In the first quarter of 2016, we took some huge steps toward making our platform and marketplace more intuitive and trustworthy.
When students come to Udemy, we want our PLATFORM to offer an absolutely exceptional learning experience. We’ve seen that student satisfaction is driven by two main components: relevant course content and supportive instructors. To better serve these goals, in Q1 we created a brand new course-taking design as well as revamped instructor communication tools.
Instructors and students alike deserve a MARKETPLACE that is clear, consistent, and trustworthy. To move forward with this vision, we implemented a more robust feedback loop between students and instructors, and announced our new pricing and promotions structure (effective April 4).
The most exciting part? This is just the beginning – we have a long future ahead of us!
The Student Course-Taking Experience, Reimagined
We want every student taking a course on Udemy to feel absolutely immersed in their online learning experience. And we want it to be rewarding, accessible, and relevant. To achieve this goal, we’ve undertaken a complete revamp of the course-taking design. Here are the key changes:
- Video Player: Our new immersive video player helps minimize distractions and puts instructor video content front and center.
- Speed Controls: Students can more easily speed up, slow down, or skip ahead.
- Bookmarks: Students can save specific timestamps in the course and take notes on these parts of your course that are most important to them. This has replaced the “Notes” tool.
- Video Quality: We’re now offering the option to view video in 1080p!
- Resources: If downloadable resources are available for a lecture, a “Resources available” button will appear on the lecture screen. A Resources note will also appear more prominently in the lecture navigation panel.
- Questions: We dug through the data and found that by far the biggest use of the discussion board was students asking questions. As a result, we’ve optimized this feature for both asking and answering questions. This includes a function for you (and the original poster of the question) to mark a response as the correct answer. This encourage students to engage not just with you the instructor but also with other students! Note that all previous Discussions now appear as Questions.
- Lecture Types: A course on Udemy is a video experience above all else. As a result, we’ve streamlined the available lecture types on Udemy. We now offer Video, Mashup, and Article lectures. Remember that you can continue to add other file types in the Resources section.
This new course-taking experience has been rolled out to approximately half the Udemy student audience. We anticipate a site-wide implementation in the next month! As an instructor, here are a few steps you can take to help ensure the student learning experience in your course is truly exceptional:
- Add a robust lecture description to any pre-existing PDF/Ebook lectures. For these lectures, the student will encounter a navigation screen linking them to the PDF hosted online. A detailed lecture description will ensure they have the context for the PDF content we’re directing them to!
- Update any lectures that tour the Udemy interface. We know that some instructors like to include a lecture showing new students around the course interface. You may need to update this lecture so it reflects the new video player and takes into account the rebranding of Questions (formerly Discussion Board). But keep in mind that we’ll also be giving new students in their first Udemy course an official tour of the course-taking interface!
Revamped Instructor Communication Tools
Highly relevant course content is essential to the student learning experience, but it’s not the sole driver of student satisfaction. Supportive and engaged instructors play a very large role too! To help enable instructor-student interaction, over the the last quarter we made several enhancements to our Message and Announcement Tools.
Whether it’s a message from a prospective student asking about course fit, a promotional announcement with news about a just-launched course, or a direct message congratulating a student upon course completion, Udemy’s communication tools help connect students and instructors on a more personal level. We’re extremely excited to have added more ease and efficiency to these interactions.
Course announcements – both educational and promotional – are one of the most effective ways that instructors can interact with their students. We revamped this tool with some frequently requested enhancements.
You can now:
- Create new announcements and view your previous ones on the brand new Announcements dashboard.
- Check the status of your announcement email. You can see when it’s in progress as well as when it’s been delivered.
- Target students by course progress, for both promotional and educational announcements.
- Preview the Announcement within the course and even send a test email before you actually send it out to students.
- Specify a custom subject line for your announcements. We also now show the instructor’s name in the email sender field.
If you’re looking for some inspiration on various ways you can use Educational Announcements to engage with students, check out these templates. We’d love to give you feedback on your drafts in the Studio!
The new messaging interface allows you to efficiently manage your inbox so that you can respond to more students in less time.
- Easily filter your messages so to prioritize the ones you choose.
- Mark a message as “Important” if you need to do some research before replying.
- Mark a message as “Unread” if you didn’t finish reading it and need to come back later.
- See which of your courses a particular student is enrolled in.
Many Udemy students lead busy lives, and prioritizing on-demand learning can sometimes be difficult. We saw that some instructors chose to send individual messages of welcome to activate new students. We also noticed instructors congratulating students who completed the course!
We released Automatic Messages to take the manual burden off instructors while still providing a means for them to welcome and congratulate students in their courses!
We Welcome Your Feedback
We couldn’t have achieved all this without your help! Thank you for the valuable feedback on how we could improve our communication tools. Whether that feedback came via a community post, an email to Support, or a phone call with the Instructor Team, we appreciate the efforts you’ve taken to help us further improve our platform for both students and instructors. As we move forward, we appreciate your ongoing insights!
Student-Instructor Feedback Loop
Students who come to Udemy deserve a rewarding and relevant learning experience, and a marketplace that’s simple, intuitive, and trustworthy. Course reviews are essential for helping students decide which course best fits their needs and goals, yet when we dug a bit deeper we found that the majority of students didn’t actually trust course ratings for the following three reasons:
- Low quantity of reviews per course
- High instances of inauthentic reviews
- Limited differentiation between ratings of similar courses
Imagine that you’re browsing Udemy’s marketplace as a student and you notice that every course has a nearly perfect five-star rating. Not only do you assume something fishy is going on, but you also can’t use reviews to help you choose which course to take from the three options you’re debating purchasing. This results in a confusing and frustrating experience.
We spent several months conducting user interviews, products tests, and data analyses to design a more trustworthy feedback loop between students and instructors. Keep reading for some additional information and context for how we addressed each of the pain points noted above.
Increasing the volume of reviews
Previously the burden of convincing a student to post a review of the course lay primarily with the instructor. Not only did this lead to a low quantity of reviews per course, but it led to some instructors using “out-of-bounds” methods to gain more reviews. It also often created a fair amount of work for instructors. When we analyzed our old review system, we recognized that getting student reviews was a significant challenge for instructors. In our new system, we’ve taken this burden away from instructors with automated in-course prompts for the student to review the course.
The first prompt gauges whether the course is meeting the student’s expectations thus far. It’s important to get this early feedback for a few reasons:
- Many students drop out of the course after the first few lectures, and this feedback can illuminate for the instructor how well the beginning of their course is engaging students and whether they’re converting casual watchers into true evangelists.
- As students progress through the course, their reviews tend to get more positive – students who are enjoying a course continue learning from it, while those who have a less than positive experience drop out. The early prompt ensures that you’re receiving holistic feedback from all of your students, so you can do more of what students love while also improving on what students are struggling with.
- Finally, this means that instructors are receiving a higher number of reviews, from a wider variety of students, and that courses in the marketplace have more differentiated ratings.
Students will always have the option to “Ask Me Later” rather than responding to the first prompt. If they do respond, they’ll be asked to update their review approximately midway through the course, and then again at the very end of the course.
You may be wondering how you can adapt your course to generate early ratings that trend more toward the positive. The single most important thing you can do is add a “quick win” to your first section – this serves to activate students right away. Check out this resource for a walk-through of how you can add a Quick Win to your own course!
Decreasing instances of fraudulent reviews
Reviews can influence the success of instructors’ marketing efforts, and also help a new course overcome its initial “cold start”. Unfortunately, some instructors have taken steps to solicit false reviews that are not representative of the course material. These inauthentic reviews greatly jeopardize our aim to build a trustworthy marketplace. As a result, our Data Science Team is developing a new system to better detect fraudulent reviews and remove them from the equation. We will also do a retroactive sweep of the marketplace to remove reviews that our new filter considers to be spam.
Because we’re also increasing the quantity of reviews for courses across the marketplace, instructors should feel less pressured to employ non-approved methods to increase their review numbers.
Providing better differentiation between courses
Despite similar categories, topics, and content, no two courses are the same in the marketplace. However, with only 5 rating options, students don’t always have the full picture. Our revamped system introduced the ability to leave reviews in half-star increments. Allowing 10 rating options for students encourages more granular ratings which in turn results in increased distinction between courses. This helps students focus exactly on which course is right for them!
We will continue to add enhancements to the review system to ensure this feedback loop is useful for both students and instructors. Here’s what we have in the pipeline:
- Implement a new sorting algorithm for reviews on the course landing page to surface the most useful reviews.
- Redesign the “Ask Me Later” button to make it more prominent. This will encourage students without a clear opinion of the course just yet to wait to review until the next prompt.
- For students that leave a low rating, add some possible reasons for the rating that students can select from a list. This will provide more actionable feedback for instructors to keep improving their courses. Note that we’ll be testing this enhancement before actually implementing!
Pricing & Promotions on Udemy
In the beginning of March we announced a change to our pricing and promotions structure. In developing this strategy, we analyzed our student purchase data and the results of price tests. We also had many conversations with our instructor community and with students. We heard from our instructors that deep discounts were unsustainable and trained students to purchase only at the lowest price. We heard from students that high list prices and deep discounts were confusing, and seemed untrustworthy.
We built a pricing model that combines instructors’ desire to minimize discounts with students’ desire for fair and consistent pricing. We believe that combining lower list prices with smaller discounts will help ensure that Udemy remains a sustainable, accessible, and trustworthy marketplace for both instructors and students in the years to come.
The new pricing system will be implemented on April 4. In the week leading up to the rollout (March 28 – April 1), join us in the Studio for a discussion of the some of the most commonly voiced questions and concerns:
- Should I break up my longer course into pieces?
- How will Udemy promotions work?
- If I sell my course elsewhere at a higher price, how can I differentiate the course on Udemy?
- How should I price my course to start?
We’re extremely excited about the road ahead. This quarter we took steps toward building a platform and marketplace that will lead us to 100 million student, but it’s just the beginning!