Notes from CGI: Pioneers are everywhere

One of my favorite things about working at Udemy is being part of helping people realize dreams for themselves – no matter how big or small those dreams may be. We think everyone learning, teaching or training on Udemy is an explorer, and the most important step is the first one. Our “people” are the ones out there looking for something better for themselves and their families. They believe in themselves and their employees enough to invest time and money in learning something new.

I spent the past few days with another group of explorers at the Clinton Foundation’s CGI America annual gathering. This year’s event was in Denver, super fitting when you consider the city’s history and the hearty pioneering folks who built a city in the Rockies.

Former President Bill Clinton kicked off the event with the theme of all-stakeholder decision-making. He spoke about the need to get everyone at the table – even when messy – to get the best solutions to meet real challenges. True to form, it was the most diverse professional gathering I’ve ever attended with nearly equal representation from the public, private and nonprofit/NGO sectors.

The conversations at the event were frequently messy – not everyone’s agendas matched up perfectly, and the language used was so different that it was sometimes difficult to understand each other. Despite that, clear themes emerged. People can be extraordinary resourceful, and virtually everyone wants to feel like they’re making forward progress – in multiple facets of their lives. These themes felt so universal and so familiar to what we talk about every day at Udemy.

Living and working in a place that’s virtually synonymous with entrepreneurship (San Francisco), I also realized how narrowly some of us in technology define innovation. I was most blown away by the level of innovation happening in places like Detroit and Buffalo, cities so radically transformed (gutted really) by decades of globalization and relentless shifts in technology. Leaders and everyday people in these places were ready for radical measures. But, it turns out that radical measures start with a series of small steps.

The people re-settling Detroit are not unlike the old homesteaders who bet on themselves and their families and actualized a bigger, better future. All of these small, individual actions are adding up to something truly massive.

How TED-style conferences miss the point: the Social Good Summit

by Meg Evans, Manager of Social Innovation

Graça Machel, Melinda Gates. Dr. Muhammad Yunus, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, Michael Dell, Edward Norton, Kathy Calvin, Helen Clark, Jill Bolte Taylor, Bill McKibben – this week’s Social Good Summit was a veritable who’s who of the world’s do-gooders. Sitting in the darkened auditorium at the 92nd St. Y, as a philanthropy professional, the level of detailed, tactical discussion on stage was heartening. It wasn’t just a “let’s change the world!” call to action, but rather a discussion of the micro, along with the macro, challenges to addressing the most vexing social problems.

After each panel or speaker, I couldn’t help but want to get up and take action – enraged by persisting issues of child marriage or fired up about the value of giving women financial control. Yet, when I stood up in the dark room, it was usually to sneak out quietly to grab a snack, apologizing in hushed tones as I climbed over lit laptop screens with active Twitter feeds.

Once outside of the auditorium, the small green room buzzed with journalists getting ready to interview the next celebrity to come off stage. Without name tags, mingling felt like a rude interruption to conversations in progress, made more difficult by the cramped space. I, like most others there I think, stuck to conversations and coffees with those folks I already knew. Each panel transitioned seamlessly to the next with no breaks in the 6-hour agenda – as such, talking to your neighbor felt disrespectful to the panelists.

In short, the conference set-up left out arguably the most important of the social good puzzle – connection.   I furiously tweeted, tagging everything with #2030NOW – trying to see who else was in attendance, trying to start Twitter conversations, and trying to make connections via Topi (the conference app). In short, in a hyper-connected digital world, I failed to really connect with anyone.

The Social Good Summit is certainly not alone. It’s common practice to emulate the popular TED-style events — quick presentations anchored by a memorable story and rife with tweet-able sound bites. But what about making actual change through meaningful conversations and partnerships? I know that there are other conferences with more time for mingling and meet and greets and I wouldn’t expect to have a lengthy conversation with Idris Elba, but when you have a room full of attendees invested in this work why not provide the space for them to talk with each other?

I came to the Summit seeking potential partners to launch a broad initiative centered on skills-based education in the developing world. Jane Wurwand, the CEO of Dermalogica mentioned this point. Michael Roth, President of Wesleyan, discussed how education was the chief tool of empowerment (although we might disagree on the value of vocational training).  I’m sure there were others in the room passionate about the same issues. But how do we go about following up to make meaningful change? While we’re all in the same room, let’s have conversations longer than 140 characters.

If you want to get together for a 140+ character conversation, feel free to email me –

Udemy’s Social Innovation program supports nonprofits, social entrepreneurs and change makers around the world with two core components (1) monetary grants to help social-change agents create their own online Udemy courses and (2) affordable access to Udemy courses and solutions, enabling organizations to tap the deep breadth of expertise available in Udemy’s global skills marketplace.

Announcing our inaugural grantees: Parents for Public Schools San Francisco and the Four Block Foundation

We are excited today to announce the first winners of Udemy’s Social Innovation Grant program. Parents for Public Schools in San Francisco and the Four Block Foundation in New York will be creating online Udemy courses to make a social impact and further their work.

Four Block Veteran Career Development is a nonprofit organization committed to providing career development and transition support services to returning veterans and their families. They will use the grant to bring their in-person curriculum online, with a course called “Military Transition & Veteran Career Development, The Right Veteran, The Right Career.”

The course will provide transitioning Post 9/11 veterans with the essential tools needed to jumpstart civilian careers. The goal of the course is to empower veterans to obtain competitive internships and full-time positions that match their interests, attributes and strengths. They have been getting requests to start the program in cities around the country and are excited about using an online course to reach these men and women.

Parents for Public Schools assists families and works to ensure quality public schools for all children in San Francisco. They help parents at each stage of the journey, from introducing them to the enrollment lottery process, to developing parent leaders in the schools and at the district, to improving systems at the district level and much more.

They will use the grant to create a course, “Parents as Partners in Creating Excellent California Public: The Ins and Outs of School Governance and How Schools are Funded.” The course will be available in English, Spanish, and Chinese. Studies have shown that schools with parents who are involved in decision-making and advocacy have higher levels of student achievement and greater public support. In the course PPSSF will teach parents how to get involved in what can often be a confusing system  in order to support their student’s success.

Udemy is excited to partner with these great organizations to help scale great education around the world.

Apple’s Swift and the Power of the Marketplace

On June 2nd Apple surprised the tech world announcing its new programming language, Swift.

On June 5th, Rick Walter, an IOS developer, after 3 sleepless days of experimenting and learning released a course on Swift on Udemy. Two weeks later Ryan is now teaching over 4,000 students and updating his course continually as more information becomes available.

On June 10th Tutotores Kimo Informatica, launched the world’s first Swift course in Spanish.

This impressively short turn-around time demonstrates the power of a marketplace of amazing everyday experts around the world. No University could so quickly learn and launch a course on the latest trends, but real world experts see the market forces at play and are eager to teach their fellows around the world.

Swift is just another example of great instructors teaching relevant courses in a quickly changing landscape of tech and culture. Charles Hoskinson and Brian Goss began teaching their course Bitcoin – Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Crypto in April 2013 when very few average Americans had heard of Mt. Gox or the cryptocurrency. The first law enforcement events, which brought bitcoin into the mainstream for many Americans, occurred in May 2013. Microsoft Office launched Office for iPad in late March 2014 and by early May Infinite Skills was well on their way to producing a course making clear all of the differences between the desktop and tablet versions.

We here at Udemy take pride in our amazing instructors with deep expertise in their fields. It’s these instructors who are able to respond to the latest trends in mere days to share their learning with the world.


Udemy Skills Index: Tech at the Top

We are happy to introduce Udemy’s Skills Index, an analysis of trends based on our top 100 paid online courses. Technology topped the list for American students. The infographic below illustrates a number of interesting early findings.

  • Technology courses are most popular on Udemy. This may not be much of a surprise, given where the jobs of the future will be found. The most recent biennial update from the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted in 2012 that employment in all computer occupations is expected to increase by 22 percent by 2020.
  • Udemy’s most avid technology students are new to the workforce: young people aged 25-34, followed by those aged between 35 and 44.
  • The top 10 professions consuming tech courses are diverse — ranging from the expected Web Developers to Small Business Owners and Cashiers. Both CEO’s and students need technology skills to get ahead.
  • On a per-capita basis the states with the most tech students include the expected California at number 2 and states with growing tech industries like Colorado, Utah and New Hampshire. Washington D.C., not typically known for it’s tech-savvy, topped the list.
  • Programming languages top the list of most popular tech topics, followed by IT administration. Given that IT staff and engineers are amongst the top hardest-to-fill jobs in the United States, this should come as no surprise — folks are taking courses where the jobs can be found.

Udemy Skills Index_jun3

Udemy raises $32 million to broaden content, expand international presence and develop new product innovations

Udemy’s mission is to make top-quality content from the world’s experts available to anyone, anywhere. We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve raised $32 million in Series C financing to help Udemy grow and develop in some important ways. We’ll broaden and deepen our content library, expand our international presence and enhance product offerings. We’re also dedicating new funds to support Udemy’s dynamic community of instructors as they share top-notch content with students around the globe.

We’re amazed every day at the passion and dedication of our students and instructors. Thanks to our student and instructor community, we’ve hit some amazing milestones over the past year:

  • More than 3 million students call Udemy home, with the number of Udemy students growing by over 50% since January of this year.
  • Over 8,000 expert instructors have created more than 16,000 courses in ten languages.
  • 30%+ of Udemy students consume courses on their iPhone, iPad and Android mobile devices.
  • We launched Udemy for Organizations to help companies manage, develop and grow their teams.

This latest round of funding, led by Norwest Venture Partners with Insight Venture Partners and MHS Capital, brings Udemy’s total financing to $48 million since our 2010 founding.

We’re beyond passionate about enabling everyone to learn the skills needed to keep pace in today’s world. Thanks to all of you for being part of the Udemy journey so far. We’re looking forward to working together to dramatically change how skills are shared on a global scale.

Your Udemy Team

Udemy (UFO) Infographic: Year of the Corporate MOOC


Did you know Udemy also offers solutions for corporate training and learning? Learn more about how you can bring Udemy with you to work.

We think 2014 will be the year of the corporate MOOC – when companies can marry a great consumer learning experience with training content. End result? Happier and more productive employees to help grow your organization.

[Read more…]

Now Available! How to Create an Online Course Guidebook

Check out our new, free guide to creating a course on Udemy. A great weekend read for those budding online instructors out there!

This is a step-by-step guidebook to help you get a jump on your course.

Creating a Course- Getting Started Guidelines

Tips & Tricks for Creating a Home Recording Studio

Udemy instructor, Huw Collingbourne, has cracked the code on professional lighting, sound, and video- for next to nothing. Huw has sold nearly $90,000 worth of courses of Udemy and taught over 4,000 students since starting on the platform in 2011.

Welcome, Huw; and thanks for sharing your great lessons on the journey to a high-quality studio!

huw_how to get great video and sound for online courses







VIDEO: How to Build a Great Recording Studio for Online Courses [Note: You must be logged in to in order to view this video file.]

Welcome to my home studio. I’m getting ready to shoot a video and wanted to share some secrets from my studio so you can see you don’t need to invest a lot to create a really high-quality look and sound for your course.

Use Natural Light as an Initial Lighting Source
When you first start, natural light is a great way to keep your lighting investment down. For my early videos, I just sat in front of a computer and kept the background as plain as possible. Now that I’m more experienced, I’ve started making some investments in my equipment.

Lighting, a Worthy Investment
Notice that I’m no longer using house lights. House lights tend to give you a yellow/greenish look. Behind me is a plain black background. It’s not by accident. It’s hard to shoot against plain walls unless you have very white or very black walls. If you walls are not a “pure” color, you are going to get a grayish effect. I’m aiming for my videos to emulate the clean style of Apple.

Why a black background?
If you want to try white, you need a very plain, true white background; and you need to illuminate the wall with several special lights. The small room where I film is actually quite crowded. To make life a little easier, I opted for a black backdrop for my background. I just haven’t got the right color walls as well as the space or money for additional lighting. Additional lights also create a lot of heat.

I currently have 2 softbox lights with diffusers positioned on either side of me. (You can find these lights new or used on eBay for $70-$120 each, including stand.) I also have a softbox light positioned toward the ceiling. The lights are on stands that came as part of the set. Ideally, I would like another overhead light to give me a key light (better lighting) on top of my head.

Camera Choices


huw_lumixMy Starting-out Camera: Panasonic HM TAI ($85-$110). All my early Udemy videos were done using a pocket video Panasonic HM TAI camera. Flip cameras were another brand of this type of device. This camera is full HD and is great for doing course videos. The advantage of this type of camera is that it’s really simple. You just press a button, and off you go. Just be sure you get a full HD camera.

My Upgraded Camera: Panasonic DMC-GH2 Lumix ($850-900). The camera I’m using at the moment is a Panasonic DMC-GH2 Lumix. It looks like a normal SLR camera. In fact, it’s digital camera and does very high-quality videos. Canon also makes great cameras for this type of work.

A word about Cameras, Exposure and Self-recording
The easier-to-use cameras typically adjust automatically for light exposure. That makes life easy for you, but here are some quick tips if you’re using a black background:

  • Wear light colors. Otherwise, you can end up looking washed out as the camera self-adjusts looking for contrast between you and the backdrop.
  • Well-illuminate the subject, YOU. If there is more contrast between you and the backdrop, the camera won’t be as worried about finding contrast between similar colors.

Sound and Microphones
Sound quality is really important!

huw_rodemic huw_audiotechnica huw_blueyeti






Blue Yeti ($120-$200) is my preferred microphone for general purpose use. It records directly into the computer (Mac or PC). You have to sync the sound, as it’s recorded separately. You need to use software to sync video and the sound. that record the sound separately from the video. Learn how to sync it together here.

  • I sometimes use a little lapel (lavalier) microphone for audio. Right now, I’m using the Audio Technica ATR 250 ($25-40). The advantage of this is that it can record the audio directly on the video track so I don’t need to mix it in subsequently.
  • I also use another microphone sometimes with my camera. This microphone is the RODE Videomic Pro ($150-240). It goes straight on to the top of the camera and is convenient if you want to record audio directly into the camera.

Sound tips for Just Starting Out
Although I’ve got four microphones now, I had only one microphone when I started. If you want one microphone, go for the Blue Yeti. It’s a great all-purpose microphone.

If you’re starting on a budget, go for an all-in-one HD camera. These are easy to use and high quality. Sound is not great, so it can be worth it to record sound separately and mix it in.

Tell Us about Your Studio
My studio is barely a small room- it’s more of a landing between rooms. I want my videos to look natural and for the background to look solid black- not covered in dog hair as it is in real life! To do this, I have to be quite careful about how I position the camera and lights.

I started out cheaply and added on as I became more comfortable with online teaching. My next step is to build a dedicated studio in my house to be a more permanent videostudio with better light and backdrop. I’d love to get a brilliantly illuminated white backdrop to do the Apple look.