Meet Udemy’s Summer 2016 interns

This special guest post comes from Srishti Jain, who’s interning with us for the second summer in a row. Take it away, Srishti!

Another summer, another fresh class of interns! I am back this summer on Udemy’s corporate marketing team and excited to become a contributor to our acclaimed blog and introduce my fellow interns. This year, we represent a variety of backgrounds and fields of study and are covering all areas of the company. Join me in welcoming them to Udemy!

René Babior, Growth
Washington University in St. Louis, Marketing and Economics/Strategy

P1760095_jpeg A Berkeley native, René is excited to be back in the Bay Area for a summer working with our growth team. He is researching the course discovery process of our users and hopes to find a way to optimize that experience. After graduation next year he hopes to launch a career in marketing and is excited about everything he has learned so far at Udemy. This summer he wants to catch up with friends and enjoy the beauty of the Bay Area.

Catherine Boran, Content
University of Chicago, Booth School of BusinessLinkedIn Photo
Catherine is the latest addition to our content team and is helping diversify our instructor base and bring quality courses to the Udemy platform. Her favorite part of Udemy is the people (followed closely by the snacks). She’s looking forward to hiking and surfing in the Bay Area this summer and hopes to own a goat farm in the future.

Joseph Chang, Udemy for Business
University of Chicago, Booth School of Business02_SkyDeck-6
Like Catherine, JC comes to us as an MBA intern from UChicago’s Booth School of Business. This summer he is working on marketing analytics for our Udemy for Business team. He has set his ambitions high and wants to follow in the footsteps of our CEO Dennis Yang. Over the summer he continues to work hard, learn, and meet new people.

 

Sadie Gill, Product
California State University, East Bay, Masters in Statisticsupload
A recent graduate, Sadie has joined our small but mighty product analytics team as a data analyst. She is studying user search behavior and brings a vast knowledge of statistics and analytics to the table. The people here are her favorite part of Udemy, and she is spending her free time this summer getting some sun. In the future she hopes to adopt more cats.

Danica Jacinto, Operations
Stanford Graduate School of BusinessP1760056_jpeg
With years of experience as an investment banker in Singapore, Danica is now exploring a career outside of financial services. In her role as an operations intern at Udemy, she is working on an audit of our infrastructure and company-wide tools. She loves her team here and is spending her weekends hiking around the Bay. In the future she hopes to complete her yoga teacher certification (she’s close!).

Michael Ligier, Growth
NYU Stern, Finance and Computer ScienceP1760101_jpeg
After a busy first year in New York City, Michael has joined our growth team to generate insights on the course selection experience. He’s still weighing his career options, but as a huge fan of musical theater, his immediate plans are to acquire “Hamilton” tickets. His favorite things about Udemy are the adjustable standing desks and unlimited Kettle Chips. Outside the office he is spending his summer going to concerts, soccer games, and new Japanese restaurants.

Federico Nigro, Product Design
General Assembly, Design
P1760115_jpegFederico is on our product design team this summer and taking on a meaty project: redesigning the sign-up flow for our mobile app. He recently graduated from General Assembly after completing an immersive UX design program. He loves the transparency at Udemy, and when not at work, he loves to spend time outdoors.

Michal Orkan, Legal
University of San Francisco, LLM in IP and Tech Law
Originally a lawyer in Israel, Michal recently completed a post-grad law degree program (LLM) at the University of San Francisco. She is assisting Udemy’s legal team with intellectual property-related matters and commercial contracting. She is excited to spend her summer learning and upping her game and loves Udemy’s company mission. Over the next few months she wants to continue to meet new people and find great foods in the area.

Ali Salahi, Content
University of California, Davis, Statistics and PhilosophyP1760050_jpeg
Ali recently completed a degree in statistics from UC Davis and has fittingly joined our content team as a data analytics intern. He is putting his machine-learning skills to the test while optimizing our spam review filter. He wants to continue to learn and thrive in this field, in keeping with Udemy’s motto to “Never stop learning.” Originally from the Bay Area, he is spending his summer reconnecting with friends and family.

Isabella Salazar, Finance
UCLA, Business EconomicsP1760036_jpeg
A lover of all things finance, Bella is excited to be on the finance team this summer. She thinks it will be a great experience and will help her decide what she wants to do in the future. She’s currently considering doing more research in the field of behavioral economics. For Bella, Udemy is the perfect place to learn about all parts of the business and experience start-up culture. This summer she is hoping visit SFMOMA, bike Crissy Field, and find the best macarons in town.

Haruna Yasui, Business Development
University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business

3712392Haruna is joining us as a business development intern after recently completing her MBA at the Haas School of Business. A native of Japan, she is able to share great insights into user acquisition in our Japanese market. She loves that what she is doing at Udemy this summer is helping people learn in some way. In the near future she wants to get a dog and take horseback-riding lessons.

 

Srishti Jain, Corporate Marketing
Carnegie Mellon, Economics and StatisticsP1760089_jpeg
Last but not least, I’m back for another summer at Udemy with freshly acquired skills in data science and analytics. I am helping the corporate marketing team identify trends in how our students are closing the skills gap. It is exciting to see how Udemy has changed over the past year, and l love how willing everyone is to help each other learn and grow. This summer, I want to complete famous hikes in the area including Black Mountain and the Dipsea Trail.

Dennis Yang named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2016 Award winner


Dennis Yang_UdemyWe’re thrilled to announce that our CEO Dennis Yang received the
EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2016 Award in the Tech-Enabled Services category in the Northern California region. Just as the Udemy team kicked off the Udemy LIVE welcome reception at Udemy HQ, Dennis climbed on stage at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose to proudly accept his award on behalf of the entire Udemy community.

Shared success

Dennis delivered the good news with this note to the company: “Your hard work and the contributions of our instructors combined with our mission were recognized by Ernst and Young through the Northern California Entrepreneur Of The Year.” This hits the nail on the head. The power behind Udemy is the hard work of exceptional executive leadership, dedicated team members, and passionate instructors who together bring courses to students in every corner of the globe. We’re very honored that this work to forward our mission of helping people build the lives they imagine has been recognized through Dennis’ major award win!

This year is an extra special one for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Award program, as it celebrates its 30th anniversary milestone. The award recognizes “outstanding entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance, and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.” Dennis was selected by an independent panel of judges after multiple rounds of submissions and interviews. Here’s a sneak peek that aired at the gala:

Onward and upward

As a Northern California regional award winner, Dennis is now in contention for the Entrepreneur Of The Year 2016 national program. National finalists and award winners will be announced at the Entrepreneur Of The Year National Awards gala in Palm Springs in November 2016. From there, the U.S. Entrepreneur Of The Year Overall Award winner moves on to compete for the World Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in Monaco, June 2017.

July 1, 2016: Friday News Roundup

Happy early 4th of July to readers in the U.S., and a blessed Ramadan to our friends in Udemy’s Ankara office and everyone celebrating around the world. Let’s see what caught our eye this past week.

Udemy LIVE: It’s a wrap!
What a weekend that was! We’re all pretty thrilled with how our first event for Udemy instructors went off, and based on the feedback, our guests had a great time too. Many instructors commented that they left feeling really inspired to go create more and better courses. For our part, the Udemy team got a lot of valuable input on what we can do to help instructors succeed. Check out the epic blog post, which includes lots of photos and links to more goodies shared on social media.

Introducing the IT skills gap un-list
Writer Gary Beach has compiled a list of initiatives that CIOs—and their colleagues in HR—could and should be doing to build the tech talent their companies need. Top of the list: reskill current talent, and support mobility and job rotation. These are both great strategies for maximizing the team you already have and giving employees more opportunities to grow.

Billion-dollar brain-training industry a sham—nothing but placebo, study suggests
You’ve probably heard about these software tools that purport to exercise your brain and make you smarter. The promise is attractive to many, but this article suggests these products just don’t deliver.

How to get people to embrace technological change
This is kind of interesting—how do you balance the business goal of innovation and being able to offer “revolutionary” products with people’s natural resistance to change? With technology firmly in the mainstream, companies find themselves catering to hard-core geeks and clueless newbs at the same time.

How much do qualification matter for a job in tech, really
Here’s some advice for demonstrating your skills and keeping your tech career moving forward. As we’ve read elsewhere, this article suggests soft skills are a must-have. Techies should also approach their jobs by identifying the business problems they’re working to solve, not just knowing the code they need to write.

“The game is never over”
Legendary women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt passed away this week at the age of 64 after battling Alzheimer’s disease. Summitt was beloved by players and fans alike and admired for her brilliant combination of toughness and compassion. Read this inspiring letter she wrote to a freshman player on the eve of her first start. Summitt’s words will resonate with anyone getting ready to tackle a challenge—or just get through the day.

Sparking kids’ path to high school

By JD Scalzo, Udemy Experience Coordinator

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Alejandra and her Spark mentee

Being a learning company means different things depending on the context. At Udemy, one of our foundational values is encouraging learning among our own team as well as the instructor and student community who teach and take courses in our marketplace. But we also strive to cultivate and support the love of learning at any age among the general public.

A prime example of this value in action is our continued partnership with Spark, a nonprofit that helps underserved youth become motivated learners and connected community members through mentorships with working professionals. The organization’s goals are to reduce high school dropout rates and set participating students up for ongoing success.

Here’s how Spark works. On “match night,” mentors are paired with students based on similar interests and shared project goals. Together, they develop action plans for what they’ll work on during the program. Creativity and innovation are the name of the game, as students and mentors collaborate on cool projects like making a movie trailer, a dance video, a restaurant concept, and a mobile app specifically designed for middle schoolers. Of this year’s projects, 92% involved one or more STEM subject (science, technology, engineering, math).

I first encountered Spark when I signed up to be a mentor last fall and later served as Udemy’s corporate liaison during the spring 2016 semester. Then, at the end of the term, I was named 2016 Impact Champion! Flattered and awestruck, I didn’t really know what that meant until Spark shared some data around Udemy’s contributions. Our accomplishments include:

  • More than 760 hours of volunteering by 31 mentors since spring 2015, when our partnership began
  • Mentored 19 students from Roosevelt Middle School and 13 students from MLK Jr. Middle School, both of which belong to the SF Unified School District
Student Sonte with mentors DQ and Lauren

Student Sonte with mentors DQ and Lauren

The success of the Udemy-Spark partnership extends far beyond the projects themselves. The bond between students and mentors is powerful and inspiring on both sides. Take the example of Sonte, an 8th grader from Roosevelt Middle School, who teamed up with Udemy employees and first-time mentors David Quintanilla and Lauren Rosenfeld. “I admire my mentors because they were nice,” Sonte told Spark. “I could trust them, and they helped me learn a lot.” David and Lauren, meanwhile, found the experience so worthwhile, they worked with another student from MLK Jr. Middle School in the spring. I was really moved by how compassionate and involved they were with their students.  

It’s quite a unique bond, as I know from my own stint as a mentor. I was paired up with a quiet, charming 7th grader who wanted to improve her public speaking skills. Together, we decided she’d have an easier time on the speaking part if she chose a topic she was already passionate about. She chose to talk about her cat, Cupid, and what it’s like to be a cat owner. She shared the story of how she got Cupid and presented her research on different types of cats. I even got to take her to KitTea, a cat café here in San Francisco (trust me, it’s real!). It was interesting and somewhat heartbreaking to peek into the psyche of a middle-school student who thought she was so bad at speaking, she would get nervous and even cry when she had to present to her class. Over the course of 10 weeks, she eventually realized she only needed to apply patience, courage, and preparation in order to be a very good speaker. It’s a skill she’ll keep practicing and one that will definitely be to her advantage in the future.

Spark is a young but ambitious organization. They’re now collecting data and getting feedback from students and mentors to further develop the program, but their results so far have already made a big impact. According to Spark, 91% of their students notably improve their classroom engagement, attendance, and grades, while 90% of them complete 8th grade and are on track for high school graduation.

Helping make Spark students successful is just one way Udemy is proud to be a learning company. We had so much fun working with these middle-school kids and can’t wait for our next community engagement events.

Kristin of Udemy with her Spark student

Kristin of Udemy with her Spark student

Udemy LIVE: It’s a wrap!

Udemy LIVE has concluded, and consensus is that it was a huge success! We were so thrilled to see everyone connecting in-person and hanging out like lifelong friends, not simply professional colleagues. This is the solid foundation upon which we’re building Udemy’s future and, more important, the future for millions of people around the world who want to learn.

Your faithful blogger wasn’t able to attend every session, but here are some highlights from my Udemy LIVE experience. Admittedly, this only scratches the surface of the great content and conversations we were treated to over the past few days, but we’ll be posting more materials from the event in days to come and you can also check out #UdemyLive on social media. Lots of folks posted photos and videos on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and their personal blogs, so you can get a taste of what went down.

What struck me, in particular, was the instructor-bonding I witnessed throughout the weekend. Udemy instructors may only interact online most of the time, but it’s clear they’ve developed strong friendships, and I loved seeing everyone enjoying each other’s company so much.

Friday night reception
We welcomed instructors to Udemy headquarters to get things kicked off right. Personally, it was a thrill to finally meet several people I’d only spoken to on Skype before, and I know a lot of others felt the same way. It was so cool to discover we’re all “real people”!

In addition to mixing and mingling over drinks and hors d’oeuvre, Udemy instructors got to visit stations where they could create personalized Udemy badges for their websites and take professional headshots. The evening’s biggest hit may have been the station where instructors could generate heat maps, like Laurel Papworth’s, showing where their enrolled students are located around the world. It’s one thing to see a list of countries in your instructor dashboard, but these visualizations really brought that data to life and demonstrated in very clear terms the impact Udemy instructors have.

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Saturday general sessions and breakouts

100 Million Students and Beyond
The heart of Udemy LIVE was Saturday’s full slate of presentations by Udemy team members and instructors themselves.

VP of Content Grégory Boutté got us started by reviewing the accomplishments of those in the room: 160 instructors representing 28 countries, including such far-flung locales as Australia, Pakistan, Singapore, Panama, and Roumania. Collectively, these instructors have:

  • Taught more than 1.9M students
  • Created more than 1,400 courses, yielding 419 years’ worth of content
  • Answered 92,000 student questions

In other words, Udemy instructors work hard!

Grégory also called out a few in the crowd who’ve been teaching on Udemy for 4 years or more:

Cathy Presland
Alexa Fisher
Joseph Caserto
Miguel Hernandez
Charles Wall
John Bura

CEO Dennis Yang praised how far we’ve come together but reminded the audience there are still millions of people worldwide who are hungry for access to quality learning resources, and “we’re just getting started.” Understanding that online teaching can be a rather solitary pursuit, Dennis reassured everyone that “we’re here for you.” I think the instructors felt that commitment in so many ways this weekend, from meeting Facebook community hero Lindsey Bonner to having candid, constructive conversations with Udemy team members.

VP of Product Rob Wong and SVP of Engineering Claire Hough previewed product enhancements we’ve released and are working on to make Udemy’s marketplace more relevant, accessible, and rewarding. Our goal is to help instructors plan, organize, and create amazing course content and monetize it. Rob and Claire talked about our new course management UI, revamped review system, mobile-first experience for phones and tablets, and recently released Apple TV app. A hint at future voice-to-text capability for automatic captioning got the crowd pretty pumped too.

From there, everyone picked which breakout sessions to attend.

Ask an Instructor panel
I went to this session featuring some of Udemy’s longest tenured and most accomplished instructors taking questions from their peers. Cathy Presland, Peter Dalmaris, Scott Duffy, and Rob Percival addressed common instructor challenges. Here’s a sampling:

How can you provide a unique, differentiated course experience?
Scott: Being unique is the most important thing you can do to stand out among 30,000 courses. Be yourself and give your students personal attention and encouragement.
Peter: With the marketplace growing so fast, it’s hard to find an unfilled gap for your topic. Spend extra time on the details of your course and make it perfect, so the quality level becomes your differentiator.

How can you demonstrate quality?
Cathy: Teaching is not the same as talking. I’ve changed my approach over time and now focus a lot on learning style. I offer very specific, bite-size courses that are very practical and include exercises, but there’s no single right answer. Know what your students need and give them that.

How do you determine your course length?
Rob: For my first course, I just included everything I thought should be in there. I wanted to overdeliver in terms of information and content, so students would have lots of reasons to buy.
Peter: Consider having a comprehensive flagship course that can become a category leader.
Scott: Course length is definitely a purchase driver, and offering a lot of content raises the perceived value of your course. I don’t care if students finish.

What’s your strategy for keeping up with student questions?
Peter: It’s the first thing I do every single day, including weekends. It’s my morning ritual and tends to take about 60-90 minutes. I start with public Q&As and then email. I’m very thorough and careful in my replies. Student questions are also a great source of new lecture topics, and I also put questions and answers into my email newsletter.
Rob: I get 100-200 questions a day, so I created an HTML page that allows me to answer in bulk. I make sure to answer every question, but I simply don’t have capacity to go back to do follow-ups and address everything in each thread. I also create new videos to answer debugging questions.

What’s the best day/time to send promotional emails?
Cathy: It depends and is different for everyone. The key is consistency so whatever fits into my routine is what I do.
Scott: Look at your revenue trends to see when your students are already most active. I teach work-related courses and get most of my sales on Mondays, so that’s when I send my emails.

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How to Create an Exciting Learning Journey
Udemy employees/instructors David Kim and Pete Sefton started this session by sharing the goal they had for their “SQL for Newbs Masterclass”: to do for learning what Jon Stewart did for news, i.e., make it entertaining and watchable. As they explained, having subject expertise is only half the battle; instructors also need to encourage and engage their students. DK and Pete did this by including “brain busters” in their course for students to solve on their own. Another trick they shared for “shocking students back to attention” was adding surprising elements like wearing funny hats for a lecture or replacing themselves with R2D2 and a piňata in another.

Instructors Teresa Greenway and Rick Walter have their own distinctive methods of keeping students locked into learning.

Teresa starts her courses with a “quick win,” i.e., a simple project that helps students gain confidence in their baking skills. Her other powerful message to fellow instructors is to spread joy. When she was focused on making money, it drove the money away, she told the group.

Rick summarized his own experience of trying to learn to make an app but only finding extremely boring online resources. He kept that in mind when he created his own course. He urged other instructors to put themselves in the student’s shoes by going through the process of selecting a course and purchasing it with their own real money. That’s the best way to glean what will convert prospective students and deliver an experience that’s both fun and educational.

More tips from Teresa and Nick:

  • Include updates in your course description. Showing that you keep content fresh and current tells students that you care about delivering value.
  • Give individual attention. It’s not hard to reach out and make personal connections, and that extra effort will pay off. Both instructors described following up with students who’d left negative reviews, and how the simple act of a personal message prompted those students to revise their ratings.
  • Run challenges and contests. Nick picks student apps of the month and does a live stream of himself using the app; Teresa changes her Facebook group’s cover photo each month to feature a winning baker’s project. Giving students a chance to “win” and show off what they’ve learned is a creative, effective engagement tactic.   

Students First
One of the weekend’s running themes was how Udemy and instructors alike need to focus on student needs first and always. To tackle this broad idea, a foursome of Udemy employees took to the stage and presented suggestions for better understanding students and engaging them.

Catherine Gao challenged instructors to ask themselves why their courses should even exist. If you can’t readily come up with a list of how your courses will help solve a problem and deliver skills and knowledge, maybe you need to rethink your course idea. Catherine also exhorted audience members to be obsessed with their students and get deep into their minds, uncover their fears and dreams, and understand their starting point.

David Quintanilla explained why delivery is such a critical part of the overall student experience. In a nutshell, it’s not just what you say but how you say it. The best course content will fall flat if it’s not delivered in a way that resonates with its student audience.

Lauren Rosenfeld elaborated on DQ’s talk with some specific tactics for improving delivery:

  • Each course should be a clear journey from point A to point B. Scripting your course in advance will eliminate detours.
  • Be conversational and authentic. Putting a photo next to the camera or imagining yourself in front of classroom can help make your delivery more natural.
  • Interject energy and passion. When you’re making a video lecture, you need to amp up your presence and personality in a big way.
  • Vary your tone of voice. It’s easy to lose steam and not even realize it when you’re in the midst of a recording session. Make sure you keep your delivery lively and avoid the dreaded monotone.

Matt O’Dell talked about how to structure your course in a way that keeps student preferences first. He recommended starting your courses with a “quick win” and offering more practical applications than concepts. Giving practice exercises is a great way for students to see the progress they’re making so they’ll continue through the rest of your lectures.

Advanced Video Workshop
With dozens of courses on videography and photography, instructor Phil Ebiner was a natural to lead this session. Conversations in the instructor groups on Facebook are often around video equipment and best practices, so it wasn’t surprising to see a big turnout for this workshop. Using a before-and-after example, Phil demonstrated how music, imagery, talking heads, graphics, and calls-to-action can turn a mediocre course into a great-looking, professional-grade production. His equipment overview included tips on lighting and backdrops, which he had set up right there in the room for people to see.

Fireside Chat with Eren Bali and Dennis Yang
The daytime portion concluded with Grégory Boutte interviewing Udemy founder Eren Bali and CEO Dennis Yang in a casual “fireside chat” format. This was probably the first time most instructors got to hear directly from Eren about Udemy’s origins and how the company has evolved since its earliest days.

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Instructor Gala Dinner
If you weren’t there, the photos won’t do it justice, I’m afraid. Oz the Mentalist wowed everyone with his feats of magic and mystery. We’re still trying to figure out how he knew the serial numbers on Dinesh’s dollar bill… Then it was party time!

Sunday Seth Godin Workshop
There were a few more breakout sessions Sunday morning, including instructor Eric Arceneaux and subject expert Shanna Cook co-presenting on social media marketing, but the main event was Seth Godin’s keynote. Seth had some powerful words of wisdom and left us all feeling very inspired. Not surprising there was lots of tweeting during Seth’s talk!

Seth was received by the Udemy instructors like the marketing rockstar he is, and we appreciated how much time he spent taking selfies and signing books after his presentation.

Closing thoughts
With Udemy LIVE 2016 now behind us, we’re already reviewing what we learned from hosting this event and coming up with ideas for next year. The appetite is there for more instructor activities, and I heard a lot of people discussing how we/they can organize regional get-togethers so we don’t have to wait another 12 months to see our friends!

Thanks to all of the instructors who traveled from far and wide to take part. We’ve got a lot of big plans and ambitions for the future, and after this weekend, we’re more determined and excited than ever to continue working toward our mission of 100 million students. Let’s go!

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Online learning could help more people achieve—if they knew about it

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Sometimes it’s easy for us in Silicon Valley to get stuck in the echo chamber and assume our Bay Area lifestyle and attitudes are consistent with the rest of the world. We are early adopters of bleeding-edge technologies, we reject the status quo, and we constantly seek out better ways of doing things, whether that’s using a ride-share service or wearing a computer on our faces. It’s good to step back and remind ourselves that most people don’t live this way.

Online learning is another one of those things that feels pervasive in our world but is, in fact, still in its earliest infancy. For motivated lifelong learners, going online to take courses and pursue self-directed learning is just another way the internet is an integral part of our lives. Indeed, the variety of educational resources has never been greater. And yet, most people are unfamiliar with the options available to them or haven’t (yet) recognized their value.

In my mind, that one challenge overshadows the rest. A lack of awareness is holding modern education back.

In fact, those people who could benefit most from online and digital education platforms are the most unfamiliar with them. Instead, it’s those who are already highly educated who are gravitating to new education platforms to bolster their existing skill sets. Moreover, the awareness problem affects the U.S. disproportionately compared to the rest of the world.

Consider India, where there will be 142 million students in the higher ed age range in 2030. They can’t build enough schools to accommodate the coming wave, and the internet is the most obvious solution for getting these people the skills training they need. At the same time, Indians are acutely aware of and concerned about the rise of automation and what it could mean for their employability, with 91% of Indian survey respondents believing their skills will become obsolete in the next five years. Udemy sees the strongest demand in areas with young populations and growing technical economies like India. Nearly one million students in India are enrolled in courses on our platform–a figure that’s more than doubled from last year.

But for most folks in the U.S., traditional institutions of higher ed still reign supreme, even as tuitions rise to historic highs and the return on investment becomes less certain. Colleges and universities are regarded as mandatory routes to career success, though many employers still find new grads to be underprepared for the professional world and many in-demand skills like graphic design and coding can be learned via online courses just as effectively. For-profit universities, in the news for sudden bankruptcies and high-profile lawsuits, have given Americans a negative perception of higher ed alternatives available to working adults. Online learning is often unfairly lumped in with that group.

Raising awareness of today’s digital learning tools will take much more than sharing information and signing people up for classes. The real issue is getting people to accept that all of us need to continue our education beyond high school and even college. I experienced my own dose of reality a few years ago when I did my first broadcast interview and realized afterwards how much better I would’ve done if I’d been media-trained. Today’s workplace is evolving so quickly, you’ll get a wake-up call like that too, if you haven’t already, but you’re probably not about to drop your career and go back to school.

This is why there’s been so much talk urging individuals to embrace a growth mindset and develop into lifelong learners. Companies and organizations can help during the hiring process by looking at what job candidates know and can do—not where or how they learned it—and offering online skills training that’s more like choosing from Netflix’s online entertainment library and less like corporate drudgery. The goal is to create an environment that motivates employees and individuals to want to better themselves and then offer the resources to help them get there.

Online learning isn’t going away; it’s only getting bigger. But we in edtech can’t be the only ones touting its benefits. More voices—from college advisors to industry leaders to education policymakers—need to speak up about the larger issue of how today’s workers can stay marketable and grow their skills and the multitude of online resources available to them. We’re drawing closer to a future in which every individual has equal access to grow skills and enrich their lives, but we still have a long way to go.

#WhatToChangeNow

Is teaching the new feather in your professional cap?

Credit: Nicholas Kristof

Credit: Nicholas Kristof

At some point, publishing a book became the must-have accomplishment for business people to include in their professional profiles. Along those lines, I’ve been noticing something interesting happening in the Udemy marketplace. We’ve been seeing more and more professionals turning to online teaching as a way to build their personal brands, extend their influence, and foster a more dynamic, multidirectional dialog with their followers.

Not only is teaching online a great way to demonstrate expertise, it’s perhaps the most effective way to share that expertise with a virtually limitless global audience that’s checking in from smartphones while on the go or from living rooms, offices, commuter trains, etc. And that, in turn, is a huge benefit to would-be students, who wouldn’t otherwise have access to these high-quality experts.

Nowadays, when influencers want to broadcast a message, they can’t skip delivering it as on-demand video. Simply put, most consumers cite video as the format they prefer over reading text, and they have unprecedented control over the viewing experience too. We’ve all gotten used to consuming entertainment on our own terms, at our own pace, on our own schedules. Forget the TV listings; you can watch any episode of any show whenever you want.

Professional content creators of all stripes have to meet those same consumer expectations of freedom and flexibility. Books are still plenty popular, but they’re just one ingredient in the media mix people are feeding on. That’s why more non-teachers are recognizing the power of online courses to help their audiences absorb information and apply what they’ve learned. With video-based courses, their expertise is available whenever people want it, and it’s easy for students to engage in relevant discussions with the expert and with each other.

A slew of well-known influencers have signed on to create courses on Udemy, including entrepreneur and marketing maven Seth Godin, bestselling authorElizabeth Gilbert, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. What they have in common is a desire to serve their expertise to as many people as possible. We actually asked Nick Kristof and his wife/co-instructor Sheryl WuDunn to tell us why they felt an online course made sense for sharing their messages about global opportunity and empowering women. They had already published books and made TV documentaries on these topics, “But frankly, not everyone reads books: Picking up a 300-page book is a significant barrier, while watching videos may be a little easier and friendlier.” Essentially, given the multitude of ways people find and consume information today, Nick and Sheryl recognized the need to deliver content in many different formats to satisfy them; in other words, the decision to publish a course was driven by their audience’s needs.

This evolution from books to courses isn’t just something for people who already have a highly visible public persona either. There are Udemy instructors who’ve adapted self-published e-book content for their video courses and vice-versa after finding that the two formats worked well in tandem. I talked to one student who came to Udemy to learn about creating and hosting a webinar and decided to create an online course instead so people anywhere could access it indefinitely. Another instructor told us she’s been getting more speaking engagements since her online courses started gaining attention, demonstrating how these efforts reinforce each other and contribute to overall results.

In other words, for many professionals, especially freelancers, consultants, entrepreneurs, and the self-employed, teaching online is one of the best ways to build out an audience and serve more “customers” without being hindered by time, geography, or logistical restrictions. While additional income is great, for many of these folks, there are other benefits worth having, like connecting with students in far-flung locations and being able to “teach” a course on demand whenever people are ready to learn, no matter the time of day or night.

We know the internet is democratizing access to education for students, but it’s also opening more doors for subject-matter experts who want to distribute their content more widely. It ends up being a win-win, as instructors stretch their muscles in new directions to strengthen their professional profiles, and students have more opportunities than ever to learn from the best.

This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

June 24, 2016: Friday News Roundup

Here we are at the end of the week and the beginning of awesomeness. This isn’t just any Friday; it’s the start of Udemy LIVE! Udemy instructors from around the globe have been sharing messages and photos all week as they’ve made their way to San Francisco, and tonight we kick off the action with a reception at our headquarters. The next two days will be jam-packed with valuable content and networking opportunities along with a healthy dose of fun.

But there was also news this past week, so let’s get on with it!

5 lessons from LeBron James about big goals and proving the doubters wrong
Following up his popular post on 4 leadership lessons every CEO can learn from Steve Kerr, CEO Dennis Yang gives the NBA champs their due. Turns out we can all take away a few lessons from LeBron’s journey to victory in Cleveland and not just how to deliver a Game 7 smackdown.

Millennials are obsessed with side hustles because they’re all we’ve got
Do you have your hustle on? If so, according to this millennial writer, it’s probably not making a huge difference in your bank balance. But that’s not the point. While extra income would be wonderful, the real payoff of a side hustle is creating “a hedge against feeling stuck and dull and cheated by life.” Yikes! Hey, millennials, does this sound like you?

People who think they’re great coaches often aren’t
Looks like self-awareness can be added to the list of soft skills in short supply. Two Cornell scientists researched why people overrate their coaching effectiveness and found that “for any given skill, incompetent people fail to recognize their own deficiencies and don’t recognize the skill in others. The lower an individual is on any scale of measurement, the more out-of-touch they tend to become.” Yikes again! Read on for the seven traits of people who overestimate their coaching skills, and see if any hit a little too close to home.

Pepsi CEO: Break with the past and don’t play too nice
Indra Nooyi has been PepsiCo’s CEO since 2006, and she didn’t get there by being a shrinking violet. She’s an impressive leader who demands excellence and uses her authority to make decisions that are sometimes difficult. In this Q&A, she shares her thoughts on preserving the culture (or not) of a brand that’s been around since the turn of the 20th century, the challenge of balancing short- and long-term demands, and the advice she received from Steve Jobs.

Why ‘fake it till you make it’ is so effective, according to science
The idea of “authenticity” is very attractive to American culture. It plays into whom we choose to partner with, vote for, and work for. But there’s ample evidence that “be yourself” isn’t always the best advice, according to this article, and that people who “self-monitor” are viewed more favorably by managers and peers alike.

 

Udemy: The next generation

In honor of Father’s Day weekend, we’re paying tribute to a bunch of Udemy dudes who’ve become Udemy dads in the past year (or are counting down the days). Whether welcoming a first child or adding a new brother or sister to the family, all are likely in various stages of sleep deprivation. Please enjoy a dose of cute overload and join us in wishing a very happy Father’s Day to these great guys!

Cullen UdemyDoug Aspland, Director of North American Sales, Udemy for Business
Cullen Thomas Aspland made his adorable debut March 21, 2016.

 

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Ameya Kulkarni, Manager of Product Management
Saanvi is Ameya and his wife’s first baby girl. She entered the world December 4, 2015, and “she has her singing (babbling) classes every day at 5:30am.”

 

Haj Matsukata, Account ManagerIMG_20160612_170255878
Koji arrived May 28, 2016, and is the Matsukata family’s second son. Dad says, “He has been a really good kid so far. I’m hoping it will stay this way…”

 

Alex Mozes, Director of Customer Support
Eleanor Jasper Mozes is Alex’s first child and the first new generation across all his cousins. She was born July 9, 2015, and Alex says, “We have no idea where her coppertop came from, but those eyes and smile are family heirlooms.”

 

Matt O’Dell, Senior Manager, Tech Vertical
Matt and his wife, Melissa, win the prize for newest baby! Amelia Ann O’Dell joined her parents just this past Wednesday (June 15) at 8:49am, clearly determined to be included in this blog post.

 

IMG_2675Dinesh Thiru, SVP, Marketing
Born September 6, 2015, Isaac Michael Thiru is the second kid in his family; Charlie the chocolate lab came first. Upon the recommendation of CEO Dennis Yang, Dinesh took this Udemy course and suggests other new parents check it out; “the instructor is an incredible baby whisperer.”

 

Frank babyFrank Visciano, VP of Growth
Frank won’t get the full Father’s Day treatment this year, but he and his wife are expecting a baby girl “somewhere in the vicinity of September 19.” Frank’s My Courses page on Udemy reflects his current life focus. “If all goes well,” he says, “I’ll have a flexible pregnant wife who gives birth to a well-behaved baby, who’s welcomed by our rambunctious puppy and sleeps through the night in the crib I’m building.”  

June 17, 2016: Friday News Roundup

Hope everyone had a great week. We’ve got a few awesome Udemy-related articles this week along with the usual news and ideas. It’s also Father’s Day weekend, and we’ll be sharing more on that topic a little later today…

4 leadership lessons every CEO can learn from Steve Kerr
Last night was rough for the Golden State Warriors and their quest to repeat as NBA champs, but how people respond to adversity is a critical factor in whether they ultimately reach success. At times like this, it helps to be able to turn to a strong, motivating coach. Read on to find out why CEO Dennis Yang  thinks Warriors coach Steve Kerr is a tremendous role model for business leaders too.

Engineers at ON24 click with Udemy online learning software
Udemy for Business is driving the consumerization of learning inside companies, transforming corporate training from dull and ineffective drudgery to being a robust, on-demand experience that more closely resembles how people like to consume content on their own. This article looks at how developers at webcasting tech company ON24 take Udemy courses to keep up with emerging technologies and how much more engaging Udemy’s platform is than previous training programs.

Meet the top 100 visionaries creating value for the world
We’re thrilled to be included in this list of “creators” from across multiple industries that “transcend the boundaries of capitalism and generate creative worth that challenges the idea of traditional business success.” Udemy’s mission has always been to help people around the world gain access to high-quality learning resources so they can build the lives they imagine. It’s gratifying to be recognized for this fundamental aspect of why we do what we do.

5 essential skills you need to keep your job in the next 10 years
More advice on growing your value to your employer so they keep you around! We liked that this article included lifelong learning as one essential skill, especially the part about keeping up with industry trends and observing day-to-day activities at work. You need to look beyond your own job function and current responsibilities to stay ahead of the curve.

Adult internships: A growing trend for career changers
This will remind you of the comedy “The Intern” that came out last year, starring Robert De Niro as an oldster joining a modern, millennial-driven workplace. Well, interns for seasoned adults are no punchline, it turns out. If you’re further along in your career and looking to make a change or had dropped out of the workforce and are trying to get back in, this author makes the case for seeking out an adult internship.