Review - What is Udemy and Why Use it to Upskill in 2021

Review: What is Udemy and Why Use it to Upskill in 2021?

Review: What is Udemy and Why Use it to Upskill in 2020?

As well as being utterly unprecedented and appearing seemingly out of nowhere, the COVID-19 pandemic has, to some extent, made us question the nature of both how we work, and how we learn.

With businesses allowing staff to work from home, and educational establishments trying their hands at online classes, more and more of us are feeling a change in the air.

Perhaps you’re a newcomer to remote working and enjoying the experience so much you’re contemplating becoming a freelancer?

Maybe all this downtime is making you question your career choices?

Whatever your situation, now’s the time to strike whilst the iron is hot, step away from that Netflix box set and set about improving your situation for the better.

It’s all About Upskilling

Job listings might be thin on the ground and traditional avenues of learning might be shut until further notice, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of options when it comes to bettering yourself.

Upskilling – noun

“the process of learning new skills or of teaching workers new skills”

The internet has made learning and self-improvement something that can be ac- cessed 24-7. These days, upskilling has no boundaries.

The traditional learning paradigm is being up-ended at a rapid rate. Classroom instruction and fixed curriculums are out, and self-paced, pick-and-mix classes are available on demand, in any subject you can imagine.

If you want new skills, and you want to dive straight in, Udemy is the place to go.

Udemy: A Primer

Udemy, like many other tech startups, is based in California. They’re aiming to turn the traditional education system upside down in the same way Amazon revolutionised publishing and reading. It’s a lofty ambition, but with $48 million in funding from investors, Udemy isn’t messing around.

Udemy’s mission statement is simple: “help anyone learn anything online.”

To that end, Udemy has created a tech-laden online platform that helps novice and seasoned instructors alike to produce, design and present how-to style video- based classes on almost any subject, in a similar fashion to how Amazon allows anyone with a story to publish their own book.

The Nuts and Bolts

Udemy is rapidly establishing itself as the Amazon of “How To” videos: Its library of 20,000 courses is growing by a rate of 1,000 per month, and serves 190 countries in 10 different languages.

  • Want to learn Photoshop and website deign? Udemy has you covered.
  • Fancy taking a course in French? Yup. You can do that.
  • Want to learn more about fitness and Diet? Udemy will get you there.

Udemy covers every course imaginable from obscure management training techniques to coding in Python or Javascript.

It literally has something for everyone.

How Udemy Makes Money

Udemy targets both sides of the educational process: The site helps would-be instructors create courses and then markets them to potential students with a search algorithm similar to Amazon.

Tying those two strands together, Udemy also caters to larger organisations, and makes it easy for corporations to create highly tailored, niche internal courses for employee training.

Udemy’s business model is similar to other online freelancing platforms, and somewhat similar to Amazon’s own affiliate and creator payout system:

As well as relying on students to pay money to take courses, the company gives varying percentage payouts to the creators of the courses themselves.

This model encourages course creators onto the platform and means there are masses of courses on offer, with prices ranging from free to join, right up to a $5,000 (and more!)

Key Features and Advantages of Udemy Courses

Individual courses on Udemy vary enormously due to the fact that the platform is effectively the “host”, and not the creator.

Individual mentors and teachers are responsible for the quality of the courses on offer, but in general, taking a Udemy course offers a number of welcome benefits over traditional learning avenues:

A Wide Range of Course Offerings

As previously mentioned, Udemy absolutely destroys traditional educational establishments for breadth of choice: There are 15 major categories ranging from software development to music, with up to 15 subcategories under each of those.

Learn at Your Own Speed

Because Udemy is video based, courses don’t depend solely on the tutor/pupil dynamic (although access to teacher support is available when required). That means Udemy courses can be a perfect fit for those already in employment or with hectic schedules.

All You Need is an Internet Connection

Udemy courses can be viewed on desktop PC, as well as tablets, smartphones and even android based Smart TVs.

Free or Low-Cost Tuition

There are heaps of free offerings on Udemy, and the vast bulk of courses are priced well under £100. Compared to traditional tuition costs, that’s a relative bargain.

Access to Diverse Techniques and Viewpoints

Udemy allows anyone to upload a course. That means you can experience the full gamut of unorthodox teaching methods and course materials in your subject of choice.

Now, whilst that might not be preferable for a doctor in training, it can really get the creative juices flowing and encourage creative thinking in tricky subjects. It’s also a great way to learn a new language quickly or find new ways to gain a competitive edge in fitness training.

Immediate and Lifetime Access

As soon as you join a Udemy course, you’ll gain access to videos, PDFs, financial templates, music, vocabulary and any other relevant course materials on offer. You’ll gain immediate access, won’t need to wait for scheduled lessons, and you can take your time knowing the course will stay open for life.

A 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee

Whilst it’s true that anybody can build a Udemy course, it’s also comforting to know that the platform offers a full, 30 day money back guarantee. That promise helps to build trust, and goes a long way to weeding out substandard tutors and programs.

With All That Being Said…

This all sounds too good to be true right?

Whilst Udemy has massive potential, and is almost certainly the way of the future, it would be disingenuous to ignore some of the platform’s bad points.

Here are some legitimate concerns:

Quality Varies Enormously

In a nutshell, you need to do your own research.

Think of Udemy like eBay. Or Amazon for that matter. They provide the platform and the storefront, and the users create the products.

In an ideal world, you’d get a recommendation to try a course, head over to Udemy, enrol, and love the experience. But unfortunately, because the platform has its own search engine that encourages aimless browsing, it’s definitely possible to pay money to enrol in a substandard course.

You should read reviews, ask questions and do your own research. Udemy can be a mixed bag at times, especially if your aren’t doing your due diligence upfront.

A Focus on Beginner Level Skills

Udemy tends to veer towards the beginner or novice side of training for the most part.

If you’re a basic speaker of Russian looking to gain fluency, or an able programmer looking to learn some advanced tips, then Udemy might leave you underwhelmed. Students need to figure out their skill level before signing up to a course.

Overlapping Content and a Lack of Filtering

A search on Udemy for courses on “Website Design” might typically yield hundreds of results, all varying in price from free, through to $1000 or more. A lack of professional vetting makes it was hard to tell one course from another with regards to quality.

There is often no clear way of discerning the difference between the various offerings. If you’re looking to spend high end money, you should definitely search for testimonials and reviews outside of the platform. Never rely on Udemy’s own algorithms.

Expertise and Experience Could Be Lacking

Remember that bit about unorthodox thinking?

You don’t need ANY qualifications to add a course to Udemy. That means the expertise of your tutor is entirely judged by you, and you alone.

Only you can determine the value of the course you’ve just taken. Negative reviews, refunds and bad testimonials are the market-driven method of determining expertise on Udemy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does warrant fair warning.

Not For Those Looking For “Real” or Professional Certifications

Udemy is all about upskilling and self-improvement, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

If learning a new language or getting into the best shape of your life is a goal, then you don’t need paperwork to back up your new found skill (or validate the improvements a Udemy course has made to your life).


If you need real accreditation or a “proper” certified course, Udemy isn’t the place for you. Whilst some of the courses do offer certificates of completion, they’re only going to be of limited use to show experience on CVs or internship applications.

Taking a Udemy course might actually be a great, low-cost way to learn a new subject, and test your understanding of it – before then spending the bigger money on that official examination or certification you’ve been chasing.

The Final Word:

Online courses and the platforms that support them are reshaping the way we tackle learning and self-improvement. Udemy is by no means perfect, but it offers a tantalising glimpse into the future of education, and offers up some exciting prospects for self-improvement and career upgrades in an age of economic uncertainty.