Nanodegrees?

degreesNew even smaller than mini- online certification programs are changing the pathways to entering some industries. At the annual Google I/O conference this year, Udacity unveiled its new Android Developer Nanodegree program. It was created in cooperation with Google as a program to provide software developers with the skills they need to build Android applications. It also provides a credential to prove to potential employers that they have those skills.

Udacity also said that it will refund half the tuition ($200 per month) for students completing the program in 12 months. This was the sixth nanodegree for Udacity. (Udacity has trademarked the term "nanodegree.") But educators are more interested in how nanodegrees might further disrupt higher education.

The idea is not brand new. MOOCs were one early indicator, and institution-agnostic microcredentials from providers like Coursera have been around for awhile (including partnerships with Google that were termed "microdegrees." And certificates  have been around as traditional college offering for a lot longer time.

I teach at a university that offers certificates and two of my courses are offered as part of certificates. The term"university extension" has been used for programs for over a century old.

Udacitiy's nanodegree curriculum is part of the change of plans co-founder Sebastian Thrun had when he exited MOOCs for higher education. and shifted focus to corporate training. The success of these nano/microdegrees may depend on there being a market with employers who are open to hiring certifiably-skilled people without four-year degrees. This contrasts with certificates which are mainly targetted at people who had already have a degree and want or need continuing education or professional certification.  


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