BYU grad strikes gold teaching via online marketplace

By Jasen Lee, Deseret News

Published: Sun, July 27, 2014, 9:00 a.m. MDT

 BYU graduate Rick Walter made $45,000 for teaching his first online class on the Udemy marketplace website Monday, July 21, 2014, in Provo.

BYU graduate Rick Walter made $45,000 for teaching his first online class on the Udemy marketplace website Monday, July 21, 2014, in Provo.

(Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — In just one month, a recent BYU graduate has made a big splash — and a nice chunk of change — by developing an online course accessed by virtual students via a popular Internet learning platform.

Rick Walter, 25, graduated in April with a degree in information systems. Just two months later, he launched a class on Udemy.com, a marketplace for online learning.

Udemy (pronounced YOO-demee) provides a platform for experts of any kind to create courses which can be offered to the public, either at no charge or for a tuition fee, said Shannon Hughes, the company's senior marketing director.

The company offers massive open online courses — or MOOCs — aimed at open access via the Internet.

"It's a marketplace for teaching and learning," she said.

Launched in 2010, the San Francisco-based company offers more than 18,000 courses with about 10,000 instructors teaching an estimated 3 million students worldwide.

Walter, a native of Wilsonville, Oregon, said that in school he considered himself "the village idiot" and never thought he would ever be a teacher.

However, his fortunes changed when he developed an online course on Apple’s new programming language, Swift. Within just three days of Apple announcing Swift, Walter had studied the 500-page programming manual and understood the content enough to develop video lectures to teach the language to others.

"Since it was brand-new, I thought nobody was an expert so I didn't have to be the smartest," he said. "But if I was the first to do it, I could probably pick up on an opportunity."

Indeed he did, when during his first month he was able to make $45,000. He posted 79 videos online regarding Swift, ranging from 20-second snippets to 11-minute, detailed monologues.

The videos were an explanation of what was written in Apple's e-book version of its Swift manual, Walter said. Approximately 5,600 people signed up for the class, he added.

"I want to be a resource for people who read the documentation and need more help (to understand it)," he explained.

Instructors who attract their own students who purchase their class earn 97 percent of the revenue, Hughes said. When Udemy brings students to the course, the revenue is split 50-50.

Walter said he was using the money to give himself the freedom to work on projects, such as developing two apps that were not yet generating regular income. Fortunately, he will receive income as long as people continue to sign up for his teachings.

For the time being, he is focused on helping others learn the basics of creating and developing new mobile applications.

"I would love to make a class for beginners that teaches them how to make simple apps," Walter said.

Email: jlee@deseretnews.com

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1. Midwest Mom
Soldiers Grove, WI,
July 27, 2014

And how is a student to know the quality of what they are buying? Standards matter. Standards take time. Easy money and quality rarely go hand in hand.

2. JDL
Magna, UT,
July 27, 2014

@ midwest mom

Standards have to be developed and i think this guy could

3. JDL
Magna, UT,
July 27, 2014

@ Midwest Mom


I hit submit inadvertently. Apple's Swift is the standard and this guy is teaching it based on his being first to use the on-line resources available to him.

I believe he is pretty smart to see a need and be one of the first to fill it.

Hamburgers today are not standardized but Ray Kroc sure saw an opportunity and made good on it. Henry Ford sure saw an opportunity to make good on non-standardisezd horseless carriages by mass producing automobiles. Bill Gates sure saw an opportunity to be first to market with someone else's brain child.

To say that easy money and quality rarely go hand in hand is not necessarily a correct statement.

4. greatbam22
andrews afb, MD,
July 27, 2014

@ Midwest Mom

Something can be better than nothing. I am not sure if it is in this case because I haven't taken his class.

They say two heads are better than one though and if this guy already went through the processed and regurgitated the information in a more easy to understand way then he already did a bunch of the grunt work.

5. Dr. Thom
Long Beach, CA,
July 27, 2014

Nice project and should make an interesting graduate thesis, but do those taking the course receive upper or lower level college credit and what/which university will grant them usable and transferable credit?