues,” an edtech-themed podcast co-hosted by Abbie Brown. I liked their thinking and felt they had a lot of relevant knowledge to offer Udemy. Abbie is an award-winning educator and scholar who has written numerous books on teaching strategies and instructional design. He’s also an experienced university and K-12 classroom teacher, online educator, and instructional media producer, making him a rich source of expertise for Udemy.

GIGeorge Ingersoll
George has built multiple online education programs from scratch and is currently associate dean of hybrid learning at UCLA Anderson School of Management. One of his main areas of focus is instructional strategies for online teaching, which is obviously a crucial area for Udemy’s instructors too. George strives to teach in ways that will make his material much more accessible to the student than the approaches usually followed by college textbooks and courses.

headshot of larryLarry Louie
Udemy didn’t have to find Larry—he got in touch with us first. Larry is so passionate about education and has so much wisdom to share, he offered to help before he even knew about the LAB. Formerly the dean of Hult International Business School in San Francisco, Larry now serves as a global professor there, teaching courses in finance, accounting, and entrepreneurship. He never tires of experimenting with innovative teaching strategies and thinking about the best ways to use new media to teach students. Larry’s extensive expertise in designing course curricula and developing teacher training materials will be a huge asset to Udemy.

AnniePaulAnnie Murphy Paul
I had subscribed to Annie’s newsletter “The Brilliant Report” a long time ago and am always beyond excited to read her latest articles. One of her posts on “technological ignorance” prompted me to approach her about joining Udemy’s LAB. Annie is a book author, magazine journalist, consultant, and speaker who helps people understand how we learn and how we can do it better. She writes a weekly column about learning for and also blogs about learning at We’re looking forward to sharing some of Annie’s brilliance right here on the Udemy blog too!

The Learning Advisory Board is a huge opportunity for Udemy, and we’re honored to work with these amazing people who really care about creating the best possible learning experience for students.

Putting the science in Udemy’s learning platform


Jess drops some science at Udemy LIVE

By Jessica Ashraf, Teaching and Learning Specialist, Udemy

People come to Udemy to learn something, and we want their time on our site to be worthwhile and rewarding. It takes a lot more to ensure a good learning experience than simply offering courses, however, and this is where learning science comes in. We’ll be spending some time on the Udemy blog exploring the field of learning science and the role it plays in our marketplace.

Introduction to learning science
Learning science, simply put, is the study of how people learn, and it informs how learning environments are designed. It draws upon research from fields like educational psychology, cognitive science, computer science, and anthropology. What distinguishes learning science from these related fields is its focus and approach.

Learning science seeks to bridge the gap between research and practical application. Learning scientists develop theories and frameworks about learning from which they can devise strategies and implement them in learning environments. Most of this research is conducted in real-life settings, unlike other disciplines where research happens in very controlled, unnatural settings. Not surprisingly, new technologies and online learning models are a major focus in the world of learning science these days.

Applying science to the student experience
Learning effectively on your own is actually quite hard. You have to make a lot of conscious and sometimes nonintuitive decisions before you even get started, and countless potential distractions and barriers can get in the way of your progress. For example, you may believe that rewatching a video is good for absorbing its content, but “recalling” is actually more effective, though it’s also more difficult.

First, you have to decide you want to learn something. Then you need to figure out which course to take and focus your attention there, somehow blocking out Facebook, YouTube, or whatever else you’ve got open in other browser tabs. You’ll also have to discipline yourself to complete exercises presented by the instructor and to stay engaged over the duration of the course.

Given the size of our marketplace (11 million students and counting), Udemy caters to a vast audience of learners, and we can’t control for all their distractions and personal environments. Many people taking courses on Udemy describe themselves as motivated, self-directed learners—the type who are naturally inclined to push through any interruptions in their quest for knowledge. Nonetheless, we have built Udemy to be a distraction-free, easy-to-use platform that’s engaging, rewarding, and conducive to learning for all sorts of students. We do our own user research and testing to determine the best online content, tools, and interfaces for learning.

Learning science @Udemy
Learning scientists are constantly developing new strategies for how people can learn best in our quickly evolving, technology-driven world, and we’re following the latest thinking to see how we can apply those concepts to Udemy. We tap into the science of learning for everything from product development and strategy planning to creating training resources and offering individual support to instructors. I may have “learning scientist” in my title, but everyone else here cares deeply about offering the best possible learning experience to Udemy students too. We all read up on best practices for online teaching and learning and gather cross-functional groups to share ideas.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably a little passionate about learning too! Stay tuned for future blog posts where we’ll dig deeper into learning science and discuss how insights from learning science research are put to use at Udemy.