Going to an online e-learning institution can not only help strengthen your resume or CV to get a higher-paying job, but it can also greatly increase your own skills and abilities, making you a vital resource no matter where you go. Two excellent online platforms that are only growing in popularity are Udacity and Coursera.
Both very well known throughout the online educational community, these two institutions allow students to get an excellent formal education that is every bit as good and as compelling as one from a college or university. Not only that, but they do it at a much more affordable and faster rate.
One thing you may be wondering now is, “Which one is right for me?” Luckily that’s where we come in. In this guide, we will be going over both of these MOOC platforms as well as how they stack up and compare with one another.
Just a heads up before going over this review. The points we’ll be going over are general and objective. While one may “objectively” be a better option, that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you. Both of these platforms are excellent, and if one has something that you want, it’s important to keep that in mind even if, objectively, it isn’t the better of the two.
With that out of the way, let’s jump in!
First, it’s important to know a bit about both platforms and what their main differences are.
Founded in San Francisco, California in 2011, Udacity was created by David Stavens and his teammates Sebastian Thurn and Mike Sokolsky. The company was said to have a desire to be “audacious for the student” and is the inspiration for the platform’s very own name.
Originally starting out by offering free computer science courses through Stanford, they have since partnered with companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, just to name a few, and have reached a user base of well over 11.5 million students.
Created in 2012 by professor Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller out of Stanford, Coursera has also grown to tremendous levels. In only a few years, the platform has worked with over 150 separate colleges, universities, and learning institutions to create a powerful tool for anyone seeking knowledge and the ability to learn. They have worked with the University of Michigan, Princeton, and Stanford, among many others, and have over 33 million registered users on the platform to this day.
Courses & Variety
What courses are offered on both platforms?
Here, we will go over the different courses offered by the respective companies. The platform that has the most courses, or the largest variety, is likely to be the most impressive of the two. How focused are they on their material as opposed to well-rounded?
Specifically geared towards those that are interested in the more computer-based technical side of things, Udacity offers its students course curriculums known as Nanodegree Programs. These Nanodegree Programs are a series of paid courses that focus on computer engineering, programming, digital marketing, and other types of IT-based skills.
These programs generally consist of 5 or 6 courses and can take between 6 and 12 months till completion.
In terms of variety, Udacity can actually turn a little into a lot. While it does not leave the world of IT development, there are an impressive number of different schools and subjects offered, each with their own nanodegrees and individual courses offered:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Autonomous Systems
- Cloud Computing
- Data Science
- Programming and Development
Each has its own specific focus, ranging from Digital Marketing, to Computer Vision, to even Self-Driving Car Engineering.
While still fairly software-minded in its curriculum, Coursera offers a fair number of courses that go outside of simply computer engineering. These include:
- Arts & humanities
- Computer Science
- Data Science
- Information Technology
- Language Learning
- Math & Logic
- Personal Development
- Physical Science & Engineering
- Social Sciences.
As something of a comparison to Udacity’s nanodegree program, Coursera has several Specialization Paths. These curriculum courses are separate from the standard classes and instead gear students specifically towards a professional area of expertise. Specialization Paths are considerably more intensive, taking up to potentially 10 months or more.
In addition, Coursera also offers several full-on master’s degrees, known as Professional Certificates, that can generally take several years to complete, some even lasting as long as 10 years before completion.
Despite Udacity having a surprisingly large and varied catalog of course material, Coursera simply has more overall. Individuals can focus on computer science courses and specializations as well as non-tech-related subjects, giving them a more well-rounded and broader appeal.
Features & Benefits
What features and benefits are offered?
Now that we’ve gone over what courses are included for either platform, we’ll now get into which MOOC has the best features and benefits for their respective user base. While these aren’t as important as the courses themselves, an online learning institution that has proper features and benefits can help ensure that more of their students manage to get through the material and properly understand it.
When looking into Udacity, it was made abundantly clear that there were a ton of different benefits that came with signing up for the school. Besides the fact that it is considered one of the best online universities available today, Udacity offers a fair amount of free computer programming courses as well as several vocational lessons, like applying for a job or having an attractive LinkedIn profile.
The platform has a ton of interactive projects and assignments that are created to test a student’s skill and understanding of the material. This hands-on approach includes at least one real-world practical assignment, giving them realistic scenarios that actually can (and has) happen in a real-world professional setting.
Not only that, but Udacity also offers expertly trained mentors to help coach and guide students if they need it. What makes this worth mentioning is that these mentors are not simply people that are overall fairly trained in the subject matter. In reality, the vast majority of mentors are individuals that were just shy of qualifying for the position of instructor (an incredibly difficult and extensive position to qualify for). This means that most mentors are virtually at the skill and expertise level of the instructors themselves, ensuring that students are getting the highest quality assistance as a consequence.
Coursera, on the other hand, grants a lot of benefits by way of its ease of use and application. Their courses are generally much less expensive compared to other MOOCs (massive open online courses) and for their more expensive options, they often have different forms of financial aid so that even those options are more accessible.
While there are certainly a fair number of dated courses, Coursera also offers a large number of self-paced options that you can complete at your own speed rather than by a certain timeframe.
As with Udacity, Coursera does have the ability to enjoy some of its content and curriculum for free. In particular, to Coursera and a few other e-learning platforms, this is done by way of the term “auditing“. By auditing a course, students can engage in it for free, only having to pay if they want to get a certificate of completion or to take some of the class projects or quizzes.
Again another very close call between the two, but Udacity edges out as the victor. This is largely due to the online platform offering its students expert coaching and mentorship as well as hands-on practical projects that actively gear them up for the real world and actual professions they plan to join.
What about instructors?
Here we will go over the instructors for either platform and how they compare with one another. We will go over what their credentials are and which is more qualified to teach on their platform.
It is vitally important that an e-learning site has a highly trained instructor. Unless the instructor is sufficiently skilled in their area of expertise, the students will ultimately be unable to enjoy any of the course benefits offered on the platform.
As you’d probably expect, both Udacity and Coursera both have instructors with stellar backgrounds and amazing credentials. In Udacity’s case in particular, as it is the more practical of the two, many of the instructors are highly trained and experienced professionals from their respective business sectors. As an example, it is not too uncommon to have an instructor that works at Google, Amazon, or Facebook.
Coursera, being the more academic of the two options, has incredible instructors as well. That said, rather than being particularly impressive in the business world, these men and women are all high-level professors at world-famous universities. Similarly, all of them will have either a Master’s or a Ph.D. next to their name.
Again, very much a close race (to the point that it was almost a draw) the reason Udacity is the winner is solely based on the fact that its instructors are all at the top of their respective fields in the real and practical world. This is important as it means that the instructors teaching the students are not only academically and theoretically trained in the information, but can, and are applying it in their real daily lives.
Not only that, but the process for becoming an Udacity Instructor is incredibly difficult. This means that the screening process for getting the best of the best is, in and of itself, a slightly more stringent and refined process compared to Coursera, which, while certainly high, isn’t quite as demanding of its instructors.
What about pricing?
We’ve briefly mentioned a bit of the price scenarios earlier on in the comparison but now it’s time to go in-depth with how much either of these platforms cost to use. After all, no matter how great the benefits are with either of these options, if the cost is too high, it ultimately doesn’t matter.
As mentioned earlier, Udacity has a few financial options that students can engage in, depending on exactly what they are looking for in their studies.
Those just recently learning about Udacity, and are interested in seeing what the platform has to offer can audit the course, effectively allowing them to engage in the material entirely for free. This option does not give the student a lot of assistance from the instructor nor are they able to take any of the quizzes or get a certificate of completion if they finish the course.
There are also many outright free courses available naturally on the site itself, though these are generally beginner and intermediate level and will range between a few weeks to a month or two.
Nanodegrees are a fair bit more expensive, costing between $200 and $400 per month based on the degree. Because these courses have a set amount of time required before completion, a student will likely invest between 6 and 12 months before completion. This means that a single Nanodegree can cost between $1,200 and $4,800.
Coursera has many of the same payment options as Udacity with one key distinction (which we will get to shortly).
The platform offers a 7-day free trial for all of their courses. While this isn’t the same as Udacity’s auditing option, if a student can fully go through the material, theoretically at least, they could fully experience the course for free. Realistically, however, this is much better as a way to give a student a chance to understand the course before paying for it.
Individual courses can cost between $29 and $99 while specialization courses the same monthly subscription-based payment as Udacity’s nanodegrees. The biggest difference between the two is the overall price per month. Whereas a nanodegree will cost between $200 and $400, a specialization course will cost $49 per month. If they require the same amount of time to complete, they can end up costing between $300 and $600 per course.
Those that are looking to complete the master’s program and get a professional certificate are looking to spend between $10,000 and $25,000 upfront as the tuition.
While the Master’s Program is certainly nothing to scoff at, the fact that it is only twice as much as a 12-month Nanodegree should pretty much say all that needs to be said. While Udacity certainly has shown a large amount of value and quality, many may question whether that quality justifies the vast price difference between it and Coursera.
Coursera is the clear winner in terms of price.
What about accreditation?
Finally, we come to the level of accreditation for either MOOC. Unlike the smaller, cheaper online options out there (such as Skillshare or MasterClass) there is an expectation that completing the course will net some tangible benefit outside of just an extra bit of knowledge. Here we will see how either of these platforms handles certificates of completion and if they hold any weight in the real world.
For Udacity, it largely depends on what you are going for. While standard courses will have a minor effect on one’s resume or CV, investing in the completion of a nanodegree will have a much more positive effect, especially if applying in the tech-based world.
Still, not all nanodegrees are accredited so it’s important to review that specific program to determine its qualifications. Similarly, non-tech-based nanodegrees have varying levels of qualification based on the business in question and how they view the course’s completion.
Coursera is pretty much the same as Udacity with the exception of its Professional Certificate. While certainly quite expensive, these certificates are much more pronounced and can actually hold weight when placed on a resume.
Standard and Specialized courses are pretty much the equivalent of Udacity’s standard courses and nanodegress respectively.
While Coursera is the only option with an actual guarantee in terms of the Professional Certificate, Udacity’s tech-based nanodegrees almost as viable (in the tech-based industry) and not nearly as expensive. Similarly, all other certificates hold just as much weight in comparison to one another. It’s because of this that the two options are about equal in terms of what they offer a student.
Time to choose!
While certainly both Udacity and Coursera have their own individual strengths and weaknesses, when it comes down to it, the two are pretty much equal in their overall quality and usefulness. Both offer high-level instruction by experts in their field, both hold a certificate with roughly the same level of importance in the professional world, both have varying levels of commitment for students that want to go to the next level. The major difference between the two is the emphasis on computer science and the initial pricing. Other than that, in the grand scheme of things, these two are objectively equal to one another.
In conclusion, Udacity and Coursera are two incredibly high-quality MOOC platforms available on the market today. As such, it depends on what you are looking for. If you are someone trying to improve their computer-based technical skills or have a more hands-on approach, you’ll be at home with Udacity. Meanwhile, if you are someone that wants a more standard online college or university experience with a wider range of options and a more academically-minded setting, Coursera is for you.