September 21st, 2016 Business

Though it has its critics, Udemy has proven to be an extremely popular platform for anyone looking to create and sell an online course. It is probably no surprise that since they came out with their offering there have been plenty of “copy-cat” services sprouting up all over.

We often get potential LearnDash customers writing to ask how they can create their own Udemy clone, but with a twist.

It is interesting to note however that the Udemy business model isn’t anything new. Sure, it was first in its niche to deliver that kind of solution to people, but not unique in the overall model.

The popular WordPress theme marketplace ThemeForest has the same business approach: provide a platform for others to sell their digital goods (in this case, WordPress themes) and take a percentage of the sales. Then, focus on generating traffic to the site which results in more sales for the people selling items. When those people make sales others want to join the marketplace so they too can make sales.

[Sidebar: If you’re looking for business ideas think about different industries that could benefit from this kind of business model. It works really well with digital goods as there is less headache in terms of support and setup.]

Udemy has undergone a few iterations since their inception, tweaking the way courses appear on the site and the overall learner experience. These changes are incremental. More minor updates than anything.

I am curious to know what the future of Udemy holds and if they have ambitions outside of their core offering today.

We could assess various paths for Udemy’s future all day, but there are two that I can think of that would be pretty cool and not terribly difficult for them to implement.

First is something I would call “Udemy Select” (okay, the name stinks, but go with me on this one).

Think of this as a potential way to compete with the likes of Udemy could actively recruit proven experts across certain subjects and then price access to these courses in a membership-type format. Or, perhaps offer these “select” courses in bundles of some kind (like a course “tract”).

Udemy could easily find a market for these courses. All they have to do is look at their data and send promotions to people who have purchase similar courses in the past.

To make things interesting, existing and new Udemy course authors should have the ability to work their way into “Udemy Select” by proving their course is valuable. The best way to do this? Sell a lot of courses and capture incredible feedback. How these individuals would be compensated is a discussion for another time but I am sure something could be worked out.

The other potential way Udemy could evolve is by what I mentioned earlier with regards to “tracts”. This could be even easier than the “Udemy Select” approach.

Essentially they could lump together a handful of popular courses that are related to a certain discipline and allow people to purchase the “tract”. Heck, why not award a Udemy certificate while you’re at it? Coursera has proven that this is a profitable idea.

These are just two ideas that come to mind right straight-away when I think about Udemy and its potential future. They aren’t really flushed out and given more time I’m sure better ones would come to mind.

Regardless, Udemy and similar offerings represent a fascinating space in the online learning industry and I will continue to watch it with interest.

Oh, and if anyone from Udemy is reading this… you’re welcome 😉 .

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter

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Udemy and Coursera’s history is very intersting for people working in eLearning industry. It’s very interesting to see what sells, what is valued by the people and what isn’t. Even though this is market, not empirical data, it is somehow a verification of the supply by the demand.

Agree, though I think Coursera may be envious of the Udemy returns. They have their revenue model pretty much flushed out whereas Coursera still seems to be searching.

Having been involved with the alternative education and Free University movement of the 60’s-80’s, organizer and educator generated courseware is where a significant amount of learning can happen. Udemy has the overall organizational platform relatively well done. But, they have made some significant strategic errors, mostly in sales and marketing, that impacts the value of having them host any unique learning content, and even the run-of-the-mill courses in well worn topic areas. The Free U movement never boasted “free courses”. They were schools located mostly in university towns, and relatively hip cities. The “Free” meant freedom to teach, freedom to learn. This may sound odd or archaic in the current internet, YouTube, open information world. But, prior to the Free Schools, there were few, if any, venues for people to share their talents and skills other than traditional schools requiring certification and education credentials exclusively. The Free U movement ignited skills training through various community organizations, to the point of creating enough competition to essentially replace them in the marketplace as the cost and value of available classroom space went up. So, the internet model removed that issue, and now you have Udemy and Coursea. Those who taught in community based open schools enjoyed the ability to market price their courses. Good teachers with good reputations and good content, could command a seminar leaders pricing. Others could use them as a way of developing teaching skills, and kept prices modest. The problem with Udemy is their pricing structure, and how they have degraded the value of the course in a move to build a user base. They came out with market based pricing, then went for across the board “price drop” promotion. Once they removed that (around a year ago), I imagine they struggled, although they recently brought it back. I do not see how anyone makes money at $10 or $15 a course, unless the content is very thin and introductory. They went across the board. In sales and marketing, the day you publicly drop your price, specially if it is across the board, is the day you tell the marketplace exactly how you view the quality of your offer and venue. Udemy is a $10 a class site, now trying to get $15, after, I assume the fell on their asses, they removed the $10 now pricing program. These people should study sales urgency, and methods of creating it WITHOUT using price drops, as it devalues the brand. As a start, add-ons and extras, while at market pricing, usually will do the job without degrading your value in the mind of the potential student. Think about it.

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