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!
This post was most recently updated on June 18th, 2018
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… (update: the web-address for the page has changed and the wording has since been edited. Please check their latest version, here)
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.
This post was most recently updated on October 17th, 2018
[Update: 24th April 2016: We now have a Skillshare class containing all the latest information we could find on earning money on Skillshare. It’s a premium class, so you’ll need to be a member to take it. However, if you use this link, you can join and gain access to ALL Skillshare’s premium classes for 2 months for free!]
[Update: 18th March 2016, Skillshare have just announced that “projects” will no longer count towards instructor’s earnings. Instead, only premium signups will count.]
[Update: December 2016: Skillshare have announced they’re changing the teacher payment model and earnings calculation from premium enrollments to premium minutes watched. We have a full discussion of the changes in a new blog post.
People seem to be genuinely confused by Skillshare’s revenue share with their teachers. As a new teacher on Skillshare, I’d like to offer what I’ve found out after trawling different websites.
Out-dated Information Everywhere!
The first point to make is that a lot of information from third party websites is out-dated. In the past, you had to garner 100 enrollments to a premium class you placed on Skillshare to be eligible for the “Partner Program” and thereby earn any money. That requirement has since been reduced to just 25 enrollments. Furthermore, you can create a “premium” class and offer free links to people so they can join your class for nothing. That’s what I did, and I got to the 25 target in about a day, so it’s not an onerous task. However, only premium enrollments count towards your earnings. Skillshare aren’t going to pay you for people you got to take your class for free! However, if those people join Skillshare within 30 days of clicking your link, you get a $10 payment per person. I’ve had two people do that already.
Here’s how the revenue share breaks down…
As you can see from the above diagram, Skillshare take 50% of all the revenue derived from monthly subscriptions to pay for their overheads. Interestingly, in their Terms of Service, Skillshare say…
Skillshare distributes at least 30% of its revenue to Skillshare Partners on a monthly basis.
Presumably, the 30% is a “floor” and the current amount of 50% is subject to change.
After Skillshare have deducted their 50%, the remainder is split between teachers who have at least one class with 25 enrollments according the the diagram. Let’s break it down…
Premium Enrollment Earnings
Skillshare say each premium enrollment in your classes earns you between $1 and $2.
On Skillshare, teachers earn between $1-2 per Premium enrollment. (source)
With the revenue-share model they have, they can’t calculate a value until they know their monthly totals, and each month the value will be different, hence the vague $1-2. However, if you take the lower end, you can guesstimate your earnings by checking whether or not an enrollment is from a premium member, and simply add up the number of premium enrollments.
Note, you can create free classes, but they don’t earn any revenue. On the other hand, you do earn multiple times if a single premium member enrolls in several of your classes, therefore it’s important to have multiple classes on Skillshare to benefit from this potential amplification of earnings.
A Revenue-Share Model Similar To Amazon Kindle
This “revenue share” model is a lot like the way Amazon used to pay out for Kindle Unlimited borrows. They’d set a pool size of millions of dollars and authors would get a percentage of that pool based on the number of borrows they had in that month relative to the total number of borrows. Amazon has since moved to a “pages read” model after they were flooded with short books trying to quality for the per-borrow payout because books had to be read to 10% to qualify for a borrow, which obviously favoured books of 20 pages compared to 500-page novels. However, the principle is the same… Kindle authors whose books are in the Kindle Unlimited program share a royalty pool based on pages read of Kindle Unlimited books in addition to direct Kindle sales.
Earning For Completed Class Projects
Skillshare also say that the number of completed student projects contributes to your earnings. I’m not sure how much a completed project is worth. As some categories of classes (photography? painting?) will have a larger percentage of students submit projects than others (build a website? write code?), it doesn’t seem particularly fair to just take the raw numbers of completed projects, so perhaps the numbers are modulated in some way. However, this is largely “hand waving”, as we have no way of knowing, although I’ve just emailed someone at Skill Share to ask, and will update this blog post if I find out more. All we do know is that the number of completed projects by your class students relative to total completed projects forms a part in your overall earnings.
Update, 18th Feb 2016. I got a reply from Cara at Skillshare who said…
I would say that enrollments are most important for your payments but projects are still significant for more than one reason. Each project shared in your class gives you 10 trending points — the more trending points you have, the higher your class is listed on the Trending Classes page, the more students discover and enroll in your class.
And we definitely do not give weight to different categories. We fundamentally believe in meritocracy, so everyone has the same chance to succeed.
So, let’s take the second point first. As all categories are treated the same, instructors really need to try to find a way to make their class projects as easy to complete and submit as possible. If an instructor creates a project to write code, or build a web-site, they are probably going to have less completed projects compared to a photography class where the project is to take a picture of a sunset and upload it. As projects are not graded for difficulty, an instructor who posts a difficult project will simply see less earnings.
As for the first point, while the “10 trending points per shared project” was interesting, an indirectly will affect revenue as a class trends and presumably earns more, I was hoping for a more direct value of a completed project, seeing as it’s included in the revenue equation.
If you refer someone to Skillshare and they join the premium membership, you get a $10 bounty. I think it even applies if someone signs up for a free trial, but that seems open to abuse so I can’t see it continuing for long.
At the moment, there’s a promotion whereby if you submit a class and reach the 25 enrollments target within 30 days of starting the class, you qualify for $50, or $250 if it’s a “culinary” class. As my class reached the target within 24 hours, I believe I’ve earned that $50.
“Video View” Earnings
In their Terms Of Service, SkillShare say…
The algorithm used to determine your monthly share as a Partner is based on the total number of new students enrolled, new projects created, and video views each month across all of your Membership classes.
I don’t know if that’s accurate, but video views are not shown in the revenue breakdown image shown above. So either the quote isn’t actually a reflection of how earnings are now calculated or the graphic is not completely accurate. I’ll try to contact Skillshare and get a clarification on whether or not video views play a role in determining the teacher’s earnings.
Update, 18th Feb 2016. I got a reply from Cara at Skillshare who said…
As to the Terms of Service, I will definitely take a look and make an update there. Views do not count toward revenue.
So that’s pretty clear… video views no longer play a part in the revenue calculation for instructors.
How Much Do Others Earn?
I haven’t seen many people reveal their Skillshare earnings. I don’t think teachers are forbidden from doing it, as far as I can tell. One person who has shown his earnings is Rob Cubbon who earned $3,124 in 2015, which I think was his first year on Skillshare.
Rob has 2331 students, and all his courses are premium, so unless he gave away free sign-up links (like I did), he probably signed up about 2,220 people in 2015, which would be $1.42 per enrollment. It could also breakdown as $1 per enrollment, worth $2,200 and $900 from ninety people signing up for a premium Skillshare account through his referral link. We don’t know as I don’t think Skillshare explains the breakdown in that level of detail.
How Much Will You Earn?
How much you will earn on SkillShare obviously depends on several factors such as…
How many courses you put on Skillshare
How good your courses are
How much competition there is in your niche at Skillshare
Whether you have an established audience you can refer to Skillshare for bounty payments and enrollments
Skillshare say that the “average” teacher earns $3,500 per year, and that the top instructors earn $30,000+. They also say they’ve paid out over $5 million in total.
Your earnings will be roughly $1 per premium enrollment, plus $10 for every person who signs up as a premium member via your link, plus some kind of payment for completed class projects and possibly “video views”.
From that, you should be able to have a fairly accurate guesstimate of your Skillshare earnings breakdown.
If you’ve created instructional video courses, my advice would be to put them on Skillshare in addition to Udemy and perhaps your own website. 🙂
What do you think?
Will you be publishing on Udemy, Skillshare or somewhere else? Are you already a publisher? If so, how’s it going…? Please leave a comment below… 🙂