Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By WILL OREMUS/Slate
Victor Bastos was making $20,000 a year as a freelance Web developer in Lisbon, Portugal, when he started posting videos to YouTube. Already fluent in several programming languages and looking to branch into new ones, he thought making instructional videos would help him keep track of what he'd learned.
Victor Bastos has made close to $500,000 teaching classes on Udemy, an online learning startup.
Courtesy of Victor Bastos
"It was like an online notebook for myself," said Bastos, 33. "But then I started getting a lot of subscriptions. People told me, 'Your tutorials are great -- why don't you make a full course?'"
Within a few months, Bastos got an email inviting him to do just that. The proposal came from an online-learning startup he had never heard of called Udemy. The offer: Host his course on Udemy's Web-based platform, and he could charge students to take it and keep 70 percent of the revenues. Udemy would keep the other 30 percent.
Bastos accepted and got to work fleshing out a full curriculum. His goal: a one-stop course that would turn total rookies into professional Web developers.
He is not an outlier. Udemy, launched in 2010, reports that its top 10 instructors have generated more than $5 million in revenue so far. Many others are taking in sums that would be unheard of for a high school teacher and impressive for a college professor.
A class on IT certifications and training has earned its teacher $260,000 in a little less than two years. One on video, animation and multimedia has brought in nearly $150,000 in the same period.
The focus is on technical skills, and computer classes are the biggest draw. But Udemy's 8,000 offerings also include a smattering of courses in the humanities, social sciences and other subject areas.
Unlike schoolteachers and professors, Udemy instructors don't need credentials, and they don't have to quit their day job to get started.
The company is quick to point out that it's not a get-rich-quick scheme: The average instructor on the site has earned more like $7,000 in total, and only a minority quit their day jobs.
"You don't start teaching purely for the money," said Udemy spokesman Dinesh Thiru. "You start teaching because you're passionate about something."