Udemy’s redesign means students learn more, teachers make money

Crowd sourced education startup Udemy debuted a completely redesigned website today that will make it easier for students to track their progress, engage with their instructors, and discover more courses that interest them.

Udemy is an online learning platform that offers videos and live lectures from hundreds of expert instructors. It includes courses in technology and business, with headings like “Ruby on Rails for Beginners” and “An Entrepreneur’s Checklist”, as well as more traditional subjects like “Ancient Greek Religion” and “Psychology 101″. In addition to academic subject matter, the site includes lifestyle, arts, sports, and music classes.

Udemy enables anyone to enroll in or build a class, intending to “disrupt and democratize the world of education”. Instructors can use video, PDFs, PowerPoint, audio, zip files, and any other relevant materials to share their expertise with the world.

“Students and instructors come to Udemy to make moves, and every iteration of our product aims to help them make those moves more powerful and more efficient,” said Eren Bali, CEO and co-founder Udemy. “We’re constantly hearing from users who got promoted or changed careers after completing one of our courses — that’s why we’re so invested in creating a learning environment that helps them realize their goals.”

The new features include a responsive full screen user interface, a Quora-style question and answer facility, a progress meter, time stamped notes, and a personalized course discovery engine that recommends classes based on each student’s interests. There are both free and paid courses and teachers can actually earn money. Last year the top 10 instructors garnered $1.65 million in combined sales.

Udemy launched in 2010 and received $3 million in a first funding round last year led by Groupon investors Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell, with support from 500 Startups and MHS Capital. While many online learning platforms exist, such as Khan Academy, 2tor, Udacity, Pathright, and TED Ed, Udemy is one of the few platforms where the teachers (and thus the company) generate income, by taking a cut off all the paid courses. Lynda.com has a similar revenue model and brought in $70 million last year. Finally, teaching has become lucrative. Now if only the same were true of studying.