Going offline to grow online

twenty20_9658c492-a9be-42b2-8133-59030b7ad4d3Online learning is bringing education to people all over the world who might not otherwise have access. Moreover, the internet gives them the freedom to pursue online learning the same way they now consume other types of digital content — on demand anytime, anywhere. On the flip side, the internet makes it possible for subject-matter experts on virtually any topic to share their knowledge 24/7 with a virtually limitless global audience.

People, especially working adults, appreciate being able to control their own learning experience. When you’ve already got a busy life at the office and at home, being able to go at your own pace and stick to your own schedule is a pretty big deal. Combining flexible, self-directed learning with a vast network of subject experts is what’s allowed Udemy to build a global community of millions of students and thousands of instructors. And it’s why we firmly believe the future of education is online.

And yet…

There’s undeniable power in sitting in the physical presence of someone and having a real-time conversation. You can read their body language and have the sort of free-flowing conversation that yields surprising discoveries. It’s easier to have group interactions when everyone can see each other; there are fewer inadvertent interruptions and awkward VoIP delays. It’s just plain exciting when you finally get to meet in person someone you’ve only spoken to over the phone or video.

So, perhaps it’s not surprising that an online marketplace would host an in-person event, with attendees coming from as far as Romania and Australia and as nearby as right here in San Francisco. Udemy instructors are largely working solo when they create their courses. That could be a lonely experience if they didn’t also feel they’re part of a bigger community of like-minded individuals who share their sense of purpose. They’ve built a strong online community –through our private Facebook groups, for example–but it speaks volumes that so many instructors would travel far distances to spend time together. It’s going to be really cool just to look around the room and see the size and impact of Udemy’s place in the online learning movement.

Learning and teaching are both very personal and decidedly human activities. Gathering in-person will facilitate richer, more organic discussions among our instructors as they explore ways of creating better courses and meeting student needs more effectively. And, of course, it’s a golden opportunity for Udemy to reward our valuable instructors, celebrate their achievements, and find out how we can support them in reaching their goals too.

What else are we looking forward to?

  • Forming deeper connections — We expect to partner with our instructors for years, so it’s critical we maintain positive, productive relationships that help us understand their needs. On the flip side, instructors will better understand how to work with us to implement their ideas.
  • Focused attention — There’s nothing like a live event for capturing an audience’s full attention and eliminating competing distractions.
  • Unfettered communication — Let’s face it. Not everyone is comfortable speaking up in online group/video chats or conference calls, and not every topic lends itself to email. It’s a lot easier to open up to someone you’re sitting right next to.
  • No time zone differences — With instructors in almost 200 different countries around the globe, challenges of time and space can definitely get in the way of efficient communications.

Yes, the internet has no equal when it comes to opening up opportunity for people and giving them new ways to gain knowledge and learn skills. But there will always be value in gathering, communicating, and collaborating in person too.

Stay tuned for more about Udemy LIVE before, during, and after the event!