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Adjusting the Length of Learning

by John K. Waters

Campus Technology

Article excerpt

How Nanodegrees Are Disrupting Higher Education

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.

Our take

Traditional Colleges and Nanodegrees: Strange Bedfellows?

Whether called certificates, microdegrees, or nanodegrees (a term trademarked by Udacity), the idea of a different kind—and length—of learning is taking place in cyberspace. The needs of both learners and employers are changing rapidly, requiring new ways of thinking about not only the classroom, but the very nature of traditional courses and degree programs. Companies like Udacity and Coursera are moving quickly to partner with large organizations like Google, and traditional businesses, to provide a different kind of education to help address the widely talked about “skills gap.” Could their efforts prove disruptive to higher education as we know it?

Some experts say yes, and it’s certainly a trend worth watching. A growing demand for various types of skilled positions that may not, necessarily, require formal degrees, and the burgeoning technology infrastructure to allow these new delivery options could serve to meet the needs of both students and the employers that are eager to hire them. What’s most likely for higher-ed, though, according to this author, is that four-year colleges will begin to find ways to integrate their offerings with some of these new types of programs.