The other day an email with the innocuous subject line “Update from Skillshare” hit my inbox. Usually, I ignore the messages I get from online education providers. But I’d posted a course on Skillshare, back when the platform was new, and periodically I’d hear about a few dollars going to my PayPal account or get a good review — my favorite called the class a “surprise gem,” and praised my “warmth and passion for good leadership” and the number of useful takeaways.
This latest email contained no such pleasantness: Skillshare was dropping my class.
I wasn’t exactly disappointed. I’d written and delivered the “course” of a half dozen mini-modules for practice, as an experiment in content production. Video wasn’t a goal. I prefer give-and-take: live and in-person; podcast interviews; even webinars offering at least intermittent opportunities for audience dialog, with or without a moderator.
So maybe I shouldn’t have been irked that an instructional company like Skillshare would have such unclear and unsupportive communication. I couldn’t figure out why I’d been dropped, and therefore, I couldn’t tell how to fix the problem. Here’s my first correspondence:
Our moderation team has recently discovered that your class on Skillshare does not meet our class guidelines. As a result, this class is no longer available on Skillshare. For more information on our class guidelines, please visit our Help Center. [Emphasis is theirs.]
We appreciate your understanding as our team works to ensure a high-quality experience for our community. If you have any questions, please reply to this email, and our team will get back to you as soon as possible.
All the best,
It’s never a good thing when an entire company signs an email. I replied:
Can you tell me what changed, please, so I understand? I believe that at the time of submission/publishing I was within guidelines.
Thanks very much.
A response came from an individual person’s mailbox (I won’t use her name). But the language of the response was impenetrable. It sounded like an answer because it acknowledged that things had changed since I first submitted my class, but I still had no idea what the problem was. And the company was still the signatory.
Thanks for reaching out. Our guidelines have evolved over the years to reflect the needs of our students who expect a consistent, high-quality experience on Skillshare. Our moderation team periodically reviews older classes to determine if they are in accordance with our guidelines.
Please let us know if you have any additional questions.
I decided to give it one more shot. I didn’t want to be critical of the person who ostensibly was helping me, but I wanted an answer so I could learn something.
Thanks for getting in touch.
It sounds like my class is no longer considered a high-quality experience, but I can’t tell why it’s not, or what it would take to make it acceptable.
Are you able to give me any more specifics? I would appreciate being able to understand the issues better.
Thank you very much —
Here’s what I got back:
Your class was flagged by our moderation team as violating one or more of our Class Guidelines. Common violations include:
Class does not have a class project assignment for students to complete.
Class does not have adequate audio or visual quality.
Class does not have an introduction video that explains what students can expect to learn.
Class is branded for another learning platform.
Class does not meet our minimum standards for educational quality.
Please refer to our full Class Guidelines for more information on why your class may have been removed. If you have further questions or feel your class may have been removed in error, please reply back to this email, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
Okay, now it sounded serious. I was a violator — possibly multiple times! Unfortunately, my correspondent wasn’t helpful enough — or didn’t have access to the work of the “moderation team” — so, in effect, she had “thrown the book at me.” That is, if anyone actually throws books anymore, rather than just pummeling someone digitally.
In fact, I knew I didn’t have a class project assignment. It wasn’t a requirement when I submitted, and I’d decided not to create an artificial exercise of writing up the interpersonal situation, assessing the communication problem, and scripting what you might say. Such an assignment could ham-handedly have made students think they now had foolproof dialog ready to use. Plus, I didn’t want to “grade” a stack of papers as part of my video experiment.
I also knew I wasn’t going to redo the course. So I thanked my correspondent and planned this blog. But you’d think a business that’s built on the unpaid design and delivery of coursework would be more helpful to the instructors, who are bearing all the upfront costs of course creation.
Doesn’t it make sense to review public correspondence from the perspective of the targeted recipients? If Skillshare wants some help, I’d be happy to put my “warmth and passion” as well as my skill on the case.
Onward and upward —