Today at the inauguralUdacity Intersect conference, the online education startup announced new robotics and digital marketing variants of its popular Nanodegrees an effort to expand its corpus of 21st century skills-based courses. In addition to the new degrees, Udacity is adding 21 new hiring partners spanning the automotive, defense, tech, hardware and telecommunicationsindustries. And, lastly, the company is partnering withDidi Chuxing for a new $100,000 competitionto build safety features for self-drivingcars.
More than 20,000 students have been a part of Udacity Nanodegree programs. Spanning topics like deep learning and VR development, the programs offer students studies that aremore rigorous than a certificate and less intensive than a full degree. The new Nanodegreesannounced today expand the reach of Udacity into marketing and robotics.
This is a blueprint for anyone in higher education, said Sebastian Thrun, co-founder and chairman of Udacity.
Udacitys addition of the Deep Learning Nanodegree might have been a tip-off that the startup would be looking to cater to robotics enthusiasts. The first of two new Nanodegrees will be for robotics. Automation is a hot topic and any future involving machine intelligence will involve software-enabled hardware to increase efficiency. Students interested in this program will need a background ofcalculus, linear algebra, stats, basic physics, Python and computer algorithms.
It is easy to think that Udacity is reaching into uncharted territory with its new Digital Marketing Nanodegree program, but as marketing becomes more reliant on digital channels, new approaches are needed to prepare students for the rapidly changing career. And unlike the Robotics Nanodegree, the Digital Marketing Nanodegree will not require any prerequisite knowledge.
Each program will take three months to complete. Applications for the Robotics and Digital Marketing Nanodegree will open on March 8th and remain open until April 17th. Each term will cost $1,200.
The team also provided an update on Udacitys self-driving car efforts.Udacitys relationship with Didi is going beyond traditional partners. The two are launchinga new competitionto build anAutomated Safety and Awareness Processing Stack (ASAPS) for autonomous vehicles. And, of course, another partner,Velodyne, will be providing the necessary data to fuel the efforts. The competition will have two rounds and begin on March 22nd, with the winners getting $100,000 and the right to implement their code in Udacitys actual self-driving vehicle.
Udacity has made an effort to brand itself as a solution for the education asymmetries that plague the economy. This meant working in tandem with more than 50 hiring partners to both tailor curriculum toemployers needs and match students to prospective jobs.
Students end up at thesecompanies and open up doors to us, added Thrun. Its working, its kind of amazing.
The new partners added today fit the trend of connecting availableNanodegrees directly to open jobs. iRobot and Megabots are both in need of students with an understanding ofmechatronics. But beyond just robotics, Udacity has added companies, large and small, with a global reach.
The startupplans to continue adding new hiring partners and including them in discussions about futurecurriculum. But Thruninsists that there is more thatneeds to be done.
The single thingthat works best is instilling confidence and helping students prep for interviews and get theirCV into shape, insisted Thrun. Youd be shocked at how many people lack the confidence to ace their interview.
To get there, Udacity has been building itscommunity of graduates and putting them to use helpingnew students. Some graduates, like Omar Albeik, a Syrian refugee studying in Istanbul, are hired to develop websites and other side projects, sometimes for Udacity and sometimes for other companies. Other former studentsevaluate project submissionsand offer mentorship.
Albeik, who contributed back to Udacity as part of its Blitz team, didnt sign up for Udacity because of its pitch to help with securinga job. Instead, it was about the ability to try to experiment with something without being forced to commit to it.
When I started learning, I was learning for the sake of learning, said Albeik. I wanted to choose what area to go into and Nanodegrees helped me discover.
But for when the time comes, the corporate relationships certainly dont detract. Thefull list of new hiring partners is below: