Friday, October 19, 2012

Teacher as entrepreneur

While most of the xMOOC interest is focused around the big league players like MIT, Stanford, Harvard and friends, another looser model is flourishing. Udemy started in 2010 and today offers around 5000 courses from a very wide range of teachers and enthusiasts. The difference here is that whereas the xMOOC players (edX, Coursera, Udacity) offer university approved courses, Udemy allows anyone to upload their own course and offer it on their virtual  marketplace. Some courses are free but many have a fee, though generally very low. It's up to the course creator to set the price and size of the course.

Udemy have now launched a new course publishing platform as described in an article in TechCrunchUdemy Rolls Out New Publishing Platform To Help Teachers Create Quality Online Courses, This provides you with a step-by-step guide and read-to-use templates that enable you to design and launch your own course site. You decide whether your course is going to be free or fee-paying, how open it is, what language it uses and other parameters. Then you are guided through curriculum design and how to add your content (text, photos, diagrams, videos etc). Once the course is ready you can then add it to Udemy's catalogue and start marketing it. Udemy even offer its teachers a  closed Facebook group, The Udemy Faculty Lounge, for discussions and help. The video below gives a short introduction to how the publishing platform works.

The fee-paying aspect makes distinguishes Udemy from the major xMOOC players but it's a voluntary issue and teachers decide themselves what price to set, if any. However if your course attracts thousands of learners, that modest fee can amount to a nice little earner. In an interview with Udemy co-founder Eren BaliQ&A: Every Expert Will Teach Online In 10 Years:

"... 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."

This enables the individual teacher or enthusiast to offer a course that is not part of an institutional portfolio and the opportunity to earn some money from it. It could also enable smaller institutions to offer massive courses for small fees and still earn enough to cover costs to some extent. This is not going to revolutionize learning or threaten the formal system but it offers another pathway to learning and widens the scope of informal learning.

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