New “micro” online certification programs are changing the educational pathways to success in certain industries
By John K. Waters
Udacity created quite a buzz at the annual Google I/O conference this year when the for-profit online education provider unveiled its new Android Developer Nanodegree program. Created in close cooperation with Google, which owns the popular mobile operating system, the program is designed to provide software developers with the skills they need to build Android applications and a credential to prove to potential employers that they have those skills. Udacity later made the headline-grabbing announcement that it will refund half the tuition ($200 per month) for students completing the program in 12 months.
The Android nanodegree is the sixth member of Udacity’s young lineup of industry-led, career-oriented, online certification programs, but it’s not surprising that the launch of this one would draw so much attention. There are about a billion active Android users worldwide, and consequently, something approaching urgent demand for Android developers. But this high-profile launch also raises again the question of where these kinds of programs fit in the post-secondary educational landscape, and whether such focused learning programs might finally emerge as a disruptive force in higher education.
Udacity has trademarked the term “nanodegree,” but the concept of an institution-agnostic microcredential isn’t new and the company isn’t the only cutting-edge provider — it’s not even the first to work directly with Google. Earlier this year, Coursera announced partnerships with Google, Instagram and others to provide a series of “microdegrees.”
“Certificates have been around for a long time,” said Alexander Halavais, associate professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Arizona State University, “offered either on the industry/trade side, or in conjunction with university extension programs. In fact, the push of ‘university extension’ is well over a century old, and it was intended to break down some of the medieval structures of university education and make them more widely available.”
[ Full article available at Campus Technology: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/08/05/how-nanodegrees-are-disrupting-higher-education.aspx ]