Hacking Education with UdemyAugust 10th, 2012 · 10 comments
I few times a year, I offer to write an honest review about a relevant product if the company is willing to donate to a charity of my choice. Udemy, a web site that makes it easy to take and design courses online, recently took me up on my offer, donating money to Urban Teaching Center, a D.C.-area non-profit that sends highly-qualified teachers to the schools that need them most.
Education is being disrupted. There’s near universal agreement on this point.
Experts can now reach students directly online. These students, in turn, can now hack their education experience — building valuable expertise in exactly the areas they need, all for a fraction of the cost of traditional schooling. (If you doubt the power of this disruption, check out Scott Young’s MIT Challenge.)
The question now is what will this new world look like?
Udemy, an online education platform, offers a glimpse of this future. I recently spent an entertaining morning exploring this site, and was impressed by the scope of their offerings: over 1000 courses in topics that range from geeky (I was drawn to Zed Shaw’s Learn Python the Hard Way) to artistic (Carol Robinson’s free Music Theory course has over 2700 students).
Turning toward the details, the underlying idea driving Udemy is simple: the site makes it easy to both take and offer courses (free and paid).
The most basic courses consist only of video lectures. The more advanced courses mix video lectures with workbooks, samples, and sometimes audio that can be downloaded to your iPod.
All the courses I sampled provide lifetime access (once you buy the course, the material is yours forever) and a 30-day guarantee (a sign of confidence given that 30 days is enough to watch all the material for most courses).
The platform is cleverly setup so that you can access your courses from any Internet-connected device, and the user interface is crisp and intuitive.
Summary: As the education model continues to be disrupted, there will be lots of sites trying to match students with teachers. Udemy’s advantage is that they’re taking the time to get the details right.