Udemy adds revenue stream with private online learning sites for companies

Ambitious individuals who want to bulk up on new skills can turn to online learning site Udemy for lessons on everything from web development and programming to accounting and entrepreneurship. And it might not be long before their employers start picking up the tab.

Next week at the Arizona State University/Global Silicon Valley Education Innovation Summit, the online learning startup plans to launch a new corporate training program that enables companies to create private online learning sites for their employees.

“The general idea here is that, ultimately, employers and managers can work with their team members to develop individual learning plans,” said Dennis Yang, Udemy’s COO.

Since launching in 2010, the company has focused on individuals, with a site that enables anyone to create an online course and then sell it or offer it to students for free. But expanding into corporate training opens up a new and potentially big revenue stream for the company.

Veteran online learning site lynda.com, for example, has built a profitable business by collecting subscription fees from individuals and corporate clients. It’s also an area that other new online learning sites, like Codecademy or Skillshare, could ultimately look to for money-making opportunities.

With the new program, corporate clients can select content from Udemy’s library of 7,000 premium and free courses and provide it to employees through a secure site bearing the company’s branding. They can also use Udemy to create their own online courses and view analytics on employee activity and performance.

To start, the company said it will waive access fees, so corporate clients only pay for the cost of the content. Yang said that, for now, it offers corporations bulk purchasing discounts but will ultimately offer subscription pricing.