I created a Skillshare course and I feel weird about it

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

So in May, I completed the Skillshare Teach Challenge, which is where you spend a month creating a course for the Skillshare platform. I first discovered Skillshare after searching for a viable side gig to replace one I’ve been doing for a long time that I knew needed to come to an end. The materials on Skillshare make a big deal about how their top teachers make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through their platform, which I took with a large grain of salt and actually if you dig deeper, you find out that productive teachers on Skillshare who release about one course a month make around $300 a month, which still seemed overly optimistic for my case. Anyway, I had an idea for a possible course and I wanted to try it out.

The course I created for the challenge is called Working with Scholarly Articles. Here’s the referral link, if you’re interested: https://skl.sh/2YTGicb

And here’s how creating it went.

An imperfect fit

In their materials trying to sell you on teaching on Skillshare, the Skillshare people tell you that they’re interested in literally any topic you might want to teach but if you look at their site, it’s clear that most of the classes are about creative skills and skills related to social media. There’s some stuff that can be translated to more professional interests but there’s a definite creative/social vibe that Skillshare seems to be going for.

Clearly, a class on scholarly articles doesn’t fit into that. It probably isn’t the type of thing people who use Skillshare are generally looking for. But I thought it was worth trying and if it worked maybe I could create a niche for myself as someone who teaches research skills, since no one else on the site seemed to be doing it. Plus, since the topic was connected to information literacy, it meant I could (with permission) work on the project during my normal work hours.

 

What are the ethics here?

At one point late in the set of videos I created for my Skillshare class, I include a disclaimer that the content for that particular video (on how to read a scholarly article) was adapted from a tutorial I’d created for my students as part of my day job. That tutorial is also called Working with Scholarly Articles.

So here I have an ethical dilemma. Working with Scholarly Articles: The Tutorial is available for free on my library’s website. Working with Scholarly Articles: The Skillshare Class is only available as part of a paid subscription to the Skillshare website. Theoretically, I could benefit financially from those paid subscriptions. Is this okay?

Interestingly, Skillshare does allow you to create classes from videos and other materials you’ve already created for other platforms. Their rule is that if the videos/materials are available for free elsewhere, then they also have to be available for free on Skillshare, meaning you can’t financially benefit from them since only paid classes get royalties.

My thought here is that the content of the tutorial and the content of the class is different enough that I’m on solid ground when I say they’re not the same thing even though I’m not very creative with titles. The tutorial is very specifically intended for college students at my institution and the content is very much filtered through that lens. The information in the class is for a much different audience and the content reflects that. For example, the tutorial shows how to search a library database for scholarly information. A database like that might not be available to someone who’s not a college student, so the class shows Google Scholar instead and addresses the choice whether to pay for a scholarly article or not in a much different way.

Despite these differences, I can’t say that I feel good about charging Skillshare for something that my university students get for free but I’m not ruling out making the course a free one at some point. I just wanted to see how and whether this money thing on Skillshare actually worked.

 

Do the hustle

So after you complete the Teach Challenge and publish your course on Skillshare, you are inundated with information on how to promote your class. It’s pretty clear that they are not going to do this for you unless you are selected as the “rising star” of your particular challenge and to do that I’m pretty sure you have to match a little more closely with the types of classes that are more typical of the platform than mine is.

On the one hand, this information on how to promote your work is actually really helpful because it does give you a lot of ideas, though many of those ideas assume you already have a strong social media presence with followers you can direct to your work. But also in advertising yourself on Skillshare, you are advertising Skillshare and attracting new users to Skillshare and it’s kind of obvious that that’s the real goal here, since much of the money you can potentially make is attached directly to how many new subscribers you sign up.

I’m not saying that’s the reason I wrote this blog post. I really did want to reflect a little on the experience of creating a Skillshare course. But if you’re interested, you can watch the introduction video for free on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/GnFdudObZ6I and here’s the referral link for the actual course: https://skl.sh/2YTGicb

 

Moving forward

As of June 30th, my former side gig will be no more. I don’t think Skillshare will work out as a replacement, exactly, but I never thought it would and I’m glad I tried it anyway. And despite my misgivings, I think I might be interested in continuing with the platform because even if it isn’t a perfect fit for what I teach, I think it could be an interesting way to bring information literacy and research skills to a wider audience (assuming I can find that audience!). And it is nice that Skillshare at least tries to pay you for your work, unlike a lot of platforms where the people behind it make money off your content, sometimes without your knowledge or permission (basically, every social media platform out there).

Now to decide what my next class would even be…

 

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