Cole Delavergne has been working in the computer industry since 2006. He graduated 2015 from Baker University with a BS in Computer Science.
As a self-taught programmer, I am always looking for cost-effective ways to improve my skills. It wasn't until many years after I programmed my first 16-bit processor working for a degassing company that I took my first college course. Trust me when I say you can waste a lot of funds on material that will do you no good in a production environment. You can also spend a lot of time on free content that doesn't teach you what you need to know. Don't get me wrong, you can learn a lot off of YouTube, but when it comes to a production environment, these tutorials fail to meet that standard.
You might be here because you saw an ad on YouTube that highlighted Udemy and you were wondering what it is and if it's worth it.
In this article, I will tell you about my experience with Udemy and my research into the company. I will also share opinions on its viability for the self-taught professional who is looking to get into the industry.
Was I Paid To Write This?
No. No affiliate pays me. I pay for this content just like everyone else.
What Is Udemy?
Udemy.com is a unique tutorial platform for Computer Scientists, Engineers, Information Technology Support, Coders, and Web Developers. This platform is filled with instructors in virtually every discipline regarding technology. You do not need to be a professional to use Udemy. Many of the courses are broken down into several sections including absolute beginner. Udemy is like a Wiki of video programming tutorials that are much better than anything you will find on YouTube.
Unlike other tutorial sites, such as Pluralsight, Udemy does not require an active subscription to view content. A business subscription is available at a cost, but any content you buy is yours. Pluralsight on the other hand typically charges a flat monthly rate for access to all of its material. Udemy offers thousands of video tutorials where you code along and learn new skills or improve existing ones. Some of its instructors are on both the Plural and Udemy platforms. These instructors are typically very good at teaching their topics of interest. With that said let's break down Udemy and I'll share my thoughts on what you can expect from courses you may take.
Pros of Using Udemy
- Never Lose Access To Purchases.You own access to all courses you purchase off of Udemy for the lifetime of that course.
- Evolving Content. Instructors constantly update material inside of their courses.
- Self-Paced. Udemy videos are typically 5-15 minutes depending on the tutorial. You can pause and replay modules as many times as you would like.
- Chat Rooms and Message Boards. Most Udemy courses offer chat rooms as well as message boards. If you are having trouble with content, you can ask a question. Some instructors even give you access to video and direct chat options during certain hours.
- Ratings and Reviews. Udemy offers all reviews and ratings publicly on each course. The top-rated courses are pushed to the top of each search for relevant content. You can find out if one instructor teaches beginners better or if another has taught more advanced users better.
- Some Courses Are Accredited. Some of the content on Udemy can be transferred to both Job and College credit. The majority of the courses offer certificates upon completion, but only a few are actually accredited. Make sure to research and find out which courses are certified. If classes are accredited, it will be indicated on the review outline of the course.
- Get Certified. Although Udemy does not offer certificate tests, it does have courses that prepare you for various certification. Certification is crucial even if you have a College Degree. They can also get you a significant raise even if you do have a job currently. Make sure you study the certification and its perks before you pursue such options. Also, make sure that technology is relevant to the position you want of the company where you currently work.
- Beyond College. Some courses provide advanced technologies you do not find a typical college. Most universities focus their CS degrees on C++ and C# or Java. These are popular in the job market but rarely found alone. Instead, Udemy offers a focus on different Enterprise models such as MVC and Domain Driven Logic which is foreign to most CS Majors who are starting out.
Cons of Using Udemy
- Cost. $10.99 per course is a lot if you are on a budget.
- Time. These courses usually are 40-100 hours of content. That's a lot of material to go through. When you factor in coding along with doing solutions and projects on your own, that adds even more time. It could take months or longer to complete a course.
- Not Every Course Is Accredited. Some courses have accreditation, but as mentioned above, not all of them do. You will have to take steps to demonstrate your knowledge on the topic after you complete the problem. Portfolios and open-source projects are the best way to do this. You can also work on projects for nonprofit organizations as a way to build your portfolio.
- Lack of Course Mastery Validation. The reason most courses on Udemy are not accredited is that most do not require a mastery test to complete. Even though professors and professionals are writing this material, the truth is that most do not actively engage their students that much. The few that do are the only courses that carry the accreditation. However, you can still use these courses to master material on your own by using the skills you learn as often as possible. This goes back to the building a profile and joining open source projects.
- Questionable Experience of Some Instructors. I'll be the first to admit that I was disappointed with a few of the courses I randomly selected. Two out of the ten classes I purchased fell short of my expectations. One session was teaching .php for example, but it was clear to me that the instructor didn't understand how .php works in the work environment. It was also upsetting because .php is being phased out in the development industry outside of WordPress and Drupal environments. Learning it at this point should be a personal option as other back-ends and scripting languages exist that are much more secure. While dealing with user input for example, there was no robust validation of that input, and in .php, as well as most languages, that is a huge sin. A .php developer should Always filter, sanitize, escape, check and use fallbacks before accepting data. Hackers are smart in 2018, and your .php could be your downfall. If you are doing a coding interview, a project manager would be disappointed to see the lack of security and exception handling done. This course would not make you a solid .php developer or even beginner. The lack of awareness made me believe the instructor was not as proficient at Web Development as he had indicated in his biography on Udemy.
A Great Advantage of Udemy: Learning in Sections
The beautiful thing about Udemy compared to other sites that offer tutorials and lessons is the ability to stop and start again. Most Udemy tutorials do a fantastic job of understanding that some people have limited time. The most extended modules usually are far shorter than the average YouTube video but offer so much more information. This is probably the area where Udemy seems to excel the most. Out of the seven courses I have tried, none of them have made me feel that I had to dedicate significant amounts of time to them at once.
What Udemy Offers
Udemy offers a wide range of technical courses. These include a range from Web Development, back-end programming, Client side, Server side, and strictly front-end development. Udemy also offers a vast array of courses in IT management, Help Desk, IT Support I, IT Support II, Networking, Database Engineering, IS Management and much more. It has everything you need to become anything from a Full Stack Developer to a Network Administrator. This also includes courses on security and hacking. Yes they teach you how to hack, ETHICALLY).
How Much Does It Cost?
I once wondered about this myself. I was often turned off by Udemy because of its random sales efforts. It wasn't until I took the dive and bought an array of courses that I got an idea of the actual cost. Any course on Udemy, as of the writing of this article, will cost you $10.99. That price is excellent if the video delivers on its promises. The subscription, however, is over $200 a year per person and requires upfront payment. This can be steep if you are starting out.
The other downside is that if you do choose to get a subscription, you lose access to the content if you do not pay for it in the future. Since the material is regularly upgraded as technology evolves, it's beneficial to be able to keep access to it for the latest standards and modules that the instructors add as time goes on.
How To Choose Which Courses To Buy
Every course I have investigated have all cost a flat rate, but some classes are higher rated than others. I typically researched the instructor before I bought their course. I found that some instructors teach in Boot Camps or at Universities or are renowned experts in their field, while others seem to be somewhat new and not as known. The research I did paid off. I bought several of the same courses and noticed right away that instructors like Colt Steele and Mosh Hamedani were excellent instructors for every level. I will admit that some of the less known instructors were much better at presenting the material to beginners while others jumped too deep too fast. In the courses, I had experience in I enjoyed the jumping off into the deep end and learning more advanced topics. However, in the technologies, I was learning it was very frustrating trying to keep up, and I felt the instructors skipped essential details that a NEWBIE would find useful.
Brand New To Programming? Read...
I have been in this industry for almost ten years now so I know the value of getting the skills you need for the job you want. However, if you are just starting, I would really suggest reading the reviews and researching the instructors before you buy the course. I would recommend learning from the beginner-friendly instructors and then stepping up to the ones that are not friendly to beginners.
Fortunately Udemy does an excellent job of including a lot of these technologies in their tutorial modules. If you are a beginner who wants to forgo a formal education, it is very important that you know all of these technologies and practice using them as often as possible.
A Sample Job Description for a Programmer
According to Indeed.com, the following is the most indicated job description for "Programming, Computer Programming, and CS queries". While Java, C#, SQL, and C++ are common languages you learn in College, other technology listed is almost never used. Debugging a run-time error while trying to finish a new validation method and writing unit testing for an upcoming project involving a custom print driver, for example, is a lot to prepare. Luckily, if you have the right technology, these tasks are a lot easier to achieve in conjunction with one another.
Examples of Computer Programmer skills
- Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Computer Programming or relevant Experience
- 3+ years’ software development experience
- Extensive experience with Java, C#, SQL server database and C++
- Advanced knowledge of Windows operating systems and Microsoft software
- HTML and CSS experience preferred
- Ability to focus on multiple projects at once and to troubleshoot problems quickly
- Commitment to continuing education in computer programming (training at employer’s expense)
- Experience with Project Management Tools Such As Tiaga or Kanban
- 3+ Years Experience With Git
Mixed technology is why being able to practice using all relevant technologies at once is an important part of developing as a developer.
A Note on Job Hunting
I would suggest using your skills for charity and non-profit work before you start job hunting. You can expect to spend at least 6 to 18 months working for very little. After this period you will have enough experience to attempt to land a job. You will still be far from a career but the pay should be decent. You will need to stay on top of the new technologies coming out so that you are ahead of recent graduates and your peers.
Why Udemy If You Are Experienced
The problem with most technology-related fields is that they are a never-ending learning experience. However, many people do not take the time to learn new technologies and thus fall out of the market at a young age. Do not let this happen to you. If you see that your company is hiring more and more Node.js Developers and C# Developers, then it's time you take an interest in those technologies. I know its hard, but the reason some developers are 65 while most the others are under 45 is due to their ability to adapt and learn new technologies. This theory is highlighted and tested in this article which is written by Business Insider. The ability to be flexible and learn technology is often resisted by older programmers. Being proactive with technologies is an excellent way to show your company you are ahead of the game. Udemy gives you a chance to do this slowly. You can apply your experience and knowledge to these technologies. This will make you far more valuable than some kids out of College or a Boot Camp.
My Experience With Udemy
The photo above is a quick example of how Udemy works. I spent my money to check out Udemy myself after seeing it everywhere. The courses are broken in modules. The photo demonstrates the Web Development: Start To Finish course I purchased.
In this photo you can see I am emulating the code that the instructor has offered. The instructor makes an effort to go over each section of code and reuse learned code in future lesson. In this module I was challenged to create a photo blog on my own to look like one he had shown in his video. I was then tasked with rebuilding his blog site using the skills we had recent learned in CSS. The instructor provides you with free tools they suggest you use for each course.
In the following example I am using Sublime Text. At the time this article, Sublime Text was still free, even though they requested you register and pay for the full version. I have not done so and do not intend on using this program further. I usually use Brackets or Notepad++ when programming. Both are entirely free alternatives to Sublime Text.
A Note on Open Source Software
Sometimes a little research on Google can give you an array of tools that you can use. If you do not feel like purchasing these tools right now that is okay. However, when you become a professional developer I do highly recommend you do not stick with Open Source Software. Many professional Devs will cry after reading this statement but the truth is the truth. The reality of Open Source Software is that it's often outdated, insecure and a huge security risk waiting to happen. My example of this is the recent hacking or websites like HomeDepot. These companies were using OpenSSL for a long time to secure their sites. However the developers stopped working on the project when they realized that multiple billion dollar companies were using their software but they were getting nothing from it. In the end this pushed large companies to eventually pay these developers to keep the code and security up to date. However, with most Open Source Software that does not happen. Instead it is poorly maintained and often behind on security.
What Are The Other Options?
Alternatives to Udemy
You need to understand that Udemy is not your only option. Udemy is the platform I am reviewing in this article, but there are many options to getting started. It is vital that you have focus and practice your skills as often as possible. Mastery is the objective. You will find that just when you think you are a master, you knew nothing. That is the nature of this industry. Everything evolves at an accelerated pace.
Security, for example, changes all of the time. People experienced with Blowfish security find it shocking to learn that Blowfish is insecure and has been for years. The company I work for still has IT professionals who are running VPNs with Windows XP installed. It's amazing at how much the technology differs from company to company. With that in mind, let's take a look at our other options.
Other Learning Options
- College. This option will take a lot of time and it's expensive. A lot of time, in my opinion, is not better. I do believe that college offers an advanced look at mathematics and algorithms as well as a more fundamental understanding of programming, but honestly, you could teach yourself a lot of this. It would be better if courses like those found on Udemy did focus more on this part of programming. However, a lot of the algorithms you'll ever use are either not that complicated or already available to you online.
- Other Tutorial Platforms- Udemy isn't the only platform available. There are many online. There are even some that are free such as YouTube and WW3 School. I have mentioned Pluralsight, but there are many others out there. Fish around and spend time looking through the code. Keep practicing until you find yourself understanding the syntax in which you see.
- Individual College Courses And Certificates - If you don't have the money to pay tuition right now, there are other options for you. EDX offers certificates for industry standards and courses that give you College credit at a fraction of the cost. You should take time to study and understand which credits will be accepted by your targeted institution.
- Books - I still support the old fashioned way; I love learning from books. Interactive content is good, but books are great. You get to read and understand the gravity of each concept. Instructors will add more material the more critical the concept. However, books are probably best used in conjunction with other options. For example, you could reference a word a used earlier in a book. Look and see what the book says about "recursion." Many books can be obtained online for free. The ISBN is searchable using Google.
An Example: When College Is Better Than an Online Course
The one time I found college to be an advantage was for a recent Print Driver project I completed. I found a lot of information on print drivers online; however, they all wanted me to convert the data to .pdf format. This was not an option because my job was to study the glyphs inside of XPS, extract the data into variables, and reinsert those variables into a glyph on the other side of the database. If I had converted it into .pdf this wouldn't of been possible. So I was basically alone on an island and inventing the wheel, as we programmers like to call it.
What made it much worse is that the glyphs were not uniform nor was there a standard. They changed depending on how much information was entered. Sometimes a name would be on page one and sometimes it would be down on page 3. I was able to form an algorithm and use it with recursion to abstract Unicode relevant to the data I wanted. If I had not gone to college, the chances are it would have taken me much longer to complete that project. So college does have its benefits; however, if you knew what to study, I believe you could learn these principles from home if you dedicated yourself.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: What is your opinion of Coursera?
Answer: It's 45 a month and it doesn't have many real world programming examples. University learning is honestly pointless unless you need a degree for a certain reason. Udemy and Pluralsight are much more cost effective.
© 2018 Cole Delavergne
bapi mahanta on March 13, 2019:
Nice article. Your article defines me how I can earn from Udemy e-learning platform. Thanks for sharing this.
Larrah on August 17, 2018:
You've mentioned pluralsight, IMO Udemy is a bit better. Even though they're on like a marketing war right now. Seeing lots of ads for both, I've started a couple of great courses on Udemy and have started plenty more terrible ones, same with pluralsight.
Find myself using free resources like youtube,reddit or bitdegree now more often than not.