FAQ: Changes to free courses

Udemy recently announced that free courses will be different than paid courses in length and features. What will be different?

As of March 17, 2020 Udemy is rolling out a new, simplified, free course experience. Free courses are one way for instructors to try teaching on Udemy, test demand for a topic, build a student audience, and get student feedback risk-free. This new experience emphasizes the video content in your free courses with a more prominent placement of your preview video on the course landing page to introduce students to you and your teaching style faster. Additional course features including Q&A, direct message, and certificate of completion are now reserved for paid courses only. Additionally, all free courses published after March 17, 2020 must be under 2 hours in video length.

Why is Udemy changing the free course experience?

Udemy is updating the free course learning experience to help students better distinguish the value of both free and paid courses. Free courses are intended to help students get a taste of the online learning experience to determine if they want to invest more time and money into a topic, an instructor, and Udemy as a whole.

A free course is a great way to test whether teaching online and teaching on Udemy is right for you while giving students an introduction to you and your teaching style.

For students, we hope these changes will help them see that free courses are no longer a substitute for paid courses, but are now a complementary experience that delivers its own unique value without taking away from the paid course experience We also hope that the new free course experience will help build student confidence in Udemy, specific instructors, and online learning as a whole.

Our vision with free courses is to allow students to try Udemy, an instructor, and a topic before they purchase a course. With these changes we hope that instructors will begin to see an increase in revenue over time.

I have a free course on Udemy that is above 2 hours in video length. What does that mean for me?

If your free course was published prior to March 17, 2020 and exceeds 2 hours in video length, it may remain published on Udemy with its current video length and full course features for students who have already enrolled.

Please note: If you elect to keep an existing free course as free, and it exceeds the new 2-hour video length policy, you are not allowed to make modifications to the course content. If you add or change any videos in that existing free course, you will be required to make your course paid.

Should I switch my free course to paid given the new changes? What happens if I move my course to paid as a result of the new free course experience?

If you switch your course from free to paid more than one time, this typically results in losing promotional announcement privileges. However, if you opt to switch your course price from free to paid before May 1, 2020, this will not be counted towards your one-change limit. Read more about the limit here.

I have a free course published on Udemy. What will my existing students see when they visit my course on March 17, 2020?

If you have elected to keep your existing free course as free, your existing students will enjoy the same experience that they did prior to March 17, 2020, including access to Q&A and their certificate of completion. All students that enroll in a free course on March 17 or later will not have access to Q&A or the certificate of completion.

Please note: the direct message functionality will remain restricted to only paid courses.

I have heard from other instructors that I should offer my course for free when it first launches to get student enrollments and reviews. With these new restrictions, I can not offer my entire course for free anymore to get ratings, reviews, and enrollments. Won’t this impact my ability to successfully launch a new course?

Some instructors elect to offer their course(s) for free in the early stages of launch to gain social proof. While offering your course for free may result in a large number of enrollments, we have found that students consider the overall rating and number of ratings more carefully than the number of enrollments when deciding which course to purchase. We instead recommend that you leverage your allotment of free coupons to share your new course with trusted friends, colleagues, and peers who will take your course, provide you with honest feedback, and help you improve your course for future students.

You might choose to create a short course on Udemy, less than 2 hours in video length, to determine whether teaching on Udemy is right for you and gain student feedback before creating a longer paid course.

Offering a free course isn’t the only way to build an audience from scratch. For additional tips on how to get started with marketing, we encourage you to read the following teaching center articles on marketing and join the instructor community to learn what has worked for other instructors.

How can I gain social proof for my new course if I don’t offer it for free for a short period?

There are many ways to build social proof for your course other than offering it as free for a period. This includes:

  1. Leveraging your allotment of free coupons with close contacts that have an interest in the course topic
  2. Asking your fellow members of the instructor community to give you early feedback on your course and identify areas for improvement
  3. Sharing coupons for your course with your network on social media, LinkedIn, and any blogs or websites that you have
  4. Building your authority on the channels that your students are most likely to be on. Join communities relevant to your course topic and be helpful! Answer questions, brainstorm solutions with those in the channels, and begin to build yourself as an expert in your domain. Only after you have done that, ask the moderators if you can share a course coupon with the group.

Please note: We recommend always asking group and community moderators if you can share your course before doing so. Each group has a different set of rules and we want to make sure that you adhere to those rules.

Now that free courses are shorter and offer fewer features than paid courses, why would a student enroll in a free course? What is the value that they receive?

Free courses allow students to find the right topic, course, and instructor for them before investing in a longer, paid course. The streamlined experience puts more emphasis on your course’s video content so that students can focus more on getting an idea of your teaching style without distraction of additional features. It also makes certificates of completion more valuable for students, since they have invested their money in the course.

Why should I create a free course as an instructor? How can it help me be successful on Udemy with my paid courses?

Teaching a free course on Udemy is a great way for you to explore whether teaching on Udemy is right for you and what the demand for your topic is. It also helps you get feedback from students and gives those unfamiliar with you an idea of your teaching style and what they will learn. Free courses are intended to be shorter and introductory, so that you give students value while leaving them wanting more so that they may invest in your paid courses.

Will there be any additional changes to free courses in the coming months?

We are always looking for ways to improve the teaching and learning experience on Udemy. At this time, we do not anticipate additional changes to the free course experience in the coming months. However, eventually we may investigate additional changes and improvements to better meet the needs of students and instructors.

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