Balancing the Course Load: Udemy Grows Video Offering with the Zencoder Encoding Service from Brightcove
Udemy is an online learning platform that allows instructors to create courses on topics in their field of expertise. Using Udemy’s content platform, instructors upload a variety of materials, including audio and video, PowerPoint presentations and other media to create a rich, interactive educational offering
Udemy instructors include New York Times best-selling authors, CEOs, celebrities and Ivy League professors, who have created more than 8,000 courses. Students can take courses across across a broad range of topics, including business and entrepreneurship, academics, the arts, health and fitness, language, music, and technology. Udemy was founded in 2010 by Eren Bali, Oktay Caglar and Gagan Biyani and has served more than 500,000 students to date.
With Zencoder’s fast turnaround, we can do four or five new versions of each video format whenever we want without worrying about any kind of server burden.”
CEO & Co-Founder at Udemy
Founded by a team of talented engineers, Udemy originally relied on a video encoding solution that they built in-house. As they began to rapidly grow, and instructors contributed more content from disparate sources, the team experienced significant issues with encoding reliability and challenges scaling their internal operations to handle the volume of content.
The team found that it was devoting increasing amounts of valuable engineering resources to managing and trouble-shooting the encoding process. They quickly realized that they no longer wanted manage encoding themselves and that they needed a scalable, reliable encoding solution that would better handle the influx of content, and would allow them to focus on building out the most important aspects of their platform.
Brightcove’s Zencoder Cloud Transcoding service, March 2011
- Addition of video increased students’ course completion rates
- Video encoding error rate reduced from 10 percent to less than .1%, saving time and resources
- Scaled encoding output 215x since moving to the Zencoder service
- Reduced the number of corrupt videos reported
- Faster encoding turnaround allowed instructors to post videos more quickly
Easy, Scalable, Fast, Reliable, Efficient
Improved Resource Allocation and Video Management
At it’s founding in 2010, Udemy did not use much video, but as the platform evolved instructors reported that video was a very effective way to recruit students, and course completion rates improved in direct correlation with video viewership rates. Video engagement soon became a key performance indicator and cornerstone of their strategy.
Eventually, Udemy was ingesting in excess of 5,000 hours of content a month, and the company needed a way to reduce the servers and human resources devoted to encoding.
Their focus turned to finding a transcoding service capable of ingesting the wide variety of video files provided by instructors, while rapidly and reliably creating the necessary array of output.
Udemy settled on Brightcove’s Zencoder cloud-based encoding service. Zencoder provided Udemy with unlimited video encoding power without the costs and complexity associated with managing expensive encoding hardware and devoting precious in-house resources to solving video corruption issues.
“Zencoder has become the most critical part of our content management system, because encoding is an expensive task,” Bali said. “Not only do we have fewer corruption issues with Zencoder, but it also minimizes the expense we would have incurred by assigning our developers to spend time searching for corrupt media files. Now we can devote those resources to other needed in-house tasks.”
Udemy uses the Zencoder encoding service in conjunction with and Amazon’s S3 storage service to rapidly scale encoding and storage, allowing them to effectively manage video processing loads as the company has grown.
With the number of output renditions growing by 215x since Zencoder was implemented, Udemy’s growth and increase in video processing haven’t created any extra server load, which Bali credits to Zencoder. And, because every output video is encoded concurrently, Udemy is able to quickly produce all necessary output renditions, enabling rapid posting of courses.
“By using Zencoder and Amazon storage, we saved on hardware and software costs and managed to scale it pretty evenly,” Bali said. “We’re able to process hundreds of times more video content than before and the load never hits our servers. With Zencoder’s fast turnaround, we can do four or five new versions of each video format whenever we want without worrying about any kind of server burden.”
This flexibility and scale is essential for supporting their growth strategy. Udemy plans to launch mobile apps, with iPhone and iPad apps recently approved.
“Mobile video will provide another way for our users to engage,” Bali said. “We’re very happy with Zencoder and excited to have it with us as we evolve our video strategy for the future.”