Thursday, June 28, 2012

Udacity's Career Team is here to help you

January 2014 Update: Since this original post, we’ve focused our career services on helping you build the skills you need for your next career move.  Our courses -- particularly the full course experience, where you’ll receive project feedback, coaching, and a verified certificate -- are designed to help open up not just education opportunities but career opportunities. If you want some help making connections, we encourage you to check the blog for job searching advice from tech recruiters and industry experts!

Udacity student, Sam Romano, recently thanked Udacity for helping him land his dream job as a software engineer at Google. Everyday students are motivated to take Udacity classes because they are fun! Not to mention that participating and brainstorming with other students helps you develop skills and can even make you a more marketable job candidate. Part of Udacity’s mission is to help our students find career opportunities that allow them to utilize their skills and pursue their passions.

Already, Udacity has hired three of our students -- Gundega Dekena, Adam Sherwin and Sean Bennet -- as assistant instructors! Since Udacity cannot hire all of our amazing students, we are building relationships with other companies who are interested in hiring Udacity students.

So who are the employers Udacity is working with? While we have been primarily working with companies in the United States, we are pleased to announce that we have extened our employer partnerships to include Europe, Latin America, and Asia. From 12 employers last year, we have found over 412 companies interested in our students, from tech start-ups to Fortune 500s, which include GoogleBank of America, Facebook, and Greylock Venture Partners.

If you are already enrolled as a Udacity student and you are looking for employment, we recommend that in addition to emailing your resume, you also update your student profile. Once a Udacity Career team member has screened you, you can decide which employers you are open to sharing your resume with. Udacity will only share your resume with employers of your choice. There are already Udacity students who have started the interview process with companies they want to work for!

For students who want to polish up their resumes, here are a few simple tips for creating an attractive profile/resume:

  • save your resume as a Word or PDF document
  • check for spelling and grammar errors, perhaps ask a fresh pair of eyes to read it over
  • in addition to your job responsibilities, highlight your skills AND your achievements
  • include a link to your github
  • include a link to your social recommendations, i.e. LinkedIn
  • if you really want to hype it up, make a 50 second video clip of your projects and put the link on your resume!
Udacity's Career Placement Program is looking forward to hearing from you. Let us help you find a job today!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Udacity site now significantly faster and other updates

On top of the new classes that launched Monday June 25, improvements across our site promise to make the learning experience better for Udacians. These updates include a new homepage, improved navigation and auto-advance for course videos.

A few tweaks to the right-hand navigation bar (where the video titles are listed) should make it easier to keep track of where you are in your class at any given time. We’ve also rearranged the text on the page so that the title of the video you are watching is now located above the viewer and the social buttons are still there so that you can share your favorite lectures with your friends.

Additionally, getting back to the classroom after talking with other students on our forums should be much easier since we’ve added a navigation bar across the top of the forum page.

Most importantly, we’ve added auto-advance for watching lecture videos! The “Auto-Next” button (which is preset to "On") enables lectures to stream seamlessly. It is located below the right-hand navigation bar and can be toggled "Off" or “On.”

Every part of our site is now significantly faster, from starting a new class to checking your overall progress.

Have you noticed the changes? Let us know in the comments below.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Udacity Secondary School Student Challenge underway!

Are You Up for the Challenge?
Udacity’s Secondary School Student Challenge is underway! We are excited about the hundreds of team leaders who have rallied their communities to learn together this summer. Students from around the world are forming teams, recruiting team members and developing strategies for team success. The competition, which will begin on Monday June 25 and runs through August 26, is challenging students to complete as many units of Udacity’s courses as possible. By forming teams and taking courses, student team leaders have the chance to win a trip to Silicon Valley, where they will meet Sebastian Thrun and ride in his self-driving car!

There are a few Udacity classes that are aimed at secondary school students looking to boost their brain power this summer. Try one of our new classes, Intro to Physics, Intro to Statistics or the very popular Intro to Computer Science. These three are truly entry-level college classes that any student up for it can tackle. Other classes that are worth a try, but may be a bit more challenging are Algorithms or Peter Norvig’s Design of Computer Programs.

The Competition
Two seasoned computer science students from Freehold, NJ, are recruiting their American Computer Science League All-Star team to participate in the upcoming challenge. Their goals: “We want to further our own team’s expertise in programming and algorithms so we can beat out our future competition.

Another team from Germany is recruiting team members from across the globe to participate on Team Jusix. Jusix team leaders have created a Facebook group where they plan on posting additional questions, announcements and proving that, “Together, with the community, no problem will stop us!”

High school students from an online school in Oregon are planning on building a private forum for their team’s needs. They have committed to being available five days a week to help and collaborate with their team members.

Form or Join a Team
The ball is rolling and it looks like the stakes are high for the chance to win a trip to Silicon Valley and drive in Sebastian Thrun’s self-driving car!

If you haven’t formed your team yet, visit the challenge homepage to get started. If you are looking to join a team visit the recruitment page on the Udacity forums. Good luck to all the students out there who will be participating!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sebastian Thrun's reddit IAMA recap

Thank you to everyone who participated in last weekend’s reddit IAMA question and answer session with Udacity’s founder and CEO Sebastian Thrun! In the words of Thrun, “It was a ton of fun. I love hearing from fellow Udacians. Let’s do it again soon!”

On Saturday June 16, Thrun’s IAMA rose to position four on Reddit’s homepage, which means it got loads of votes! The conversation was ranked right below two deserving and emotionally captivating videos; “My cat with a balloon,” and “Duck chase.”

Thrun fielded questions on everything from the difference between Udacity and Coursera to the development of high-quality, open-access textbooks. The top ranked question of the session asked, “How can a recent college graduate get on a path leading to similar work? What are the career prospects of someone who wants to do cool research and coding or robotics projects?” Thrun's response: “If you believe your activities are in the best interest of the company that employs you – yet you fear you have broken enough rules that you might be fired – then you are doing well.”

Additionally, Thrun addressed what he feels to be the difference between Udacity and Coursera – a ubiquitous topic among MOOC bloggers. Thrun pointed out that, “At Udacity, you will spend more time thinking on your own than listening to a professor. I feel the online medium is so amazing and we should really go beyond just replicating the classroom experience.” And of course, anyone who has taken classes at either Coursera or Udacity will tell you the same thing.

Jacob Eggers identifies the embedded programming exercises in the course videos as the best part of Udacity’s platform. Bryan Pendleton cites Udacity’s Cryptography class as “more practical, more approachable, more intuitive and more oriented around the applied aspects of cryptography [than Coursera].”

By far the most responses were solicited when Thrun asked, “What courses would YOU like to see at Udacity.” While lots of people are interested in seeing more kinds of computer science and artificial intelligence classes, some other promising suggestions included, The Napoleonic Wars, language courses, astrophysics and archaeology!

One question prompted Thrun to provide some valuable advice for new computer scientists learning to code: “Do it often. Coding is a skill, like riding a bike. If you have a choice between coding and reading a book about coding, do coding first, then read the book when you get stuck. Don’t read the book first.”

In the end, Thrun’s event garnered 1090 comments that sparked discussions across many relevant topics relevant to the developing online education market. You can still read through the questions and answers here.

Udacity loves the opportunity to converse with current students, prospective students, education enthusiasts, computer scientists and others who are interested in making higher education accessible to everyone. Udacity is committed to developing courses that benefit you, the student, whatever your path may be. Thank you again for your participation, and stay tuned for more Udacity events and updates!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Udacity student builds visual news site

Students who take Udacity classes learn by doing. In Steve Huffman's Web Applications Engineering class, Bart van der Poel, from the Netherlands, built News Visualization, a site that allows you to see where in the world a news story is happening. Bart filled us in on why he built his site and how Udacity helped him do it!

Check out his site here.

How did you come up with the idea for News Visualizations?
I was reading some news articles on a popular Dutch news website and I noticed that some of the articles had the option of showing the location of that news event on a map. I thought it would be cool to visualize all news events on a single world map so that a user can see the spread of news around the world. After the third lecture, I had learned enough from the class to make a small working example, just as a personal project.

How does the site work and who can use it?
When you visit the site you will see a list on the left side with the most recent news stories, and a world map on the right with pins on it that correspond to those news stories. Users can then browse the list and click on a story to highlight its location on the world map and show a small summary. Or they can just use the world map to navigate through the news stories and click on stories in regions that they are interested in. To read the full news story, they can click on a link in the summary that will take them to the original article.

How did Udacity help you build this site?
I didn't know anything about web development when I started this course. Steve did a great job explaining the important concepts in web development, as well as teaching us how to use Google App Engine, so we could start building stuff right away. I felt like I got a huge amount of information with every new lecture, without being overwhelmed. So, thanks a lot!

Are any other projects on the horizon? 
I am looking forward to styling my News Visualization website and I am also thinking about extracting people's responses to the news articles and color coding the pins on the world map based on how positive/negative the responses are.
As for new projects, I've recently been learning how to develop iPhone and iPad apps. I would like to create a turn-based multiplayer game for these devices and use my new web application knowledge to implement the backend features of the game. So things like matching up players who are looking for an opponent, saving the state of their games on a server, adding players to a friend list. This was actually one of the reasons I signed up for CS253. I think I have learned enough in this class to actually implement these features. 

If you are interested in learning to build web applications, enroll in Steve Huffman's Web Applications Engineering course today!

Friday, June 15, 2012

What Michael Littman learned while teaching at Udacity

Students and professors alike have a lot of reasons to learn with Udacity. Most recently, Michael Littman, a computer scientist, joined the Udacity team to record brand new classes for our ever-growing course list. He said that he had as much to learn from this experience, as he had to teach students about computer science.

Littman, 1982. Caption reads, ".
..he used to love shopping malls"
Littman will be teaching Algorithms:Crunching Social Networks, a class that will unpack what goes on behind the scenes of social connections. But before we talk any more about Littman’s class, there are some things you should know about this guy:

Computer Science: A Love Story
Michael Littman is one of the most outgoing computer scientists you will ever meet. He is beaming with energy and eager to share everything he knows about computer science with the world. As a youngster growing up on the outskirts of Philly, Littman decided to forgo his Bar Mitzvah, a traditional Jewish coming of age ceremony, and instead received  a computer for his 13th birthday. Littman recounts, “From age 13 to 15, I don’t think I saw anyone, I just programmed. And then at 15, I walked out of my room, blinking in the sunlight, like, ‘Okay, I think I’m ready now!’ Then, I reengaged with society.” He refers to this period as the beginning of his “long love affair with computer science.”

Littman has been faithful to computer science, as a student, professional, and professor and chair at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and soon-to-be professor at Brown University in Providence, RI. What drew him to computer science in the first place was the fact that, when you know how to program, you can translate ideas into something useful. The majority of the work that Littman has focused on in recent years has been reinforcement learning, an area of machine learning that is concerned with helping programs learn to get better at something through experience: “In a reinforcement learning setting, performance is measured in terms of profits or rewards and not just in terms of successful predictions.”

On Algorithms
Littman describes his upcoming class as a version of an Alogrithms class you would find at most universities teaching computer science. Beginning June 25, students can learn to organize programs so that they can solve really difficult problems correctly and quickly:

“It is how you organize the data so that you get the information fast! For most students it can be very challenging because this will be the first time they will really have to think mathematically and algorithmically about computer programs. But it is a great skill to have.”

With respect to Littman’s class, the focus will be on algorithms that are important in the analysis of social networks. This means that, given the data you have about how individuals are connected, using algorithms enables you to think about what sorts of connections you can make and how to do so efficiently. Littman describes an example of this: “Given who’s connected to whom, find me a group of at least 10 people who know each other.” Another example of how algorithms can be applied to social networks is the Kevin Bacon game -- but you will have to take the class to find out how that works!

Learning to Teach
At Udacity, instructors design classes specifically for the web, creating short videos that that include embedded quizzes and programming problems. In this way, teaching a class at Udacity is very different than teaching in a classroom. When asked if he thought his teaching could evolve through this experience, Littman replied with conviction, “I agree wholeheartedly.” 

A while back, when he was thinking about changing universities, Littman reached out to Udacity founder and CEO, Sebastian Thrun. Littman wanted to know how he could think differently about teaching people. More specifically, how to reach more people and get them to actually learn the material.

Udacity itself continues to search for answers to these questions, so naturally Thrun invited Littman to teach a course. Littman describes his reaction to the invitation, “I said, ‘absolutely!’ Not only is this exciting, but I’m getting to see the future of education, and I am right on the front lines. How could I think of saying no to that?”

Littman sites interactivity as a cornerstone to what he is getting out of his Udacity teaching experience. In the past, he said he has used clickers – little electronic response devices, like remote controls – but found them limiting because you could only have five response options and no way to pose programming problems. However, with the Udacity format, students are able to write programs as they learn new concepts. Programs are graded instantly, allowing students to know whether they have completely digested the information and whether or not they should move on. Littman says, “So designing this class has been fun. During lectures I’ve been stopping to say, ‘hey, why don’t you write some code to do that,’ and then you know that students are getting the opportunity to sit down with the material, work through it, try a couple of times, see that it works and then proceed.”

At Udacity everyone has something to learn. Whether it is the student learning a new skill, or an instructor learning how to better guide a student through the online learning process, Udacity is laying the foundation for a revolution in learning. As Littman concludes, “There is reason to believe that this is a very good way for people to learn, and if I do not use these ideas, I’m not teaching my students effectively and that would be wrong.”

If you are interested in taking Michael Littman’s course on Algorithms, ENROLL TODAY!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sebastian Thrun, Udacity CEO, will conduct 'IAMA' session on reddit

Attention Udacity students and fans! Sebastian Thrun, founder and CEO of Udacity, wants to answer your questions about everything from free education to artificial intelligence THIS SATURDAY! Get your questions ready because starting at 10AM PST, Thrun will be on for a live IAMA question and answer session. Throughout the day, Thrun will be answering YOUR questions. Don't miss this cool opportunity to hear from one of education's foremost innovators!
Check out what others have been asking Thrun in this month's Forbes Magazine article,
How Would You Like a Graduate Degree for $100?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sam Romano tells Udacity about landing dream job at Google

Following the first AI class, Udacity received hundreds of resumes from our students. We passed some of these resumes on to a number of companies. Recently, we heard from Sam Romano, who just landed a job at Google in Pittsburg, PA. During his job training in Palo Alto, CA, Sam took took the time to sit down with Udacity and tell us about how his experience in class helped him get the job he's always wanted. Thanks Sam, and good luck at Google!

If you are interested in having your resume shared with Udacity's growing list of employers, login to Udacity and fill out your profile page!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What is your motivation?

Has this ever happened to you: You enroll in a Udacity course, start out strong and then life gets in the way, or the course becomes a little more challenging than you expected and your trajectory flips from skyward to wayward? In his article, "A Whole New U," posted on Pacific Standard Magazine, Kevin Charles Redman recounts how he became frustrated mid-way through CS101 and how he overcame it. Do you have a similar story? Did you overcome your slump or are you still in it?

Udacity's number one priority is our students. Everyday we hear feedback from our students, and we are listening. Currently, as we work to roll out another round of new courses -- five of which will premiere June 25, 2012 -- we have some questions for you, our students, about motivation.

Students are motivated to attend traditional universities and Udacity alike for a myriad a reasons: the experience, the love of learning, the opportunity to move away from home (not in Udacity's case), or the opportunity to get a degree and ideally a job. 

Motivation is also crucial on a smaller (but no less important) scale. What motivates you to complete the tasks required of a class, homeworks, quizzes, attending/watching lectures? Are you motivated by the employment potential that an education yields? Or does the satisfaction of solving a challenging problem keep you yearning for more knowledge? Or does a looming deadline get you across the finish line?

With these questions surrounding motivation in mind, Udacity would like to invite you to respond to any/all of them in the comments section below, on your own blog or by email, E-mail us a link to your blog post or include it in the comments below.

With your feedback we will continue to work towards creating the most effective student-oriented class experience possible.
Our Questions for You:
  1. What motivates you to complete a Udacity course?
  2. How useful are deadlines?
  3. If you have not completed a course, what kept you from finishing it?
  4. What do you think Udacity could do to motivate you to complete a course?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Secondary school student challenge: Are you ready to win?

Recently, there has been a wave of amazing new online college classes offered for free. The frenzy started with Stanford's Artificial Intelligence class in October 2011. Already, tens of thousands of high school students -- some as young as 13 years old -- have successfully passed college level computer science classes. Now, there are courses available in fields including physics, business, humanities, and statistics. 

So, we decided to run a worldwide competition. At stake is an all-expenses paid visit to Silicon Valley and a tour of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence lab, where you will see the famed self-driving car! (And there might even be a chance to ride in a self-driving car!). Professor Sebastian Thrun will be welcoming the winners personally and showing them around. 

Contest Rules

  • If you are a high school (secondary school) student, pair up with a friend from your high school. You two will be the team leaders.
  • Visit the Udacity contest page, sign up, and create your team name. 
  • Sign up as many people as you can to take online college classes with you. These can be classmates, relatives, and even your teachers. You'll have a special code for the sign up so that your team members can identify themselves as members of your team and get your team credit.
  • Recruit your friends over Facebook and encourage your team members to recruit their friends too! The bigger your team is, the better chance you'll have at winning! 
  • Start building your teams now to get ready for the June 25th start date!
  • Your team members then take as many classes as they wish; all courses are free. Any course unit that is successfully completed by August 26th will count as one point for your team. The goal is to get as many points as you can!
Team leaders from the top five teams will win a trip to Silicon Valley! If you are one of the winning teams' two leaders, you and a parent can come to visit Silicon Valley. We realize that in some cases it may be difficult to visit (e.g. visa problems), in which case we'll find something else for you to win. But we really are looking forward to meeting those high school students who managed to get the largest crowd to join the amazing experience of learning online. 

Developing interactive online classes has been a thrill ride. Share the excitement of learning by taking classes with friends and family -- and win a personal tour of Stanford. Start your team now!

Contest Q & A:

Why do we do this competition? To democratize education. Udacity firmly believes education is a basic human right and that it should be available for free. We'd like to share our excitement with as many people as possible, to help them gain the skills they otherwise wouldn't be able to get.

I'm a high school student. What's in it for me? Mostly, the opportunity to learn something fascinating. No matter what class you take you are poised to learn something new, to meet interesting new people online, and to build the coolest projects. What you learn might come in handy in college; in fact it may even help you to get into the college of your choice!

I'm not a high school student. What's in it for me? Mostly, the same thing: learning the coolest skills and building the coolest projects this summer. Many online learners are working professionals and they, too, benefit from learning something new.

What courses are included in the score? Right now, we can only handle courses on While there are many other exciting online courses on the Web, we don't have the technology to integrate their final certificates into our system. But Udacity offers a range of exciting courses, including introductory courses to statistics, physics, and computer science.

What happens if my team members start a course unit but don't finish by the deadline? In this case the unit will not count. Students have to finish each unit completely to get points.

Do I really need two team leaders? No, you just need one. but if you have two, you should have two times the recruiting power!

Do team leaders really need to be from the same high school? Yes. You and your fellow classmate get to become the community champions of free online education.

How about cheating? What if someone registers as multiple users, or writes a computer program that cheats? Don't cheat! We actually have methods in place to detect cheating, and we will rigorously disqualify any team that shows signs of cheating. For the winning teams, we will check the identity of team members. We reserve the right to remove any team from the competition even if we can't disclose our methods for detecting cheating.

Can we have an extension of the deadline? No. This contest has a hard deadline. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Udacity in partnership with Pearson VUE announces testing centers

At Udacity, we continue to create classes that are available to anyone, anywhere, for free.  The next step in making the Udacity experience even better for our students is to make our classes count towards a credential that is recognized by employers.

Today, we’re excited to announce a partnership with Pearson VUE, a worldwide provider of testing services.  Students may still complete a Udacity class on our website as they always have. And now, students wishing to pursue our official credential and be part of our job placement program should also take an additional final exam in a Pearson testing center.  There are over 4000 centers in more than 170 countries.

Again, this is strictly optional and you can still participate in our job placement program without taking a proctored exam. The testing centers allow students to show off what they’ve learned in an environment that ensures academic honesty.

Each exam will be 90 minutes and will be composed of multiple choice and short answer questions.  For the first round of exams, programming will not be included.

There will be a nominal fee required to take the exams, which will offset the cost of physical testing centers and staff.

We will keep you updated on testing center locations and costs, but, in the meantime if you have any questions about Udacity exams in testing centers, please leave them in the comments below.