Teaching, learning, and sketching together

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 8.08.19 AMWe’ve written before about Udemy employees who’ve published courses on their own. They help us better understand how instructors go through the process of course creation and how best to support students over the long haul while also having some fun sharing what they know. Now, we have another Udemy insider getting creative and exploring new ways of delivering a rich learning experience.

We were all incredibly sad when Pablo Stanley decided to leave Udemy after a few years at the company, but the sting was lessened when he told us a) he’s working just across the street; b) he’s continuing to teach Udemy courses; and c) he’s hosting “Sketch Together” workshops at our office, filming them, and will use the video to expand and update his current course material.

Pablo is a pretty exceptional person, and while most instructors won’t be able to take advantage of these exact opportunities, there are a few pieces of inspiration all of us can take away.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 8.10.43 AMDo it because you love it.
For now, Pablo’s workshops are free to anyone – as in no payment whatsoever. He’s not motivated by money-making potential; he wants to create a space for helping other people improve their skills. He gets to connect with students who share his interests and spend more time living his passions (design, illustration, user experience, cartooning). We all have to pay the bills, but the most successful instructors start with a genuine love of their subject and love teaching it.

There’s room for innovation.
Pablo’s definitely not the only Udemy instructor who’s finding innovative ways to build upon their course material by organizing local events, offering additional tutoring, and adding updates for a richer online experience. Pablo took the extra step of contacting a few software vendors and asking if they’d offer student discounts; the companies happily took him up on the idea.

Have a specific audience in mind.
Pablo’s well-connected in the Bay Area UX/design scene and already knew the best sites to reach target attendees for his workshops. He created a website and a Meetup group to get the word out, outlined the group’s purpose clearly, and explained who’d benefit from participating and basic knowledge level required. Rather than try to be everything to everyone, Pablo is ensuring he attracts the students he feels best equipped to teach, while students have clear expectations of what the workshops will deliver.

Teachers should learn too.
Another reason Pablo’s not charging for his workshops is that, since he’s doing this for the first time, he’ll be learning as much as he’s teaching. He realized while working at Udemy that mentoring is one of his greatest passions, and the workshops will let him explore how to work one-on-one with students in person and in real time. Being an online instructor isn’t just about publishing a course and then sitting back to watch the magic happen; the experience is more rewarding for everyone when instructors are active participants who are also open to trying new things.

With the first workshop under his belt, Pablo’s getting the mentoring experience he wanted and his students are coming away with valuable skills. How else can instructors round out their course offerings to help students learn even more? We’re betting this will be a hot topic of discussion at Udemy LIVE this summer!

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.

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

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.

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.

A Policy Update from Udemy’s Trust & Safety Team

Udemy is dedicated to helping anyone build the life they imagine. To deliver the best learning experience to the largest number of students, our Trust & Safety team works with our community to ensure our policies continue to align with our mission.

As part of this ongoing process, we recently updated our Trust & Safety guidelines, and courses related to weaponry will no longer be allowed in our marketplace. Udemy is a diverse community, and we appreciate that not everyone is going to agree with this decision. Based on feedback from our students and instructors, we believe this change best serves our global community.

As a result of our policy change, access to all weapons-related courses will end on Friday, February 5. Students enrolled in these courses will receive an automatic full refund. We are also communicating with affected instructors directly about this policy update.

If you have questions or would like to report restricted content, please contact our Trust & Safety team at policy@udemy.com.

A Love Affair With Tradition: What’s Holding Back Our Universities

By Dennis Yang, CEO, Udemy

Americans have a natural tendency to be nostalgic and venerate the traditional. Our Constitution, for example, remains the bedrock of our government. But there’s one place where tradition can’t be our only guiding light: higher education. We can respect tradition without letting it paralyze our progress, just as a growing company strives to respect and preserve its unique culture while also making the necessary adjustments that will drive growth and long-term success. But our reverence for traditional colleges and universities has hampered their affordability, making them less accessible to a broad population of would-be students.

Although college admissions is a competitive process for prospective students, our culture encourages colleges to compete with each other too, creating atmospheres of exclusivity. That’s why they spend lavishly on glossy marketing materials, indulgent student services, and swanky perks. While this appeals to incoming students (and parents footing the bill), the fact is that what and how we learn in college hasn’t kept pace with the demands of our modern economy.

Higher education in the U.S. is, for better or worse, built on an outdated model. Even the White House questioned its value in a new report from the Department of Education, which found that over half of America’s college alumni failed to outperform a typical high school graduate six years after enrolling. Although higher education works for some, it’s no longer capable of preparing future generations for the fast-paced macroeconomic changes that come from rapid technological advances and globalization.

The result of the ever-increasing higher education price tag is that college has, by and large, become an elitist institution. Yet the data around college education make it clear: those who receive it can earn much more than those who don’t — and if you can’t afford it, you will feel the effects over your entire career in the form of lower wages. Given this, it’s perhaps not surprising that college has become less about what you learn and more about signaling your achievement to potential employers.

This narrow view of education isn’t shared by our peers across the globe. Other countries are much more concerned with access to education than the status it confers. Where universities aren’t accessible, students are turning to the Internet and to their smartphones. In India, for example, a faculty crunch is causing major shortages in higher education. To meet demand, India would have to build 1,000 universities and 50,000 colleges to teach roughly 500 million students. In South Korea, students are taking advantage of online tutoring videos to prepare themselves for the modern economy. All the while, established colleges and universities in the U.S. continue to thrive on our desire for a traditional, exclusive college experience.

I challenge the U.S. to revisit its entire approach and attitude to higher education — to shift from serving only “the best of the best” to helping more people gain access to quality education that will make a real difference in their lives. The tools and technology are already here. As we leverage the Internet to democratize learning, imagine the positive effect on society. If all institutions of higher education would get behind this greater mission, we could start bridging the gap between those who have access to knowledge and those who deserve it: everyone.

This article was previously published on LinkedIn Pulse.

Maintaining the integrity of our Udemy community

Udemy Community,

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, there has been discussion online about potentially plagiarized content on Udemy. We take these issues extremely seriously. I want to take a moment to share more specifics on this particular situation and also clearly detail our process for addressing allegations of copyright infringement.

As an open marketplace of online content, we, like other platforms, face bad actors that seek to profit by stealing intellectual property and reposting it as their own. This is in clear violation of our terms of use and against every principle we hold as supporting open marketplaces. We want to share more facts on this particular situation to shed light on our process to protect our marketplace.

First, we think a brief rundown of the timeline of events would be helpful:

  • On November 18, 2015, a course was uploaded on Udemy as “Learn Ethical Hacking: Hack Web Applications” by “Roy H.”;
  • On Thanksgiving day; Thursday, November 26, 2015, Troy Hunt tweeted at 1:02 p.m. pacific time that the course on Udemy had been plagiarized from his content;
  • Later that same day, at 4:43 p.m. pacific time, Udemy received a DMCA takedown notice related to such course; and
  • On Friday, November 27, 2015 at 8:00 a.m. pacific time, the unauthorized copy of Troy’s course was removed from Udemy.  

We take intellectual property rights seriously and act quickly to remove content when we suspect any potential copyright infringement. We stand by our process and pride ourselves in taking down potentially pirated content within 24 hours of notification.

Many of you have asked about what happened to the money received from Troy’s course. There was none. As the fraudulent instructor had created coupon codes to allow students free access to the course, no money was exchanged in this process.

Our biggest lesson learned from this experience is that piracy never takes a vacation. We understand the importance of having support teams available online 24/7 to assist our global student base and pay close attention to the escalation process at all times.

The good news is, the good actors in the Udemy system are much greater than the bad. On average, over 15,000 courses are uploaded to Udemy per year. So far in 2015, we have received 125 DMCA notifications as well as 45 “Hey, this looks weird maybe you should look into this,” notifications. Our copyright team has looked into every one of these complaints.

Our copyright policy outlines the process around how we handle notifications of copyright infringement, which can be found in its entirety at https://udemyblog.wpengine.com/terms/copyright/ – here are the highlights:

  1. Similar to platforms like YouTube and eBay, Udemy strictly follows the United States copyright law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and we have a dedicated DMCA enforcement specialist who swiftly addresses concerns about potential plagiarism and copyright infringement.
  2. We have an open door policy for any person to let us know of copyright and intellectual property issues by emailing copyright@udemy.com; we have and will continue to act swiftly to address all issues brought to our attention.
  3. As a marketplace, Udemy requires our Instructors to agree to our Terms of Service wherein they must confirm that the content they are uploading to our platform is their original content, or that they have the right to upload through licenses and consents for permission.

Our escalation team will be meeting after the holiday to review all of our copyright processes, including allowing people who do not have a Udemy account to use our flagging notification system. We know that sending an email can sometimes be a pain and we will look to making the reporting process easier.

As the Udemy marketplace continues to grow, we remain committed to creating and operating a marketplace where students and instructors from every corner of the globe can tap into their limitless potential – and will not let the actions of a few bad actors spoil the experience for others. We are thankful for our passionate community of Instructors and students who actively provide feedback and commentary that allow us to address issues quickly and efficiently, and welcome any person who has a question, comment or issue to be discussed to reach out to support@udemy.com.

— Dennis Yang, Udemy CEO

Udemy in Singapore

Exciting!

That would be word to describe the Singapore training landscape during from now through 2020 and beyond. Udemy is proud to be part of the launch of the iN.LEARN 2020 strategy and the opening of the iN.LAB on 28 Oct 2015. The Guest of Honour, Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Education and Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ms. Low Yen Ling, unveiled the roadmap, iN.LEARN 2020, for Singapore training providers over the next 4 years. The government will drive innovative learning approaches through funding and facilities; training professionals can now meet in a 2-story facility, iN.LAB, to ideate and develop new products for the local and global training community.

UdemySingapore

The photograph shows Ms Low Yen Ling in the middle and Mr Rich Qiu, Vice-President of Global Business Development, Udemy to her left and Mr Ng Cher Pong, Chief Executive of Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) next to Rich. Dr Michael Choy from Dioworks Learning is to the right of Ms Low.

Udemy has been actively engaging training organizations and government bodies in Singapore over the past year to align Udemy’s platform and online course offering with key initiatives and plans, such as SkillsFuture, a government-driven program to increase and improve lifelong learning for adult learners in Singapore. Together with Udemy’s local partner in Singapore, Dioworks Learning, Udemy is reaching out to the Singapore workforce to enable upskilling efforts.

Going forward, Dioworks Learning will also be running masterclasses and practitioners’ sharing sessions for the Singapore training community. The good news for experts who are selling their courses on Udemy is that with the government making a concerted effort to promote online learning among the workforce, more learners from Singapore are expected to purchase courses on Udemy for their own professional development.

We’re excited to help Singaporeans reach their professional goals with online training!

Udemy experts who are interested in participating or running these masterclasses in Singapore should email Bryan (bryan@dioworksgroup.com) for more details.

Designing Musical Interfaces

Today we’re featuring the words and wisdom of Pablo Stanley, one of the talented UX designers working on the Product team at Udemy.

Pablo has researched how music can be leveraged to signal activity (rather than the usual beeps and chimes), the role audio plays in our interactive experiences, and how sounds and visuals need to work in harmony when it comes to product design. Pablo’s a good one to explore this topic, given his personal passion for music, and he even shares his own compilation of 200 audio samples of harmonies, sequences, SFX, speech, and chord progressions on eight different instruments that readers can download and experiment with. Bonus: we’re now familiar with the term “earcon,” i.e., the auditory version of an icon — who knew!

You can read Pablo’s full story on Medium.

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