Skillshare deleted half of their classes and didn’t tell anyone.
No one is happy, no one was notified. But Why?? And where can online instructors turn?
Disclaimer: I am a teacher on Skillshare, so it’s super effective. Also, I do not have a figure for the exact % of classes removed, I estimate around half.
Update: In the months after writing this, I have worked with Skillshare to get most of my classes back, and am having better engagement than ever. I am now more accepting of with the purge, as there are less distractions on the platform from my top-rated Sell Art Online classes. In fairness, they did a terrible job on communication and broke their own terms of service, as you will find out shortly.
I love you. You gave me hope when my courses simmered on Udemy instead of sizzled. You excited me into unlocking a passion I didn’t know I had. You freed me from waiting tables. You took me to South America, fed me, and sheltered me. I am grateful. I will always be grateful.
Now, my things are out on the street. My eyes are red, my cheeks are wet. I am in pain. My fellow teachers are out on the street too. We are out here huddled for warmth.
I look and see a light a far.
“We need to move” I tell the others.
The house of Skillshare is crumbling before our very eyes. Shreiks. Gasps. Smoke and dust all around.
What could we have done differently? How could we have prevented the collapse of our beloved Skillshare?
Okay okay okay, that was a bit dramatic.
Let’s take a step back and see what happened here and what we can do going forward.
What the hell happened?!?
A little history.
A few years ago, Skillshare was like the wild west of course creation. You could put a course up, (actually, you could probably upload any old video) and it would be instantly on the platform, no questions asked.
That’s not good. And it foreshadows Skillshare’s coming doom.
Later, maybe a year or two ago, they started reviewing courses. Nothing crazy, just doing their due diligence.
That’s perfect. Let’s look at this as the pendulum swinging back to center.
Then recently, in November / December 2019, Skillshare started closing over half of their courses that didn’t strictly meet their guidelines. Enforcing guidelines would be fine, but some of their guidelines are not beneficial to the community, or to Skillshare themselves.
This is the pendulum swinging way too far in the other direction.
Here’s a few guidelines that should not be strictly enforced
Foster learning for the sake of learning:
We support authentic, inspired learning: all classes on Skillshare are, first and foremost, educational. Classes help students to expand their knowledge, flex their creative muscles, and have genuine interactions in the community. Classes that guarantee or promise a specific outcome or are geared primarily towards helping students achieve a static or monetary reward (e.g. follower count on a platform, a specific income) are not permitted. — Class Guidelines
Why is this bad?
Well, it’s fine as a guideline, and fine as written, but is being enforced as “You can’t tell students anything specific”. Wishy-washy guidelines like this leave us wondering what is okay. Is saying “Learn how to make a mandala” too specific?
Include a class project.. [excerpt]
.. teachers show students how to complete a fun and engaging project that they can upload to the class project gallery for feedback. — Class Guidelines
How is a class project bad?
It isn’t. It’s ego. This is the personality of Skillshare. That’s great, except it’s too late. The idea of a project-based teaching service was never executed. Since Skillshare didn’t stick to this idea in the beginning the platform became something entirely different, and entirely alive. The lifeblood of Skillshare became all types of classes and students, not just the ones that follow this model.
Trying to execute this idea retroactively is like chopping down the successful tree they have blossomed into.
Here’s the thing. Skillshare did better without sticking to this personality trait. It evolved into something living and flourishing. Something better. Instead of growing with these changes and pivoting, it decided to prune itself just a little too far, and now the apples won’t grow. This is a lesson I have learned again and again, especially building my app, cXc Music. Over the years, I learned to pivot. I hope Skillshare does too.
Not keeping their promises.
“If your class has been removed for violating our class guidelines, you will be notified by the Skillshare team, and in certain cases, you may have the opportunity to update it to see it reopened.” — Class Guidelines
I wasn’t notified when Skillshare removed 9 of my classes. Neither was any other teacher I talked to. Not a single email. Not even an in-platform notification. Not one. For anyone. Not cool, bro.
Also, Skillshare encourages bringing courses over from other platforms, which contradicts their policies of having projects, etc that other platforms don’t have. They encouraged this, then turned coat and removed all of the classes.
The Real Problem Here
Skillshare’s problem can be understood by thinking of Skillshare as a person.
“First a building, then a tree, now a person? Who is this writer guy?” — You
Let’s take me. When I was 16, I wanted to be a rapper. Well, I was a rapper, I recorded 9 solo mixtapes, but anyway, I had an idea of what I was about, and what I wanted the rest of my life to look like.
That’s Skillshare starting out. Skillshare wanted to be a Skill-Sharing platform.
My mixtapes sucked. Skillshare sucked. It’s cool, that’s how we start.
Then I grew up spiritually. I started making music that reflected my desire for understanding consciousness, my excitement, and my love.
That’s Skillshare a few years ago, starting to regulate, but not inhibit teachers.
In my next phase, I decided I cared more about helping other musicians than my own career. I took more time on the music I was making, and focused on building an app to help musicians.
Now, I could have said, hey, I used to value having a big house and a lambo. I am going to forget who I have grown into to make a bunch of catchy dance music that I don’t like any more so I can stick to that plan.
That is what Skillshare is doing. They are ignoring who they have become in order to regress to a previous state.
This was never about improving the quality of the platform. It was really about trying to look better in the mirror, trying to meet a founding goal far after it’s time had passed. If they had done this from the beginning, it would have a shot to work, just like in our analogy, I could have had a typical rap career. But we both grew up, only Skillshare decided to spontaneously regress without considering their community, who happen to keep their lights on.
How removing half their classes hurts the community
Imagine you have a season pass to a big ski resort. The mountain is full of snow, and all trails are open. Suddenly, ski patrol closes off half of the trails.
Skillshare Premium customers instantly lose half of their value
Nuff said. Quality courses were closed. I spent three months on my last three-hour-plus class. Now, the best chance someone has to take it is wait for a sale on Udemy.
This message from a student shows a premium subscriber’s perspective.
“I’m really annoyed to hear this news. I have been paying monthly for your courses but was waiting to go back to them whilst I got my head around Illustrator. Please do keep us in the loop about what happens next or where you move your courses to, as they are key information for me.” — M.S.
This shows that students pay for instructors, not a platform. Are you listening, Skillshare?
Teachers lose half of their income, or more
This is the one that hits home for me. I got lucky, and 7/16 of my courses survived. Some teachers were not so lucky, losing all of their income overnight.
Skillshare is (was) my main source of income. Guess I’ll write more Medium articles..
Where can Instructors Turn?
Over the past 2 days, I have been considering every option. I was pretty sure I was going to leave Skillshare at first, but that was my emotions talking. I love Skillshare and I want to make it work (I know, this sounds like an abusive and enabling relationship).
Instead, I am going to stop relying on Skillshare for income and sell my courses on Gumroad, and also chop up and repackage some of my Skillshare courses that got removed to better fit their guidelines.
Here’s exactly what I’m doing (and not doing)
Gumroad + Medium. The best Idea I have had.
You can sell video courses on Gumroad. No really. People do it, and make better money than Udemy or Skillshare. The problem is, unlike Udemy and Skillshare, there is absolutely no traffic coming from them to your course. To fix that, I plan to write Medium articles with the content of the courses (not a sales pitch, but the actual content) which I hope will drive people to want to discover the rest of my courses and purchase my all-courses-forever package for around $99. I think this will rake in more than Skillshare once it’s rolling.
Bending the Knee.
Sometimes, to save the North you must bend the knee. That’s what I plan to do with Skillshare. Instead of writing code for cXc Music, I will be spending the next few weeks cutting up my longer courses into Skillshare-optimized bites (do I sound bitter? I am very bitter). This means a clear project on every class, and making sure I don’t promise anything in the title. Hopefully this will allow me to recover my Skillshare income. Maybe it will even be better, who knows.
I’m seeing other people.
I didn’t like most other platforms I found, or else they were not a good fit. I applied to two of them (Skill Success, Linkedin Learning). We will see what happens. I am also on Uthena, but haven't had any sales in 5 months of the one course I uploaded there.
The hard route
I considered making a Teachable website, but decided the marketing and setup (plus the fees) are more than I want to get into right now. Being a wizard is a full-time commitment.
Skillshare is having an ego trip and hurting their entire community, all the while adding exactly zero value to their platform. In fact, they are taking away value from their customers, both teachers and students.
We can fight back by taking our courses elsewhere, like Gumroad, and repurposing our core content for Medium articles. We can salvage our income by re-working our courses to fit their standards, with a clear project and not promising specifics to the learner, ’cause that’s a no-no to ol’ grumpy uncle Skillshare.
I just (three days later) received an email back from the moderation team at Skillshare. They actually gave me really concrete feedback, and I wanted to share it here to give you some hope if you are an affected teacher.
Everyone else seemed to get really vague feedback, so maybe they are stepping their game up. I asked for feedback for just one course, and I think that was key to getting a legit response.
Update 2: Things are looking better over at Skillshare. Though I haven’t gotten all of my classes back, I have gotten the major ones, usually with small changed to the I have made two new courses since then. Minutes were up this month for instructors across the board, due to a promotion of 40% off. I beat my record # of minutes by 40%. Maybe clearing off some classes was able to make their product more appealing, as follows their (suspected) thought patterns. Who knows?
I choose to look to the future, and to make better quality content myself. I am actually grateful all of this happened so I can refocus on Gumroad, which I have wanted to for some time. I can still offer my free and paid courses there.
I love teaching, and hope to work with Skillshare (and Gumroad) for a long time.