Not only is online education becoming more popular with the growing number of higher education students each year, but so are massive open online courses (MOOCs). Udacity is a provider of such courses.
Udacity claims to be "the future of online higher education" as they "offer accessible, affordable, engaging classes that anyone can take, anytime" and are "bridging the gap between real-world skills, relevant education, and employment.", much like edX and Coursera. Udacity can work for just about anyone, whether you are a high school student, college student, or a professional who wants to get ahead or update your current skills.
Udacity incorporates "interactive, project-based" activities with "bite-sized" videos and real-world examples. There are also meetups and forums for those who want further in-depth course discussions.
How does Udacity work? It is quite simple. All you do is sign up for an account, browse the course catalog, then choose a course. You can track your progress under a "My Courses" section, as well as manage multiple courses. Once you've completed a course, a certificate of completion will be awarded. They have an open enrollment policy and no official start dates; therefore, students can take as long as they need to complete their course.
Will college credit be awarded? It all depends upon the course and your current educational institution. There are a select few Udacity courses, such as College Algebra, Visualizing Algebra, and Statistics that offered two options-- a non-credit or a for-credit path through San Jose State University in California. Again, if you are a current student at a different university, it is entirely their discretion whether or not they will grant you credit for these courses.
How are courses assessed? All courses have final assessments that you undertake to prove your mastery of the course material and earn the certificate of completion, but you do not obtain college credit. These are unproctored exams. Courses that are partnered with another organization may have a fee. For students enrolled in credit through San Jose State University, exams are proctored online by ProctorU. Other courses such as CS101 Introduction to Computer Science, there is an fee-based option to take proctored exam via a Pearson VUE testing center.
Does it cost anything? All open courses are free. However, there might be a fee for courses that have a credit option. Unfortunately, the Udacity website does not offer a fee table for those courses, although the Stanford Daily reports that fees are about $150 each to mostly cover administration costs.
How viable is Udacity? Well, it is as viable as any of the other MOOCs that have been mentioned. Udacity's partnership with Pearson VUE, San Jose State University, and ProctorU has helped cement its viability among all the others within the sphere. With online education continuously changing, all MOOCs will have to adapt and evolve to become a mainstay in higher education.
Whether you choose the credit option or not, courses are for professional development. They can only be a positive, especially if they are relevant to your career.