Blog - Use Cases
Jan 31, 2023 | Read time 7 min

Q&A with Udemy's Ellie Good - Giving Educational Content Providers the Best Speech-to-Text Tools

Speechmatics' Ricardo Herreros-Symons sits down with Udemy’s Ellie Good, to talk about how best-in-class speech recognition helps aid and assist those teaching the next generation.
Ricardo Herreros-SymonsVP Corporate Development & Partnerships

Late last year, Ricardo Herreros-Symons from Speechmatics sat down with Ellie Good, Principal Product Manager at Udemy, in the latest LinkedIn Live from Speechmatics. They talked about how Speechmatics’ best-in-class speech recognition helps aid and assist those teaching the next generation. They also discuss how tighter rules and regulations around accessibility are driving necessary change in the industry and how the video distribution landscape has evolved since the pandemic.

RH-S: Welcome to our third LinkedIn live. This one’s all about giving educational content providers the best speech-to-text tools, featuring Speechmatics and Udemy. We’re Speechmatics. We convert audio into text. We do it quickly, we do it accurately, we do it inclusively. We want to understand every single voice possible. Ellie! Who are you? Who are Udemy? What do they do?

EG: I'm Ellie. I'm a Principal Product Manager at Udemy. I've been with the company for over two years now. I’m the main accessibility point of contact within Udemy. The thing that makes Udemy special – unlike other learning providers on the market – is the freshness of our content. And the fact that anyone can go and teach. We don't expect everyone to have PhDs, we think anyone can go and teach anything.

It's a marketplace model. So basically, based on course reviews, based on the feedback that you receive, and the ratings on your courses, the marketplace surfaces popular courses. It works similar to YouTube, or a recommendation engine, the better your reviews, ratings and materials, the more we’ll recommend your course.

The instructors often complete aspects of their own publicizing, but a lot of that's on us in terms of promotions and providing the best product experiences for learners. In short, the more successful you are at teaching a particular topic, the higher your rise within the charts.

RH-S: What’s been the impact of the pandemic for you? And the impact of coming out of it?

EG: Because we have the two sides of the house, we have a DTC (direct-to-consumer) market and we have a B2B (business to business) side, we've seen the DTC market slightly dip in terms of revenue. Saying this we’ve actually seen more traffic. It hasn't actually dropped as much as the markets were anticipating.

Our B2B side of the market which we call Udemy business is hugely important, it has really taken off. It has been growing at 69% year-on-year and continues to grow. The two wheelhouses are kind of trading off against each other as market & global economics play out.

RH-S: Do you have different captioning requirements for DTC and B2B?

EG: Yes. B2B is always more complicated. It's the compliance legislation, there's a lot of compliance legislation you have to meet. In terms of the actual captions’ quality, the expectation is always higher. If your organization's paying for something – and there’s a certain cost associated with it – there's an expectation (of quality).

On the DTC side, we model an affordable learning platform. So, there's more leeway there in terms of expectations.

RH-S. Big question, why does captioning matter?

EG: It's all about trust. It's trust in Udemy as a learning platform and organization. For the captioning, we need to have really high quality captions to meet accessibility requirements essentially for our organizational customers. That means being compliant with certain legislations. In America, that’s section 508. In the EU, the web content accessibility guidelines, (which is also called WCAG). Accessibility is of huge importance for our brand and our business. Despite the climate, we’re seeing that accessibility matters for our organizations.

RH-S: What does good look like in terms of captioning?

EG: There's a 99% accuracy rating that needs to be associated with those compliance legislations. That's what good means for accessibility. That has to be closed captions, not only subtitling. Closed captions include environmental cues, names and other important audible signals.

80% of people watch all their TV shows with captions on and that's traditionally closed captions. Everyone will be familiar with Netflix or Disney+. When there's an explosion in the background, or a plane flying overhead, or some sort of action sequence, they'll see the brackets of the environmental cues. For us, it’s absolutely essential (environmental cues, like laughter and music are included) because it means that people who are actually trying to learn are having the same learning experience as everyone else.

RH-S: Which markets do Udemy tend to cover with captions?

EG: We have a huge global market in terms of the ones that we're really big in. India is huge for learning in terms of how many learning hours are on the platform. Japan is rapidly expanding. Reskilling is a big agenda in Japan, both for organizations and government-backed initiatives.

Globally there's a shift towards learning and there's a shift towards skills. Building trust – in terms of actually providing accurate captions and accessible compliance – is so essential to us and for our global markets. Obviously we have a global presence. We're in North America, we're in APAC, we're getting much larger in Latin America. We have offices and amazing teams globally with local market knowledge and we work really closely to ensure we are providing the best experience to our customers wherever they are in the world.

We want to make our videos available in all languages. We want them in English, but we also want to have local language instructors who are teaching courses. Once we get big locally in those markets, we want to translate their courses back to English. It's impossible to say where these trends are going to pop up globally. We want to ensure the best instructors' voices are heard globally no matter what language they're speaking in.

We have 75,000 instructors in over 75 languages on our platforms. There's a big mix of languages.

RH-S: What does accuracy really mean for you?

EG: Every percentage counts with us. We publicize as part of our instructor community and learner experiences that Udemy provides captions, and that they're automatically provided on our courses. We want to publicize that in order to show the investment in our platform. To evidence that we're supporting our instructors globally. That's really important.

If we're then not providing accurate captions – and we need it to be 100% – then it's on us. It's on Udemy. It impacts the brand. If it's not accurate from an accessibility point of view, it’s the opposite to our brand and what we’re trying to achieve. We aim to make learning accessible globally for everyone. That's why we have the price point. That’s why we all come to work everyday. So every percentage counts for captions.

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This article is an edited and abridged version of a LinkedIn Live conversation. You can watch the full video here.