This is going to give Udemy reviews by an instructor. Many reviews are published on the Internet and due to all the hype surrounding this MOOC website, some months ago we decided to upload courses onto this mega-popular site and discover whether all the hype was warranted. Most who offer opinions are commissioned sales people (more commonly known as Affiliates) so, well, their motives are plain to the discerning. In this review of Udemy, we offer something very few have the authority to or those who may certainly wouldn’t due to fear. We, as ‘Udemy insiders’ (instructors), put forth this review in a spirit of transparency so others may understand the stakes of speaking truth in the face of devastating financial loss (being banned from teaching and earning money). Nevertheless and as we at Small Business Development Center TV teach; bringing value to both our students as well as readership will always pose financial risk! Although what is written hereafter may seem a stinging review, it is hardly meant to be. In any disagreement, two parties are involved and this instance is no different. A recent experience on Udemy’s MOOC (massive online open course) platform reminded us of a simple truth; those whom small businesses hire as paid employees have a totally different agenda, regardless of how it affects the very businesses they work for than do senior management, owners and shareholders. We’ve been premium instructors on Udemy since March of this year (2013) and having not marketed any of our 14 courses hosted, already have 1,800 students. Initially; something of great surprise was Udemy culture dictates no matter how thorough and expertly produced an e-course is, its’ real value lies in how cheaply, sometimes for as little as $2 per, it can be sold for by Udemy. Our goal wasn’t to necessarily make tons of money selling courses rather to figure out their business model and how it could add value to current profit centers at SBDC TV. The fact we earned revenue while conducting research was a double bonus and we offer a heart-felt thanks to the team at Udemy! Nevertheless; we recently received a ’30 day ban’ from earning revenue based on causes which didn’t begin with us rather, were caused by massive failures of Udemy staff. For those who may not be familiar with penalties imposed resulting from a Udemy ban; All courses (for us 14 totaling 130 hours) were removed from Udemy’s marketplace which meant none, for the duration, were visible to potential students and revenue dropped significantly. This seems worse than it really is because with at least 2,000 courses available in the marketplace and as far as we can tell, 17,650 total visits monthly, the ‘new student pickings’ are really slim None of our courses were promoted as part of their sales campaign(s) Any Google, Yahoo and Bing search rankings achieved were forfeited. We had 5 courses listed in top search rankings and, well, these efforts proved in vain No contact is allowed with students We weren’t able to log in and manage content The reason for the ban was our founder, after learning of a loss totaling more than $50,000 in future business, got a bit harsh with Udemy staff. This massive loss was due to SEO staff at Udemy misspelling a course header. As a partner here at SBDC and behind closed doors, I am very hard on both senior and junior partners and the senior partner, Brian Dale, is no exception! It was Brian which confronted Udemy on the mistake and by his own admission, was quite harsh. He did so without consulting others and without giving specific details; his actions weren’t well received. He is majority shareholder (senior partner) at SBDC TV (DINC) so, well, only so much can be done. Here is what we, as a company, learned and are passing along to others using quotes from a recent meeting on the issue; “We put too much confidence in those (Udemy) employees. They aren’t business owners, shareholders and although they are probably competent subordinates, their loyalty only goes so far and knowing that, had no idea what passion is and should Udemy, as a company, fail, these same staff members only concern would be getting another job while owners and shareholders would be left picking up the pieces”. “We (SBDC TV) allowed them (Udemy) to establish value of our products and services. Our goal was achieving top search rankings to increase per unit sale price but that wasn’t Udemy’s priority although they assured us it was. Their goal is to sign up as many students as possible regardless of how it is achieved. We allowed our expectations to be mismanaged; HUGE MISTAKE”! “I (Brian) was wrong for the aggressive approach and admitted fault with an apology. The employees involved with the $50,000 mistake only presented my response to it and not their failures which resulted in the 30 day ban. Most Udemy involvement came from very young and inexperienced employees. I expected an understanding of the seriousness of their mistakes when, as employees and not business owners, wasn’t possible”. “Going forward, we will only use Udemy as a promotion platform. Upload abbreviated courses and promote longer versions. Our longer courses are being given away virtually for free now so let’s take the initiative in re-establishing course value”. This isn’t to question competency of the entire staff because at least one of their employees, at the right moment (as well as another at Lynda.com), will receive a very generous employment offer from SBDC TV! Let it not appear as if we are making a big deal of the ban because although we’ve managed to accumulate about 2,000 students to date, the earnings are hardly enough to cover the cost of office supplies let alone anything else! However; the education received into what a real partnership looks like and the lengths some go to in order to cover mistakes was priceless. This experience further reminded us of many things which aide in our educational curriculum. Here are just a few; When disputes arise between your business and customers; be careful to not immediately side with the employee(s) bringing the dispute forward to decision makers without having the full weight of evidence. Showing loyalty to bad decision makers, too often, will eventually have negative financial consequences There are times when owners and managers must, after examining the evidence, side with customers and re-train (or terminate) staff members. Although business owners often struggle with terminating an employee, believe us, it is a much bigger deal to leadership than a marginal employee. Outside of a paycheck, their emotional involvement only extends so far and never to the depth as does ownership’s. If they were once a great employee, don’t hang on to past greatness. They will again be so for someone else Most employees have one over-riding concern; will their paycheck be dispensed ‘like clock-work’. In order to facilitate this end, they sometimes make fear based decisions (such as cover-ups) in assurance their concern is alleviated. For those who may doubt this; what is the primary reason the last, for example, five staff members leaving your company? Bigger paychecks most likely Content and sales platform multiplication is critical to any business’ survival. Put more simply; never ‘put all of your eggs in one basket’ It is quite impossible for employees who’ve never been responsible to make ‘command decisions’ as are senior leaders, owners and shareholders, to be as passionate as owners and shareholders What is of chief importance when business altering decisions present themselves, is to never finger point but learn lessons which will improve process. Should those hoping to become online tutors or even students partner with Udemy? YES! However and whatever group readers fit into, we strongly suggest the following; Multiplying profit centers across as many e-learning sites (as an instructor) as possible Your goals will rarely align with those who host content Allowing any online learning platform to ‘establish course value around their culture’ will ultimately affect wider marketplace credibility E-learning platforms need quality content and as these platforms increase in number and competition for quality instructors with it, be selective about where content is hosted. For instance; Udemy publicly announced it has more than 8,000 instructors and 1 million students. However; what isn’t known outside of certain circles is only 25% of the 8,000 are actually taken seriously enough by Udemy as measured by allowed access to the marketplace. For every four who author a course, only one ‘makes the cut’. Of the 1 million students, less than 30,000 complete more than 15% of course material signed up for They’ve chosen a select few (10) of the 2,000 marketplace instructors to base the entire future of their company on Where is all of this leading? In all things whether positive or negative, examine your part, improve processes internally and understand NO employee or partner is worth managing unnecessary risk! Whether we return to Udemy in a few weeks is still being discussed but much was learned and if nothing else, we thank them for the three employees (responsible for the ban decision) who reminded us of the importance of maintaining a company culture which only partners with others who share our goals!