Friday, May 1, 2015

How not to deal with a problem

I have been offering courses via Skillfeed (a subsidiary of Shutterstock) for nearly a year.  I have 23 courses there, most of them quite short (one video) as seems to be popular on that site.

When I submitted the latest, about freelance game design and writing, I was told

Your course does not quite fit in our catalog at this time.Please contact with any questions.
I first wondered how the people who rejected the course, could not tell me why.  Already there's a disconnect.  But I wrote to the address supplied.

In the meantime another instructor had received the identical message and posted about it on Skillfeed's Facebook group.  A discussion (marked by considerable instructor unhappiness) followed. After all, this came out of nowhere, and we have no guidelines as to what fits the mysterious catalog, and what doesn't.  As the original poster said:
I replied back that they could have flagged me early on (like when I put in the title) to let me know this before I wasted my time submitting it in the first place. And that's the thing -How am I supposed to know if they are going to reject a course based on their catalog? Why should I bother submitting courses if that I'm going to waste my time? They could put up front (before you START the process): Here is a list of topics that we are not accepting at this time. How hard would that be?
One instructor had revised an already-approved course, then got the same message - and he says his course is no longer online!

This kind of behavior not only discourages instructors from submitting courses, it discourages them from updating courses.

Today is the eighth day since I wrote to the specified address to address, without reply.  So I went on Facebook to check status.

Lo and behold, the original message and comments are no longer there.  And new posts are now subject to admin approval, which was not the case a week ago.

So Skillfeed, rather than address or explain, has chosen the "ostrich method."  They've tried to hide the problem.  This is a classic case of shooting yourself in the foot.

I posted the following, but whether it will be approved is open to doubt.
Interesting that Lisa Frase's post (with many comments) about courses not fitting the catalog has been removed from this group.  Isn't the idea to engage with critics rather than try to pretend they don't exist?
It has been 8 days since I wrote to teach@skillfeed to ask why my course was rejected, without reply.

Well done, Skillfeed.

Addenda:  My Facebook message was approved, surprisingly.

After writing a second time to teach... , I received what appears to be a stock reply:
Thank you for reaching out. We appreciate you taking the time to submit your course to Skillfeed. However, at this time we are not accepting courses with that particular subject matter. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience! If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out again.
I say stock reply because there's no mention of the actual subject matter ("that particular subject matter"), nor were my comments actually addressed. Is it because "freelance" is in the title?  Or because it's about games (freelance game design and writing in games)?  How can an author use this to determine what he might or might not submit?   Without knowing what courses are not accepted, but knowing that many are being rejected, why would you risk wasting your time?

It's an utter disaster for Skillfeed.  If they simply don't want more courses, why not say so?

Second addenda:
Finally, from support I get an explanation: "We are attempting to focus our efforts on courses related to web development and graphic design, per customer demand."

Now why didn't they just announce that to begin with?  Why do we have to "pull teeth" to learn this?  

In the universe of online elearning, the topics specified above seem to be the most common.  Focusing on them does nothing to differentiate Skillfeed from anyone else.  Skillshare, in contrast, seems to focus on "artsy" topics, or at least on topics other than web development (many of the artsy classes are related to non-techical graphic design).  That orientation may come from their project-based method, where students are offered a project to complete as the goal of a course.

"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