Udacity is huge right now and it’s only getting bigger.

With over ten million users worldwide, Udacity is one of the most popular MOOC-based e-learning providers out there.

If you’re interested in learning more about this platform, than you are at the right place, just read on and by the end of the article you’ll have learned enough necessary information to get you started.

Udacity: Background

Udacity, like many others, is a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) based platform, meaning it provides an online learning experience to anyone that would wish to sign up on the website and start learning. It aims to provide high-quality education to practically everyone. When compared to other MOOC providers, this platform has a stronger focus on job training.

To achieve this, Udacity partners with industry giants like Google, AT&T, and so on. It has more than 200 free courses and thirty-eight nanodegrees offered to its ten million learners (and counting).

This fourth most popular MOOC provider saw the light of day all the way back in 2011. It is actually the outgrowth of free computer science classes that were at that time offered through Stanford University by its Professors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig. Udacity was announced at the start of 2012 by these two with the aim to democratize education and make it affordable and accessible

The MOOC platform went on to offer courses in algebra, statistics, computer science, and so forth. In Jan ’14, it launched a 3-year online degree course dubbed “OMSCS” in collaboration with Georgia Institute of Technology that cost just $7000. It had 1.6 million users in twelve full courses and twenty-six free courseware in April 2014.

In June 2014, Udacity announced the “Nanodegree” program, in collaboration with Georgia Institute of Technology & AT&T. Designed to teach programming skills needed to qualify for an entry-level IT position at AT&T, the program is self paced & takes somewhere between 1-12 months to complete and costs $399 per month.

While not yet profitable as of Feb ‘18, the Mountain View-based online education startup is valued at over $1 billion having raised $163 million from noted investors included Andreessen Horowitz, Drive Capital, and GV.

In April 2019, Udacity laid off about 75 people, or around 20% of its workforce, as part of a wider restructuring, with the aim of curbing costs while still expanding its business focused on nanodegrees.

Udacity: Courses

As mentioned above, Udacity currently offers more than 200 online free courses (but do not offer a certificate), a majority of which are related to developing tech skills. Some are self-paced; others are session-based or term-based. Usually these courses are created as part of a Nanodegree. Previously, Udacity used to release a large part of courses in a Nanodegree for free.

But recently, it has drastically reduced the number of free courses they launch. Many of the courses that are part of newer Nanodegrees are no longer free.

Udacity courses consists of pre-recorded video lectures that you can watch on a weekly schedule or when it’s convenient for you. They also have student discussion forums, project work/assignments, and online quizzes or exams.

Udacity: Nanodegrees

I think by now you’ll have an idea of what is Nanodegrees. They focus extensively on job-readiness and cover every fundamental skill required to becoming successful in your career.

Nanodegrees consist of video courses (taught by highly scholarly instructors with relevant industrial experience), exercises, quizzes, and projects that are graded by humans. In-order to earn a Nanodegree micro-credential, students will have to complete the required projects. Nanodegrees allows you to submit projects at any time you want during the program duration (however, it’s better if you follow the recommended timeline), also as many times as you want if necessary, until understanding and mastery is reached. Also, it enables students to interact 1-on-1 with various industry specialists as a form of mentorship support to the students.

As mentioned above, Nanodegrees are self paced (meaning there is no deadline, students can move as fast as they want) and can range from 1 month to 9 months long, after which you receive a certificate of completion. With a $399 monthly subscription, it is slightly more expensive than some MOOCS, but still more affordable than paying for an on-site or online bootcamp. Udacity recommends that students don’t rush too much (in-order to save on money), as the knowledge is retained better when more time is taken to learn.

Udacity: Nanodegrees Benefits

Udacity Nanodegrees are different and better because –

  • Style of learning: short videos of 5–6 minutes to focus on a very small topic and hence building up on it in the future modules.
  • Projects: The capstone projects are tailor-made close to real-world scenarios and the hands-on experience one can get by completing the projects enhances his/her knowledge on the topic.
  • Code Review: Every project that a student submits is reviewed by a human on the other side and not auto-graded. The projects need to meet certain rubrics to be considered apt and the feedback given by the reviewer helps understand the faults and loopholes the student has made in making the project. He/she can rectify the errors and go for the next submission. This not only substantiates learning but also strengthens the theoretical knowledge with practical experience.
  • Mentors and Community Support: Udacity has dedicated mentors for each Nanodegree and an ever-growing student community. A post in the slack forums gets the doubts solved in hours and mentors are available in scheduled times to answer the doubts and help if the students get stuck.


All that said, since the ability to try Udacity is free, there is no harm in taking a free course and seeing if their offerings match your needs. If you find that you are getting the good out of the program, the subscription and Nanodegrees may be worth your money. If you are not thriving, you are free to walk away without a dime spent. So, check out Udacity, and see if their online courses meet your needs.

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