Friday, August 18, 2017

Why do students leave negative or low reviews on Udemy courses?

Author: Frank Kane, Platform: Facebook

Allow me to join the club of instructors pontificating on the nature of reviews.
It really seems to me that there is very little correlation between the actual quality of my seven courses, and the average review scores they have. In fact, the course I'm most proud of has the lowest score - and my earliest courses that make me cringe when I look at them are just as highly rated as my newer, professionally produced ones.
Here's what I think reviews are really measuring, assuming your courses pass some reasonable quality bar (based on my over 100,000 students):
1. How difficult is the course material? Topics that require a mathematical or computer science background - or worse, both - are going to be challenging for a lot of people who are trying to learn a valuable skill but lack the necessary educational background. If they simply can't "get it" no matter how good of an instructor you are, they're going to blame you as the instructor, not themselves. And they'll take it out in their review scores.
2. How much did students pay for your course? We know that the less someone pays for something, the less they value it. I've seen this clearly with a free course that I ultimately unpublished, and the decline in rating scores I've seen as Udemy has dropped its price points over time. I think there's also a valid concept of "quality of student," and lower price points attract people who are more likely to give you a bad rating and get a refund just for the fun of it.
3. What is the international breakdown of your students? One of my courses has been localized to Japanese and German. The same exact course gets a 4.5 rating in the US, but a 3.8 in Japan and a 4.1 in Germany. Different cultures interpret star ratings in different ways, and language barrier issues can also affect student satisfaction. I've noticed that almost all of the negative reviews on my English-language courses are from students from India. My most recent negative review came from a student who wrote the review in Spanish, complaining that I didn't use a "pencil" on my slides to write down notes on them while I was talking. Many International students have an easier time reading English than listening to it.
So, what's the positive, constructive takeaway on this? Well, for one thing, maybe it doesn't really matter - I don't see reviews influencing search placement all that much. It also means you need to think about your international students. Speak clearly, and make sure your captions don't suck. And as best you can, set clear expectations of the skills your students need as a pre-requisite. Listing these in the course requirements isn't enough - say it again in your promo video.
At Udemy Live there was a lot of talk of matching the right students to the right courses. There is a recognition from Udemy's end that many low reviews are really just a mismatch between students and the right courses for them and their skill level, and they are taking steps to correct this.
We also know Udemy is focusing a lot of energy on international expansion and creating a good experience for international students.
So, some patience is warranted. Udemy has the data and the people needed to work this all out, and they're on it from what I can tell.

Gregory Caremans: You forgot to mention: 4. whether they are having a good or a bad day. I'm not even kidding. If they just had a fight, or they're stressed, or even if they are just hungry (seriously!), they are much more likely to give us a lower rating.

Frank Kane Maybe an equally valid hypothesis is that students are rating you, the instructor, much more so than the course itself. That would explain why all of my courses are rated more or less the same.

Chris Parker I've taken courses where I couldn't stand the instructors accent and was distracting from learning. I can imagine I've had students that didn't like my voice either. Nothing personal. And nothing you can do about it.

John Bura I try to mix game programming and game art tutorials and I get the same thing: 3 stars - Can't program - Can't do art.

Eventually, I think Udemy will have to price courses based on weight (hours). A 50-hour course should cost marginally more than a 5-hour course.

Udemy is a new business they are figuring it out all of the time. I look forward to what they do next.

Bo Andersen I agree with #1. I think it's partially caused by Udemy's extremely aggressive pricing strategy. Some students are just not meant to join a given course, but join it when saving 95%. For example, I've tried clearly stating that a course is for beginners, and yet people complain that the course is too basic. When adding loads of new content to the course, I get people saying that the course is too comprehensive. Basically I've noticed that many students don't read the course description, learning goals, and requirements at all. A simple example is that one of my courses clearly mentions as the single prerequisite that students must know JSON before enrolling. It's been at the top of the landing page for years, and I still get bad reviews from people because they don't know JSON. A lot of it just comes down to overselling stuff, which is pretty much Udemy's business model. The latest feature of being able to add courses to the cart directly from the search results is not really going to help, but that's another story.

My point is that as an instructor, you just cannot please everyone, especially if your course is not aimed at absolute beginners, because you are just going to see people enrol in the course who really shouldn't. There are many other factors as well, but this is one of them. The more complicated the subject, the harder it is to get good ratings, even if you do a great job at explaining. You are just going to see people enrol in an intermediate programming course who don't know how to open a file in a text editor, etc. (slightly exaggerated, but you get the point) :)

P.S. Forgot to mention that there is no apparent connection between how much value your course gives. You can have a 15 hour course packed with tons of valuable information, but a 3 hour course covering just the basics will often get better ratings. It's more about instructor performance than the actual content.

Chris Parker In the end, you can't please all the people 100% of the time. It doesn't matter if you cover every possible scenario, someone will find something they don't like and give you a 1 star. I too had a free course. Got tired of getting low reviews and put it up as a paid course. It's now making money and getting better reviews.

St├ęphane Maarek General advice: I create a lecture named: Course-requisite (alongside goals, expectations, etc). It's boring as hell, takes up 5 minutes of my courses, but at least, sets expectations. Students can't avoid seeing it. I encourage them to get a reimbursement if they feel this course isn't for them. I think it has worked on my favour
Additionally, make a "learning path". I have a beginners course, and I go more advanced in other courses. One course is a pre-requisite to another. Frank Kane, if you feel some students lack some background, make a course for it, and suggest in an intro video that they should check it out if they feel fuzzy about some concepts

Jon Avis I have also noticed poor review scores from Indian students. Every review I have on my course below 4 stars is from an Indian student. And none have left a comment so I dont know how to improve it. Everyone else has scored it between 4 and 5.

Luke Burkina Excellent post. I think they should allow the creation of a Udemy faculty body to help address the quality of courses and reviews. In the past, I wrote an algorithm that will remove outliers before computing the mean. I even submitted the idea, but it did not get traction. The mean is not a good measure of the center of the data when it contains outliers.
Why this important? If a course takes a half-star or two stars ratings from a student, for no apparent reason after just less than 20% of completion, the average rating will be depleted and the course in jeopardy of being removed from promotions. Over time, low ratings affect the overall brand.
Another quick alternative is to compute and display the median rating (which is robust).

Friday, November 11, 2016

Create thumbnails for youtube videos with paintnet and pixabay for free

This video shows how to quickly & easily make thumbnails for your Youtube videos.
The top advantage of a decent Youtube thumbnail image is that it catches the visitor's eye and lures them towards the video. A video with a well designed thumbnail simply stands out of the crow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Thoughts on side-gigs

The seed:
A side-gig is meant to be a low gain, low stress thing. It should be something you can easily outsource/automate. In fact, being easy should be the highest priority. If anything doesn’t meet first criteria, the second shouldn’t be bothered. I crank up a lot of source code on my full time job, don’t want to do that for my side gig.

Having a different type of side-gig means a different part of your brain gets activated when you’re working from your home office. It also means you’re not putting all of your eggs in one basket.

Transcription and video editing for example, pretty much fit the bill. You can start the biz on your own. At first you’ll be slow but you’ll get familiar with various English accents and the overall process of transcription/close captioning. Once you have a reasonable income you can reinvest (after paying you a 15% of your full time salary), you can start putting cash aside to hire virtual assistant(s) to automate parts of the process.

I believe that the transcription expert should be a separately dedicated person. S/he would provide the transcription which would be then used by the video editor to add subtitles to videos. We do need better software tools for the closed captioning though. Techsmith Camtasia is not good enough IMO.

I being a software developer will have an opportunity to software products tailored to the needs of transcription people and video editors who add closed captions to videos on regular basis. Although, that’s a very far-fetched possibility and I don’t want it to be on the list. Smells like a short sighted office rat.

Instead, I would love to get a VA who could work as a BD and find work our little business machine.

Family matters:
Begum(my wife) doesn’t have to play a role in this plan. But, I do believe she needs to be able to support herself and the family even if I’m not there. She also needs to do something beyond the household, it will comfort her mind. She will have a purpose of life other than bearing and raising children. It’s going to come with a decent income as well, which will give her some freedom of choice.

Office or no office?
In the end, I believe I don't need an office where people could come to work. Instead, everything can be outsourced to guys & guls who can work from home(or anywhere else they can get the work done for that matter). If Wordpress do it, why can't a small video editing shop? Instead of spending money on buying the computers & air conditioning, I think we should pay them well and invest in collaboration tools(work software, company website, file sharing services, get together, project management software). Maybe we could facilitate a few people through co-working spaces sometime in future. Like, when the power cuts get worst in summer.
I will get myself a couple gigantic screens though and setup a home office for myself. 

PS: The author has been there, done that. I used to work through freelance portals like ODesk(now Upwork), Elance, and Freelancer for developing Android apps and Windows desktop software. Took a start in video editing through Fiverr. 

PS2: This is not a morning journal entry. Just putting it there so that it will be easily traceable in the future.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Morning Journal # 2 - On Udemy, evil affiliates, and a producing more courses

I feel like my Udemy courses have run out of juice. Present month I'm afraid will be a 2 digit month.
[Most] Part of this happened due to Udemy's pricing policy. Both of my courses (this and this)are the less shiny objects anyone would buy for $10 I believe, $20 is too high.

Udemy affiliates are doing good business while the instructors are (largely) starving of organic students and loosing faith in Udemy.


I believe if I could put out a high value course i.e. $508ish thing, then my revenue will bounce back for a while. But, if an attempt to put out a $50 course fails, well I will test another (lower) price point. Shoot for the stars, you'll hit the moon at least. This is a true win-win.

Evil affiliates:

Affiliates only create fancy websites & build mailing lists, giving them the lion's share is bull crap on Udemy's part. The downside of unjustly rewarding the affiliates is that when genuine instructors will find another way to monetize their courses, the affiliates will also run away. They won't create content for Udemy.

Poor instructors:

We're the real content producers. Nobody should get a share higher than the original content producer. They way Udemy's been playing with instructor revenues lately is pure evil.

Advise for Udemy:

Udemy needs to bring affiliate rewards to a 25%. The rest should be split between the instructor and Udemy. This will give Udemy some extra cash and relax the instructor community which is so disturbed right now.

Dumping the crutch:

Udemy(and any other platform like it) is just crutch for your online business, don't let it become the leg of your business. It is said that we should be focused on building our own long term biz, which is one hell of a task I think. Not every engineer or accountant is good at building mailing lists or promoting things.

So, I am seriously considering the idea to finish my 3rd Udemy course ASAP and rush to PS. They don't offer competing courses and I have a couple ideas they'd love to get courses built for. I will also get a chance to work with a different breed of professional course planners & editors by doing this.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How to fold a portable greenscreen background like a pro, easily


This video is intended to be a help for folks like myself who don't have much experience with photography equipment. 
I bought a portable greenscreen last year for recording my online courses.
When I bought it I asked the tailor on Nisbet Road, Lahore to show me how to fold it because it appeared to be tricky.

The man was kind enough to show me how to do it and he didn't mind me recording the video on my mobile phone.

For anybody interested in video editing part, I will be putting out another video showing how did I make the video look the way it does using Camtasia Studio. You see, it was a portrait when I shot it from my cell phone.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

How to start a mailing list in 4 days

My First Try at a Sales Funnel - by Emile Ackbarali

There are lecturers on Udemy who really really know how to go about marketing and selling. Then there is me. An amateur-apprentice-water boy-in training. So what I will briefly describe here now is my first try at a sales funnel.
My very first course is the most popular. So I took a subset of it and created a "1-Hour ... " course. A version of the course with the basics of the subject but still valuable. I priced it at $20. Then I took most of the videos from this new small course and placed it on YouTube. Each YouTube video has a pop-up on it that informs the viewer that they can do the course for FREE by clicking on a link below.
The link goes to a landing page (LeadPages) and then prompts them to sign up to my mailing list (Convertkit). Once they do, they get a "free-coupon" link to the course, so that they can do the $20 course for free.
I arranged all of this 4 days ago. So far, 6 people have signed up to my mailing list. At the end of the $20 course, there is a Bonus Lecture that offers the full larger course at 20% off. And believe it or not, 1 of the 6 people who signed up to do the free course, actually bought the larger full course.
I know this is minuscule but I needed to test this for myself to see if this "sh*t" actually works. And it did. Can't believe it did. So I have my first email list and am going to gradually try and do more and more to build it and sell more.
There are lecturers much much better than me at this stuff. I am such a novice. But whatever I learn, I will keep on sharing with you all, even if it might be old news to some.

Jason Short added:
That is building the funnel and it will take time. Now also find some blogs or sites that attract your target student and write a guest blog about your topic, and offer their readers the same pipeline.

It takes SO MUCH TIME to do all these activities, but that is how you build.