Udemy co-founder Eren Bali makes a bold statement: “In 10 years, we believe every expert in the world will be teaching online.” Find out more about his thoughts behind massive open online classes (MOOCs) and mission behind the fast-growing online platform Udemy.
SC: What inspired you to start Udemy? What’s the mission behind it?
EB: I was inspired to start Udemy based on my own personal experience using the Internet to teach myself mathematics. I came from a small village in Turkey where I went to a one-room schoolhouse and eventually found myself learning math via the Internet. This led to a successful academic career in mathematics that opened up so many more doors in my career that I would otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
Our mission at Udemy is to democratize education by enabling lifelong learners to access the skills & knowledge they need to accelerate their lives. We do this by providing access to online courses from the world’s experts. These courses are available on-demand, so that students can learn where & when it’s convenient for them. We have 5,000 courses across a large breadth of topics today and we’re proud to say that Udemy is already changing the lives of our students and delivering real value to our community of expert instructors.
SC: What role does Udemy play in the “edupunk” movement (ie. TED, Salyor.og, etc.)?
EB: We believe that now, more than ever, learning isn’t just something that happens from birth to college graduation. Learning is something that happens throughout your entire life (whether it’s associated with a traditional education institution or not). In today’s hyper competitive environment, employers are eager to find workers that are hungry to advance and have the ability to learn new skills. We’re also busier than ever though and need to find ways to learn on our own, when and where it’s convenient for us.
Udemy provides the destination and marketplace for all types of learning content for any student. We don’t limit our content sources to traditional higher ed and we believe strongly in a DIY approach where students can grab the content or courses or certifications they need to learn and keep moving.
SC: What sets Udemy courses apart from other MOOCs like Coursera or others?
EB: When compared against the more popularized MOOCs such as Coursera, EdX and Udacity, Udemy differentiates in a few different ways. For starters, we have a much larger SKU base of courses that spans both traditional higher education content as well as more trade or industry oriented skill content. We don’t tie ourselves only to either accredited or non-accredited content because we think both are valuable and important to students. We’re able to do this because we have a world-class course creation platform that is open and easy to use for non-technical instructors and professors. Finally, these companies tie themselves specifically to Tier 1 traditional post secondary schools, whereas we actually believe it’s the non-Tier 1 post secondary market that needs the most help.
As it relates to Google Course Builder, Udemy provides tools for non-technical instructors to create and deliver consumer grade learning experiences for their students.
Finally we believe strongly in a sustainable model in which instructors are rewarded and able to earn an income from the amazingly in-depth courses & learning content they deliver. Our top 10 instructors earned over $1.6 million in their first 12 months on Udemy and I hope we’ll go on to enable many more instructors to earn a living teaching on Udemy.
SC: Udemy has attracted the expertise of big names like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Marissa Mayer. What about Udemy do you think is most attractive to these leaders?
EB: We’ve been fortunate to have a great partner in the Stanford e-Corner who we’ve worked with to help share lectures from top Silicon Valley executives & CEOs, including Mark Zuckerberg and Marissa Mayer.
Ultimately though, our instructors share their knowledge on Udemy for many reasons, including: 1) to build their brands and awareness of their messages, 2) to earn a significant income (as mentioned, a number of our instructors have quit their day jobs and now teach on Udemy full-time), or 3) to simply share their passions & give back to students all across the world.
SC: Professors can earn a lucrative income on Udemy by offering classes for a small fee. How do you think Udemy will change the landscape of higher education?
EB: In 10 years, we believe every expert in the world will be teaching online.
Our mission is to democratize education and give students access to these experts and their learning content. For us, that increased access means breaking down two major barriers: 1) Geography – Where a student lives shouldn’t limit their access to top experts or learning content. The world’s top experts should be accessible to anyone, anywhere. 2) Price – The ability to pay tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars for tuition shouldn’t limit a student’s ability to learn and make moves in their lives. Students are asking for this access and instructors are eager to share their knowledge. This is the future of learning and we’re excited to be at the center of it, helping experts of all shapes & sizes reach the large base of students who are eager to grow and learn.
SC: What’s on the horizon for Udemy (certification programs, badge systems, etc.)?
EB: Today, Udemy’s content library is geared more heavily toward non-certificate or accredited courses. Ultimately though, we plan to provide access to all types of content: “trade” or “industry” based as well as traditional post-secondary content.
At the end of the day, our students need whatever learning content is necessary to make those moves in their lives. For some this is a simple skills based course that gives them the knowledge they need to keep moving. For others, the certification or accreditation is critical to helping them advance.
We also believe that having some level of Instructor-based certification or recognition is hugely valuable for students as they translate their learning on Udemy to real-life advancement in their careers or lives. Employers definitely value some level of certification or formal recognition of learning achievement and we want to work with Instructors to enable this for our students.
Udemy is a Learn Capital company where Tom Vander Ark is a partner.