Problem: Traditional higher education, which is expensive and viewed as a part of life that must occur during a pre-determined period with a fixed end date, does not always prepare students for the constantly transforming world of work. The online university Udacity offers higher level programming courses, with the aim of making the study of subjects more accessible, engaging and practical. For this company, education is viewed as a lifelong experience and their courses are designed for students to learn specific skills for the labor market. The lessons were constructed by big companies in Silicon Valley in the USA, such as Google, Facebook, AT & T, Salesforce and Cloudera. The project was created during an experiment by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig, at Stanford University, in which they offered a free online course called "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence" and more than 160,000 students in over 190 countries signed up.
Solutions: The courses offered by the online university teach skills that technology companies need their employees to know immediately upon entering the workplace. Students study through the Internet and develop practical projects. When they complete a course, they receive a credential called a Nanodegree (nanocertificate), which is recognized by companies as a diploma, and makes it possible to apply for jobs in technology companies and start working in the relevant area. The courses cost far less than it would to graduate from traditional colleges.
The university has six programs that offer a Nanodegree: introduction to programming, application developer for Android, data analyst, iOS system developer, front-end developer and Full Stack developer. The course focused on Android, created in partnership with Google, for example, can be completed during a period ranging between six months and one year depending on the student’s availability. Students can take the course according to their own timetable. Aimed at intermediate level programmers, training requires a minimum weekly commitment of ten hours and the price is $200 per month. During the course, students have access to all learning materials and develop a portfolio of practical projects, receiving feedback on their work. They can also participate in forums with instructors and other students and receive tips regarding careers, interviewing and their resumes.
The university also facilitates interaction between employers and students. Companies can seek employees by completing an application form on the Udacity website. Following this, they will be contacted by the university, which provides the names and contact details of possible candidates interested in the vacancy.
Outcomes: Participation in the courses empowers students and encourages them to advance further in their studies, career and life as a whole. Students gain real-world skills, relevant to immediate performance in the business marketplace. The university contributes to the democratization of education by offering courses on an online platform and for a cheap price. The platform also facilitates companies in their attempts to search for specialized professionals.