What Can You Do About A 1-Star Udemy Review Or Rating?

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…

Udemy Star Rating
(only instructors see these)

Examples Of Udemy Reviews…

Example Udemy Reviews
(Instructors see these, and they appear on the public course description page)

 

However, both ratings and reviews count towards the overall course average, shown here…

5-star-Jan16-2016
Overall Course Average: 5 Stars  Jan 16th 2016

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…

After One-Star Rating
The same course: 4.7 Stars Jan 5th 2016.

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:

  • Violates Udemy’s Terms of Use in any way.
  • 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 policy@udemy.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…

Hi,

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
be spurious?

Course:
https://www.udemy.com/domain-name-essentials/

Thanks,

Neil Shearing, Ph.D.
InternetSuccess.com

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.

Hi Neil,

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…

udemy-message-1
udemy-message-1
udemy-message-2
udemy-message-2
udemy-message-3
udemy-message-3

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.

email
email

The result?

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.

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6 thoughts on “What Can You Do About A 1-Star Udemy Review Or Rating?

  • Carlton

    Thank you for this article! Found it through Google as I was searching for the remedy to the exact same situation. I definitely agree that a prompt should be delivered if someone is rating or reviewing a course much lower than the average. This is definitely devastating for a new course when it only has a handful of reviews and everyone is happy then all the sudden someone leaves a 1 star with no reason. So from a very pleasing 5 star rating to a 3.9 that cannot be contested. That’s more than upsetting.

    • Neil Shearing

      Hi Carlton,
      Yes! And it’s now even more important because Udemy are going to “hide” free classes that average 4.0 or less from their search results, and are considering doing the same for paid classes!
      Neil.

  • Sam

    So basically you stalked this person to leaving you a better review? That’s insane

    • Neil Shearing

      Hi Sam,
      You think it was “insane” to do a little bit of Googling and send the person a polite email? I’m not sure why you’d think that.
      Neil.

  • Brian Ellis

    Hi Neil
    Another thought
    Maybe the 1 star guy was trying to trash your course as u are a competitor of his do you think?
    Great article by the way

  • Neil Shearing

    Hi Brian, it could be, but I think it was more likely just someone who already knew what my “beginners” class taught about domain names and hit the 1-star. Thanks for your comment. 🙂
    Neil.

Comments are closed.