What kind of Udemy Instructor or Student are you?


Does Your Approach as an Instructor Fit with your Student? And Vice-Versa?

As part of my ongoing analysis of Udemy Instructor strategies, I have noticed that different instructors are employing different strategies and that many are achieving success, despite taking a different tack to others!

If you are an Instructor or a Student, it matters that your interests and approach are aligned.

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Therefore it is worth spending some time understanding some of the different approaches as these can be adopted and your courses improved by recognising how, as an instructor, you can implement strategies which will help your students have a more satisfying learning experience.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Lets start by taking a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

  • Biological and Physiological – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep
  • Safety – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear
  • Love and Belongingness – friendship, intimacy, affection, love, from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships
  • Esteem – achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self respect, respect from others
  • Self Actualisation – realising personal potential, self fulfilment, seeking personal growth, peak experiences

The first two need to be addressed by the instructor and the student before we start making or taking courses.

Love and Belonging Needs can be addressed by a range of courses in the personal development space and student motivations here are very personal and emotional.  They need to feel that the instructor really cares.

Esteem Needs are more aligned with courses which teach skills or solve problems, making the student feel more capable and more successful. Students in these courses need to have confidence in the authority and expertise of the instructor.  These students are more focused on achieving their goal and tend to have lower emotional commitment to the subject.

Self Actualisation Needs are at the intersection of courses which provide new skills and those which broaden the capabilities of the student, whether personally or professionally.  The students in this category are more emotionally engaged at the same time as feeling the need to achieve.   Instructors need to be highly responsive to students’ discussions and questions while delivering a clear and well structured teaching experience.

Instructor Motivation

Lets take a look now at the motivation of instructors.

The first category I would like to present to you are Skill Sharers, who I also call Experts.  These instructors have specific teachable skills which they teach to their students so that they can benefit from these in their personal and professional life. Looking to become an Java Programmer, you need a expert.

The Second Category are Problem Solvers who I call Curators.  These instructors produce “How to” courses which solve specific problems or resolve particular issues.  Need to work out something complicated in Excel, find a Curator.

There is a strong relationship between Experts and Curators.  Both are goal focused and pain/problem solvers. The Experts take a more in depth approach, while Curators cover many more subjects but niched down and in less complexity.

Personal Developers, who I also call Tutors, are instructors for whom the achievement of the student is more important to the instructor than being a “successful instructor” for its own prestige.  These instructors are highly engaged with their students and are continuously revising their courses in response to feed back from students.  They can have a large number of courses across a range of skills and their real strength is being able to connect and care for their students. If you are looking to learn a more subjective skill or solve a creative problem, look for a tutor.

Financial Drivers or Capitalists are instructors for whom the financial success of their courses, as well as their students, is a primary motivation.  They are dominant in the “Make Money…” niche and work hard to create a large number of courses.  They measure their success in the numbers of students and courses and are very active marketing their courses on and off Udemy.  If you want to learn how to sell on EBay, look for a Capitalist.

To summarise then, we have four types of Instructors;

  • Skill Sharer – Expert
  • Problem Solver – Curator
  • Personal Developer – Tutor
  • Financial Driver – Capitalist

Student Motivation

Lets take a closer look at Student motivation.

The first category of students are seeking skills which they can directly apply in their personal, but predominantly, their professional life.  By acquiring the skill, they can improve their professional prospects and potential earn more money.  For them, the skill is the focus, the earn potential is the reward.  I call them Professionals and they are one of the main reasons that Technology Programming courses do so well on Udemy.

The next category of student are seeking to solve a problem or a pain in their lives; personal or professional.  This is one reason why I coach instructors to make problem solving a high priority when designing courses.  These students have an itch they need to scratch and recognise that taking a course from an instructor who knows how to meet their need, is the fastest way to do this.  These students comprise a large proportion of students in the Udemy market place.  I have labelled them Masters.

Next we have students for whom personal development is important.  This can be professional but is more likely to be personal and to have a strong emotional element to it.  These students I have called Life Long Learners as they see their long term growth in terms of broadening their knowledge and experience.  They may be attracted to a skill based course but you will more often find them in the more subjective and creative course categories.

Finally but not the least in importance are the financially driven students.  They are Achievers and for them the course is a means to an end and the end goal is normally measured in terms of financial gain.  What can they make financially by taking this course. Financial gain of course addresses a strong human need for personal security and it is not surprising that the “Make Money…” niche (if you can call such a broad selection of courses a niche) is very popular.  Students here like courses which are clear, well structured and do not contain “Fluff”!

To summarise then we have fours types of Students:

  • Skills – Professional
  • Problems – Masters
  • Personal Development – Life Long Learner
  • Financial – Achievers

Is it possible to identify types of Instructors by looking at their profiles on Udemy?

I have selected six measureable factors which I think may be useful as a guide to trying to identify different types of instructors.

These should be used only as a guide.

There is much more data available to Udemy which is not available to outsiders (student analytics, completion rates, engagement levels) so I have tried to use these as a framework to assist us.

In reviewing this we need to differentiate occasionally between cause and effect!

The Factors are:

  • Course Length
  • Number of Courses
  • Categories
  • Number of Reviews
  • Course Rating out of 5 (star)
  • Number of Students

Course Length

Experts tend to produce long in-depth courses on very practical subjects

Curators – courses will vary in length to meet the need to solve the problem

Tutors – longer courses are likely to be the norm as they evolve and are updated to meet student needs

Capitalists – shorter courses, these deliver faster results for the students and more profitable results for the instructor

Number of Courses

Experts tend to have fewer courses which can be over 30 hours in length

Curators can have a large number of courses and may also frequently collaborate with other instructors

Tutors will frequently have in excess of a dozen courses and may also collaborate with other instructors

Capitalists – high course numbers created on a frequent basis, cross selling is an important part of their strategic approach.


Experts – very niche and focused, probably only in one sub category

Curators – a wider range of courses as they are frequently bringing in external “expert instructors” to teach subjects and skills in which they are not personally expert

Tutors – not limited to one sub category as they will initially create courses around their own expertise

Capitalists – focused on the Business, Marketing niches, strong emphasis on “Make Money…” courses; likely to try to place courses in Categories and Sub Categories which are less competitive rather than the best fit for the course.

Number of Reviews

Cause and Effect are diffiucult to interpret in this factor

Experts – likely to have a high number of very good reviews as their courses are objective in nature and the students are goal and reward driven.  If the achieve their objective, more likely to leave a review

Curators – Less driven by reviews, will see them as important for social proof and ranking.  Not the “Be All and End All” for this type of instructor

Tutors – high numbers of reviews should follow from grateful and engaged students as a matter of course.  Likely to do the least active soliciting of reviews

Capitalists – important for these goal driven instructors.  More reviews = more proof, higher rankings in search = more sales.  Likely to be actively and regularly asking students to “rate and review” their courses.

Course Ratings

Experts – if the expert achieves his goal, these should be consistently high

Curators – may have a variety of ratings as some courses (and joint instructors) will be better than others

Tutors – high ratings from engaged and loyal students who will want to reciprocate to the Tutor in return for the attention they have received.

Capitalists – like the number of reviews, goal driven Capitalist Instructors will regard anything less than a 5 star review potentially damaging and are likely to work hard to get only 5 star reviews (without necessarily breaking any rules).  If you really want to upset this type of instructor – leave a 1 star rating without a comment!

Number of Students

Experts – successful experts will have high student numbers as their students will congregate in the courses where they are most likely to be successful

Curators – may expect to have a wider range of student numbers across their greater number of courses

Tutors – student numbers will grow steadily as loyal students move from one course to another

Capitalists – the most active marketers of all the four types, this instructor may well have given out many free courses in the past (Confession: I know I did) and used to see student numbers as a great social proof statement – until Udemy changed their alogrithm and took student numbers of f the front of the course listings.

Instructor Type Summary

Lets try now to summarise the four different types of instructors and provide some illustrative examples of successful instructors.


  • Ben Tristem and John Purcell
  • Delivering specific skills based teaching
  • Fewer courses, long and in-depth
  • Frequent updates
  • Strong rapport with Students
  • Marketing less important and relies more on Udemy promotions and support


  • Alun Hill
  • Higher number of courses across a range of subjects
  • Broadening subject and categories through joint venturing
  • Very strong rapport with students and very active responding to questions and discussions
  • High number of repeat purchasers
  • Little or no marketing


  • Jerry Banfield
  • High number of courses
  • Active marketing on and off Udemy
  • High level of messaging; Promotional and Educational
  • Often open about earnings level (in blogs, courses and Udemy studio)


  • Stone River eLearning
  • High number of multi-instructor courses
  • “School” of learning approach
  • Often found on a wide number of platforms as well as Udemy
  • Likely to have a well established website also selling courses

A Word on Pricing

A quick word on pricing.  In a market place you would expect price to pay a significant role in this sort of analysis.  However, with Udemy’s prevalent discount offers, price is almost the least important factor when evaluating course strategies and instructor and student types.

Courses are either “in” the discount programme or “out”.  This is done at instructor level and not course level although Instructors may choose whether to be in/out of Fixed Price offers and/or Percentage Discount offers (limited to 75% of the list price).

In effect as the fixed price offers are between $10 and $19, these are the most frequent levels at which courses are purchased.  Instructors, for the most part, are resigned to accepting this as the “price” they have to accept if they want to have their courses in the market.  Students, regardless of type, clearly prefer to get the best deal on a course that they can, whether from a Udemy or an Instructor offer.

Categories Summarised

This is my short hand summary of which categories are most aligned with which types of instructors.  This is of course a very simplistic interpretation.

  • Development – Experts/Curators
  • Business – Capitalists
  • IT & Software – Experts/Curators
  • Office Productivity
  • Personal Development
  • Design – Tutors
  • Marketing – Capitalists
  • Lifestyle – Tutors
  • Photography – Tutors
  • Health and Fitness – Tutors
  • Teacher Training – Experts
  • Music – Experts
  • Acacdemics – Experts
  • Language – Experts
  • Test Prep – Experts

Student Test

Student and Motivation.001

Score yourself out of 10 for each Student Motivation

  • Skills 
  • Problems
  • Personal Development
  • Financial

What is your dominant Motivation and your secondary Motivation?

Score yourself out of 10 for each Student Type

  • Professional
  • Masters
  • Life Long Learner
  • Achievers

What is your dominant Type and your secondary Type?

Instructor Test

Student and Motivation.002

Score yourself out of 10 for each Instructor Motivation

  • Skill Sharer – Practical
  • Problem Solver – Emotional, How To
  • Personal Developer – Student Focused
  • Financial Driver – Money Focus

What is your dominant Motivation and your secondary Motivation?

Score yoursefl out of 10 for each Instructor Type:

  • Expert
  • Curator
  • Tutor
  • Capitalist

What is your dominant Type and your secondary Type?

Did You Find This Helpful?

I hope you find this framework food for thought!  I am sure it is not the last word on the subject and if you want to discover more about Udemy and its Instructors and Students, considering enrolling in one of my Udemy or joining my mailing list to receive more stimulating content about Udemy and its courses.

6 thoughts on “What kind of Udemy Instructor or Student are you?”

  1. I am a older disabled veteran man and just enjoy learning. I enjoy Udemy because I don’t have to load up my computer space with anything. I have always studied on mostly design and etc. When I found Udemy on line, I was excited and I watch for every discount I can find about any subject but try to stick to the matters that I enjoy. I would like to have a source of all instructors and what they write about. If you know where I could get this, please let me know. This would help me searching on Udemy and etc. Enjoyed your article

    Thank you

    1. Kenneth, thanks for your comment. If you drop me an email at john'[at]jbdcolley.com I will share my Udemy Directory with you. This is a Udemy Course which contains a database which I have created of 21,500+ courses from over 9,100 instructors. You will need to download a free viewer from Visokio.com to access the Omniscope Viewer file that I provide and learn to use it (tutorials included). This will give you a chance to browse Udemy like never before!
      Best regards John

  2. I think Abraham Maslow’s work is a classic and have taught it at the college level for years. As a former psychotherapist and counselor, I began to see that Maslow was, frankly, out of date substantially. So, I began to write some articles based on new research basically saying that today’s people are not so simple or logical or hierarchical in their “current needs” etc. I published some new ideas. Met with a cold shoulder because I was assaulting the icon of motivation theory….I was killing Daddy. I loved Maslow as a psychologist. He turned psychology on its ear…he and Carl Rogers were the first humanistic psychologists to make a dent in Behaviorism, the dominant but de-humanizing theory of the times. Maslow and Rogers pushed on despite the criticism and – so to speak – won out. BUT: Typewriters have been replaced with keyboards. Board games with video games. I.e., times have changed and so have people – in 1st world countries at least. I developed a rather sophisticated replacement called Prime Movers Theory. It accounts for our jumping around from one motivation to another in a blink of an eye…we no longer stay in a ‘stage’ for a while and ‘graduate’ to the next level. We go from hunger to self-actualizing to love and belongingness in a single minute easily, fluidly. I would be glad to share Prime Mover Theory with anyone interested. [No it is NOT a Udemy course! LOL]

  3. Maslow is spelt with a “W” at the end!

    I’m really not sure how an instructor of any type can address a student’s biological and physiological needs! Air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex and sleep cannot be addressed through any online learning!

    1. Hi Adam, thanks for the spelling correction! Quite right! I also agree that the primary needs cannot be addressed by online courses! “The first two need to be addressed by the instructor and the student before we start making or taking courses.”
      Best regards

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