Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Drastic Changes in Online not-for-credit Education and Training

Out of the blue, today Udemy drastically changed its compensation to instructors.  Formerly, if an instructor recruited a new-to-Udemy student who signed up within two hours of coming to Udemy, the instructor received 97% (3% was for tuition transaction fees (paypal)).  But this rarely happened.  And if the student had even visited Udemy before, without signing up, then he or she was counted as not new to Udemy.

Otherwise, an instructor received 50% of the tuition (or 25% if going through an affiliate - I don't use affiliates).  This had been changed from 70% in the middle of last year.  So many experienced, successful instructors turned to other vendors such as Fedora and LFE that offered 70% and a personalized website with unique domain URL (Courses.PulsipherGames.Com in my case).  I certainly stopped recruiting to Udemy.

Now, the same 97% is offered for *any* student who uses an instructor's coupon, whether previously a Udemy student or not.  This makes an immense difference.  But why would Udemy do this?

I hypothesized that Udemy found they were no longer gaining students.  So I went to siteanalytics.com, which gives number of unique visitors to any largish website.  Udemy personnel had previously disputed the size of such numbers (too small, they said), but as a ballpark figure they give us an idea of trends.

Udemy's April '14 figure is 372K+.  May is 155K+[sic], less than half, and less than they've had since August 13.  June is not yet available.

At the same time, Lynda.com went from 543K+ to 752K+, over 200K more!  Skillshare.com 69K+ and 98K+.  Skillfeed.com 24K+ and 28K+.  (All of these are subscription sites.)  Other, Udemy-like sites do not use a common URL so cannot be checked.

For comparison, boardgamegeek is at 246K+ and 260K+.  Gamasutra.com is at 65K+ and 124K+. 

All of these sites gained users while Udemy plummeted.  And my Udemy sales for May were certainly distinctly worse than I've seen in the less than a year I've been involved - except for June, which was the worst.

I checked Lynda for a change in their fees to explain the huge increase, but it's still $25 a month.  Other subscription sites are $20 and $10.  And there's a new host site (EduPOW) that says all classes will be $5 (or free).  (I suspect that subscription will prevail in the long run.)  In any case, Udemy had to do something to try to recruit more students/replace the apparent loss.

One consequence of Udemy's change is that many of those instructors who went to other sites will now recruit for Udemy because they can make even more through Udemy than from competitors.  I can't see Udemy continuing this new compensation for more than a few months, but I suppose it depends on their bottom line. 

"Always do right--this will gratify some and astonish the rest."Mark Twain
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exup'ery

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." Albert Einstein

"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." Albert Einstein

"The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal." -- Aristotle