Thanks-for-a-Great-2015_Blog

“It was a very good year.”
~Frank Sinatra

365 days. 12 months. 1 year. It shouldn’t feel so long ago, but somehow January of 2015 seems about as far away as Y2K. Was it really just the beginning of this year we were blowing  your minds with data visualizations, and debating the merits of Python vs. R? And was it honestly just a mere two weeks after this year’s Valentine’s Day that we announced that all Georgia Tech OMSCS courses would be free going forward? Hard to believe, particularly in light of all the exciting news we’ve just had about GT’s first online graduates, but it’s true! How time flies…

Looking back at the year behind us, it’s hard to believe everything that’s been accomplished. Our students together comprise an incredible force for learning, and their dedication and commitment levels are other-worldly. Did you know, that if you add up all the hours that students together have dedicated to learning with Udacity, the total is over 450 years??? It’s true! Check our special Year-End Infographic if you don’t believe me!

Numbers like that are pretty staggering. One’s eyes almost glaze over thinking about it. When I get that feeling, it really helps to think about the students behind the numbers. The individual accomplishments just keep coming, and they’re all so special. As but one example, consider March of 2015.

Spring

Over the course of just those 31 days, we profiled 5 different students who landed new jobs because of their Udacity experience! Ayesha Ilyas re-entered the workforce after taking some time with her family, and is now a front-end web developer! And what about Christian Strobl, over in Munich? He said goodbye to his law career, and launched his own startup built atop the skills he was accruing as a Data Analyst Nanodegree program student. And then there’s Julian Ozen, who took his Udacity experience right into a job with Amazon. And Udacity student Dawoon Choi? We profiled him in March, and by May, learned he’d landed a job as a full-time web developer. And here’s another one: Lei Zhu. We profiled her in March of 2015 as well. At the time she was still a Udacity student. We even sub-titled the post “An Aspiring Full Stack Developer.” But guess what? Just looked her up on LinkedIn. Full-time developer in New York!

Whew! And that was just March!

Now, if this all sounds a bit heady, don’t worry. It’s not always that intense around here. Take a quick look back to the very beginning of April, and read this announcement about a new Nanodegree program launch. What’s it all about? Well, I’ll give you a hint: once you read it, it will be h-aarrr!-d to ever FOOL you again! And of course, don’t skip this post on gathering Udacity Easter eggs (but be careful not to get RickRolled in the process!)

When it comes to assessing an entire year’s worth of successes and milestones, inevitably a few particular events will stand out. Launching the Android Developer Nanodegree program was one of those events. Sebastian Thrun led the launch with a one-two punch: First, he wrote about it on our blog:

At Udacity, we are all about democratizing education to give people the skills they need to get a new job or advance their careers in technology. Today, with Android at one billion active users worldwide and growing, the demand for Android developers is staggering — from Palo Alto to Paris to Penang.

And then he announced it at Google I/O:

 

Summer

Speaking of our blog, we’re very grateful for its readership, as it’s proven to be a great platform for highlighting the successes of our students, announcing new launches, sharing educational resources, and so much more. Occasionally, we use it to turn the lens on ourselves as well. Just like we love to learn your stories, it’s occasionally our pleasure to share some of our stories with you. For example, In June of 2015, we took Father’s Day as an opportunity to introduce you to some Udacity Dads: Steven Johnson, Jason Barros, and Art Gillespie! Just like so many of our students, many Udacians are balancing careers and family too. Being a Udacity Dad myself, I can say it’s not always easy, but it’s always beautiful!

Summer of 2015 rolled right on with another one of those really memorable milestones. In July, we launched our “Half-Back” program. We know that an investment in your education is an investment in your future, and it was an investment we wanted to share. This program made it possible for us to get even more closely involved with each student’s journey, and more explicitly support each student’s successes. Each month since, we’ve watched Udacity students master critical skills, build amazing projects, and accomplish remarkable things, and when all’s been said and done and they’ve earned their Nanodegree credential, we’ve been able to recognize their achievement by paying half their tuition. Oh, what a feeling!

Fall

We rolled into Fall with another pretty amazing announcement. Udacity in India! Our mission has been, is, and always will be to work in the service of Democratizing Education, and as our understanding of—and experience with—the truth of what this really means has deepened, we’ve collectively opened our eyes ever wider to a wider world, and issues of diversity, inclusion, and reach have enriched our understanding of who we are and what we do. Launching a scholarship program in India—in partnership with Google and Tata Trusts—is just one instance of this ethos in action, but we’re very excited about this, and other global endeavors to come!

There are always so many exciting things going on here, and it’s often easy to lose one’s virtual head in the proverbial clouds. When we ground ourselves, we come back to the Nanodegree programs, and the courses contained within them. To borrow an old colloquialism, this is our bread and butter. 2015 has been an AMAZING year for Nanodegree programs, and the pace continues to accelerate. Earlier this month, we announced the simultaneous launch of not one, not two, but THREE new Nanodegree programs! In November, we launched our new Machine Learning Nanodegree program. And the month before that, we debuted our Beginning iOS App Development Nanodegree program. We’re teaching more students than ever before! (We’re in 168 countries now, by the way! You can check our infographic for that stat too!)

Of course, not all launches are for Nanodegree programs. In October, we launched Talent Source. We couldn’t be more excited about this, because it really speaks to the core of what we do. This is an initiative specifically focused on directly connecting our amazing students to amazing jobs. We say it all the time. We want to equip you with the skills you need, to land the job you want, so you can build the life you deserve. That’s what Talent Source is all about.

A Very Good Year

Which takes me to where I want to conclude this post, which is with you. Your lives, your dreams, your learning, your achievements. Udacity exists both because of you, and for you. When you learn something with Udacity, and you turn that something into a career achievement that propels you forward, and your life improves because of it, that is success for us. And by that measure, this has been a successful year beyond even our wildest dreams. Thank you to all of you who’ve traveled with us through 2015. It has been a very good year!