We tested Udemy’s learning platform and learning tools. The takeaway? Choose your class wisely. We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Photo: istockphoto.com These days, there is a class for just about anything online. Whether seeking a software tutorial or […]
There’s Nothing You Can’t Learn on Udemy—But There’s a Catch
These days, there is a class for just about anything online. Whether seeking a software tutorial or instructions on starting a new craft, students likely won’t need to look further than the nearest computer or smartphone. Udemy is one of dozens of platforms available offering virtual classes to lifelong learners. With a library of thousands of courses ranging in topic from graphic design to magic tricks, Udemy has proven itself to be an increasingly popular choice since its launch in 2010. It operates on a unique model where any subject matter expert can record their own course and share it on the site’s marketplace.
To review Udemy, I used the platform exclusively as a student (logistically, reviewing it as a teacher wasn’t possible—I had no class to offer). With so many sites to choose from, potential students may reasonably be wondering, “Is Udemy legit?” when deciding which one is right for them. The answer is that it depends strictly on one’s needs. Ultimately, hobby students looking for in-depth knowledge on just about anything can benefit in some way. Read on for a full Udemy.com review.
Our Verdict: Udemy describes itself as a “global destination for online learning,” and with relatively affordable content in dozens of languages, it is widely accessible. Students will find courses to match just about any budget, schedule, and level of expertise. While Udemy is not accredited by any universities, and classes will not count toward a degree, the courses may help hobby students gain a better understanding of topics in a professional or academic setting.
- Pricing: Free, $9.99 to $199.99 per course, or $30 per month for Udemy Personal
- Skill levels: All levels
- Class length: 0 to 17+ hours
- Accreditation: No
- Money-back guarantee: 30 days for single-class purchases
Udemy boasts one of the largest marketplaces of its kind with over 185,000 courses in 75 languages. It has achieved this massive database by allowing experts and instructors all over the world to publish their own courses on the site. The result is a diverse and wide-ranging collection of content that covers all manner of interests. While the home page mostly promotes courses on professional skills such as web development or leadership, clicking into any of the “Top Categories” reveals the full extent of Udemy’s library. Within broad categories like Business and Lifestyle are hundreds of titles that get as specific as “Cat Behavior” or “How to Sell Real Estate on Instagram.” Potential students can refine their search by ratings, duration, topic, subcategory, language, price, features, and subtitles, and the most popular classes are promoted front and center. Most of the content offered by Udemy tends to be geared toward learners without prior experience in the subject, although some topics have a handful of intermediate or expert-level selections.
Pricing and Money-Back Guarantee
Individual course prices on Udemy range from $9.99 at the lowest up to $199.99 for the most expensive, with a few being offered for free (although users are encouraged to note that prices change all the time). The site runs promotions and discounts frequently, and instructors often have limited-time offers on their individual courses. An important factor to keep in mind is that while Udemy makes recommendations to its instructors on fair pricing, ultimately each course instructor sets his or her own price. If a course does not live up to a student’s expectations for any reason, Udemy offers a money-back guarantee that is good for 30 days after purchase (otherwise it may issue the refund in Udemy credit).
Students taking more than one course on Udemy may want to opt for the $30 monthly subscription, or “Personal Plan.” The Personal Plan doesn’t include the site’s full content library, but with thousands of courses, there is still a substantial selection to choose from. Subscriptions are exempt from the money-back guarantee but begin with a 7-day free trial for customers to decide if they like the service; if not, they can cancel it for free.
Course Length and Structure
Perhaps excluding those with the busiest of schedules, most users will find that Udemy has a course that matches their availability and commitment level. Some courses will take less than 45 minutes to complete, while the longest courses provide up to 17 hours of instruction. Courses take the form of video segments and may include lectures, demonstrations, or slideshows, depending on the subject matter. As is the case with pricing, course features and structures are completely up to individual instructors. While some instructors may provide quizzes and other supplementals, others might focus their energy on responding to questions in the Q&A section. This information will usually be included in the course description, so students will know what to expect before they buy. It is also possible to sort by length and features while looking through the course options.
Students can take courses at their own pace, so there is no need to complete lectures or assignments within a certain time frame. Progress is saved and tracked, so it’s possible to break up the work into manageable chunks if needed.
Taking the Course
To get started, I found my course in the “My Learning” tab in the top-right corner of the site. This is where you can view all courses you have purchased and schedule times when you intend to take them. I imagine this feature is especially helpful if you are taking more than one course at a time. It’s also where you can find classes you’ve added to your wish list.
I clicked on my class and the first lecture began playing. I could track which lesson I was watching and which ones I had left off to the right. Some helpful features underneath the video included a class Q&A, a place to take notes, announcements, reviews, and learning tools. I liked that I could tether my notes to the time stamp of where I was in the lecture and use them later to jump to that part of the video. Under the “reviews” tab I also read what past students had to say about the class (mostly positive, though some wanted more in-depth material). I was able to read these before I purchased the class, but it was interesting to refer back to them once I had experienced it for myself.
The other features were unfortunately irrelevant to my particular class. I had considered dropping a question or two in the Q&A section, but I was disappointed to see that my instructor hadn’t responded to any questions in over a year. This is one issue with Udemy’s open framework—instructors are not required to update their material and could potentially upload a course and never return to it again. This class also did not provide extra tools like quizzes, which would have broken up the lectures nicely and made me feel more like an active participant. Unless the user hits pause, the lectures will play automatically one after the other. I ended up completing my 1-hour course in one sitting since the material blended together so seamlessly.
Overall, I found using Udemy to be easy, enjoyable, and most importantly, informative. I envision myself both referring back to this course as a refresher and trying out new ones in the future. While I knew what I was looking for this time in terms of classes, I like the opportunity for serendipity you get from simply browsing the catalog. I had never considered learning the art of bonsai before, but after coming across the course on Udemy I’m interested!