In the world of e-learning and online education platforms, without question, Udacity is one of the most popular and highly regarded learning providers available to date. Whereas MasterClass has grown largely through online advertisements as well as celebrity and A-list teachers, Udacity has grown exclusively through word of mouth and phenomenal quality service.
For those out there that haven't yet heard of them, Udacity is what is known as a massive open online course (MOOC) learning platform that teaches students a variety of online technical skills. It is similar in subject matter and overall material to many other stellar platforms like TreeHouse (our TreeHouse review), Codecademy (our Codecademy review), or edX (our edX review).
In the online MOOC space, Udacity is one of the most well-regarded platforms, with a current user base of over 11.5 million students.
Still, what many have wondered is if there is any real substance to the material being learned on the site. And while there are a number of positive reviews out there, that in and of itself does not mean that they are altogether reliable or accurate to the most current iteration of the platform.
Here, we plan on taking a deep dive into the platform itself and seeing just how it stacks up to other platforms and if it's at all worth your time, money, or effort, or if you should consider another alternative online learning site.
So, with that being said, let's see whether Udacity is worth it.
What is Udacity?
Before we can get into the ins and outs of the platform, it's important to know exactly what the company is and where it started from.
As stated earlier, Udacity is a MOOC platform that teaches online technical skills to students around the world. They offer various computer-centric courses and curriculums for students of all skill levels and have been focused on helping individuals improve their coding and programming skills while also improving a person's career prospects in their professional life.
The American company was originally founded back in 2011 by David Stavens, Mike Sokolsky, and Sebastian Thurn. The Silicon Valley-based company was started with a desire to be “audacious for the student”, to which the name “Udacity” was said to stem from.
During their start, Udacity began to gain recognition through its free computer science courses that were offered through Stanford University. As they continued to progress and grow in size and users, they began offering a litany of additional vocational classes, particularly for those that were specifically seeking to improve their professional careers.
Since then, the online platform has amassed several partnerships with well-known companies, such as Facebook, Nvidia, Amazon, and Google (just to name a few). As a consequence, their tech-based courses, despite being only one of a number of different options, are by far their most popular, to the point that many consider them solely as a computer programming and IT institution.
Is Udacity Even a Legitimate Platform?
Udacity, like many other online learning platforms, is questionable when it comes to answering the question as to its legitimacy, with the answer largely depending on your definition.
More so than some of the other options out there, Udacity is very well-respected and highly regarded for its quality content and ability to help improve one's career. That said, not everything is completely perfect in the company's favor.
As with many other platforms, Udacity is not an accredited institution. This means that it does not replace a degree from a higher education university. Similarly, while there are some programs that are the exception, the vast majority of the platform's different courses are not credit-bearing, meaning that they cannot be used as a method of transferring if you ever decide to go to an accredited university. This is in stark contrast to some of the other online learning platforms like edX.
Still, this is not to say that Udacity isn't worth considering. As we will get into later, certificates one receives from completing a curriculum, while unaccredited, are still quite valuable to different companies and corporations that are looking to hire someone.
What Features are on Udacity?
As a whole, Udacity is regarded as one of the best online learning universities available today. This comes largely by way of the numerous features offered on the site for its students. Particularly if you are someone looking to expand your knowledge and ability in programming, digital marketing, or various forms of computer engineering, Udacity has a wide variety of different courses and programs available. These courses fall under the heading title of Nanodegree Programs. These paid courses cover a number of different topics from Robotics Software Engineering, to Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
Not only that but there are a number of career-based vocational courses such as applying for a job, going over an interview, or ensuring your LinkedIn profile is as attractive and appealing as possible. Similarly, there are a number of free computer programming courses as well that are also available.
Similar to categories or general subject options found in other online learning platforms, Udacity has a number of Udacity Schools from which virtually all of its content is stemmed from. These schools include:
- School of Artificial Intelligence
- School of Autonomous Systems
- School of Business
- School of Data Science
- School of Programming
- School of Cloud Computing
Each has its own list of different classes and courses in their specific area of targeted focus, ranging from Computer Vision to Data or Busines Analytics to Front End Web Development to Digitial Marketing or Self-Driving Car engineering.
After choosing any of the different schools to focus on, you can study all of their different classes and programs at your own leisure. Similarly, you can also choose which course you wish to take based on its overall skill level or expected time to completion. Some courses generally may require only a single day to complete and are almost entirely beginner-friendly. Another course, on the other hand, may take around 4 months to complete and may only be accessible to those that are much more advanced in their programming skills.
Interactive Projects & Assignments
In addition to the various specific subjects offered, Udacity's numerous courses are each filled with unique and interactive projects, assignments, and quizzes to ensure that you know the information. They are closely related to the material being taught while also presenting it in different ways in order to gauge your problem-solving skills.
And while many of these things are common enough amongst different online platforms, Udacity also offers expert-level mentorship. Not only that, but each class requires, in addition to its theoretical assignments, at least one practical real-world project.
This not only aids in making sure the student knows the information, but that they even have a potential project to add to their portfolio as a result.
While I mentioned it somewhat earlier when going over the different school subjects, Udacity has a unique learning program known as Udacity Nanodegree. This is the method by which anyone going through the aforementioned schools will go through if they do not wish to take an individual course or class.
Nanodegrees are a specific program that teaches the student skills that are in-demand in the professional coding, technical, and programming world. The reason for its name is that, rather than take the standard 3-4 years required for an accredited university, Udacity's Nanodegree cuts that down to between 6 and 12 months, allowing you to go into the job market much sooner. When completing a course, you are given a certificate that can be used in one's portfolio as a method of improving its overall standing.
Becoming an Udacity Instructor or Mentor
For those that are actually looking to be a class instructor or mentor, Udacity offers a path for them as well. That said, it's not going to be easy. As the instructors on the site are expected to be some of the best of the best in their allotted field, simply having a teaching resume alone won't be enough to qualify. You'll need to show evidence and proof that you are specifically skilled in your area of focus and have first-hand professional experience in the subject.
Those instructors that do qualify will be offered compensation through one of two options. Either they will make money based on the number of course development completions, or they will be entitled to a shared revenue of the number of enrolled students. The first option means that you will be paid based on the number of complete courses you have developed. The second offers you a portion of the entire revenue from all students that are enrolled in your course. Those that are just starting may likely choose the first option, while those that are more seasoned may generally opt for the second.
If you do not yet qualify as an instructor, you may still potentially become an Udacity mentor. These individuals guide students and help them understand the course information while they are on their Nanodegrees.
While mentors do make an income through their services, it can vary greatly based on what area of focus you are on as well as the Nanodegree in question. Generally, the price can range from $50 a month on the low end and $40 an hour at the highest level. This is largely based on the number of students or projects you are grading, with higher numbers resulting from mentors that are consistently active while also having large groups of students to grade in a particular program or course.
How Much Does Udacity Cost?
As with many other MOOC platforms, Udacity runs on a monthly subscription rate.
That, however, is where the similarities largely end between it and virtually all other alternatives.
Udacity has 2 separate financial options for students. The first is to take the free courses on the site. The second option is to pay the full price for the Nanodegree course.
While admittedly only a small portion of the total available courses on the platform, that isn't to say that there isn't enough content to fully enjoy and utilize. In fact, throughout the site's catalog, there are just about 200 completely free courses available.
Many of these courses range between “Beginner” and “Intermediate” (very rarely ever reaching the “Advanced” level) and can vary greatly in terms of the amount of time they take. Whereas some require only a week or two before completion, others may potentially take anywhere up to a month to 3 months.
A downside to these free courses, however, is that, because they are free, students get very little interaction or assistance from the teachers. This means that you will largely be on your own when going through the materials of the course and may just grow frustrated.
Thankfully, this isn't nearly the case in the paid Nanodegree courses…
Paid Nanodegree Courses
One of the reasons the instructors are more helpful in the fuller course, unfortunately, is due to the fact that it is a paid course. As a result of this, the company ensures that its teachers are at the highest level of expertise in their chosen field.
This is because the Nanodegree course is quite expensive, costing about $200 per month. Not only that, but the courses can generally take between 6 and 12 months to complete, This means that, after only one course, you can end up paying as high as $2,400 or more! And while this isn't as expensive as going through a standard university, it is still a fair bit pricey when compared to virtually any other platform's payment model.
What's more, this rate is per course. As such, if you are looking to take more than one school subject, you may be out considerably more than the 6-12 month $2,400 price tag.
Financial Aid & Scholarships
One good thing about Udacity is that the platform does have a number of cost-saving options that can help reduce the price overall, making it much more likely for you to take and complete the course.
On the platform itself, Udacity offers financial aid and financing options through a company known as Affirm. This financing payment service will essentially cover the cost of the course before offering you a payment plan over 3, 6, or 12 months. There are no hidden fees and, depending on your credit approval qualifications, you may get an APR rate between 0 and 30%.
Udacity also has a number of different third-party scholarship programs available around the world. If you are unable to cover the course, by applying for and receiving one of these scholarships, that can greatly reduce the overall cost, even potentially reducing the pricing down to 0.
Currently, there are 10 separate scholarship programs for Udacity that are available. As stated earlier, these groups are all completely third-party to Udacity itself and have helped over 22,000 students in over 48 different countries.
Because Udacity is an unaccredited online learning platform, it does not qualify for any federal, state, or local scholarship programs. That said, some of the third-party groups that have offered scholarships include Lyft, Accenture, Intel, AT&T, as well as Google.
What Certificates Does Udacity Offer upon Completion?
As I have mentioned a few times earlier, while Udacity itself is not an accredited course, it does offer certificates upon completion. Not only that, but these certificates, while not on the same level as an established degree, do hold some weight in the job market depending on what you are looking for.
In addition to this, many popular companies around the world are willing to recognize its value. Similarly, you are able to use any real-world projects you've completed in your portfolio in order to help confirm a position.
Who Will Benefit Most from the Platform?
In determining who will get the most benefit from Udacity, there are a few things that are worth considering. Unlike some of the other online platforms out there, Udacity appeals to both newcomers and veterans alike.
That said, while the platform itself is not officially accredited, those that will get the most benefit from Udacity and its online courses are those specifically looking to improve their career prospects.
By going through the various courses and projects, many of those can be used to bolster their portfolio to show that they can complete certain actions or standards.
In addition, Udacity also has a number of different courses available for free that help improves a person's interviewing skills as well as services that will review their resumes with numerous tips and even an optional template. Similarly, Udacity can help review your LinkedIn or GitHub profiles in an effort to make it easier to succeed to find an employer.
While certainly, everyone will greatly improve their programming skills by going through the platform, those that are likely to have the biggest benefit are individuals that are actively using it as a method to become a more capable potential employee.
No matter if you are someone that has a legitimate interest in growing in their coding and programming profession or someone that already is skilled in the process, Udacity is, while a bit pricey, an excellent option for anyone looking to improve their coding and programming skills over the course of a few weeks to months. The interface is intuitive while the layout is very helpful.
All in all, while each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, Udacity is one of the few that is truly great for all skill levels. If you are someone that considers themselves looking to improve your programming, Udacity may just be worth looking into.