Udacity is an entirely different and completely new experience in online learning. Originally offering university-style courses, it now offers a free online education in the vocational arena. Its purpose is to help professionals, or those entering the career field, a way to increase the level of proficiency in their field and further their careers.
Since 2013, Udacity has built a small but effective set of courses designed for the tech professional in computer science and programming. They have a unique partnership with actual brick and mortar universities and offer Nanodegrees, which are online certificates that show completion and proficiency in a certain area of training.
Many of these programs are custom-tailored to specific industry needs, which makes the information they provide relevant to the workforce.
Udacity offers learners courses that they can take at their own pace, and they also offer timed programs that result in Nanodegrees. The free coursework is at your own leisure and with less support, without any feedback from instructors and lacks interaction from the other students. The paid Nanodegree programs and courses include coaching, certificates of completion, and for those who choose to pay, Nanodegrees, which indicate the completion of a complete course of study.
As with other Udacity courses, the content itself is excellent. Clearly the makers of the individual courses have thought backwards from “What do we want our students to know?” all the way through to how best to teach the students the content.
The lectures are engaging. The exercises are at an appropriate level of difficulty and are well-motivated. Each of the five projects you’ll complete as part of the nanodegree is interesting, instructive, and would make a good addition to a GitHub portfolio.
What really sets Udacity’s program apart from others (like Coursera’s), however, is the support they give you outside of just teaching data science skills. They set up “office hours” where you can ask questions about the nanodegree, provide resources on how to conduct informational interviews, and identify data science sites that those looking to break into the industry should read frequently. In addition the user community is robust and helpful.
Overall, I haven’t felt lost, I feel like I can get help when I’ve needed it, and I have felt motivated to continue.
Who would benefit most from it?
If you have a background similar to this, the program is good for you, though it will take you the full 10 months.
If you’re already an experienced programmer, and have a GitHub repository full of projects, you can actually just complete the five projects, pay for a couple months of the nanodegree, and get the certification from Udacity -that’s all you have to do the complete the degree. Or, you could just start applying to tech jobs!
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