Udemy Instructor Spotlight: Bonnie Schulkin

Udemy instructor Bonnie Schulkin has always learned by teaching. As a Udemy student looking, to no avail, for a React Testing course, she naturally decided to learn the subject by creating a Udemy course. Read more below about Bonnie’s experience teaching online for the first time!

Name: Bonnie Schulkin

Location: Berkeley, California

When did you join Udemy?

I joined Udemy as a student two years ago when when one of my teaching colleagues at Hackbright Academy, an all-women coding bootcamp, told me about a free Python course. I enrolled and maybe watched a few lectures, but I definitely wouldn’t have called myself an active Udemy student until later on, when I was teaching React at Learners Guild and didn’t have much knowledge of the language. I took one of Stephen Grider’s Udemy courses to learn React before I taught it.  

How did you learn your craft?

The way I typically learn is to give myself a project that I want to accomplish. From there, I just start Googling. If I don’t know how to do something, I Google it. That’s how I learned Python and a million other things. I also learn by teaching; I learned so much from the existing curriculum at Hackbright and by creating lectures for Learners Guild.   

Did you have any prior on- or offline teaching experience prior to publishing your first Udemy course?

I had no prior online teaching experience, but teaching has always been a passion of mine. In high school, I was a private tutor; in college, I was always a TA and taught summer programs; and I was even a high-school physics teacher for two years about 20 years ago. I started down the software route after a few years in education because software engineers generally have better work-life balance — not to mention an easier time paying the bills!

Why did you decide to teach on Udemy?

About 15 years after I kickstarted my software career, coding bootcamps sprouted, and I jumped at the opportunity to blend my two careers: teaching and software. During a six-week hiatus between bootcamps, I had an opportunity to create a React Testing course that taught content I wanted to learn but couldn’t find on Udemy. I wanted to remedy the lack of female instructors in the React space, too. It’s important for aspiring female engineers to know that it’s a profession they should indeed pursue and is very much a viable career option.

Describe your experience creating your course.

I used my bedroom as my recording studio; I hung sheets over mirrors and walls, bought a Yeti microphone, installed video-editing software, and called it a day. The real challenge for me was the course curriculum. I was determined to teach projects that were simple enough for students to understand but difficult enough for them to truly learn the testing principles. It took me months to create the curriculum, but that allowed for the actual filming of the course to take only a couple of weeks. Creating the curriculum ahead of time was absolutely critical—I can’t imagine turning on the mic without knowing exactly what I’m about to say and why I’m saying it.

What was your biggest challenge when teaching online for the first time?

Keeping comedy in my course without an audience! One of the best parts about teaching [in person] is reading the audience and slipping in jokes to keep students engaged. So, I imagined I was teaching some of my former students to keep the fun and conversational tone going.

What have you been able to achieve with Udemy that you wouldn’t have otherwise?

When the Instructor Insights tool showed me I have students enrolled in 74 countries, my reaction was, “I could not even name 30 countries!” I decided to publish a course, in part, because I wanted to make a bigger impact. I knew I was making an impact on the small numbers of students I was teaching locally, but I now have a much broader impact than I ever could have made on my own.

Any tips for people creating a course for the first time?

  • Beta testing is crucial! Get feedback on your course before it’s complete so you know what you’re doing is working. Perhaps share it as you finish each section.
  • Don’t write a script. You’ll sound more natural and engaging without one. That said, do write outlines.
  • If you’re talking the whole time during your lectures, make slides so students have something to engage with.