Life-Long Learning With Udacity

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Access and affordability are two of the most buzz-worthy topics in education today. College tuition is steadily increasing each year and new demands and skill-sets are required to gain employment. Fortunately, a ground-breaking experiment from Stanford University is working to address these needs.


What Is Udacity?

Creator Sebastian Thrun, a professor from Stanford’s AI Class, offered his course online, free for anyone to join. Amazingly enough, the experiment resulted in 160,000 students in over 190 countries enrolled in his class.

From its success, Professor Thrun took his idea and launched Udacity, his Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) platform, in February of 2012. With a small team of colleagues, he began offering courses that ranged from beginner to advanced levels in technology topics such as Computer Science Basics, Cryptology and Artificial Intelligence for Robots.

Ultimately, the biggest perk of this new platform was that high-quality Stanford courses were being offered for free to anyone around the world in the comforts of their own home. And forget about receiving acceptance or rejection letters, because this platform considered every type of learner:

Our mission is to bring accessible, affordable, engaging and highly effective higher education to the world. We believe that higher education is a basic human right, and we seek to empower our students to advance their education and careers.”

Needless to say, Thrun’s idea took shape quickly and gained popularity around the globe, creating a new approach to online education.

Real-World Application

Udacity prides itself on accessibility to any type of learner, regardless of their educational background. For example, instead of investing in top-dollar college preparation programs, high school students have the opportunity to take a few courses to get ahead or to feel more comfortable with their transition into academia. Or someone in college could get a more-rounded education thanks to Udacity’s flexibility.

Since the job market is becoming more competitive, professionals can take the time to hone in on their skills to become more marketable. One of Udacity’s goals to focus its platform on applications and content that will breed success in the real world, offering instruction on relevant topics and skill-sets. Udacity promotes developing critical thinking skills, curiosity and creativity to make learning active and engaging.

Student Affordability and Accessibility

Within Udacity’s free courses, anyone can enroll in a 7-week class consisting of short videos accompanied by small assessments and daily homework assignments. Its structure is more flexible and accommodating to students with a time crunch. If you want to, you can log in straight from home and watch a 2-minute lecture in your pajamas and buy cheap ecigs in your other window.

As in a regular college course, discussions arise from various content topics and students can talk with others in forums. Also, Udacity holds standard office hours so that users can discuss questions with a professor or teaching assistant.

However, what makes Udacity truly unique is its strong focus on pedagogy and access to resources. For example, noteworthy professors such as Steve Blank and Steve Huffman run web development courses, while other professors hold “field trips” at the end of each course. Students in these innovative classes have the opportunity to interview and interact with experts in the field.

Win-Win Situation: A Profitable Platform

While Udacity is still in the process of developing a solid, standard curriculum and platform, it will still make a profit and maintain its “free” status for students. Instead of charging students for enrollment, this company ingeniously seeks out revenue from partnerships.

For instance, Udacity has teamed up with partners such as HTML5 Game Development with Google and Autodesk’s Interactive 3D Graphics. In addition to the corporate world, Udacity also partners with San Jose State University, offering a $150 fee for credited online courses.

What Does This Mean for the Future of Online Education?

While this question is still up for debate, Udacity is currently serving many online students from different walks of life. As with any platform, it has its disadvantages; however, it is a great step to generating life-long learners and connecting people to an accessible and affordable education.

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