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BYU grad strikes gold teaching via online marketplace

Published: Sunday, 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.

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

Twitter: JasenLee1

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