Udacity and Coursera continue to shake up education with career-focused, industry-led micro programs that enable students and professionals to deepen their expertise and fast-track their climb up the career ladder — "Nanodegrees."
What makes these programs a game-changer is the fact that they're developed in collaboration with industry leaders like Google, Twitter and MongoDB, so the programs offer the exact skills and knowledge these companies look for in candidates:
"There are no semesters, attendance requirements, or frat house keggers. It's pulp learning — with a degree waiting at the end," Nate Swanner of The Next Web says.
Stuart Butler, Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, says that micro certificate programs like Udacity's Android Developer Nanodegree are part of a wider trend that aims at "a radical shakeup of higher education," Campus Technology's John K. Waters writes.
Udacity, one of the top MOOC platforms, made headlines when it first announced its Android Developer Nanodegree program earlier this year at the Google I/O conference — the sixth micro degree offered by the education provider. The program, which offers both the skills and the credentials to learners to work as Android developers, was soon after offered at a special pricing plan in which Udacity pledged to refund half the tuition to students completing the Nanodegree program within twelve months of enrollment.
Sebastian Thrun, Udacity's CEO, says that Nanodegrees have the power to disrupt education and make it suitable for the 21st century job market.
To make this happen, education should become more flexible, useful and life-long, he says. Nanodegrees came into existence at Udacity as a result of trying to determine how best fit a relevant education into modern life:
"We just tried to re-envision what it really means to do education in the 21st century. Education has to be life-long. The reason is, it's just impractical to have the same career for your entire life these days. We asked what the right delivery method was for education to be life-long. Mobile is nice for that, because everyone has a mobile device and you can do it [a Nanodegree course] on your own time at home. And then we asked what the right packaging size is, and it became Nanodegrees because we feel we want to give people a new job, and there has to be a certain amount of depth involved."
Udacity is not the only one offering industry-generated online microprograms. Coursera has also partnered with Instagram and Google to offer its own series of microdegrees, showing that working closely with leading companies that seek new talent can result in a successful academic-economic partnership.
For its Web Front-End Developer program, Udacity teamed up with AT&T, which was on the hunt for entry-level front-end Web developers, Campus Technology reports. Previously, Udacity worked with Facebook, Twitter and MongoDB as well.