How Student-Instructor Collaboration Extends Learning Opportunities Around The World

Kain Ramsay (L) and David Bejarano (R)

Udemy just unveiled a new brand identity inspired by the students and instructors who work together to share knowledge and achieve their goals. We hear stories every day of instructors and students around the world connecting in meaningful ways, and in some cases, they even end up as partners.

This month, we spoke with Udemy instructor Kain Ramsay to get the story behind his globe-spanning collaboration with student David Bejarano.

How did you get started on Udemy?
After 10 years in the army, I spent five years going in circles trying to figure out how to earn a steady living and find something I liked to do. During this tough period, I had gotten into neuro-linguistic programming and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Over time I had accrued certificates in NLP and CBT, but I was struggling to establish myself. At one point I was broke, homeless, and stranded in New Zealand and couldn’t get back to the UK. This was when I first started to be self-employed. I knew some people who had YouTube channels, and since iMovie came on my Mac, I thought I might create my own channel too. Eventually, I received an email from a big-name coach who told me my video content was good. She said I should consider teaching on Udemy. So I did! I created three or four courses in a short period of time. The audio and video quality were terrible back then, but it’s gotten better and better each time around.

How did you connect with David?
I get hundreds of messages from students every week, and some have the same types of questions that I had as I was learning. Living in Germany, far from his home in Colombia, David had reached a crossroads. He had finished his master’s program but realized economics wasn’t fulfilling. 

He reached out on Udemy and told me my courses had changed his life. It was clear he was eager to learn more. He didn’t have anyone to talk to about CBT, NLP, or his other interests. So I ended up mentoring and coaching David for nine months as a friend. That was two years ago now.

Why did you decide to work together?
Eventually, David decided he could be a mentor to people back in his home country of Colombia, just like I’d been a mentor to him. He had moved back because his parents had health issues, and he wanted to be with them. Unfortunately, the economy wasn’t great in Colombia, so it was difficult to establish a coaching practice, so he moved in with his family to save money.

That’s when I had the idea of offering David the opportunity to translate my courses into Spanish. The beauty of Udemy is that you can teach from anywhere, so it didn’t matter where either of us was living at the time. David knew my content well, and it seemed like a good project for him to take on. I paid for his first microphone and let him keep 100% of the income for the first six or seven months. For Christmas, I got him a nice camera to do talking-head recordings.

How are the translated courses performing?
So far, David has created 12 Udemy courses based on my content. The first few months were a little slow, just like it was when I got started. For the the first course, he transcribed and translated every single word and then created subtitles in Spanish. But it just wasn’t coming across as authentic. He realized it was better to re-communicate the content in his own words, rather than simply translate or transcribe the information. Instead of using my stories and examples to illustrate concepts, he started using his own. Then, his courses started gaining popularity.

Are you planning to translate more of your courses?
There are a lot of people who simply read from textbooks and think they’re “teaching.” I don’t think that works very well. For the content to really come through, it’s so much better to translate concepts at a personal level. My relationship with David allowed us both to do that and, therefore, have more successful courses.

People reach out to me often about collaborating, but to me it’s not just about “doubling profits.” Teaching partnerships need to be authentic and rooted in trust. David and I have spent so many hours online and on the phone, and we have a lot of mutual respect, which was foundational to making this happen. I’m so grateful the partnership has worked out the way it has because, just as I relied on teachers and coaches at a tough time in my life, it feels really good to be able to pass on those gifts. I was able to help David, and together we are helping an audience of Spanish-speakers I couldn’t have reached without him.

And I’m thrilled to say that David is coming to visit me in Scotland in April to meet in person for the first time!