Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Why Udemy pay their instructors £2.68 for a £100 course

Thursday, June 15th, 2017 | Life

I like Udemy, both as a student and an instructor. As a student, I have done some brilliant courses on there. As an instructor, it has been easy to create courses and make them available for sale.

But there is one downside if you plan on using Udemy to make a living: the payouts are terrible.

Take a look at My IT Contracting Master Class, for example. It is a £100 course. I was excited when the first customer signed up via Udemy. That is until I realised that I would only be getting £2.68.

What is going on here?

First, Udemy discount everything. The £100 price tag is basically a lie. I’m not sure what they do is legal in the UK. They have an advertised price, but you never pay that. In the five months, I have been using them, there has not been a single day when the have not had a sale on. It’s like going to a furniture store with their ever-revolving discounts.

Sometimes the discounts are bigger than others. Sometimes it is £10, sometimes £15. But as a UK customer, you are getting screwed anyway. The US consumer gets a bigger discount. In this case, the course was sold for $9.99.

Then iTunes take a cut, so that’s $3 gone, and then Udemy split the remaining money with you 50/50. There is $7 left, so that makes £3.50 each. Or, translated into Sterling, £2.68.

Technically, I think you can opt-out of these discounts. But, in practice, very few courses do. And this means that you are competing against a market of discounted courses, which makes it impossible to do business. And Udemy is more favourable to the courses who do not opt-out. So, in reality, I don’t feel like I have a choice.

Udemy is a great platform. However, I wish they would be more transparent about their prices. You don’t ever pay the list price and so instructors are paid very little.

2017: My year of marketing

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016 | Life

In my book Technical Anxiety I write about the important of life-long learning. Continued education and self-improvement is an essential part of keeping the mind healthy. Well, let it not be said that I do not practice what I preach. I am declaring 2017 my year of learning about marketing.

Why marketing? Because it is a skill I really lack, and could really use.

Take the Leeds Restaurant Guide for example. Sales have been underwhelming. Why is that? It could be because the quality of the book is poor. I do not accept that. It took us 18 months to put together, we went round over 250 restaurants, painstakingly reviewing them, and everyone has a high-quality photo taken by me.

Assuming it is a good product then, the next likely explanation is that the marketing of the book has been poor. This is probably true. It was not that I did not try. I set up a lovely website. I ran Facebook ads. I made certificates for every four and five-star restaurant in Leeds and hand delivered them. A few of them went up in windows. I contacted prominent Leeds foodie bloggers. I sent copies out for review.

Despite al of this, it did not end up as a Yorkshire Evening Post best seller (I assume they have a list, to compete with the New York Times).

You could also argue that maybe I just made a product nobody wanted. This could also be true. Maybe people are happy with the quality of the reviews on Trip Advisor (for reference, here is why you should not be). But in this case, too, the problem is marketing. After all, product design is one of the four Ps of marketing (product, price, place, promotion).

So this year I am throwing myself into learning about marketing. I said 2017 to give the post a punchier title, but I have already begun. Luckily, marketers, being in the business of marketing, make it easy for you to find them and offer some great content, often for free. My reading list is stacked high once again and I have enrolled on a course too.

I might blog more about different things I am reading, but for now, here is a list of cool stuff to check out:

Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins. This is the bible of internet marketing. All of the big marketers talk about it. But here is the craziest thing: it was written in 1923! Nearly 100 years later, the rules Hopkins laid down for marketing are still incredibly applicable today. Technology may change but human psychology does not.

The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza. Sean is the best teacher I have found so far. He is a lovely guy (also a big foodie, which is perhaps why I like him), gives loads of stuff away for free, and answers all of his emails personally. He as a website, PsychoTactics, and a podcast, Three Month Vacation. The best way to get a feeling of how popular he is is to read these reviews of rival marketing school Zero to Launch.

Podcasts: I am really enjoying Digital Marketer which gives you some great advice on Facebook advertising, and Self Made Man by Mike Dillard.

Is learning a foreign language really worth it?

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016 | Science, Thoughts

language-school

In an episode of Freakonomics Radio I recently listened to, the show discussed whether learning a foreign language was really worth it.

I wrote a post back in May about whether we should teach foreign language in schools. My main point was that it was essentially a failed system: children simply do not learn to speak a foreign language, despite spending hours of school time per week on it. That is a big opportunity cost when they could be doing other subjects.

The show agrees with me. Not only are most people unsuccessful, but it really does not provide that much benefit. If you look at the economic benefit for example, which if it was giving you additional skills or even just increasing your IQ, we would expect to see big gains here. However, a study in America showed that learning Spanish gave you an economic benefit of around 2%. French was a little better at 2.7%, but there are certainly other things you could do and other skills you could learn that would give you a much greater benefit with the same time input.

This is not true of countries where English is not the primary language. If you live in a country where a relatively obscure language is spoken, and then learn English, you’re economic outlook significantly increases: perhaps 20%. Therefore it makes sense for other countries to continue to teach English as an additional language. However, for English-speaking countries to continue to teach other languages makes far less sense.

There was one benefit the show discussed that did pick up my interest though. Thinking in another language seems to make you more rational. For example, if you are offered a coin toss: heads you get £15, tails you lose £10. The rational thing to do is to take this bet. However, many people don’t. It is called loss aversion and Daniel Kahneman talks about it in Thinking, Fast and Slow.

However, if you get people to think about it in a different language, they are more likely to take the bet. Similarly, if you give them a moral dilemma, “do you switch the train tracks to save five people but kill one”, they are more likely to take the utilitarian view in a second language. Dubner suggests this is because we attach a lot of emotion to the worlds in our mother tongue, but do not have this baggage when thinking in a different language.

What makes good practice?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016 | Success & Productivity

woman-playing-violin

Anders Ericsson is a Swedish psychologist who researches why super talented people are so good at what they do. His research has formed the basis of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated. Whether you buy into their interpretation or not, it is clear that practice, specifically deliberate practice as Ericsson defines it, is a cornerstone of learning skills.

But what makes good practice? In an interview with Stephen J. Dubner he laid out some important points.

You should be focused and self-examining

Practice cannot simply be sloppy. You need to focus on what you are doing. You need to consider what you are doing and how you could improve. You need to be self-critical. That feedback needs to come straight away so that you can learn from it.

Once you are doing something on autopilot, you are no longer improving, Take driving for example. Once you can drive, you don’t really think about it. So it doesn’t matter if you have been driving 30 years, that doesn’t make you a better driver than someone who has been driving one year (unless you have really been focusing on improving your driving).

Ericcson quotes one study that shows that GPs who have been practicing for long periods are not better (actually they were worse) at diagnosing chest conditions than new doctors were. This is because those thirty years do not necessarily represent deliberate practice, and because the feedback they get on the accuracy of their diagnoses is not immediate.

It should be outside your comfort zone

If practice is fun, you are probably not doing it to the full effect. It is easy to fall into this trap. I regularly play my guitar, but often I just plan the songs I already know. This is not improving my guitar skills because I am not pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

You should have a teacher

You can self-teach, as many great musicians have. However, if you want to learn and practice in the most efficient way possible, you need a teacher. Someone who can give you external feedback, someone who already knows the ropes and is familiar with the established best-practice way of teaching a skill.

You should break it down

Your practice should have very specific goals. For example, just “playing some guitar” is not real practice. I need to practice a specific skill: timing, a riff, a certain technique. I need to focus in one particular area and come up with exercises to improve that in isolation, then later practice putting it all together.

Learn Finnish online

Saturday, February 6th, 2016 | News

learn-finnish

There are some excellent tools out there if you want to learn French or German. There are plenty of tools out there if you want to learn Spanish, or Italian, or Polish. Finnish, not so much. There are a few resources out there, but nothing that really rocks.

So we are developing our own. Learn Finnish will be launching this summer. It will be a premium subscription service. Sign up for beta testing opportunities and advanced offers.

Piano: six months on

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016 | Music, Thoughts

piano

Six months ago I bought myself a piano and began taking lessons. It was hard to fit in: I had to give up my guitar lessons and when my singing teacher left I did not pursue another. I am not moaning like some rick stuck-up kid, but it was a good reminder for me that you can only do so much and need to allocate your time accordingly.

Now that I have spent six months with it, it seems like a good time to reflect on my progress so far.

I am still practising every day. You have to, if you want to achieve mastery (or even basic competency) of an instrument. I am finding it about as difficult to motive myself as I did with guitar. It’s a struggle to sit down ever day, but I do get it done.

I am finding it easier than guitar. With guitar, I literally could not play anything for the first six months. After that, I finally got one basic song down. Getting the muscle memory to make those chord shapes takes ages. With piano, I was playing a song in my first lesson. It was very simple song, but I was playing it. I can also see myself making progress, whereas often with guitar it feels like I am not getting any better. This has all be done with around twenty minutes practice a day. With guitar, I was usually doing an hour.

I can’t read music yet. I know how to, but in the heat of the moment I am lost. I have to start counting up the bars using FACE or ACEG. Interesting though, I need the music in front of me, and to keep my eyes on it, to be able to play the music.

I feel like I am building muscle memory, rather than learning. I can nail a piece, but as soon as I make a mistake or lose my place, it takes my ages to find it again. I am hoping this will disappear over time. As the songs her more challenging, it should push me to sight read more and more.

Always break it down. If you are struggling, break it down into a small section. Once you have this down, build it back up again. Slowly. Use the metronome to help yourself keep the beat. It is annoying, but useful.

Having a teacher is really valuable. Not only do they instruct and help you correct your mistakes, but they also reinforce the stuff you already know. I know I should break it down and use the metronome, but often I do not because I don’t like doing it. Having these concepts constantly reinforced is useful on its own.

Teach Like a Champion

Thursday, December 24th, 2015 | Books

After being recommended the book Teach Like a Champion by another book, I decided to give it a read. I thought it was worth doing because it would have a lot of transferable skills that I could take into my community groups and public speaking. I was wrong; lesson learned.

A lot of it sounded very useful (although I am not a school teacher, so how would I know) but directly relatable to a classroom environment and therefore of little use to a wider audience. In my opinion, this certainly is not worth reading unless you are a school teacher.

One issue that came up again and again was time. This certainly does have wider applications. Time boxing for example. At Sunday Assembly we often give people “about 5 minutes” to talk to the people around them. We call it ‘meet your neighbours’. It’s always a struggle to get people focused again though. Ideally we would say something specific “take 3.5 minutes” and then conclude with a “time is up”.

teach-like-a-champion

Photography course

Sunday, December 9th, 2012 | Life

Last Monday, we went to the final session of our photography course.

Overall, it was well worth attending. I’ve read plenty of books on how to use my camera, but having in person tuition and going through the exercises is far better to getting knowledge into my head, even compared to going out and practicing what I had read about.

It did end quite expensively though – I’ve acquired two new lenses since starting the course and added flash studio kit to my Christmas list, so presuming Elina gets me that as well as my iPad 3 and iPhone 5, that is going to end expensively for her too.

Capturing the moment

Monday, October 1st, 2012 | Life

I’ve been meaning to do a photography course for a long time. But every time I look into it I realise I’ve just missed an intake or it’s at least some ridiculous amount of time until the next one starts.

However, being determined to get it done, I made an effort to hound Leeds City College – and I do mean hound because getting information out of them is like getting blood out of a stone. They simply don’t know when the courses are going to be running or provide you with any information on them.

Never the less, I managed to get myself and Elina booked on one, and we had our first session last Monday. The course costs about £150 I think, and for that you get ten sessions of two hour tuition, which seems reasonable.

The first session was general introductions, but was by no means non-informative. We discussed the problems we were having and what areas we wanted to focus on in the first part of the session and then dived straight in to the course material and practice exercises.

By the look of the schedule, it’s very focused around the kind of photography I want to do as well, so I’m very much looking forward to it!

Making the sums add up

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012 | Friends

One of the most active members of Toastmasters is my friend John Fletcher who was working towards the end of his Competent Communicator manual when I joined and has since completed it and moved onto the advanced speeches.

His 10th and final speech of the Competent Communicator was about how he was not a big fan of his job and so had finally broken free and set up on his own. It was a speech I strongly identified with, having recently done a similar thing.

John now runs Leeds Maths Tuition, offering one to one tuition for anyone looking to improve their grades.