Udacity is a free app for learning computer programming. It is actually a delivery vehicle for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOs) (Renz, Staubitz, & Meinel, 2014). It is available for iPhone and Android.
Many course materials within Udacity are free. However, to earn a nanodegree from Udacity, a kind of certification or credential that they offer, you have to pay a fee (Udacity, 2016a). The cost is $199/month. They expect nanodegree programs to take between 6 and 12 months to complete (Udacity, 2016b). I assume you would have to pay the monthly fee for the entire time you were enrolled in the program, if you took 6 months to complete the program it would cost $1,195. Manjoo (16 September 2015) indicates that Udacity pays back half of your tuition when you complete a nanodegree. The courses are self-paced, and so the speed at which you complete each course or program is within your control, to some extent.
I enrolled in a free beginning course on Python programming because I know a little bit about computer programming and am interested in learning more. My oldest son suggested that Python is a good language to start with.
Udacity in Education
Within the educational community, Udacity is most often used at the college level. For example, Firmin, Schiorring, Whitmer, Willett, Collins, and Sujitparapitaya (2014) detail the use of Udacity in three math classes at San Jose State University (SJSU). Firmin et al. (2014) mention the perception that only high performing students do well in MOOCs. I assume this is because sticking with a MOOC such as Udacity requires a high degree of personal motivation. In fact, Professor Sebastian Thrun, the founder of Udacity, found early in his offering of Udacity that fewer than 10% of enrollees completed the course they enrolled in, with not all of that 10% received a passing grade (Chafkin, 14 November 2013). While online courses such as MOOCs offer a learner-centered approach where a learner can take charge of and direct their own learning, many learners are not up to the task. However, Firmin et al. (2014) found that with proper support in place, even struggling students could succeed equally whether attending a face-to-face class or using Udacity. Based on these findings, I believe that online tools and MOOCs such as Udacity can play a successful role in formal education.
Udacity in the Corporate World
Udacity is very well suited to learning in the corporate world. Manjoo (16 September 2015) details the case of Kelly Marchisio, a 25-year-old with a master’s degree from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education who completed Udacity’s “full-stack developer” course and was then able to get a job working as a software developer at Google. Manjoo (16 September 2015) goes on to explain that some companies, such as Google and AT&T, now accept the nonodegrees offered by Udacity as legitimate certification. Udacity is a great fit for the motivated working adult who wants to improve their skills or move into a new career.
Here’s how to get started with Udacity (at least how I did it on my iPhone):
- Search for and install Udacity from the app store (if you have a smart phone, you should know how to do this.
- Open the Udacity app. If you’re opening the app for the first time, it will open to the catalog.
- Scroll around until you find the course you want to take. Unfortunately there does not appear to be a search feature. I decided to take the beginner-level Programming Foundations with Python course.
- Tap the course you want to start.
- Scroll to read through the course summary and syllabus.
- When are finished, scroll back to the top of the page and click the Start Course button.
- At this point, if it’s your first time accessing Udacity, you are prompted to create an account. You can also log in with a Google account or with Facebook. I chose to log in with my CSU Global Google account, and so that’s what is shown here.
- Enter your Gmail address and click Next.
- Enter the password for your Gmail account and click Sign in. You will also receive an email prompting you to verify your email account.
- Click Deny or Allow. (I’m not sure what happens if you click Deny because I clicked Allow).
- You are taken to a list of modules within the course that you selected. Tap the module you want to start with.
- Each module is divided into short sessions. Tap the one you want to start with. You can also click the down arrow to download the section if you want to view it offline.
- The first section begins to play. The courses are video based, and so you might want to rotate your phone to landscape orientation.
- Some slides have instructor notes. You can scroll down to view them.
If you close Udacity and then go back in, you might be taken directly to your enrollments. Alternatively, you can go to the course page in the catalog and tap the RESUME COURSE button that appears where the START COURSE button used to be.
It’s pretty easy to follow the prompts that come up. For example, there are quizzes scattered throughout the course.
- When it’s time for a quiz, click the START QUIZ button.
- A short video plays to introduce the quiz. You can let it play or click the SKIP TO QUIZ button.
- When you get to a quiz question, select the answer you want and click SUBMIT.
- You receive a response based on your answer. Click CONTINUE to go the next section.
Learn More about Udacity
The following two articles given an interesting view into the origin of Udacity, the goals of its founder and what Udacity can do:
- Udacity Says It Can Teach Tech Skills to Millions, and Fast, by Farhad Manjoo at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/17/technology/udacity-says-it-can-teach-tech-skills-to-millions.html?_r=1
- Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun, Godfather Of Free Online Education, Changes Course, by Max Chafkin at https://www.fastcompany.com/3021473/udacity-sebastian-thrun-uphill-climb
If just want to see what courses are available in Udacity and how they work, I suggest you download the app and give it a try. There’s no cost to browse and even to take the courses, unless you want a nanodegree.
Chafkin, M. (14 November 2013). Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun, godfather of free online education, changes course. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3021473/udacity-sebastian-thrun-uphill-climb
Firmin, R., Schiorring, E., Whitmer, J., Willett, T., Collins, E. D., & Sujitparapitaya, S. (2014). Case study: Using MOOCs for conventional college coursework. Distance Education, 35(2), 178-201.
Manjoo, F. (16 September 2015). Udacity says it can teach tech skills to millions, and fast. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/17/technology/udacity-says-it-can-teach-tech-skills-to-millions.html?_r=1
Renz, J., Staubitz, T., & Meinel, C. (2014). MOOC to go. International Association for Development of the Information Society.
Udacity. (2016a). Are Nanodegree course and project materials available for free? Retrieved from https://udacity.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/208018403-Are-Nanodegree-course-and-project-materials-available-for-free-
Udacity. (2016b). How much does a Nonodegree program cost? Retrieved from https://udacity.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/207694736-How-much-does-a-Nanodegree-program-cost-