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Udemy Instructor Knowledge Base

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If there's one thing that's important for a first-time course creator, I think it's in choosing the right topic to teach. So, here's a dump of my own thoughts on how to approach this. The biggest decision you can make when launching a new course is what topic you’re going to teach. If you choose the wrong topic, it doesn’t matter how good your course is. Teaching a topic that’s not in demand, or teaching that topic poorly, will ultimately be a waste of your time. This is the one thing that is absolutely essential to figure out.   Ideally, you want to find a topic that you love and have a real interest in. That will help keep you motivated through the long process of creating a quality course in it, and make it easier to maintain your energy and enthusiasm while you’re recording the course. When you’re teaching something that excites you, that excitement becomes contagious to your students. And that alone can set your course apart, and increase the impact it has on the people who watch it.   Think about the great teachers you had in your life – they’re the ones who inspired passion in you for a given topic, and I bet they did that by demonstrating their own passion for it. If there’s one guy who changed my life, it was my math teacher in high school, Mr. Foresta. He somehow made calculus fun, because he had fun with it himself while teaching it. Be like Mr. Foresta. Be a teacher who inspires, by teaching something you love.   Passion alone isn’t enough, however. You have to know what you’re talking about, and your potential students need to trust that you are an expert in what’s being taught. Udemy does not vet its instructors in any way, nor are our courses accredited in any way.   The onus is on the student to decide whether or not you’re going to teach them accurate and complete information, and not just making stuff up. You have to be able to establish yourself as an authority in your topic before students will trust you enough to teach them on it. Perhaps you can convey that authority through your professional experience, through higher degrees you’ve attained from college, or by running a successful business related to the topic you’re teaching. But you can’t just go read a book and declare yourself an expert on something, and expect students to hand you money to learn from you.   You need to have some sort of real experience in the field you are teaching. Not only does it give students confidence when enrolling in your course, that experience also gives you confidence while you’re teaching.   Students will sense your uncertainty if you’re teaching something you don’t really know about, and that only leads to fewer sales and poor reviews.   The most important circle in this Venn diagram is “what students need.” You already know what topics interest you, and what you’re an authority on. But Udemy’s students couldn’t care less about your personal interests. They are looking for specific skills that they need, often to improve their career, make more money, or solve some real pressing problem they are facing. Too many instructors focus on the intersection of “what you love” and “what you’re an authority on” and produce a course in that, in the name of “following their passion.” But if your passion is underwater basket-weaving, well, good for you – but you’re not going to find anyone willing to pay even $10 on Udemy to learn underwater basket-weaving. They can learn things like that for free on YouTube, and since learning to weave baskets underwater isn’t going to make money for them or further their careers, they’re not going to come to Udemy actively searching for courses on that topic to spend their money on.   If you’re looking for financial success on Udemy or to have any significant reach, you need to teach things that solve a real pain point for students on the Udemy platform. Things that are so painful that they are going to actively search for that topic on Udemy, and spend their money to learn about it. For example, I teach topics related to machine learning, big data, and artificial intelligence. There are a lot of people who know their technical careers can’t move forward without understanding these emerging fields, and they’re fearful for their livelihood if they don’t learn them. What I’m selling is some confidence in emerging technology topics that will enable people to keep pushing their own technical careers forward. It is an absolute no-brainer to spend $10 for that. Will the value of what you are teaching result in such a massive return for the student that they’ll be willing to part with their money to learn it? If not, then you’re not teaching the right topic.   “Need” also implies that there aren’t already a bunch of awesome courses in your topic that fulfill that need. Demand for a topic is only half of the equation; you also need to make sure you can produce a course that’s substantially better than the courses that already exist for that topic, if there are any. If your competing courses already fulfill the needs these students have, what can you offer that’s better? Fortunately, you don’t have to guess what pain points Udemy students are struggling to solve – Udemy provides the Marketplace Insights tool so you can gather real data on the demand and competition for a topic you are considering. But that's a topic for another post.   Author: @FrankKane      Frank, Great advice, as always! I agree with your venn diagram above. If you aren't an expert in something, don't teach it (no matter how much demand there is for that course).    Also, check the demand before jumping in. If you create the 513th Python course, you aren't going to be successful. You need to carve out your niche, and then dominate it.   The days where someone could make a HTML5, JavaScript, Python, Swift, or Java course and hit publish to start making money are long gone. Those topics are saturated and have too much competition. Unless you bring something new and unique to those topics (or have a large audience already off Udemy), you are going to struggle there.    Find the intersection Frank is talking about. Don't make the "Beginner's guide to X" course. Target the intermediate or advanced level students where there is less competition. These are the things you can do to give yourself a better chance of success.   Jason Dion  
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When you first start out, you are going to make a ton of mistakes when filming your course. Before filming the entire course, film a few lectures and go back to watch them. There is nothing worse than filming an entire course to find out the audio was muffled, or the video was blurry!   When you first are getting started, remember that audio is much more important than video. After all, if a student can’t hear you or understand you, they will quickly stop watching. Video is much more forgiving than audio, so it is important to invest in a good microphone. There are numerous good quality microphones you can get for under $100 USD, like the ATR2100, the Blue Yeti, or the SmartLav+. When I started on Udemy, I used the SmartLav+ for about 18 months. It records very good audio, and I never got complaints from students for my audio quality.   Next, you need to figure out how to record your video. If you are doing a talking head style format (which I highly recommend), you need a smartphone or webcam to get started. The Logitech c930 is less than $70 USD and films in 1080p HD. This is the camera I used for my first 18 months on Udemy, as well. It provides a great picture for talking heads.   To record your screen, you need some form of screen capture software. For Mac, you can always use the built-in QuickTime software. For Windows, OBS is a good free option, but a little complicated to configure.   You will not be perfect and make Hollywood quality blockbusters when filming your first course. Remember, your first course is always going to be your worst course. Just try to improve each and every course.   Also, when filming your first course, pick a topic that is reasonable for you to complete in a relatively short period of time. Don’t try to make a 20-hour Python programming course on your first attempt. Instead, pick something in the 90-minute range. Make it a project-based course. Something that you can finish in 1-2 months.   For most people, it will take 15-30 hours of writing, filming, and editing to create a 90-minute course. It is a lot of work, but it is worth it if you can do it right.   Now, will the equipment above be all that you use forever? Well, I certainly hope not. This will get you started. Hopefully, you then start earning some money and can reinvest back into your new business of online teaching. My current setup includes a set of LED lights ($800), a prosumer model HD video camera ($1200), a really nice lavelier mic ($400), a teleprompter system for my camera ($500), and a really nice desktop computer to do all our editing on ($4200). Did I need all that to get started?   No! But over time we added a piece here and there, and now our quality of our new courses i son par with the professional production companies here on Udemy and beyond. That makes it easier for students to decide to buy our courses when compared against the "pros".   I hope this helps you get started out there, Jason Dion   Author: @JasonDion 
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A common question from new instructor is: "Should I invest in a decent microphone. Or, a decent camera when getting started?"   The answer is actually quite simple. Which do you consider to be the most effective way of delivering your course content?   Or, "Is audio quality more important than video quality?"   When we ask the question like this, then the answer has to be Microphone first, fancy camera second. Now don't get me wrong,  a lot of the successful courses I have watched are stunning to look at. The graphics were crisp. The transitions are elegant. And  boy, that stock photography must have cost a fortune!   But above all, the audio was clear. NO echo and No muffled sound and they are well articulated. Plus, minimal distractions like music etc.   I often watch courses that need me to follow along as I learn. This  means that I am not actually looking at the video 100% of the time. Instead, I am listening. Trying things on my own. And following the instructions through sound.   Think about someone showing you, how to do something in the physical world. They are most likely talking you through the process as they show you. The visuals in this case are the results that occur as a result of the instructors actions. Not the instructors face on a screen, right? When it is your turn to 'have a go', a good instructor will still be talking you through the process. By hearing, doing and evaluating your results, you learn.   Audio plays an important part in conveying information. It should be easy to think about your lectures like a podcast. Imagine that you are trying to help someone achieve a goal over the phone! Be explicit in your instructions. Be clear and concise with your directions. Be empathetic and understanding of the challenges your audience are likely facing. Talk like every word matters and treat the visuals like supporting materials.   Your audience will be more likely to forgive a blurry image if your audio is good quality. Invest time into the visuals, after you have the audio nailed. And be sure to do your best to remove any ambient sounds in your environment.   You can even try recording your audio separately as a voice-over. If possible in a controlled setting. This approach allows you to work on your video during the day and the audio at night. Especially useful if you are short on time and can only dedicate small timeslots.   My final piece of advice is to get 'up close and personal'. With the aid of a pop filter you can get very close to your mic without the audio capturing every little breath. By being closer to your mic, you can lower the gain and reduce nearly all background noise. Now, granted this can be hard when you 'have' to be on camera, but in that scenario, you should use a good quality lapel-mic.   Do you agree? What do you think first-time instructors should invest in: audio or video? Leave your thoughts and comments below.   Warm regards, Rob.     Author:   @Robin_Slee      100% agree. Over time I've even been using less and less video in my courses - at least for my students, they want to see code, not me.   Also bear in mind more and more students are watching our courses on tiny screens on their mobile devices. Clear audio is required for a successful course. Fancy video should only be attempted once you've got audio nailed, and there are plenty of successful courses out there with minimal talking head videos. And don't start messing with green screens until you've got clear audio first. - Frank Kane
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