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Online Learning Site Reveals Instructor Earnings, Launches Summer Teaching Grant Program

Online course provider Udemy has launched a summer grant program to encourage new teachers to join their ranks. The grant will award $5,000 plus 100 percent course revenues for life. The company is also providing an inside peek into its instructors' earnings, including top earners and average instructor earnings.

Udemy is an online platform for delivering a broad range of courses led by subject matter experts — programmers, writers, designers, Photoshop pros, etc. Many instructors are college and university professors who earn extra income by offering their expertise on specific topics, while others are professionals, enthusiasts, or hobbyists. The service offers instructors 70 percent to 85 percent of course fees, depending on the arrangement, and provides course planning and creation tools, file hosting, support, payment processing, course management, mobile apps, and tracking tools.

According to the company, the top-10 individual teachers on Udemy have earned a combined total of more than $5 million to date in revenues from the courses they created. That's far above the average for Udemy instructors. As of this year, instructors are earning on average $7,000 per year for their work, down slightly from last year's $8,500 average. However, according to Udemy, the investment of time and labor is minimal — about two to four weeks for setup and five to 15 hours per month to answer questions and update materials. About 10 percent to 20 percent of revenues are earned within the first month, with the remainder coming in over a 12- to 18-month period for top earners, according to Udemy. For students, courses range in price from free to hundreds of dollars.

"Udemy has a great return-on-investment for instructors, financially speaking, particularly as compared with traditional adult learning environments," said Audrey Heinesen, director for teaching and learning at Udemy, in a prepared statement. "When you consider the number of hours that go into a typical semester-long, in-person course, you'll find many non-tenured instructors earn little more than minimum wage."

Udemy reported its instructor base has grown 365 percent in the last year.

Many of the courses taught through Udemy are vocational in nature — Photoshop instruction, programming, management basics, and the like — while others focus on self improvement, cooking, and other special interests.

Several of the top earners Udemy identified provide courses in the areas of creative production (video editing, graphic design, writing, photography, etc.) and technology (Web development, business software, etc.). One of the top-10 earners is even a yoga instructor.

Some of the top earners as of June 2013 were, according to Udemy:

  1. Victor Bastos, Web development: $452,985, with 7,502 students since November 2011;
  2. Chris Bryant, IT certifications and training: $260,822, with 13,000 students since July 2011;
  3. Miguel Hernandez, video, animation, and multimedia: $146,512, with 2,882 students since July 2011;
  4. Huw Collingbourne, business software: $128,729, with 4,214 students since July 2011;
  5. Ken Schultz, photography: $65,003, with 4,157 students since June 2012;
  6. Len Smith, writing and content development: $59,532, with 2,926 students since January 2012;
  7. Dashama, yoga: $43,599, with 981 students since July 2012;
  8. Tara Roskell, graphic design: $30,371, with 3,702 students since July 2012.

"We knew early on that teaching online is a new phenomenon, and it can be solitary and intimidating to go it alone," said Heinesen. "Instructors are invited to a vibrant, supportive private Facebook community where people learn from each other on how to teach online, improve video and audio quality, and attract more students. All instructors receive ongoing education on how to create and promote their courses, with experienced instructors often sharing learnings in videos, blog posts and emails."

To encourage new instructors to sign up, Udemy is offering all new instructors a chance to win $5,000, along with 100 percent of course revenues for life. All new instructors who sign up by Aug. 31 will be entered for the grant. Additional details can be found on the instructor signup page on udemy.com.

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