A Tale of Two Teaching Jobs

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Depending on your point of view and definition of the role, there’s never been a better time or a more difficult time than now to be a teacher.

The Internet has freed the act of teaching from the physical classroom and the constraints of time and space, creating exciting new possibilities for delivering education. My company, Udemy, counts on the contributions of tens of thousands of instructors to provide educational content for the millions of students in our marketplace. Thousands of new instructors join our community and publish new courses every month. This year, we’re hosting our first-ever instructor summit, and the response has been really enthusiastic. Udemy instructors are excited to touch lives around the world by sharing what they know with people motivated to learn.

These instructors come from diverse backgrounds and geographies; most aren’t teachers offline in the traditional sense. For some, being a published Udemy instructor is a professional accomplishment that elevates their standing in their field. For others, it’s an additional revenue stream to supplement their day jobs. Our most successful instructors are passionate about their subjects and excited to share their expertise with a global audience.

Our marketplace is proof that anyone can share their knowledge and help others learn. You don’t need to call yourself a teacher or work in a school to do so. That’s why I think teaching can be called a “hot” profession, at least in Udemy’s space.

Unfortunately, teachers in public education may not be faring as well due to forces largely outside their control. For them, teaching is a profession people have been fleeing more and more. One recent study found that between 40 and 50 percent of teachers will leave the classroom within their first five years; 9.5 percent leave before the end of their first year.

It’s not hard to find stories and testimonials chronicling the challenges and frustrations that drive teachers out of teaching. First, there are the modest salaries and long hours. Then there’s the crushing bureaucracy and paperwork that comes with standardized testing and programs like Common Core and No Child Left Behind. Many schools are underfunded and overcrowded, particularly in economically strapped, urban areas, creating an environment that makes it hard for effective teaching — or learning — to take place. One of the most common reasons teachers leave the profession is also the hardest to quantify — a sinking feeling that they simply can’t make the kind of impact on student success they envisioned when they started out.

Today’s teachers, many of whom buy their own classroom supplies because their schools can’t, are held accountable for learning outcomes in an outdated system that hasn’t kept pace with technology or adapted to the way people actually live, work, and learn in our complex 21st-century world. None of us, regardless of occupation, wants to stay in an environment that doesn’t bring out our best work or give us opportunities to grow and succeed.

At the same time, all parents want the best for their kids, and we need the best teachers to get them there. Despite the tough conditions and obstacles put in their way, there are still many, many school teachers who remain committed to their jobs and are putting their students on a brighter path to the future. Imagine if school teachers around the world felt respected and rewarded in ways that kept them engaged and excited about their own futures? That was the rallying cry of GEMS Education founder Sunny Varkey at the Global Teacher Prize ceremony I attended earlier this month in Dubai. “We must treasure teachers” is how he put it, and I couldn’t agree more.

I applaud those proud individuals who do stay dedicated to teaching, despite the difficulties. We’re always going to need more great teachers, no matter where technology takes us. We still rely on the time, effort, and passion of high-performing teachers to produce the successful students who’ll become tomorrow’s successful adults. As a society, let’s reexamine how we view and treat teachers and do whatever it takes to make teaching a truly “hot” profession.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

March 18, 2016: Friday News Roundup

Happy belated St. Patrick’s Day to everyone and a special shout-out to our friends in Udemy’s Dublin office! Here’s hoping the luck of the Irish carries through your weekend too. Last weekend was a big one for our CEO. Read on…

Udemy CEO Dennis Yang delivers EdTalk at Global Education and Skills Forum
In case you didn’t already read it on our blog, check out this recap of Dennis’ visit to Dubai, including video of his presentation on new models to transform education. This event attracted educators, policy makers, and media from around the world, and Dennis got to meet influencers like CNN/Washington Post’s Fareed Zakaria. The highlight, however, might’ve been when a security agent at the Frankfurt, Germany, airport told Dennis he’s a big Udemy fan!

Helping solve the global education crisis
Still on the topic of the Global Education and Skills Forum, this article gives a nice overview of the rest of the summit and the issues discussed there. Of note was the address by the event’s founder, who described the state of global education as being in “crisis” and pointed out that “despite the [United Nations’] Millennium Development Goals pledging fifteen years ago that every child will get an education, there are still a staggering 58 million children around the world who do not attend primary school while half a billion others are failing in school.”

How do we give Americans better access to opportunity?
As anyone who’s looked at the media recently knows, Americans are feeling less and less optimistic that the American dream is attainable. Pearson and Atlantic Media conducted a poll to measure just how hopeful they feel, and the findings are sobering: “fewer than half of all Americans—just 44%—believe that anyone who works hard has a fair chance to succeed.” About two-thirds of respondents said investment in education is the best way to improve the economy.

Advice college admissions officers give their own kids
‘Tis the season for high school juniors to make the rounds of college campuses and decide where they want to apply. The New York Times asked a bunch of admissions officers to share what they tell their own kids about navigating the application process and finding the best fit for their academic needs.

Udemy CEO Dennis Yang delivers EdTalk at Global Education and Skills Forum

This past weekend, The Global Education and Skills Forum took place in Dubai, bringing together some of the industry’s brightest to discuss key challenges facing educators around the world. We were honored to have our CEO, Dennis Yang, take part and lead an inspiring EdTalk on new models that are transforming education.

The standing-room-only crowd of global educators, policy makers, and media heard Dennis explain how technology and globalization are transforming the world, yet traditional education hasn’t kept pace. He argues that while traditional education has remained largely unchanged, innovative models are emerging online to enable more people than ever to join the 21st-century global economy.

New marketplace models, such as Udemy, unlock the potential of experts around the world and empower them to share their knowledge with students everywhere. We’re redefining what it means to be a student and teacher. And we’re helping people anywhere gain the skills they need for the new economy. Dennis Yang, Udemy CEO

The event concluded with the prestigious Global Teacher Prize. We were especially excited for this portion of the program because one of our instructors, Elisa Guerra was among the finalists. Elisa founded Colegio Valle de Filadelfia in her hometown of Aguascalientes, Mexico. The school now offers both primary and secondary education and her model has been franchised to five new locations across Mexico City.

A Palestinian teacher, Hanan Al Hroub, from Samiha Khalil Secondary School in the West Bank city of al-Bireh took home the top honors, announced via video message from Pope Francis.

IMG_6485Udemy CEO Dennis Yang with Global Teacher Prize finalist and Udemy Instructor Elisa Guerra

Invest In The Future – But Don’t Give Up On Workers of Today

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There’s been a lot of talk about how public schools in America are in desperate need of an upgrade, and Silicon Valley is starting to show interest in applying technology to solve the problem.

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan donated $20M to help school districts across the US bring high-speed internet into their classrooms. AltSchool is opening brand-new elementary schools promising an individualized experience, while companies like Tynker, TapToLearn, and Wonder Workshop are introducing kids to technology earlier than ever. Schools are even starting to pop up on the Silicon Valley campuses of tech mainstays like Oracle.

I applaud the tech community for their commitment to preparing future generations for careers in the 21st-century workplace – but what about the millions of working-age Americans struggling to keep up with changing technology and the growing skills gap those changes are creating today?

The “21st-century workplace” isn’t some futuristic concept we need to plan ahead for; it’s already here. With globalization and labor automation more commonplace than ever before, companies are desperate to find employees with current tech skills as well as those who understand how business is conducted across borders.

We can’t afford to wait for better-suited graduates to enter the workforce 10+ years from now. The next generation of workers needs a modern education, but they also need parents with jobs.

While the unemployment rate may have fallen to an eight-year low in January, we also have a record number of job openings. This may sound positive, but it reveals a disconnect between people looking for work and companies looking for talent. According to the latest report by the Social Security Administration, more than half of all US workers currently earn less than $30,000 a year, which means a lot of employed people are stuck in crummy, low-paying jobs. Moreover, many of those low-wage workers simply don’t have access to the education and skills training that would qualify them for better jobs.

Even workers comfortable in good jobs don’t have a sense of security anymore. Great employees are the lifeblood of great companies, and in today’s knowledge-based economy this is more true than ever. At the same time, though, today’s “great” employee is quickly outdated with the next update of tomorrow.

For companies, hiring employees of every age who are willing, able, and excited to learn new skills is now vital to maintaining a competitive edge. These employees continue to make valuable contributions over the course of their careers, even as their roles change to meet new market demands.

Retaining these lifelong learners — and creating an environment that continues to attract them — means providing the resources to pursue skills growth. It also means fostering environments conducive to continuous learning and giving employees generous access to training programs on platforms they can access from anywhere and anytime.

Of course, providing the resources is only half the battle.

Companies can provide every educational resource under the sun, but employees are the ones who ultimately must use them. Employees must be engaged and actively want to learn. They expect to consume educational content just like they consume every other kind of content — as on-demand, interactive video that is accessible across devices.

In addition, educational programs should expand people’s areas of expertise. Workers should be encouraged to explore skills potentially unrelated to their work but delivered in a way that demonstrates relevance. For example, everyone can benefit from learning new project management skills, but the way you deliver training to an engineer is not necessarily the most effective way to train a marketer or salesperson. Ultimately, programs should be tailored to meet the unique skills of the individual.

Not every company can build its own training platform. However, when the democratization of educational tools and resources is taken into account, it is possible for every company to make significant strides in reskilling their employees and setting them up for ongoing success in today’s rapidly-changing workplace.

Just as investing in the workforce of the future is key to staying competitive in the long term, so too is investing in the workforce of today. In our eagerness to solve for the needs of tomorrow’s workers, let’s not forget the people who can keep the economy humming while that next generation skills up.

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post.

March 4, 2016: Friday News Roundup

This is the perfect date for Udemy — what could be more stirring than the call to March Fo(u)rth? Okay, that’s a bit corny, but the point is that everyone in our community — whether they’re learning, teaching, or working at Udemy — is moving boldly into the future toward the lives we imagine for ourselves.

Udemy CEO Dennis Yang interview: ‘coding is the key to the jobs of the future
We kick off with this piece from an Irish publication, wherein Dennis discusses Udemy’s presence in Dublin, the growing global skills gap, and the shortcomings of traditional higher education in a fast-changing world. 

Higher ed gen ed misled?
Speaking of traditional education… this college professor doesn’t like what he sees, as schools add fancy amenities to justify tuition hikes and stick by their insistence on requiring students take courses unrelated to their interests. He calls on institutions to “evolve the content model of their institutions in a fairly quick manner” and incorporate more digital technologies to do it.

When social and emotional learning is key to college success
This article — and the schools it examines — asks “how to address social and emotional skills like collaboration and students’ sense of belonging” since “… educators and academics across the country have come to agree that content knowledge isn’t enough to prepare students for life after high school.” Some pretty cool programs described here around fostering the “growth mindset” in kids.

A plan in case robots take the jobs: Give everyone a paycheck
This concept of “universal basic income” (UBI) is getting kicked around Silicon Valley as the disruptors think about how we’ll support ourselves and spend our copious free time after the robot uprising. As the article explains, UBI is being touted by some as the answer to the question: “As the jobs dry up because of the spread of artificial intelligence, why not just give everyone a paycheck?”

Building the case for skill-based education
The author aligning education, apprenticeships, and job opportunities in order to close America’s skills gap. This would also reduce the economic burden on students who don’t need a four-year university program to go into their chosen field.

Introducing Udemy LIVE

Udemy_Live_Hero__0000_udemy_live_STD_logoThis is seriously exciting. We just announced that our first-ever instructor event will take place this June in San Francisco! We’re calling it Udemy LIVE, and the action-packed weekend (June 24-26) will include speakers, panels, hands-on breakout sessions, a tour of Udemy’s office, a formal gala dinner, and, of course, lots of socializing and networking. You can find all the details here.

If you’re a published Udemy instructor, you should have received an email invitation with a registration code (if not, contact us at registration@udemylive.com). Reserve your spot before April 15 to take advantage of the early-bird discount!

We’re really looking forward to welcoming our fantastic instructor community to our headquarters and showing them how much we value their hard work and contributions. Let’s face it — without instructors creating courses that students love, the Udemy marketplace would be a pretty quiet place.

February 19, 2016: Friday News Roundup

Let’s put this week to bed and dive straight into the weekend! Well, we do still have Friday to get through first… On to the news, including some words of wisdom from Udemy’s own.

The case for content curation
First up, Darren Shimkus, VP and General Manager of Udemy for Business, talked to Chief Learning Officer magazine about how “learning leaders” can prepare for the training needs they don’t even know about yet. “The notion that organizations can predict the skills people will need one, two or three years out seems futile in the face of constant and rapid market change,” but Darren explains how they can still be proactive.

Teachers have a lesson for business about how to improve their worst performers
Here’s another interesting idea for companies — pair your superstars with those who are underperforming to bring the laggards up to speed. It’s an example of peer-to-peer learning, a concept that’s gaining ground inside organizations these days as they look to maximize their existing workforce rather than go out and hire.

Here’s a key reason millennials are leaving their companies in droves
Deloitte’s annual survey of millennials is always a good read. This year’s headline is about how young workers are moving on when they don’t feel they have opportunities for leadership development. This article also introduces the idea of “the purpose gap,” the difference between what millennials want out of business and what business offers them.

Going against the flow
CEO Dennis Yang talks about entrepreneurship and looks back at his past career. Read on to find out what advice he’d offer his 22-year-old self and what drives him to succeed.

The best part of entrepreneurship? Giving up and getting a job
This is pretty interesting. While heading out on your own to start a business comes with plenty of risk, a recent study found “self-employment does pay off financially, but not in the way entrepreneurs might expect.” When entrepreneurs abandon their ventures and return to the workforce, they typically get higher salaries. Another notable tidbit in this article: Just over half of self-employment stints last for two years or less. 

 

10 million students: Big day at Udemy, bigger days ahead!

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When you’re a fast-growing startup, you hit a lot of milestones, but we’re particularly proud and humbled by our latest achievement: We have officially welcomed our 10 millionth student to Udemy!

Why is this occasion extra-special for us? Because it’s all about our students. When students learn on Udemy, whether for professional advancement or personal enrichment, they are taking big steps toward building the lives they imagine for themselves. We don’t take this responsibility lightly. We are focused each and every day on evolving our marketplace so we can continue to be the best possible place for anyone in the world to learn, achieve, and succeed.

With 10 million students around the world now on board, it’s clear we’re on the right path. But we’ve never been the type of company to rest on our laurels either. We’ll take time to acknowledge this milestone, and a few glasses of champagne will likely be raised in our offices. But then we’ll get right back to work, collaborating with new instructors around the world to ensure our content is relevant and rewarding, and continually refining our course-taking experience to empower students to meet their goals.

Because here’s the thing — 10 million is a big number, but it’s just the start for Udemy. We’re already thinking about extending access to the next 10 million and to tens of millions of additional students after that. We believe learning is the key to empowering people around the world and helping them pursue their dreams and reach their goals — and we’re thrilled to have connected with our first 10 million.

There are more than 7 billion people on earth today. We still have lots of work to do.

February 5, 2016: Friday News Roundup

Greetings from Super Bowl City! Yes, it’s a frenzy of excitement around these parts… maybe not inside the Udemy office itself, but we’re very close to party central, where football fans can get (more) pumped up for the big game. The game itself, meanwhile, will actually take place 45 miles south. But why talk about football when you can talk about important things like learning and careers?

Coding bootcamps are getting so competitive that there’s now a $3,000 prep program
Most of us are familiar with the rise of so-called bootcamps designed to fast-track aspiring programmers into their desired career. These programs tend to be very competitive and rather pricey too, averaging almost $12,000 for tuition, but as the headline says, a new cottage industry has sprung up to help applicants increase their chances for acceptance — if they have a few MORE thousand to spend.

Learning needs a makeover
It sure does! Especially at the corporate level, which is what this article is all about. The irony is that, as research shows, learning and development is increasing in importance every year, yet companies aren’t doing much to optimize it. We loved this line: “Learning is not an event but an experience.” That’s exactly the philosophy behind Udemy for Business.

Online entrepreneurship courses show popularity spike
Udemy analyzed data on students in the UK and found entrepreneurship courses have risen in the ranks to become the fifth most popular category after tech and design categories. As our CEO Dennis Yang points out, people are “feeling insecure about the traditional jobs market and want to take control of their careers, and one way they’re doing that is by starting their own businesses.”

The Open University at 45: What can we learn from Britain’s distance education pioneer?
I’d never heard of Britain’s distance learning program, Open University, before reading this article. It’s really interesting to see how they evolved from their early days broadcasting over BBC radio and television and how they’ve “tried hard to ensure that cost savings weren’t earned on the back of academic quality.” Many of the practices established by Open University continue to be relevant for today’s adult learners too.

Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?
Listen to this podcast or read the transcript, and you may be convinced (if you’re not already) that we need to change the way we evaluate and reward teachers in this country. This program walks back through history and explains how the teaching profession has changed over time, such as how in the 1800s it was viewed as a job for men and considered inappropriate for women to earn money this way.

Who’s learning on Udemy?

Hey, blog readers, have you been over to the Stories section to check out the latest student profiles? Well, you should because you’ll meet some really cool people from around the world who are changing their lives by learning. It’s interesting to see what unites them (curiosity,  determination to get ahead in their careers, and a desire enrich their personal time) as well as how they’re different (not everyone’s a natural lifelong learner).

Here are just a few Udemy students who’ve been gracious enough to tell us what motivated them to take courses online, what their learning experience on Udemy has been like, and what they’ve been able to achieve with their newly acquired skills.

Anthony Gracey-Wright (Los Angeles, USA) didn’t think he had a chance at landing his dream job until he took a Udemy course and is now working as a senior UX designer.

Haley Chiba (Bristol, UK) came to Udemy to learn how to create a webinar for her business and ended up creating a course on financial management to broaden her audience exponentially.

Mohamed Omar Dessouki (Cairo, Egypt) went from being ambivalent about learning in school to making a habit of spending time on Udemy every day to help him switch from engineering to a new career in sports management.

Kyle Truong (Ontario, Canada) escaped his insurance job and is now working as a web developer, with an eye toward becoming a MEAN stack developer.

Sean Sullivan (Ontario, Canada) updated and expanded his skill set to get back into the workforce following an accident and got a call from the president of a company who hired him as a claims manager.

What has Udemy helped you achieve? Tell us at stories@udemy.com.