With just a day’s notice, Bluprint has alerted instructors that it’s launching a new instructor dashboard which will combine all student questions into a single queue. The new setup has many legacy instructors questioning whether it’s possible to continue to honor the contract they signed to teach on the platform.
The new dashboard is part of a redesign of the company’s video player. Rather than having two video players (one for customers who are Bluprint subscribers and one for those who have bought classes a la carte), there’s now a single player for everyone. As a result, all questions, including those asked by subscribers and those asked by a la carte customers, are now lumped together with no way for instructors to distinguish between the two.
The majority of legacy instructors, meaning those teachers who taught Craftsy classes before Craftsy was acquired by NBCUniversal in 2017, have stipulations in their contracts requiring them to respond to a la carte customers’ questions in order to continue to receive their current royalty rate. If they don’t respond, they are in violation of their contract and their royalty rate will be reduced.
“I am contractually obligated to answer questions from a la carte subscribers only. I don’t know what happens if I choose not to answer questions. Will I be in violation of my contract? Will my compensation be reduced? Will my class be retired by Bluprint?” asks one instructor we spoke with.
Bluprint is responding to each instructor’s inquiries one at a time via email due to the individuality of contract terms. This instructor reached out to Bluprint for further clarification today, but feels the response she received was generic and inadequate. A portion of the response, which came from Meredith De Souza, Talent Coordinator, said, “Instructor participation in the Bluprint platfrom remains optional for you,” a statement which is puzzling. Another instructor we spoke with received an identical email.
“I feel screwed,” the first instructor says. “The response from the instructor liaison totally avoids the question and doesn’t address any of the concerns that I expressed.”
A hard choice
This isn’t the first snafu Bluprint has created with questions on its instructor dashboard. In May Bluprint revealed to instructors that there was a massive backlog of subscriber questions which had, until that point, been hidden from them. Many legacy instructors were horrified to find that these questions, many of which were addressed to them personally, had been sitting in queue for months, or even a year. A clumsy interface meant in order to respond to the questions the instructor had to click on them one at a time.
Once this new combined dashboard is in place, most legacy instructors will be faced with a mix of unanswered subscriber questions and a la carte customer questions in queue. They’ll have to decide whether to essentially violate their contracts by not responding to any questions, or respond to all of them, taking on extra work for free.
The second legacy instructor we spoke with said, “It reminds me a bit of Etsy in that they seem to have forgotten to have a relationship with the people who make their existence possible.”
It’s important to note that new Bluprint instructors, those who have begun teaching on the platform since the NBCUniversal buyout, have different contract terms and are not obligated to respond to customer questions.
According to Bluprint, subscribers ask far fewer questions than a la carte class buyers. Bluprint lets subscribers know that all conversations on the platform are “maker to maker” and they should expect to get an answer from another student rather than the instructor.
Still, the “Help” section on the Bluprint class discussion page reads: “When you are enrolled in a Bluprint subscription, any of the discussions or questions posted can be answered or responded to by your Bluprint peers. Once a class is in your Own Forever library, you will have access to instructors responding to your inquiry when they are available.” Since the expectation that legacy instructors respond to a la carte customers remains, many instructors are worried about the harm that may come to their reputation if students ask a question expecting a response, but don’t receive one.
The first instructor we spoke with sums it up this way. “It’s totally confusing…and we’re knocking our heads against a really big brick wall.”
Update: Bluprint is now telling the legacy instructors that they verbally released them from having to respond to a la carte customers’ questions in 2017, although the instructors we’ve spoken with don’t recall this release being made.