Having only just wrapped my head around the pretty bizarre pricing model at Udemy, they go and change it!
Let’s rewind to get a necessary perspective.
Udemy sells online educational courses which are primarily video-based. Those courses could be priced from $9 to $299. However, a lot of the time, courses were priced towards the high end ($249, $299), but actually sold at the low end ($10, $15). The discounting was done by both course instructors, using deep discount coupons they created and sent via mailouts to their Udemy students, and by Udemy themselves who would have offers and sales events such as the “Black-Friday” site-wide offer where you could pick up any course for $10. Of course, the discounts appeared highest for courses priced near the maximum, hence instructors gravitated to the high end of pricing, knowing that a “90%-off” deal was much juicier than a “20%-off” deal to prospective buyers.
However, this pricing caused a trust issue to build up for Udemy. What happened to someone new to Udemy who wasn’t wise to the discounting games? What if that person bought a $299 course, only to find it was on sale along with every other course at just $10 the week after. It’s not hard to guess their reaction, nor their likely response which would probably be never to buy from Udemy again!
And so it came to pass that Udemy decreed that, as of 4th April 2016, all courses would be priced from $20 to $50, rising in $5 increments. So there would only be seven possible prices for all courses, site-wide. Not only that, but the maximum discount offered, by either an instructor or Udemy themselves, would be 50%.
Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the “discounters” who offered courses for less than $10, and there were a LOT of discounters. FaceBook coupon groups had to be re-named swiftly from “Udemy courses under $10!” to, erm, “Udemy courses over $10!”
So Udemy is trying to shed its discounting image. They want to remove the possibility of Bob being mortified at spending $299 for a course he could’ve got for just $10. They also want to iron-out the spikes in sales throughout the calendar year. It seemed to me that the big sale events of November and January hoovered up about 75% of the year’s sales because a lot of people put off buying any course at anything over $10 until then next sale, then “stocked up” on courses to last them the next several months.
As Udemy grows past 10-million users towards 11-million and beyond, it may be that people forget their “early days” with the “wild west” discounts. Both Udemy and their instructors need to hope so!
When you’re an instructor at Udemy, you have to aim for top-ratings and reviews for your courses, especially if your course is in a competitive category or sub-category.
The overall rating of your course is an important ranking factor. If your course doesn’t have a high overall rating, it can suffer in two ways…
it will be less likely to appear high in the Udemy search results
it won’t be well placed on the list of category and sub-categories it’s in.
Before we look at what you can do to get a 1-star rating or review changed, let’s back up a bit and go over some basics for those people who are unaware of them.
How Does A Rating Differ From A Review?
Basically, when your course gets feedback from a student, they can either just give it a star rating, from one to five, or they can give it a rating and leave a comment. A star rating doesn’t appear on the course description page, so only you, the instructor, will know who left it, but it does still count towards your course’s overall average score, and is included in the “tally” of stars received.
A review happens when a student leaves both a rating and a comment at the same time. The most recent reviews appear on the course description page, along with the name and profile picture of who left them, so they’re a bit less anonymous.
Examples Of Udemy Star Ratings…
Examples Of Udemy Reviews…
However, both ratings and reviews count towards the overall course average, shown here…
The course overall average rating is very important for determining where a course is ranked for any given search term at Udemy, and also for appearance and placement on the category and sub-category pages.
This is what a 1-star rating can do to your overall average…
Now, I can imagine you may be thinking, if the second picture is older, what happened to the 1-star rating? Was the one-star rating changed to a four-star or five-star rating, or was it deleted?
I’m glad you asked. 🙂
When I got the one-star review for my “Domain Name Essentials” course, it had previously received 16 fives and a four. As you can imagine, I was not pleased at the 1-star review, so I checked whether or not Udemy would remove it. They say, on their website…
Removal of Course Reviews
Occasionally a student may write a review that does not follow Udemy’s review guidelines. Reviews that are disrespectful, offensive, or unrelated to the course can harm the instructor’s experience as well as the Udemy community and may be removed. However, reviews that simply include negative commentary about the course (and do not violate any review guidelines) can provide valuable feedback for instructors and, therefore, will not be removed.
Instructors may request that Udemy investigate any review that meets one or more of the following criteria:
Contains language that is rude, hateful, or aggressive.
Is fake, fraudulent, offensive, spammy, or misleading.
Is unrelated to the course or course material.
Udemy will remove a student review only if it meets one or more of the criteria above.
Udemy will not remove a review simply because it has one or more of the following:
Negative commentary about the course or course content.
Negative commentary about the instructor’s teaching style or delivery.
Low number rating.
Suggestions on how to improve the course.
When Udemy declines a review removal request, this represents a final decision and the instructor may not resubmit the review for reconsideration.
If you believe that a review of your course fits the removal criteria above, you should request an investigation through email@example.com
The important point is that Udemy believes that students should be allowed to leave critical reviews (and low star ratings) under most circumstances. As you can see, they state that they won’t remove a review simply because it has a “low number rating”. So saying, “my course had all fives, now someone’s left a 1-star review, please remove it”, is not going to work.
So, I put my thinking cap on and tried to call the review “misleading”. To my mind, if the course had 17 reviews, 16 five stars and a 4 star, then a 1-star rating (no comment was left, so it wasn’t a review), was misleading and spurious.
Here’s what I sent…
What can I do about someone leaving a spurious 1-star review
after only completing 10% of my course?
Until this 1-star rating my course had 16x fives and a four!
Almost all of the people who left 5-star reviews had completed
100% of the course.
How can a guy complete 10% and leave a 1-star rating with no comment and it not be spurious?
I’ve tried to message him, with no reply.
That one rating brought the course average down from 4.94 to 4.72 which is devastating. I’d worked really hard to get the almost perfect rating… from people who had actually completed the course!
Is there not a statistical analysis which could show that
a course with a 4.94 average getting a 1-star rating would
be exceptionally unlikely and the rating is therefore likely to
I didn’t hold out much hope for Udemy removing the 1-star rating. However, as a former scientist, it did intrigue me as to whether or not a rating could be viewed as an “outlier” and removed as such. In science, statistical tests can be done to determine whether data points are statistical outliers and can be disregarded. Could that be applied at Udemy? I guess not, because there’s no real issue with the validity of the data, as long as Udemy choose to let someone who completed only 10% of a course leave a 1-star rating with no feedback.
I got the standard, template response from Udemy’s support people.
I’m sorry to hear that you got a negative review on your course. It is never pleasant to see this happen. We unfortunately cannot remove the review, since it is a student’s personal opinion about the content of the course.
We do recommend that you reach out to the student with our direct messaging system and use the opportunity to engage them in a discussion, get feedback on the course, and ask if they can remove the review if you incorporate their feedback. Most often with these kinds of reviews, just engaging the student in a discussion helps in resolving the issue.
We can also understand your frustration since one negative review can seem like it can significantly impact how people view your course. As you accumulate more reviews, the negative impact of one bad review will diminish, and students will be able to make an informed decision about your course based on your many reviews, as well as by looking at other aspects of your course. Since you have a large number of students in your course already, we recommend that next time you send an educational announcement about the course or updates in the field, you can also remind them to leave a review for your course. You could use language like, “If you like the course, do leave a review so other students can hear about it. If you have any feedback for me, please send me a direct message so I can incorporate it into the course.”
We hope this helps, and encourage you to not be disheartened by a single negative review.
So, my only hope was to contact the person who left the review, trying to get them to change their mind. If you can’t get a reply, then the 1-star rating will be stuck to your course forever.
I didn’t hear back from the student who left the review, despite sending him an initial message and two follow-up messages…
I tried to be polite and upbeat, but got no response.
Finally, I decided to do some research using the only information I had… the student’s name.
I found out via Google that someone with the same first-name and last-name was the registered owner of about 20 domain names under a Gmail account with the same name. This new information gave me an idea… I could send a direct email to his Gmail account stressing that my course was for beginners and he was obviously over-qualified to take it, bearing in mind his suite of domain names.
Despite not replying to my Udemy messages, or to my direct email, the 1-star rating by this student was changed to a 5-star rating.
So a little bit of persistence can make a big difference to your course average, and therefore your course rankings at Udemy.
I have also managed to get a 2-star rating changed to a 4-star rating for one of my other courses.
Note, I wouldn’t have been so persistent if the student had left anything other than a 1-star review because I would not want to upset them and risk them giving me a lower rating. However, as the student couldn’t possibly leave me a lower rating than a 1-star I felt a less concerned about negative consequences of contacting them outside of Udemy. Of course, I was always polite and professional. Being persistent and aggressive is a sure way to get into trouble, so don’t do it, no matter how much the 1-star rating stings!
Changing The Review System At Udemy
Should the review system be changed at Udemy? Here are some arguments and counter-arguments I’ve seen from their Facebook Groups…
Some people advocate not letting people leave reviews until they are halfway through a course, or have finished it. That won’t work because forcing someone to complete a course they don’t like is not going to happen. It’s like not letting people get up and leave a movie theatre when watching a movie they don’t like.
Some people say students should be required to leave comments for low-star reviews, so the instructor can know what to change. While I agree with this, I’m not sure Udemy will agree to put any requirements on leaving a rating/review. It also doesn’t help much when a student leaves a low-star review and says something you simply disagree with, such as the expert level course was too complicated, or something like that.
Personally, I think I’d require comments to be added if a review is several stars below the course average. So, if 20 people leave 5-star reviews and one student wants to leave a 1-star rating, that should trigger a message saying,
“Your intended rating is 4 stars below the average of the course to date, are you sure you want to do that? If so, please state in a few sentences why you think the course deserves such a rating”.
Have you got a 1-star or 2-star rating for your course? How did you handle it? What was the outcome? Let me know in the comments.