Udacity Expands Courses in China, Adds In-Person Sessions

(Photo: Ilya Pavlov, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Ilya Pavlov, Creative Commons)

Udacity has announced that it will be opening its availability to China, as well as branching out into in-person study sessions to aid those who are completing its degree programs.

The online education company is opening offices in China and making more than 100 of its courses available at the URL youdaxue.com.

The company also announced its first in-person study sessions for its Nanodegree programs. These "UConnect" sessions will be led by instructors and will cost $100 per month. In its pilot run, students in the UConnect program had a 30% increase in project submissions and were three times more likely to complete their degree program, reports Cromwell Schubarth of the Silicon Valley Business Journal. On May 9th, these sessions will launch in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. Students who sign up before the end of June can receive a month for free.

However, this move has raised questions about whether online education can truly match in-person learning if even online degree programs are using face-to-face classrooms to increase knowledge retention. Udacity says that their study sessions make the difference with goal-setting, group accountability, individualized mentoring, and social interactions, which together lead to an increase in motivation.

Nanodegree programs, which cover topics like iOS and Android development and machine learning, also require students to complete projects to earn their degrees. The nanoprograms include perks like office hours with instructors, resume review, practice inverviews, and student forums. Udacity refunds half the tuition costs to students if they graduate within 12 months, and all of their tuition if they don't find a job within six months of graduation.

Several nanodegree programs will also be available in China, beginning at $150. The courses have Chinese subtitles, as well as one-on-one help from Chinese-speaking Udacity employees.

11,000 students have enrolled in a nanodegree program since its debut last January and about 2,500 have completed their degree. More than 4 million have signed up for an individual Udacity course, reports Max Taves of CNet.

Udacity is expanding into China to help fill the need for technical talent, reports Kathleen Chaykowski of Forbes, where 7 to 12 million more developers are expected to be needed by 2020.

Udacity launched in India last year, where the e-commerce company Flipkart is said to hire employees based on their Udacity projects rather than interviews.

The Mountain View, California company was founded four years ago by Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford University research professor who also had a hand in Google. He was inspired to launch the service after he taught an immensely popular online class on artificial intelligence that attracted students from 190 countries.

Thrun said:

Our mission is to democratize education. More than half of the world does not have access to high-quality education.

We made the decision a few years ago to say jobs is what we're after. Education should be much more closely linked to jobs than it is today.

Thus far, Udacity has raised about $163 million in venture funding from investors like Bertelsmann, Andreessen Horowitz, Charles River Ventures, Drive Capital, and Google Ventures.

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