Teachable Monthly Update June 2016

Ankur Nagpal

| Jun 28, 2016

The first annual Teachable Hack Week is in the books - and it was great.  

When we first announced Hack Week last month, we received a substantial amount of criticism that we were going to take an entire week in June neglecting our day to day jobs to work on “whatever the hell we wanted to”. 

Criticisms ranged from “what about X feature that you promised we’d build” to “is that really a good use of company time?”... but when all is said and done, I feel validated by the decision and we are committed to making this an annual tradition. 

The first reason Hack Week worked out is because members of the team that do not get a chance to work together finally did. 

Each team was built cross-functionally of people from engineering, customer care and marketing. Everyone spent time on aspects of the business they wouldn’t normally have on a day-to-day basis with team members they wouldn’t normally work with leading to a stronger, more tightly-knit team at the end of the week. 

The second reason is it gave us the freedom to think differently. Being too deep in the weeds runs the risk of optimizing towards a local maxima - which is a helpful tool when you are trying to grow a business week on week or month on month - but unhelpful if you want to innovate over years or decades. 

The third and final reason was the awesome post hack-week margarita-fueled lunch on the last day: 

Teachable's June Product Update to help you create and sell a beautiful online course.

(Special shout-out and thanks to one of our favorite companies of all time, Wistia, for generously picking up the tab for the lunch

But on a more serious note… whether it’s book publishers missing the advent of ebooks,  camera makers not seeing digital cameras rendering them obsolete, one of our biggest fears with running Teachable is hyper-focusing on daily, weekly and monthly growth at the risk of missing the bigger picture entirely. 

For that reason alone, I consider experiments like Hack Week not just a fun distraction, but absolutely mandatory to build a company that lasts just not years, but decades. 

Stay tuned to the bottom of the post to see the cool stuff we built during Hack Week - but until then, let’s dive into the other three weeks of the month and see what’s new on the product side. 

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New Features This Month 

Automated VAT Compliance 

Starting July 1st 2016, if you opt into Teachable handling your payments, we will completely handle collection and payment of all VAT taxes for students and businesses based in the EU. 

While we have had a version of VAT compliance in beta for a few quarters now, the legacy system demarcated a certain portion of each sale towards “VAT taxes” and sent you the appropriate amounts at the end of the quarter to file - the new system is entirely automated all the way to the filing so you can focus on what you do best - teaching people. 

If you use our payment gateways, there is no action you need to take - and nothing you need to do. Students in Europe will automatically have a VAT tax added to their purchase price and we will remit the money to authorities at the end of the quarter. 

If you use your own payment gateways, you are responsible for handling VAT-taxes yourself, we’ll pass in customer data so you can see where people are purchasing from but since you receive 100% of each purchase, you are responsible for paying it out yourself. 

Disclaimer: this post is outdated, for the most recent info on VAT, please go here 

Comment Notifications 

We promised we’d have this out soon - and we now do.  

As a course author or school owner, you can set a toggle to enable receiving comments every time there is a new comment posted in any lecture:

Teachable's June Product Update to help you create and sell a beautiful online course.

Do note that comment notifications are turned *off* by default so if you’d like to enable them, head over to Settings -> Email to enable them. 

We would like to eventually expand the scope here and allow you to simply reply to the notification emails to post a comment - but we’ll have to wait for that. 

Reports Redesign and Emails Tab 

While all of our reporting has previously been cordoned off in a separate tab, we realized it would be more intuitive to have the reports live in the relevant section so we could kill the separate Reports tab entirely. 

We started out by bringing Financial reporting into a top-level tab so you can easily access all transactions and monthly breakdowns incredibly easily. We then moved Course and Student specific reports to the course and student profile respectively. 

We also took this opportunity to add a few missing features - the most significant of which is previously when you viewed the report for what a student has watched within a specific course, for each video it only displayed a heat-map of the last video viewing session - we have now expanded that to show every single viewing session: 

Teachable's June Product Update to help you create and sell a beautiful online course.

We also broke out Emails into it’s own tab which lets you with a single click send out an email to any specific student (or students), view a history of all emails sent from your account and customize the default email templates from emails sent from your account. 

I want to hear from you: are there other reports you would like to see to get a better sense of what your students are doing? 

Side note: Want a quick overview of how someone else created their course?

Sign up today to get the Course Creation Timeline which gives you a step-by-step timeline with insights on what works and a reference tool as you make your own gameplan.

Hack Week Projects


The project that won Hack Week in a complete landslide, Vizia allows you to a layer on top of every video and interject quizzes, polls, free response questions and calls to action to ensure that your students aren’t passively watching videos. 

Rather than wax poetic about how awesome it is, why don’t you just play with this embed below and see what you think?

 While it’s still so early in determining what Vizia could become, a few immediate use cases jump out right away:  

  • Using Vizia to ensure mandatory completion of every video by turning on a toggle to not let people proceed until they complete all questions. 
  • Using Vizia as a new type of testing or quizzing tool that’s richer and more interactive than a traditional multiple choice test. 
  • Marketers can use Vizia to generate leads by offering a content upgrade to people that watch an entire video, or gate the video itself and collect e-mail addresses upfront.  

Ultimately, the power in Vizia lies in helping students reach better learning outcomes - an area that a lot of course hosting providers have traditionally ignored, but something we will be looking to innovate on in the coming months and years. 

Shout out to Team Vizia - Sid Yadav, Michael Poage, Kyle Shigekuni, Ashley Hockney and Jade Moody for being the MVP’s of Hack Week.

Want to make your videos interactive?

Give our new tool Vizia a go!

Certificates and Badges 

This has been sitting around amongst our feature requests for a long time and I couldn’t be happier one of our Hack Week teams decided to attack it head on. 

We have long wanted students to be able to receive recognition for completing a course - or potentially achieving a certain outcome within a course whether it’s completing a project, getting a certain score in all tests or watching every lecture. 

With that in mind, the team set out to build the idea of a certificate attached to a course that could be granted either based on completion or manually triggered by the course administrator if they want to check against other specific conditions:

Teachable's June Product Update to help you create and sell a beautiful online course.

Not content with building out a heavily requested feature in 3 days, the team then decided to experiment with the idea of badges that can be hidden within lectures - and unlocked only when you contained the lecture that had the hidden badge. This was a super fun concept to play around with but the verdict is still out on whether it does become a part of our primary product. 

Remindr and Teachable Timer 

While these two projects still require clean-up before being launched publicly, Remindr and Teachable Timer were both built to focus on the marketing behind the selling of a course. 

Remindr is a simple embed you can add to a webinar registration page, course landing page - or pretty much anywhere that lets your audience opt into an SMS reminder before an event is going to start.  

We got inspiration from Brennan Dunn who was able to meaningfully increase the number of people attending his live workshops by simply adding text message reminders and wanted to make that technology available to everyone completely free.

Teachable's June Product Update to help you create and sell a beautiful online course.

Teachable Timer allows anyone to embed a countdown timer inside any email they send to their audience that dynamically counts down from whenever anyone opens the email. This is incredibly useful if you have a limited time launch or a price increase and want to highlight the urgency not just on your course landing page - but within your audience’s inbox.

Teachable's June Product Update to help you create and sell a beautiful online course. We're talking VAT compliance (we know, finally!), comment notifications, a redesign of the reports & email tabs, plus a feature that no one is using and it's making us sad. Plus! All of the projects created in Teachable's Hack Week. You know you want to read this, so click now!

Features That No One is Using and It Makes Me Sad

Did you know that for any student in any of your courses you can actually see exactly how much of each video they have watched? 

You can see what parts of each video did they watch, what they skipped over and even what parts they re-watched. If they watch a video multiple times, you can see a report of each session they watched it as well. 

Teachable's June Product Update to help you create and sell a beautiful online course.

This is incredibly useful for many, many reasons. A few in no particular order:  

  • If you want to ensure that students watch everything in order to issue them a certificate or a passing grade, you can use these reports to validate that people are actually watching. 
  • You can detect people sharing accounts by seeing many repeated sessions on the same video without any clear patterns. 
  • If you have students posting negative feedback saying “I watched the entire course and didn't learn anything” - you can actually dig into their records and see if they are being entirely truthful. 
  • You can generate custom reports for the people who are paying for your student to take the course - for example, if their enrollments are being paid for by a company, agency or government.  

In order to find these reports, simply find the relevant Student from the Students tab, hit the Reports button and select the course you would like to see a report for. 

Happy snooping! 

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Our Finest Content From The Month

The Teachable Blog continued to pick up steam through the month with some great posts from Ashley, Morgan, Allison and our legion of guest contributors:  

For those of you new to Teachable, you might not have heard about our weekly newsletter “Make Change” released on Friday afternoons rounding up the very best content in the world for people looking to escape the drudgery of the 9-5. (Interestingly enough, curated by the team at Teachable usually between the hours of 9 and 5 lol) 

So if you are looking to kill the 9-5, I highly recommend signing up at least for the free resources that each featured person contributes:  

The Giveaway


And then, grab a spot in our Gain Your Independence Day Giveaway and win $1,000 to travel, free Teachable for a year and tons of other goodies. 

This July 4th unlock financial freedom & win everything you need to start your biz while traveling...anywhere. 

What's Happening Next Month

A lot of time this month is going to be spent building for the future - both in terms of cleaning up inconsistencies, adding polish to existing features as well as investing in growing out our teams to prepare for the latter half of the year. 

The only new feature we are going to be expending effort towards this month is thinking through the best way of integrating our Hack Week implementation of certificates into the product. Hack Week worked out really nicely in that regard since we have wanted to work on certificates for a while and this provided the perfect impetus. 

If you live in NYC or want to move to the greatest city in the world, have a look at our new Jobs page that we just launched. 

We currently have openings for:  

  • Operations Manager 
  • Lead Content Marketer 
  • Frontend Designer and Developer for Marketing 
  • Senior Payments Engineer  

With quite a few more likely opening in the near term future. Perks include health-care coverage, all the beer and coffee you can drink and Summer Camp tickets. 

I want to hear from you. Which of the developments this month are you most excited about?

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Ankur Nagpal is the founder of Teachable, who pledges to make you a lot of cash money if you teach online with Teachable.com