Udacity, a provider of MOOCs, announced this month their Nanodegree Plus which guarantees its graduates will land a job in their field within six months of completing the program, or get their money back.
As their website describes it: "Empowering yourself through learning, acquiring critical skills, pursuing career advancement. These are life-changing steps to undertake. They require commitment, hard work, and a willingness to take risks. We recognize this, and want you to know we support you every step of the way, from enrollment to getting hired. Enroll in Nanodegree Plus, and we guarantee you’ll get hired within 6 months of graduating, or we’ll refund 100% of your tuition. That’s the kind of confidence we have in you."
Naturally, such an offer requires Terms and Conditions.
For now, students need to enroll in Udacity programs that teach the most marketable skills. The 4 offered are machine-learning engineer, Android developer, iOS developer, and senior web developer. Students must complete the courses. That seems obvious. but that has always been a point of contention for MOOCs since the majority of students in them (Udacity has four million students) do not complete all the coursework. Of course, most learners in MOOCs do not intend to finish or use the course as a path to credits or a degree. In the Nanodegree Plus, students pay an extra monthly fee.
Udacity says that it will take 6-8 months of working 10 hours a week to complete a program.
The jobs graduates get have no salary benchmarks, but Sebastian Thrun, chief executive of Udacity, said in an interview that the jobs they get will be "real" jobs and "not jobs as a Starbucks barista."
Thrun has moved Udacity away from it earlier partnerships with universities and into partnerships with companies.
The idea of guarantees like Udacity and other for-profits is seen as a market solution, a gimmick and not feasible depending on the reviewer. Certainly, colleges are unlikely to return tuition to graduates who don't find jobs in the major, even though Thrun said he "would recommend every college president to think about this."
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