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How Udacity Moved from the MOOC to Get Personal

Posted by Dean Asher on Nov 12, 2015 10:26:50 AM
Topics: Higher Ed, digital content
If you’ve been watching startups in the higher education space, you’ve probably noticed Udacity. Founded by former Google VP Sebastian Thrun, Udacity aims to make tech-based higher education available to students through special online crash courses that help students earn what they call “nanodegrees.”

How Udacity Moved from the MOOC to Get Personal

This model is relatively new for Udacity — they implemented it about a year ago in response to flagging completion rates in their MOOC-style online courses. Students pay about $1,500 (give or take a 50% credit upon completion) for a six- to nine-month crash course, complete with one-on-one feedback on a programming project related to the track of their choice.

While the program is still in its fledgling state, it’s caught a lot of attention. Companies such as Google and Facebook have pitched in to help shape their program to ensure nanodegree earners are developing hireable skills, and Thrun has managed to raise more than $100 million in funds to support Udacity.

So what are they doing to get that kind of buzz, and how can you adapt it to ensure students are leaving your program with a strong education and a skillset that’ll look great on a resume?

It’s centered around real-world needs

Udacity currently offers nine nanodegree programs. Their intro to programming course path covers the foundational skills programmers use, while other nanodegrees run the gamut from iOS and Android app development to tech entrepreneurship. Whatever path students choose, they can develop skills with real-world, in-demand applications.

It’s project-focused

Students aren’t just learning how to code in Udacity courses: they’re actually working on projects that utilize those skills. That level of real-world experience goes a long way in developing understanding of core concepts.

It's personal

Udacity course content is available for free, but students don't pay just for a degree upon completion of work. Nanodegree students also benefit from the guidance of several coaches and other students, providing review and insight on each programming project. 

So what have we learned?

It's too early to make definitive statements on whether or not this specific model will work for Udacity and its students, or if the education startup will need to make further adjustments. But we can see why it's so popular with investors.

Technology has let us fine-tune and customize our education more than ever before, and people are seeing the benefit and recognize its potential in personalizing lessons on an individual basis. It's raised millions for Udacity; what could it do for your school?

About Dean Asher

Dean Asher is a former copywriter with MBS. Though he no longer writes for us, he is still proud of having helped this blog continue to evolve as an industry-leading resource of news and original content.

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