We diversify our portfolios, our investments, and even our diets—but do we consider diversifying our own skills? In our modern age, individuals now often switch between two or three career paths—but each need a particular skill set. It’s no longer enough to be a one-trick pony. You need the proper technology skills to advance in any career—and you need to be skilled in them to work in any tech-related job.
But earning those skills can be intimidating. When you look at the unique languages of coding, or even hear the words “Artificial Intelligence,” it’s easy to assume those skills are far out of your ability. Fortunately, sites like Udacity are seeking to change that. Let’s find out more about this online course site in this Udacity review.
What Is Udacity?
Udacity sprang out of an online learning experiment by two Sandford professors. Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig created a free online learning class “Intro to AI”—a class that thousands of students signed up for, and had a global reach. That birthed the idea of Udacity, a MOOC—a massive open online courses. Today it has over 11.5 million students utilizing its courses. Udacity is based out of Silicon Valley, and partnered with several large companies there.
Udacity wants its platform to be “where lifelong learners come to learn the skills they need, to land the jobs they want, to build the lives they deserve.” They seek to “power careers through tech education,” so they focus on technology-related skills, such as coding, data science, and AI. They have a student-first model, and project-based learning.
How Udacity Works
To use Udacity, you must create an account, using either Facebook, Google, or your email. Once you complete your profile, you’ll be taken to your homepage, where you’ll be able to see the courses (most common ones being called Nanodegrees), applications, and other projects. Udacity recommends their top 6 most popular Nanodegrees, but you can also browse their entire catalog.
You may search for a specific class by name, or browse through Udacity’s topics: Programing and Development, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Data Science, Business, Autonomous Systems, and Career. You’ll be able to see the skills covered in each course, along with the level of the class: beginning, intermediate, or expert.
When you find the course you’re looking for, you can click on it to learn more. On this page, you’ll see how long is estimated to complete the course, along with any prerequisites the course may have. You’ll have access to the syllabus, to see all the lessons taught, along with the Instructor’s profile. Each will also have an enrollment countdown—but this is simply determining which group of students you are learning with, as you can enroll at any time.
Only once you click enroll do you get to see the price of a course—running anywhere from $279 to $3,000. While some of their courses do have one-time term payments, the majority of Nanodegrees are on a subscription basis, where you pay for the course each month.
Once you begin a course you go through the “onboarding” process—a way Udacity uses to ensure their students’ success right from the beginning. In this, you’ll fill out a questionnaire, preview your syllabus, schedule your first two weeks of study, and set up personalized study reminders.
Once you begin your lesson, you can jump to any point in the syllabus. The lessons are made up of 10-20-minute video lessons, with quizzes at the end of course units. There’s no need to fear these quizzes though—you can take them as many times as you’d like.
Each class also includes projects to build your skills and portfolio—projects like creating a blog, search engine, game or app. These are reviewed and graded often within 24hrs, according to a rubric that both student and instructor shares.
There’s also a Udacity Community, their “social media” that allows students to connect and encourage each other with challenges like #30Daysof Udacity and #LevelUpChallenge.
To complete a course, you must finish all the videos, pass all the quizzes, and receive a “meet expectations” review on your projects. Once you do, Udacity uses NetVerify to check your identity, and then will issue you a certificate of completion. Once you finish the course, you’ll have static access to it for 12 months, and be able to download the videos to keep forever.
Along with any of its, Udacity also gives students access to its career services. These include help creating a resume, a personalized job search board, and help updating professional profiles such as LinkedIn.
What Is The Difference Between The Udacity Tracks?
Udacity offers several different tracks and kinds of courses—each of them focuses on different aspects and are intended for different users.
While it’s not their main tracks, Udacity does offer some free individual courses. With 200 courses to choose from, you still have the opportunity to learn about topics—but without the real-world projects, teacher-student interactions, and career services that the paid paths include. However, the courses are still high-quality, and there’s much to learn.
The next option is to take a single paid course, a la carte style. Theses shorter courses can be easily completed in a month, and include all the features of other courses, ending in a graded project to showcase what you’ve learned.
Nanodegrees are the flagship of Udacity—their most popular and most promoted learning path. These nanodegrees take you through a series of 3-4 courses, all connected to help you fully master a skill. These nanodegrees focus on practical technical skills: AI, Programing, Autonomous Systems, Cloud Computing, Business, and even Self-Driving Cars.
Udacity estimates that a nanodegree can takes 3-4 months to complete—though you can always go faster or slower if you wish. Udacity does recommend against taking more than one nanodegree at a time though—they’re designed to be intensive course. Once you complete a nanodegree, you’ll have completed projects, as well as an awarded certificate that shows you passed the course.
Udacity’s Executive Program is much like Nanodegrees—but they’re intended for business leaders. Rather than focusing on the exact skills, they instead teach the concepts and fundamentals, helping business leaders to understand how to apply those concepts. These courses, which take 4-8 weeks to complete, are to help leaders know how to weigh decisions that affect entire departments, and what question consider when applying AI to specific departments. In the Executive Program, learners receive a personal career coach, and project reviews from industry professionals.
Is Udacity Accredited?
No, Udacity is not accredited—because it is not attached to any universities, and thus has no academic credits. However, it is partnered with several large industries in the Silicon Valley such as Facebook and Google, so Udacity’s certificates are valuable to those companies, and hold weight for other tech-related industries. So while you may not earn any college credits from your Udacity courses, they may still help you in your workplace.
Is Udacity Cheap?
You have to dig a bit before you find prices on Udacity—and that’s for a reason. Courses run anywhere from $279-$3,000, which is a large price tag, especially compared to some other MOOC’s. Courses may be fixed-price or subscription based—with subscriptions for Nanodegrees often costing about $399 a month.
There are ways to save money when using Udacity though. Some 50% coupons for their Executive Courses exist, and they also advertise that they offer scholarships. You can save money on the subscription-based courses by completing them more quickly, since the faster you complete the course, the less months you will be charged.
Is Udacity Reliable?
The quality of Udacity’s courses is very high—they are taught by industry leaders, and ensure that they teach the best information. This is the reason they cite when allowing students to access the class for only 12 months afterwards—they’re always updating their courses to ensure they are accurate and reliable.
As far as customer support, Udacity offers a large help page, FAQ section, along with their Knowledge Community to get personalized answers to content questions. They also have a place to contact customer service directly, though no phone number or email is provided.
They also offer a 2-day refund on their Nanodegree resources, and you can cancel your subscription at any time. However, you cannot pause your subscription and come back at a later time with your progress saved. Be careful as well, to stop your subscription before deleting your account, else you will continue to be charged.
Udacity vs. Coursera
Coursera is another high-quality online learning library—though they focus more on academic subjects than technological ones. Because Coursera is partnered with and backed by accredited universities, their certificates can count as college credits or hold weight on a resume. Just like Udacity, Coursera offers different tracks for different learners—but you can also audit almost all of their courses for free, and still learn, though without being able to access assignments or the community as much.
Coursera’s MasterTracks are comparable to Udacity’s Nanodegrees—but Coursera’s pricing for that track begins at $2,000, while Udacity can be as little as $279. However, it’s easier to test the waters with Coursera—you can audit courses in a topic you’re interested, and even take a few individual courses before investing a large amount of money into a topic.
Coursera has a larger range of topics as well—though most are academic, there are technology classes and even some artistic ones. Furthermore, it allows its learners more freedom with their schedule, and how many classes they would like to take. You can read our full review of Coursera here.
Udacity vs. LinkedIn Learning
LinkedIn Learning offers many of the same tech-related courses that Udacity does—but rather than paying for courses individually, you purchase a subscription which gives you access to the entire library of their courses. This subscription costs far less at $29.99 a month, or $220 a year, and gives students access to the video courses, community, along with playing videos on an app—a feature Udacity does not have. While LinkedIn Learning is priced far cheaper, they still have the quality that Udacity does—their instructors are industry professionals, and the certificates you earn are displayed on your LinkedIn profile for employers to see.
LinkedIn Learning may have more general courses, while all of Udacity’s courses are designed to be very in-depth. Udacity also bases all of its courses around a graded project, which isn’t a part of all of LinkedIn’s courses. You can read our full review of LinkedInLearning here.
Conclusions For Udacity
Udacity is expensive—because it is seeking committed learners. These courses aren’t something you sign up for on a Saturday afternoon when you’re mildly interested in learning about a topic. Rather, Udacity expects the same commitments as a college class—but with that offers the same amount of in-depth preparation and learning you would expect from that class. It is an investment for serious learners, one that could enable you to master technical skills to launch a career in a new industry.