Surely these student profiles are bots / fake?

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Surely these student profiles are bots / fake?

I created a short course to test the water in Udemy:

 

It has 700+ students enrolled, and nearly zero minutes watched. So I dug into the data a bit. Many of the enrolled students are enrolled in *thousands* of other courses.. This seems quite odd, but I guess maybe people just click 'enroll' on thousands of courses?

 

So I looked into the handful of students who had actually watched some of my course, and it starts to look even weirder.

 

Three out of 700+ students have watched > 0 mins.

 

Two of those have watched ~10mins ... but they have somehow done that in the FIVE SECONDS which elapsed between them starting the course and their last visit.

 

One student has managed to watch the whole 1hr+ of video, but they have done that in the FOURTEEN SECONDS which elapsed between them starting the course and their last visit:

 

Started Date: 2022-02-09 22:10:48

Last Visited: 2022-02-09 22:10:53

 

What's going on?

 

Seems likely that lots of the accounts who sign up to thousands of courses are bots, but what is the scam here? Are they posting fake reviews on all these accounts? Is this some gaming mechanism to get courses ranked higher?

 

And what's with the watching one hour of video in 14seconds thing? Does the bot account look more credible if it has actually watched the course? But surely Udemy can spot if someone is watching the entire course at 250x normal speed?

 

Or maybe the "Last visited" timestamp is wrong, maybe that's the time they last commenced a visit, so this user did then watch the whole course in one go? Although that user is enrolled in 7896 other courses, with no obvious theme, which does look a little odd to say the least.

 

I'm left feeling there is some kind of scam going on here which I cannot spot. I can see, if I login as a student, that there are some real courses here, with real instructors. But there seems to be this strange underbelly of weird gaming / scamming going on under the surface. Very peculiar.

 

Any other instructors have thoughts on this? Or can Udemy comment on:

 

(1) Why some students are enrolled in thousands, or tens of thousands, of courses?

(2) How some students appear to be able to view the content at 250x normal speed?

 

Thanks.

 

12 Replies

Pasted the wrong timestamps. The start / last visit timestamps for the user that watched the whole course are:

 

2022-02-10 19:10:52

2022-02-10 19:11:06

Bella
Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi @BruceG837, thank you for raising this here in the community. 

 

Just so we can understand the situation better, have you distributed free coupons to your course at any time? We have found that, when a free coupon code is shared on social media, a lot of students like to "collect" courses in case this course becomes paid or in case the free coupon code is no longer available in the future. It is common for most of the students who enrolled for free to not complete the course or go through it by marking the lectures as complete, rather than watching them, 

When a student enrolls in a course, we offer lifetime access to it, and they will have the course unless they request for a refund. When a free coupon code is shared on social media, it's hard to control how many students will enroll in the course. In this case, I suggest you disable the coupon code to prevent more students from enrolling in it.

If you haven't distributed free coupons and are concerned about the users who enrolled in your course being ilegitimate students, you can always report it to our policy team via policy@udemy.com. They will be happy to investigate this for you. 

 

Bella Almeida

Udemy Community 

Thank you for your reply.

 

I didn't distribute free coupons.

 

The course was originally free. It is now paid.

 

I guess the 250x watching speed is indeed best explained by someone marking the lectures as complete without watching them.

I do notice similar patterns.

What about student watched video, after a while select the completed button?

This is the new strategy now, all of the students with low review scores are enrolled in a bunch of classes they have never ever started taking.   I emailed Udemy and actually have proof that they are sending trolls on purpose.   Udemy has partnered with companies specifically to do this.   So you log in and see that maybe a student has watched your course in 5 minutes!!!  Lol, timestamps are correct and if you noticed they have never even taken the course THEY ARE ALLOWED TO PUT A BAD RATING WITH NO COMMENT.   That's the game Udemy does.   They encourage spam, 0% courses taken and speed though fake students.  They want and need this, they believe their research proves that DRAMA makes a good marketplace for them.   We are in a sort of teenage Facebook here.   Other Instructors will try to attack me here so be prepared for the bullies to come and respond and start insulting me and referring me to their "Top Instructors".   They will be ignored and I am leaving this up for everyone to see.    I've been fighting this high school strategy on Udemy for quite a while now.  Trust me IT'S REAL.

I feel you. I have a course for some months. It got only few students so far. Same course from another user appears and he gets in no weeks, thousands of students and a huge mark. Some time later, I get a 1 star review and a short message like "this is all wrong, don't get this!" from a private account for which I even can't see how much of the course he has followed. BAM! 2.73 is now my score, no new students. Udemy didn't want to help because they might have to disclose they are encouraging this. I am sure that my reviewer is my competition. 

@AlexandruSerghie   Yes sometimes your reviewers are other instructors with fake accounts and sometimes fake trolls sent directly from Udemy.  When we post here in the community, Udemy "top instructors" get mad and troll your course as well. I pulled my course off for a couple of months while Udemy tested that "partnership" program too.  This makes your score go down because the system has to recalculate no reviews. Class was unpublished so there were no students.  I still get trolls who are enrolled in hundreds of classes like mine (fake people), that's how they try to disguise themselves as students.  You would think of somebody is enrolled in that many courses they would actually learn something, it's just a way for them to skip around and mess with people with nasty reviews or low scores.   I was thinking of going over to Teachable.  No drama no fake students, but my students who loved my classes would be left hanging.  Many decisions to make...

Maybe I have also to think to publish the courses on other platforms too. The bad is for test questions, the work will be the same for each new platform, copy paste, monkey job. If it was for the video courses, they were already made and just upload, not as much to redo everything. 

I think the same was or is maybe still true for Amazon and any other platform where a bad review will do a lot of harm and competition can just make you go down and never recover easily without being really correct. 

@AlexandruSerghie   Unfortunately yes, you may have to, just go into your class and redownload all of your videos and save them to your computer while you make a choice on what you want to do.  Even if you unpublish your course, whoever is in there still gets to take your class.  On Udemy assignments are labeled as an "option".  So if you see that no one is turning anything in that's because Udemy gives them a choice to skip it and they can skip through videos without having to learn anything.  Try teachable, I made an account and went through the settings and I have so much control when it comes to reviews.  I can make it to where I have to approve them first before the world sees them.  The question is, do we want to pay to teach?  In my case I believe the payoff would be well, considering so many people want to learn what I am teaching anyway.  But then again on Udemy sometimes they can take classes for free with discounts and leave rude comments and get away with it.  Yesterday I held a Zoom meeting and only 3 of my students showed up out of 380 students worldwide.  This is because most of the trolls were scared to see me or talk to me in person.  It was a call out and yet today I still have a student blowing up the Q&A with over 10 to 20 questions a day.  Makes no sense.  This is like any other social media platform, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter.  We all thought it was a professional environment but we were wrong.

Bella
Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi @AlexandruSerghie and @ArtemisLore329, I'm truly sorry to hear that you both received negative course reviews without actionable feedback. Please note that you can report these reviews to our Trust & Safety team and they will be able to investigate for evidence of fraud or bot activity associated with the accounts in question, any behavior patterns typical of fake or spam reviewers, or any corollary or masking patterns. Please send an email to policy@udemy.com with all the details and any concerns you may have, and the team will be happy to help! 

 

Feel free to read more about Udemy’s Review System policies here.

 

Bella Almeida

Udemy Community 

Hi, the template style response from Udemy is below. For me is the way of someone telling you politely they don't actually want to help you in any way and change things. This made me to trust less the way Udemy is behaving with us, the instructors and forgetting what Udemy would be without instructors. 

I don't make a living from being an instructor and I just want to share my experience first of all with students in they I can and in the time I can. I won't fight this more because I don't have time for it first of all. The students will be however in this case the ones who will really suffer. I will not suffer, the supposed competition will not suffer, and Udemy will get it's share at least partially from the competition. The students will suffer and look, what Udemy would be without students 🙂

Funny is that it shouldn't be even called competition. If another instructor have better course, this should reflect from true reviews and better course overall. And all instructors should contribute to a convergent better materials all in all for students. However, this is leaning more towards a marketplace and fights between instructors are making more harm to teaching than anything.

 

---------

Response from Udemy review below:

 

"I looked at the review in question and your concern that they were making false claims about the nature of your course. Udemy is, however, unable to mediate factual disputes or to determine what is true or false in cases like this. For now, we recommend that you utilize the review response to put forward the facts as you see them.
 
We also went ahead and looked at this student’s account for evidence of fraud or bot activity, or any behavior patterns typical of fake or spam reviewers. We were unable, however, to find any evidence that would indicate that this review was inauthentic.

Please remember that reviews on Udemy are only removed under specific and objective criteria. This is because, in a marketplace like Udemy, students must trust they are seeing unfiltered feedback from existing students. The most important thing is to focus on creating a great learning experience. If you do that, your fans will be far louder than your critics."

@BruceG837  I am with Udemy since 2014. With my experience with Udemy, I can say that your conclusion is incorrect.

When you offer course for free, people tend to grab courses and keep it with them not necessarily they may go through the course. I have also captured few courses but never read them. However, I will go through them, when needed. 

Publish more and more courses with interesting, value adding topics - you will get participants who will seriously use them....  

 

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