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Udacity.com - Connect With Top University Instructors
Udacity.com puts a spin on higher learning by veering from the traditional lecture format. Users are connected with top university instructors and, instead of lectures, are presented with projects to complete or problems to solve. All courses are free and open and range from the beginner to the advanced level.
Udacity Course Content
Udacity courses are geared toward STEM subject areas and the specific courses offered are random. For example, a beginner may take Intro to Computer Science, Intro to Physics or Intro to Statistics and intermediate students have a selection of math, software and engineering courses. Advanced course offerings appear to be fairly random, with only a few courses on topics such as programming a robotic car and cryptography.
To determine if one of the few courses appeals to you, Udacity gives you the option of previewing a course before enrolling. Each course overview is accompanied by a video from the instructions, a syllabus outline and FAQs. Previewing the course gives you access to course videos, notes and quiz questions and answers.
From previewing a few courses, you may find that while Udacity says it uses a problem and project-based approach, it is not entirely free from lectures. Thankfully, the lectures come in the form of short videos that do not take the form of a traditional lecture, but they may disappoint students who are expecting something radically different.
After completing a Udacity course, you take a final exam. That exam is scored and the score is used to determine the type of certification of completion you are eligible to receive. A low score will earn you a certificate of completion. An average score of between 60% and 80% will earn you a certification of accomplishment. From 80% to 90% earns a certificate of high distinction and any higher scores earn certificates of highest distinction. But does it matter what type of certificate you earn?
Currently, there is no real value for a certificate from a Udacity course. Although Udacity offers an option to certify your course results and present your resume to top software and development companies, it appears few course takers have actually received jobs.
Students who perform poorly can re-enroll the course and take the final exam again and again until they get a high score. For some students this may mean actually reviewing and doing a better of job of learning the material, but for others it may simply mean guessing at the answers until they get them right. The limited amount of courses available also makes it hard to believe someone could be prepared for a job in the tech world with only what Udacity offers.
The Idea of Udacity
The idea behind Udacity has merit. Higher education costs a lot of money and its courses are not taught typically taught in ways that maximize student learning. However, because the courses offered by Udacity are limited and completing a course does not transfer to credit in the world of higher education, it is a tool that will only benefit a few. For example, those who want to learn a little more about physics or computer science without shelling out the money for a college course will benefit greatly from the website.
August 17, 2012 by Stacy Zeiger
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