Feedback from our students is critical to our goal of providing world-class learning experiences, and on a daily basis everyone in the company reads the ratings and reviews that come in through our website. We’re thrilled when our Nanodegree programs receive positive reviews, and we work hard and fast to immediately address concerns when they’re raised.
On a review-by-review basis, we get an opportunity to hear how individual students feel about their experience, and when we step back and look from a higher level, we can identify patterns and trends that help us deliver program-wide enhancements and upgrades.
It can be particularly fascinating to discover a recurring theme that doesn’t necessarily have to do with specific program features. For example, in reading through a collection of recent reviews, I was struck by how often students spoke to the idea of learning how to learn, and being both supported and pushed to discover things on their own. Here is one such review:
“I learned not only many specific skills in this field, but also the ability to search the answer by myself when I got stuck. Being able to do self-study and solve the problem in a fast way is extremely important in web development or any IT related field. This field evolves really fast. You need to be prepared to learn something new each year or even each month.”
This review highlights an important point about pedagogy and technology. While Michael Fullan’s oft-repeated mantra “pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator” continues to hold sway in many educational circles, the contemporary truth is that technology’s accelerating pace is reversing this formula, making way for a new paradigm in which innovative approaches to learning must emerge to meet technology’s unique demands. This being true, we are especially pleased to see reviews where a student describes learning how to learn as much as they detail what they’ve learned:
“This was a very tough, very energy-consuming experience. I have definitely learned more than any other time in my life. Udacity has not only taught me some code, it has taught me how to learn, how to think, and how to break bigger problems into smaller problems—all with confidence. Thank you!”
Striking the right balance between providing solutions outright, and pushing students to discover answers on their own, is an ongoing challenge with significant consequences—too much help, and students miss an opportunity to build self-reliance; not enough, and students grow frustrated, and lose both confidence and motivation. The following review details these tensions clearly:
“Not going to lie … I have found some of this so hard. You will get mad that you think they aren’t providing enough—enough content, enough guidance! I was forced to discover things on my own, I had to watch and re-watch the videos, have 1:1s and forum searches … just like you will in the real world! At first I was so frustrated … but then after doing all those things a lot … it starts to click! You learn! You retain! You apply it all by yourself! This is a great program! Totally worth the money, and the time you will put into this program!”
A core tenet of our approach is learning by doing, and we love seeing the positive ways this can impact the student experience:
“This course has helped me to transition from a pure front-end developer to a full stack developer in about three months. While I have taken many MOOCs earlier, I believe Udacity’s pedagogy is the most effective. It is truly learning by doing.”
Growth mindset is an important concept in our field, and we are always interested to see how the idea resonates with students at a grassroots level. The following review really caught my attention, for the simple, straightforward way this student makes clear the relationships between the skills you need to be able to work, and the mindset you need to do your work:
“You not only acquire a lot of awesome skills, but develop the mindset needed to carry out the task of a data analyst practically.”
Reading, absorbing, and acting on student reviews is a big part of what we do here every single day, but it’s not the only way we respond to ratings and reviews. Sometimes, we just stop for a moment, and smile:
A student left a 5-star review for nd004.
“I feel good.”