How Data Scientist Frank Kane Leverages Online Course Marketplaces for Maximum Growth

October 19, 2020
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In today’s episode, you will get to hear from Frank Kane, who is a data scientist and has built a massive student audience in the fields of big data and machine learning.

You will also hear how he has built his business to over two million dollars in revenue, how he leverages third-party marketplaces like Udemy, and the strategies he has in place when creating, producing, and publishing a new course.

Website: Sundog-Education.com
YouTube: SundogEducation
Facebook: SundogEdu
LinkedIn: SundogEducation
Twitter: SundogEducation

Notes

In this episode, you will hear...

… how Frank went from doing contract work for educational companies to publishing his first course on Udemy.

… one of the most important pieces of course creation you need to consider.

… the tool Frank uses to find out demand and the competition for a particular subject before teaching it.

… how different platforms can help you determine where to host your online course.

… the new opportunities course creators have today that you can benefit from.

… the differences with his courses on his own website versus the online course marketplaces.

… how Frank is able to drive consistent traffic to his different online courses.

… Frank’s advice for new online course creators and where to host their course when starting out.

… how Frank is able to leverage YouTube and his marketing strategy for the platform.

… Frank’s email, social media, and promotional strategy for on and off of Udemy.

… the way he is able to manage 400,000+ students in his online courses.

… why Frank decided to work with other instructors and how co-instructing can help new instructors to the platform.

… the best methods for dealing with piracy of your online courses.

… the technology that Frank recommends for recording and publishing.

… Frank’s ideas for the future and the plans he has for Sundog Education.

Resources

Transcript

Jeremy Deighan
Hey, everyone, thank you for checking out the podcast today. We have Frank Kane from Sundog Education. How's it going today?

Frank Kane
Doing great. Thanks for having me.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, definitely. It's, I'm happy to have you on the podcast. And today, we're just gonna hear about how you got started with online courses. And I know you've had some pretty major success. And I'm super happy to hear about how you got started and what you've been up to lately. So let's just hear a little bit of a story of what got you into online courses in the first place.

Frank Kane
Yeah, I mean, it was kind of a happy accident, to be honest.

So back in 2012, I quit my day job so to speak at Amazon.com in Seattle, because we just couldn't take the weather in Seattle anymore. So we picked up and moved to Florida. So you know, I was in this point where I'm like, well, maybe I should try self-employment, see how that goes.

For a while I was just doing like contract gigs, you know, trading my time for money doing like software engineering work. And that that got old real fast, right?

So one day, I ended up doing a contract gig for a company in New York called General Assembly where I was doing some curriculum development for them related to recommender systems, and machine learning and data science, which is what I did at Amazon. And after doing that, I got a call out of the blue from Udemy, a few months later, and they're like, "Hey," mind you, this is back in like 2014, 2015.

They're like, "Hey, we need someone to teach big data and data science on our platform. We are, we don't have enough instructors for that. You want to give it a try?"

And I'm like, well, what do I have to lose, right? How hard can it be?

Little did I know. It's hard.

But yeah, that's kind of how it got started. So, you know, in 2015, I think it was I published my very first course on Hadoop. And, you know, initially, it was a flop to be honest, you know, the first month made, like 200 bucks or something like that. But nevertheless, I persisted. So, you know, that's kind of like one of the big lessons is just to not give up too soon. And we can talk about that a little bit more later.

But, you know, building upon that, first course, you know, I built a second course that I could market to from the students in that first course. And today, I have about 12 courses out there. And they've reached to over 500,000 enrollments on Udemy alone, and even more, if you count other platforms out there.

Jeremy Deighan
Nice. That's awesome. Yeah, it's, uh, I've seen your success over the years, you know, 2014, 2015 was still kind of the early days of the platform. And so you've been on that platform for quite a while, and definitely one of the top instructors. So going back to that first course, you, had you ever made anything like that before? Or was this your first time doing videos and audio and those kinds of things?

Frank Kane
Yeah, it was really my first time doing that stuff. You know, I did some training, you know, in person at Amazon.com, once in a while for like training new employees and things like that. But that was the first time I had to be an AV guy.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah. And it is, can be pretty tricky. Figuring all the technology out and all the different things that you have to do. So, so what was it like when you, when you're putting up that first course? I mean, you said you launched it, and it made a little bit of money. But how were you feeling at that time? Were you like, super excited? Or was it kind of defeating after you made those first sales?

Frank Kane
Honestly, it was a little bit disappointing. You know, I mean, I kind of went into Udemy, looking at the list prices that people were charging, as opposed to what they were actually getting, which is, you know, can be a pretty big difference. And doing the math saying, "Oh, my gosh, this person has, you know, thousands of students at $100 a pop, I'm going to get rich," right?

And, you know, I think a lot of new people coming to the platform have some of those same misconceptions, you know, you have to realize that a lot of these instructors are inflating their student counts with free students. And people never, well, they rarely buy for full list price.

But you know, the name of the game is volume. So, you know, over time, you know, I started to realize that if I can just start building on this audience and expanding that audience, you know, even if the amount that I'm getting per student is relatively small, when you have hundreds of thousands of students, it adds up to something significant. So you know that, that's a strategy I took, I just tried to like, take that initial audience...

The first thing I did actually was creating a free course. I'm not sure I'd recommend doing this today. But what I did was I created a short one hour free course that was sort of like a general high level overview of my paid course. And in the bonus lecture of that free course I pointed to the paid course that I developed as my first paid course. And at the time that actually worked and funneled enough, you know, new students and new reviews into that course for it to finally take off, you know, and get the reviews that Udemy's algorithms want to see. And the, and the conversion rates that Udemy's algorithms want to see to start promoting it. That was a lot easier back then when there was less competition on the platform, obviously. But that's really how that one got jump started.

Jeremy Deighan
So talking to someone who maybe hasn't made a course before, and they're considering creating their own online course. And they're deciding between Udemy and other platforms and say they want to put a course on Udemy. If you don't recommend the free course strategy in the beginning, what would, what would be your recommendation for someone who's brand new, who doesn't have any students or audience on Udemy already?

Frank Kane
Yeah, the important thing is really to be really careful with your topic selection, right? So I see a lot of people coming onto Udemy, as first time instructors, and they're teaching some topic where there's already 1,000 other teachers established in that topic. That is not a recipe for success.

So it doesn't mean that you don't have to teach what you love, you know, it just means you have to maybe refine that down to something a little bit more unique in the marketplace, you know? Can you find some, some niche of your topic that you know about, or some subset of it that does not have a lot of competition, but it's still in demand? Right?

My advice to new instructors is to go familiarize yourself with the Udemy insights tool. And that can give you all sorts of great information about the current demand for a topic that your student teaching. And also the current competition, it even shows you the top selling courses in that topic. So you can go there and look at them and ask yourself, can I do a better job than this? Can I actually have a shot at being the best course in this topic? And that's, that's the way you become successful.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, so say someone goes and they, they know how to do something, let's just use data science, for instance. They are a data scientist, they go on Udemy. And they see that it is already, has a lot of instructors and courses. And, you know, maybe they're thinking to themselves, you know, I don't know if I could come on this platform. Do you feel like it's already too saturated? In some instances? Would you still recommend people to give it a shot? Or would you direct them maybe to try somewhere else?

Frank Kane
You know, I, to this day, Udemy is still my major cash cow by and large. So you know, I'd be very hesitant to point people at any other platform unless they have a topic that resonates more with a different platform. You know, for example, Skillshare is a good place for people teaching art and you know, creative stuff.

But you know, if you're careful enough of topic selection. Let's take data science as the example, like you said. There's a lot of like niche topics within data science. Maybe you know, computer vision, or you know, how to manually mark up images in a test data set or things like that. These might be very specific technical skills that people are searching for. But there is no course that is specifically about that topic. So if you can, there are still opportunities to be the first mover on things like that.

Another field is certification exams. So there are new certification exams coming out all the time. These presents new opportunities for people to jump in and produce a quality course to prepare people for those exams. So you really just have to be, you know, cognizant of the opportunities that are out there, and they're still there. They're just not as easy to find as they used to be.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, definitely. I think that's some good advice, maybe niching down into the topic a little more. And once you create some niches, it seems like maybe you build up your student base, and you can start going after the more general topics.

Frank Kane
Yeah, absolutely. Um, you know, it is harder to get a new course off the ground these days, even for me. You know, my best sellers are the ones that I released several years ago, and just kind of been doubling down on them. So I think it's actually debatable if the right strategy, once you do get established is to double down and like maintain your stronghold on that course that did find traction, or to expand on that with additional courses. We're at this weird inflection point where there's so many new instructors coming out there on Udemy. And other platforms, too. That, you know, sometimes the best strategy is more defensive than anything else.

Jeremy Deighan
Hmm, very good. So you put your courses up on there, it's been some years now. And you're seeing, you know, some growth and you know, definitely doing this full time. So what else outside of Udemy, have you been doing? Are there other platforms that you're on? Or do you have any of your courses on your own platform?

Frank Kane
Yes, all of the above. So in addition to Udemy, I'm kind of grandfathered in because I had published on these other platforms before the Udemy For Business exclusivity stuff kicked in. So you can still find my stuff on places like Skillshare, Packt Publishing, Safari, Manning, they've been good. Who am I forgetting?

Those are those are the big ones. LinkedIn Learning, they have one of my courses too. And I do have my own website as well. Sundog-education.com, where I'm selling subscriptions and you know, selling one off courses, too. So that's kind of my hedge against everything else. You know, you don't wanna put all your eggs in one basket. Udemy is a pretty nice basket. But you know, it's always good to have some diversity,

Jeremy Deighan
Right, definitely. So you put your courses on your own website. Let's talk about that for a minute. Are you just putting the same courses that you have on these other platforms on your website or on your own website, are there different courses? Are they more advanced? How would you describe that process?

Frank Kane
It's by and large, the same content, you know, I do make sure that my own website and Udemy get any updates first. But it's the same content. The thing that's different is that I offer a subscription plan there. And that's not something you can order, you can offer on Udemy right now, at least not today.

So you know, people can, you know, sign up for $25 bucks a month, or $19 a month, whatever the special is this month, and get, you know, unlimited access to my entire catalogue. And you know, if you're going to be really going through all of my courses, that can actually be a better deal than what you'll see on other platforms.

Jeremy Deighan
Right, definitely. So let's talk about traffic, because one of the main problems that course creators have is they go out, they create the course, and whether they put it on Udemy, or their own website, the main struggle is getting people to see that course. So do you have any tips or recommendations for how you get traffic, either to the Udemy platform or to your website?

Frank Kane
Yeah, I mean, you kind of have to pick which goal you want first, right? You know, do you want to send your traffic to Udemy, or to your own website, because you know, Udemy's algorithms do seem to take conversion rates into account. So the more qualified traffic you can send to your landing page on Udemy, the more Udemy is gonna like your course, and the more it's gonna promote it, you know?

And I say, like, you know, keep in mind, these are algorithms, there are no like, you know, people in a big cabal in a dungeon inside of Udemy, deciding who and who will not be successful, right?

But you know, the algorithm's like to see good converting landing pages and good converting courses. So, you know, if you're going to send your traffic to Udemy, that's your strategy, you're saying, I'm all in with Udemy, I want to like, become a top seller, I want to get a tag on Udemy. And that's one way to do it, you know, just sending pre quality, pre qualified traffic to Udemy. And that can be from blog posts, from YouTube videos, whatever it is, right?

But if you want to send it to your own website, I mean, you can do that, too. And the same strategies generally apply, you know, paid advertising might be a component there, if you're going to your own website. I have never been able to get paid advertising to pay off, you know, it's, it's never been effective for me.

What does work, however, is YouTube. And, you know, kind of that's kind of a shotgun approach on YouTube, you just have to, like, put out a bunch of your free preview lectures out there. And some of them won't get any traction, but some will. And I can't really predict which ones take off and which ones don't. It's weird.

You know, I have some awesome videos on YouTube that got like five views. And I have one that, you know, I didn't think was that great that has like, 300,000 views. And that turns out to be a really great lead magnet for people buying the full course that that's associated with.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, cool. So I definitely want to talk more about a YouTube strategy and what people can do on that end, but how would someone who's a new course creator, decide whether it's better to go for Udemy and be all in and send all the traffic there, versus sending it to their own website.

Frank Kane
For a new creator, that, you know, really has no existing audience, I think it's gonna be a lot easier to get started on Udemy, because they're doing a lot of marketing on your behalf, right? So you're just sort of helping that along, as opposed to starting from scratch.

So initially, that was my strategy when I was starting out. I sent everything to Udemy. And my goal was to just to make that conversion rate as good as it could be. So if you are getting started, I think that's a good way to go.

I do not think I'd be able to get any traction on my own website, you know, if I did not have that existing audience and that existing mailing list that I built up through my presence on Udemy.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, so at what point would, would you say to someone that it would be better to go to their own website. Just after they've been doing Udemy for a while, and they've got it converting? Or are there any instances where you might just start with a website and bypass Udemy?

Frank Kane
I would say that when your sales are plateauing on Udemy, it's time to start thinking about something else, right? And so, you know, eventually, there's a point where you hit market saturation, even within as big of a marketplaces Udemy. Where, you know, no matter what you do, you know, no matter how hard you try, you know, it's really, really becomes hard to get additional revenue and students out of the platform. Because you've tapped it out.

So if you're lucky enough to get to that point, you know, it's definitely time to like, you know, explore your own platform, you know, try other things that you can try out. And that's, that's how I got that way. But, you know, depending on the topic, people might hit that point, sooner or later and for different reasons. So, you know, if you do think that you've maxed out your potential on Udemy, then it's time to, you know, turn to your own website and start investing in that.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, awesome. So let's, let's talk about YouTube. I know you said it was kind of a shotgun approach, just kind of throw some things out there and see what sticks. Is there any special strategies or any things that you do specifically for YouTube, other than just posting preview videos on there? Or how are you directing the traffic from YouTube to your courses? Do you do any type of lead magnet and then send them to the course or are you just sending them straight from YouTube to your course?

Frank Kane
I send them straight from YouTube. You know, I have enough traffic now that I can do cards at the end and all that stuff that you know, directs people directly to where I want them to go. If you can't do that, then what I did before was just put a link to the course as the first line in the description of the video. But there are some, you know, strategies for YouTube, you know?

YouTube tends to like, videos that have a title in the form of a question that people might be searching for. So, you know, instead of, you know, some dry lecture title that I might have in Udemy, it might be a little bit, there might be a little bit more thought from an SEO standpoint as to what that title would be. Like, you know, "Learn how to set up, you know, whatever it is, in 15 minutes," or, you know, tutorial. Words like tutorial and step by step tend to be popular on YouTube, it seems. Yeah.

Jeremy Deighan
And it seems like YouTube is a pretty good way to get people in courses. To me, it seems the easiest way, because it's like, they're already used to watching videos. So the, from going to a YouTube video to a video course seems to make a lot of sense in most cases.

Frank Kane
Absolutely, yeah. And, you know, I do, also do some original content for YouTube as well. So, for example, some of my most popular videos are one where I talk about interview tips for getting through an interview at Amazon or Google. And another one is sort of like, "How do I get experience in the field of data science or big data?"

So you know, these are questions that people are typing in, and I'm thinking about my students, you know, what problems are they trying to solve? They want to get a job, you know, they want to get through an interview, they want to get experience. So I'm creating videos that directly answer those questions and posting those on YouTube. And then, you know, promoting my course at the end of that. And that's, that's been pretty effective.

Jeremy Deighan
So it sounds like a lot of your strategy, your marketing strategy is sending the traffic directly to the courses and straight to the course sales. Are you doing any kind of email capture or lead magnets or anything like that on any of your platforms?

Frank Kane
I do. You know, I'm doing what Udemy allows in that regard. I'm not using like fancy funnels or anything like that. But the first thing people do when they go to one of my courses is I direct them to a course materials page where they can download the code for the course and the slides and whatnot. And that way, I can keep all that stuff centralized. And while they're there, there's an optional sign up for my mailing list, of course.

So you know, it's within the bounds of Udemy policy to have that as long as it's unobtrusive. But that's where most of my mailing list signups come up. And, you know, I've haven't taken a look at the number of subscribers, but it's, it's in the thousands, it's pretty substantial.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, and then do you ever send out emails from that list, out to your courses? Is that a strategy that seems to work?

Frank Kane
Yeah, I mean, honestly, promotional announcements on Udemy are still the most powerful marketing tool I have. But we do send out monthly promotions to our email list as well, as well as you know, just regular educational content as well, you know, the latest news in the field, you know, what's going on with my courses. You know, what new content have we added, things like that. So it's a, it's been helpful and I actually have a social media manager who, you know, manages a lot of that content and the actual mechanics of posting it all for me. So that makes life a lot easier too.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, awesome. So speaking of social media, what social media platforms are you using? Are you doing any special marketing? Or do you send out your links from any of your social media accounts? Or is it just about building up your brand?

Frank Kane
Both, you know, we do have Facebook groups associated with our courses. And those are huge. We have one that has over 50,000 members now, just from students in that course. So that's a powerful thing to have, you know, potentially.

We also have Twitter accounts and LinkedIn, and there's also a Facebook page. But yeah, we do all the standard social media stuff. And, you know, mostly, it's just for, you know, building up trust with our students in our audience. You know, we just post a lot of helpful information there. Allow students help each other. We moderate the discussions. We try not to be too pushy or salesy there. But you know, if there's a new course, I'll tell them about it.

Jeremy Deighan
Nice. So whenever you, how are you getting the people from your course into the Facebook group. Would you just mention it in the lectures, or is there special, special way you're getting them to enroll?

Frank Kane
Yeah, on that same course materials page, there are links to follow us on, you know, whatever it is. And there's a follow up for that in our, you know, we mention it at the end of our promotional announcements, we mention it in our automated message when a student finishes the course. So, you know, it's the way they can keep in touch.

And a lot of people just track us down, you know, it's a, it's weird, like, I think I get more people that just like search for me online and like, connect with me on LinkedIn, or whatever they find just by searching on Google or whatever. So a lot of it just kind of comes to me, it's, you know? Students really want that connection to the instructor. They want to like, say that they are somehow connected to a professional in this field. And you know, that's kind of part of what we're offering.

Jeremy Deighan
Nice. So how do you handle students? Because I know, you know, being from Udemy also that when you get into the hundreds of thousands of students, and you have a Facebook group of 50,000 people that it can be overwhelming to answer questions, and take messages, and Q&A's and those types of things. So how are you going about actually providing value for the student and being there for everyone?

Frank Kane
Well, I can't, you know? An individual cannot scale to hundreds of thousands of students, it just cannot happen. That there aren't enough hours in the day. And this is a real problem, you know, because part of the Udemy sort of value proposition is that Q&A component, that interaction with the instructor, and when you get to that scale that's very challenging to maintain.

The first line of defense is I do have a teaching assistant. He's a former student of mine, who took all of my courses. And I reached out to him and said, "Hey, you want to help out with this?"

And fortunately, he said, "Yes." And to this day, he's kind of the first line of defense for all the Q&A on Udemy. But still, when you get to that scale, there's a lot of students who decide they don't want to go to a TA, they want to go directly to you. And they will find you.

Like yesterday, one of, one student, actually, one student tracked down my WhatsApp account. That was a first. Another one actually, another one's contacted my daughter, like they couldn't get ahold of me directly, tracked down my daughter's account, and like, tried to get me through her. So some of them can be pretty pushy.

Jeremy Deighan
That's a little strange.

Frank Kane
But this is the sort of stuff that you deal with when you're at that scale. It's almost like being a celebrity, you know, I'm like, thinking of like hiring an assistant or an agent or someone to screen all my messages. It's, it's insane.

Jeremy Deighan
Well, I, you know, that's the hard part of this situation is you want to help and be there for everyone. But when you get to that, that size, it just becomes so hard. And it's hard finding a good method of knowing that you care for the students, and you want to be there for them. But that you can't also be messaging 24 hours a day, it's just not feasible.

Frank Kane
Yeah, I mean, I think the strategy is to kind of scale out that help as much as you can. So I found that my facebook group is a good channel for this, you know, if I post a Facebook Live session, where I just talk about something helpful for the students, that's going to be me reaching, you know, 50,000 people in that group. That scales a lot better than one on one interaction, right? So you can still be helpful. And, you know, let students see that you want to be helpful, without, you know, spending an hour with each individual student, because that's literally impossible.

Jeremy Deighan
Right. Okay. So I also know that you've been doing a little more co-instructing type courses where you might do a course with someone else. Tell us a little bit about that. How's that going? And how does that work?

Frank Kane
Yeah, um, you know, it's actually something worth talking about in the context of new instructors getting started, you know, if you can partner with someone, that might be a good way to sort of cheat and find a good audience, from the, from the outset. But yeah, the partnerships I've been doing have been going well, lately.

We've done a couple of courses on AWS certification with Stephane Maarek. And that has been wonderful, because, you know, he is also a top instructor and has a loyal following. So we've kind of been able to cross pollinate our audiences that way. And we knew from the get go, that we both knew what we were doing. Right, you know, there was no issue of trust there to deal with, you know, we knew, we both knew that the other person knew how to make courses and be successful on Udemy. So that was a very low risk partnership to go into.

But it's easy for these, these partnerships to go wrong, right? You know, I mean, there are people out there who are almost predatory, I would say where, you know, they're just trying to, like, you know, hire people to make courses for them and take all the money. And that's, that's not how I operate. But you know, people do need to be careful when they enter into these partnerships. There are some horror stories out there.

Jeremy Deighan
So do you do any type of contracts? Or do anything on the legal side to protect yourself or your, your courses?

Frank Kane
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, when you're talking about that kind of money, it would be crazy not to have an agreement, right? So, at one point, Udemy had kind of a boilerplate that they offered instructors for putting that together. I'm not sure if it's still available or not, but I kind of base mine off of that.

But the important things are you have clear expectations about who's going to do what by when, who's going to support the course going forward, and of course, most importantly, how the revenue will be split. How are you going to deal with publishing this course on other platforms potentially, and how you split that revenue. You know, when you're doing a subscription products, that gets a little bit hairy, right?

So you got to think through this stuff up front, make sure that you have any agreement that nobody's gonna like, use any copyrighted material or anything like that. Because, you know, you don't want to be dealing with a situation where your co-instructor used some copyrighted picture and didn't tell you about it, and then you have a takedown request on your course. So little things like that you have to think about.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, and so, if you are a new student, and you, you know, you don't have really an audience, and people don't really know about you, how would, I'm sorry, a new instructor, how would a new instructor go about finding another co-instructor to work with?

Frank Kane
Well, you know, probably the best way would be to go to one of the conferences like Udemy Live when they're doing that again. That's how I actually met the first guy that I partnered with for a co-instructor relationship. Because it's better to get to know the person personally and you know, establish some trust and kind of, you know, get some confidence that they know what they're talking about, right?

So that would be ideal if you can actually, like, know somebody face to face and you know, gain that level of trust before entering into that kind of relationship. And you don't have to be like a, you can be a first time instructor and still go to Udemy Live. So, you know, that's, that's definitely a strategy. I don't know when they're gonna start doing that, again, hopefully next year, you know, if all goes well.

Beyond that, you can always reach out, you know? It's pretty easy to find out who the top instructors are in a given topic. You know, I mean, Udemy insights will tell you that. So if you feel like you have something to offer, you know, some expertise, or maybe an ability to create some component of the course that the instructor might be sick of doing himself, like, you know, hands on exercises and coding exercises, or just creating the slides, doing the research, um reach out. You know, you never know what they might say, PM the guy and say, "Hey, I'd like to partner with you," and see where it goes.

Jeremy Deighan
Nice. Awesome. So I know another problem that students have is piracy on the internet. So, you know, courses that are being taken and putting on other websites or put on YouTube. How are you battling that?

Frank Kane
Oh, man, it is definitely a big problem. Um, so I do a few things. First of all, I do not enable downloads on my videos. I know people can get them through other means. But I don't want to make it any easier than it has to be, right? So that's, that's step number one. I mean, even if students are begging you to enable downloads on your videos, don't do it. If they want to, like view your content offline, they can use the mobile app to do that if they want to. So that's the first line of defense.

The second is making sure that there's watermarks on all my content, copyright notices on all of my content. I don't make the you know, raw PPTs of my slides available, I make them available in PDF form. So it's hard to get rid of that watermark. So in the event that it does leak out, you know, someplace where it shouldn't be, at least they'll still you know, see my name and see where to come and get my courses legitimately if they so desire.

And beyond that is just diligence. So, you know, once a month, we have the unglamorous task of going through all the practice exams on Udemy in our topic and buying them all and making sure nobody stole my questions, for example, and, you know, you just have to put some effort into it, unfortunately.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, it's a, definitely can be a problem. I've found just through the years that I almost don't even pay attention to it anymore. Because people are going to do it, right? And you can't stop it. It's a little ridiculous, but the people I think, who care about you and, and are interested in you are going to pay regardless, so...

Frank Kane
And the other thing too is you know, your, your loyal students will often tell you when something really egregious is going on, right? So if somebody does something like take your, your course and re-upload it on the same platform under their own name, Odds are you'll hear about that from a student. So, they're kind of my eyes and ears on a lot of that stuff.

Jeremy Deighan
Awesome. So just real quick, is there any, I just want to hear, is there any pieces of technology, software, equipment, or anything that you recommend for someone getting into course creation that you really like or you think will help out with creating a course?

Frank Kane
Boy, yeah, I mean, it depends on your budget, of course, right? You know, I think the biggest mistake I made in my first course, was being cheap. There was no need for it, you know? I didn't want to risk any money at all.

So I actually used my cell phone to record the whole thing. I used the Blue Yeti mic, which isn't a bad choice, actually. But it's just what I had lying around. And instead of a light, I actually stuck a monitor in front of my face with a white screen on it. Really, really low budget, low tech approach. And it worked, you know, it actually looks decent.

But I would recommend, if nothing else, buy a decent ring light or something like that, if you're going to be on camera at all. Good lighting is probably the simplest thing you can do to make your videos look better.

And from a technology standpoint, make sure you have a decent microphone. You want make sure it sounds good. Good microphone placement and the, how quiet your environment is often counts more than the mic itself. But you know, get what you can afford. I'm using a Shure SM7B right now, which I'm in love with.

Jeremy Deighan
Sounds great.

Frank Kane
And it's a dynamic microphone. So the advantage of that is that you can't actually hear all the construction going on outside of my window because it's not a very sensitive mic, which makes life a lot easier. So that's that's one tip too.

For software, I'm just using Camtasia. I've been using that for years, I'm still happy with it. So it doesn't have to be complicated guys, you know? Like you can get away with just using a cell phone and a relatively inexpensive mic and inexpensive software and still get good results. It's your presentation skills and how you teach that's far more important.

Jeremy Deighan
So going off of that, what are some other just general tips that you could get, give someone starting out, whether it be on how to teach or how to present or how to create the course?

Frank Kane
You know, when I look at other courses, the main thing I see is that they're just not engaging. The presenter is talking in a monotone and they are just maybe reading from a script, I can't really tell. But you can tell they're not really excited about what they're teaching, right? So many courses are delivered that way.

So you know, just make sure that you have good energy, you know, record at a time when you're the most alert, you know? Don't do it right after lunch, when you have like a sugar crash, or whatever it is. Be excited, you know, and if you're not teaching something you're excited about, gosh, that's problem number one.

So that's the main thing, you know, just make sure that you're an engaging presenter. And that's really what students are looking for. And that's what they're rating at the end of the day.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, definitely. I go back and look at my first course, and I just, oh, it was rough.

Frank Kane
Oh, yeah, we all learn.

Jeremy Deighan
Awesome. So where do you see yourself going from here? I mean, you've had some great success on Udemy. You have your courses on all the other platforms. Where do you see taking Sundog Education or any of your other business from this point?

Frank Kane
Well, this might sound weird, but my goal isn't really to grow anymore, you know? I just want to kind of maintain what I have, because I'm happy with it. So you know, we're closing in on $2 million in revenue on Udemy, in a month or two, I think. And it's hard to push it farther than that, quite honestly, you know? There are people who make more, but I'm making enough to be comfortable.

So like I said earlier, it's kind of more of a defensive play at this point, you know? I want to make sure that the courses that I do have out there are continually getting better, continually remain competitive with the other courses out there. So I'm spending my time just, you know, creating more and more content for the courses I have, and keeping them up to date. So that's really my strategy now and for the foreseeable future.

Just making sure that I always have one of the best data science, machine learning courses on the market, I have the best Elasticsearch course on the market, whatever it is, and just sort of like defending that position, to make sure that what I have at least doesn't go away.

Jeremy Deighan
So do you believe that it is better to keep refining a course? Or do you think it's better to keep producing more courses?

Frank Kane
It depends on whether or not you have a hit or not, right? So you know, if you have, you know, gotten lucky and found a course that does have traction and is doing well, I think today, at least on Udemy, the best strategy is to double down on that course and defend your position. Because like I said, there's so much competition with other instructors right now, it's very hard for a new course to get off the ground. So it's often better to build on the success you have, you know, sort of double down on that rather than trying to create a whole new success with a new course.

Jeremy Deighan
Hmm. So you have these courses and I know you're playing the defensive role now. But just looking out, say, five or 10 years from now, where do you see online education going? And what do you think you might be doing at that point, assuming things just kind of stay the way they are?

Frank Kane
Yeah, it's, it's hard to say. Obviously, like, online education is going through a big transformation right now, you know, just because of the demand for, you know, learning at home, and we're seeing these platforms just take off in ways that are unbelievable lately.

I don't know where it's gonna head to be honest, you know, I, my personal opinion, is that there's gonna have to be some sort of correction from the flood of new instructors that are coming into the market. I think there's going to be more and more of a demand for curated content, you know, and that's what we see with like the growth of Udemy For Business, for example. , you know, students are going to be more concerned with how do I know that I'm buying a good course, you know, from someone that actually knows what they're talking about, and solving that problem for them? Because there's no, there's no shortage of courses on any topic. The problem is, students make sure they're getting a good one.

So I guess that's a long way of saying that, I think, you know, platforms that are doing more curation, are going to be where it's at. And I hope to be a part of that going forward. And that might mean, ultimately, you know, more different forms of education, you know? I think people are going to want more live interactions with instructors in a way that is scalable. But by and large, it's hard to imagine how it will change fundamentally, you know? I mean, there's only so many ways to teach stuff online.

You know, you can have these interactive exercises that you can do on your, on your screen together with an instructor, you can have video. Beyond that, I don't know what innovations five years hold, but I don't see it changing that much. I just see it getting bigger and more curated.

Jeremy Deighan
So have you done any live events recently, since you have been an online instructor?

Frank Kane
Apart from the occasional Facebook Live, I've been avoiding them.

Jeremy Deighan
But like in person events, like one on one, like in a, in a room with people?

Frank Kane
No, I mean, I get requests for that. They never want to pay for you though. So it's kind of hard to justify, you know, they're like, "I'll fly to Europe and give a talk, you know, for the exposure." I'm like, "No, thanks. I have enough exposure already. Thank you very much."

Jeremy Deighan
Have you thought about doing any of your own events?

Frank Kane
Uh, I haven't really. Um, one thing that I really liked about the lifestyle of an online instructor is the freedom that it gives you and the personal freedoms. So I try to like avoid situations where I have to be somewhere at a given time to do a specific thing. It's sort of a weird thing.

But yeah, I definitely know of other instructors who have been successful with that. For example, Kirill Eremenko, who's like another top instructor in the field of data science, he has this super Data Science Conference that he puts on every year. And I'm like, dang, my hat's off to that guy for organizing that. That's got to be a ton of work.

But yeah, I mean, I get it, you know, it's an opportunity, you know, it's definitely worth doing. And some people, that's what they want to do. For example, Jose Portilla, right, you know, at least a few years ago, he had a big business doing in person training. And if you like doing that stuff, great, you know, Udemy can open the door for that. I just don't like doing that.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah. Awesome. I mean, that's why I think a lot of people get into online business and having more of the digital product, passive income type lifestyle is to have that freedom to kind of call our own shots and work on our own schedule, right?

Frank Kane
Yeah, it's really hard to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it, you know? But yeah, that's really the the main thing that changes in your life, when you have a successful passive income stream, you know, you, you don't have to answer to anyone else. You don't have to be somewhere if you don't want to be. And that gets really addictive, really fast.

Jeremy Deighan
Well, we appreciate your time on the podcast today. Thank you for giving us a little bit of your time and coming on here. And just given us some great tips. I think we covered a lot of different topics, which is awesome. And we just really appreciate you and I just hope for continued success on your journey in online education. If people want to find out about you, where can they do that?

Frank Kane
Yeah, head on over to sundogeducation.com, and that's where you'll find how to get a hold of me and where to find my courses. So thank you.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, awesome. Thanks, Frank Kane, I hope you have a wonderful day and I look forward to talking to you in the future.

Frank Kane
All right, thanks a lot.

Jeremy Deighan
Alright, take care.

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