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Udemy Offers Free or inexpensive Ivy League Education Online

Udemy Connects People Who Want to Teach with People Who Want to Learn

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Udemy logo

Udemy is an online learning platform open to anyone

What is Udemy?

Udemy is a user-friendly online learning platform and community created in 2010, offering courses in a wide variety of subjects to anyone who wants to sign up online and participate. Udemy is a form of a MOOC, or a massive online open course.

Udemy that charges fees for many of its large-scale open courses. Some courses are free of charge. Fees for the others range from $5 up to several hundred dollars-- a lot less than traditional college courses.

Professors come from all walks of life, but Udemy also has a sister site called The Faculty Project offering free courses taught by professors from various large, prestigious universities, such as Yale, Stanford, Dartmouth and Northwestern.

Udemy was founded in 2010 as an online education platform that was open to anyone with expertise who wanted to build a course and charge a fee for it.

How Does Udemy Work?

Teachers who build and lead courses receive the lion's share of the revenue from their own courses, but Udemy also takes a chunk for hosing the software and courses.

The courses on Udemy are all created and owned by their instructors, not Udemy, which makes it a little different than some other online learning platforms. Udemy is basically an education marketplace, connecting learners and teachers, who include celebrity yoga instructors, New York Times best-selling authors and traditional university professors, too.

You can sign up to take Udemy courses with your Facebook account or your email address. Participants can take the courses via the Web from a desktop computer or they can download a tablet app from the Apple iTunes store and take it on an iPad.

When you first sign up, it shows a bunch of different subjects and how many courses are available in each (for example, 559 in technology, 379 in business, 24 in art and photography when I signed up.)

Next it will show trending and featured popular course, to give you an idea of what's popular.

I picked a free one, and only had to click one button to start taking it. First it showed an overview of all the course modules, with a big "Start learning now (FREE)" button prominently displayed.

The course I sampled was called "Becoming a Writer: 12 Exercises for Great Non-fiction Writing."

Taking a Course, Step by Step

After I click the "Start learning..." button, it said "Congrats! You have enrolled in this course. Learning is more fun with your friends. Share this course with your friends, so you can take it together." Alongside the text were four social network buttons -- for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google Plus--allowing you to post a link about the course on any or all of those networks to market the course to your friends.

It also showed an iPad button leading to the iTunes app store to pick up the Udemy app for downloading and watching lectures on the go.

At the bottom of this screen was a "Go to the Course Page" button allowing you to start taking the course.

Udemy Course Dashboard

The user interface of Udemy is very simple and intuitive to use.

The first thing displayed will be your Udemy course dashboard, listing all the learning modules for your particular course on the left. A horizontal navigation strip at the top lets you move around. And a right sidebar shows Announcements, a Questions button to communicate with the instructor, Extra course material and technical Support contact info.

Typically Udemy courses start with an overview or orientation on using Udemy. Each learning module is listed in order, and they can be a mix of learning formats--video lectures, audio lectures, PDF text files, PowerPoint files, Exel files, illustrations and so forth.

Udemy records your progress as you move through the course, and you can always go back and revisit any of the course material.

You can see questions others have asked of the instructor, and the instructor's answers, too.

Some instructors have downloadable PDF files and allow you to copy the instructional material to your own computer so you can take it anywhere and have it for future reference.

Often the instructor talks while showing a PowerPoint text file summarizing the main points. So it seems like a video, but basically you're just listening to audio while viewing text on your screen.

Pricing Bundled or Unbundled

Udemy sometimes bundles related learning modules, so you can pay a lower price if you buy access to a group of related material than if you, say, took them one by one as individual courses. A single instructor might teach a half dozen related concepts and skills and bundle them into one price.

For $199, for example, you can take the "Become a Web Developer from Scratch" course which covers a bunch of coding and programming technologies, starting with HTML and working up to AJAX, XML, MySQL and the new HTML5 and CSS3. That's not a bad price to cover so much material, so not surprisingly, more than 6,000 people were enrolled when I looked at it.

The course featured more than 220 video lectures when I viewed it. Like many others, this one allowed you to you view the introductory lecture (on XHTML and CSS) for free, before deciding if you want to pay to take the course.

Go See Udemy

Udemy website

Udemy iPad app on iTunes

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