Today, less than a year after San Francisco-based education startup Udemy brought its online marketplace to the iPhone (s aapl), the company has expanded to Android (s goog). Mobile users on Android can now access Udemy’s course marketplace, which offers Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on a variety of topics.
According to Dennis Yang, Udemy’s COO and President, the new version couldn’t come soon enough: the company spent roughly a year getting the app to play nicely with Android, while also offering a native experience different from the iPhone.
“Optimizing takes a long time,” Yang explained via phone. “You want feature parity, but you want it unique to take advantage of the APIs of other platforms.”
Yang says that the move to Android is a natural extension of Udemy’s long-term goal — to get its course marketplace in the hands of as many people as possible. The company’s internal statistics show that mobile has become a big vehicle for Udemy users: the Udemy iOS app has already been downloaded 1 million times, and 20 percent of Udemy users access their courses via mobile. In addition, moving to Android opens up a platform to more international users.
“The other piece continues to be that we’re seeing greater and greater uptake for users outside the U.S,” Yang said. “They only experience the internet through an Android device.”
While Yang stressed that the mobile apps are more about focusing on engagement than monetization, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the company is positioning itself to take on global mobile learning. But in order to meet the demand, Udemy must have the supply: Yang mentioned that there’s an opportunity for users to learn skills in their native language, with native customs, but that still requires a teacher. The obvious answer would be a feature on the Android app that allows teachers to upload their own videos, and Yang agreed.
“That could be something in the long term — people using their devices to help create content,” he added. “If you could create a good publishing tool that ties into your platform.”
While bringing MOOCs mobile and offline for learning is very important, Udemy’s Android app is an example of the growing pains that education technology is experiencing in the mobile world. Many education startups are just dipping their toes into mobile — Udemy might be the furthest along — and there are still plenty of questions to ask about how content should be created and consumed on the go. Udemy has a unique position as a marketplace rather than a creator — the company’s pool of teachers can decide how their students learn, mobile or otherwise. But the winner will be the one that learns how to meet the needs of every user on mobile, whether it’s their preferred device or their only device.