Please Welcome The Newest Members Of The OMS CS Alumni Community!

 

OMSCS_blog

December 11, 2015 presented us with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate a very significant milestone. On that day, the first twenty students to complete their studies entirely through Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) received their degrees. This was in fact a milestone-in-the-making for over two years, and the culmination of so much incredible work done by so many dedicated individuals—the students themselves most of all.

But if that achievement seemed remarkable then (and it did!), today’s news is perhaps all the more noteworthy given the three-fold increase in numbers—today, we celebrate the graduation of 62 OMS CS students!

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Celebrating A First-of-its-Kind Graduation

OnlinePioneersLess than two years ago, Georgia Tech, AT&T and Udacity entered into a partnership to offer a groundbreaking online Master’s Degree in Computer Science. The first of its kind, this singular program continues to set the standard for innovative online education. It has been hailed by President Barack Obama as “the kind of innovation needed by the United States to address the rising costs of higher education.”

This week, the program (commonly referred to as OMS CS) celebrates a very special milestone. On December 11th, the first twenty students to complete their studies entirely through this curriculum will receive their degrees!

The program has been instrumental in opening doors to segments of the population that could not have earned an advanced degree previously. At a price of $7,000—almost a sixth of what a traditional on-campus degree can cost—the opportunity is a very real one for so many more students. As Georgia Tech puts it, the OMS CS represents “the best computing education in the world, now available to the world.”

To see these graduates join the ranks of Georgia Tech alumni is a dream come true for all here at Udacity. We are deeply committed to making high quality education available, accessible, and economically feasible at a global level, and as Georgia Tech Provost Rafael Bras has recently noted, the success of these graduates is proof that advanced education opportunities CAN be made available to a much larger student audience. We know by the example of these extraordinary students that if the opportunities are available, students will pursue them, and they will succeed.

To learn more about OMS CS, please visit the program’s website at: www.omscs.gatech.edu.

Improving With Experience: Machine Learning in the Modern World

MLND-blog-post

In the elevators and the stairwells, at desks and in conference rooms, by the coffee machine and in the library, everyone at Udacity is talking about machine learning. Why? Because we’re launching a brand-new Machine Learning Engineer Nanodegree program, and everyone is very excited!

Machine learning is a truly unique field, in that it can seem both very complicated, and very simple. For example, compare the following two descriptions:

“Machine learning is a subfield of computer science that evolved from the study of pattern recognition and computational learning theory in artificial intelligence. Machine learning explores the study and construction of algorithms that can learn from and make predictions on data.”

and

“Machine learning is the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed.”

The first is from Wikipedia, the second is from a Stanford course description. Somewhat different flavor, no? So how can Machine Learning be both so complicated and so simple? The answer lies in its omnipresence. Machine Learning is literally everywhere.

But what IS Machine Learning?

Where did it come from, what does it mean, and why is it important?

At its core, machine learning is about making sense of large quantities of data. And note: by ‘large’, we mean LARGE—literally millions of just about everything you can count, quantify, and analyze: millions of patients, millions of students, millions of trades, millions of tweets. The sheer volume of data the modern world now produces is what makes machine learning both necessary, and possible.

Of course fields like statistics and algorithms have long aimed to summarize data for making decisions and predictions, and many of the formulas and techniques used in machine learning were developed by mathematicians centuries ago. What is new is the quantity. Increases in computational power allow us to perform analyses in hours that would have taken centuries by hand.

The result: a billion times more data than we’ve ever had before, and a billion times more power to make sense of it. How is this all made possible? Machine learning! Literally, a machine “learning” concepts from data. It learns like we do every day: it looks at experiences and observations and discerns useful information. But while we can do that based on a couple dozen experiences, machine learning can do it based on millions of experiences, all rigorously and numerically defined.

So what do machine learning engineers actually do?

Simple! Machine learning engineers build programs that dynamically perform the analyses that data scientists used to perform manually. And why is this important? Think for a moment of all the fields where data is very important. Healthcare, education, astronomy, finance, robotics, and more. Machine learning is already impacting them all, and in fact, there is virtually no field that machine learning won’t impact!

This is one of the key reasons why machine learning is so fascinating, because it’s everywhere. Often, it’s operating when we don’t even realize it. Ever used Google Translate? How about Siri? Your Facebook News Feed? All made possible through machine learning! If you know a bit about Udacity, you’ll know that our founder and CEO Sebastian Thrun himself has a long and remarkable history in the field, from founding a Master’s program at Carnegie-Mellon that evolved into a Machine Learning PhD program, to being director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Stanford University, to leading the development of the Google driverless car.

Google Translate may in fact be one of the most famous (and most utilized!) examples of machine learning in action, and Google’s description of how it works makes for a pretty classic illustration of the concepts at play:

Machine Translation is a great example of how cutting edge research and world class infrastructure come together at Google. We focus our research efforts towards developing statistical translation techniques that improve with more data and generalize well to new languages. Our large scale computing infrastructure allows us to rapidly experiment with new models trained on web-scale data to significantly improve translation quality.

The key sentence here is “techniques that improve with more data.” This is really the essence of machine learning.

In 2006, Tom Mitchell published The Discipline of Machine Learning. In it he posed the following question:

“How can we build computer systems that automatically improve with experience?”

Machine learning is the answer to this question, and it’s why we’re launching our new Machine Learning Engineer Nanodegree Program!

 

Georgia Tech OMSCS Courses Now Free Through Udacity

Georgia Tech Online Master of Science in Computer Science

Last year, Udacity, Georgia Tech and AT&T announced a partnership to provide the online Masters Degree in Computer Science. There are currently 2,400 students enrolled in 13 classes, and we’re continuously impressed by the creativity of their final projects, their exam results, and their ability to balance the rigorous curriculum with their day jobs.

With that said, we know that there are many more talented students who can benefit from the content created in partnership with Georgia Tech and AT&T. Today, we are proud to announce all of the OMSCS courses are now available for free on our platform.

While these classes share the exact content Georgia Tech OMSCS students use, they do not include the projects and exams that are part of the program. We hope that the course content will empower our students to learn advanced concepts in engineering that can help them succeed in their careers. Successful completion of these courses will not earn a Udacity certificate but will be great preparation for students seeking to pursue the graduate degree at Georgia Tech, earn a professional education certificate with GTPE or just reference different engineering concepts.

See the courses and get started today!

What I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Programmer Self

2015 SF Hackathon

It was a completely surreal experience. I was sitting at a table with some very important and influential developers of whom I had tremendous respect for and was a huge fan of their contributions. To my left was Guillermo Rauch, the creator of Socket.io, Jeff Lawson, the CEO of Twilio, David East from Firebase and on my right was Martin Gonto and Martin Woloski of Auth0. We were in the process of judging the projects for Hack-a-ton SF and as each team came up and presented I could not help but reflect on how at one time I was that fledgling programmer working to articulate new ideas in code.

I do not believe the path from the stage presenting my hackathon project to sitting behind the judges desk is by any means a magical process with a secret formula but rather a series of small commitments that have been applied consistently over the last couple years. Self discovery is great, but if I could go back in time, these are the things I would tell my new programmer self to start doing immediately.

Surround Yourself with Programmers

Learning to program is one of the most gratifying things I have ever embarked upon but learning to program while collaborating with other programmers turns the entire activity into a high definition experience. It is amazing to me how many variations exist to solve the exact same problem depending on who is writing the code. It is these unique and additional perspectives that are going to stretch you to be better.

A great place to start is to go to Meetup and see if there is a meetup in your area. Meetup even has a category dedicated to technology which makes finding a relevant meetup really easy. Most meetups are entirely free to show up and a great way to meet new people who are interested in the same things. I run a meetup in Phoenix with almost 600 members and I have made some really great friends through that channel.

Another great way to surround yourself with other programmers is to become involved in discussion forums such as Google Groups. This is a great resource for talking about problems and ideas and starting to build rapport with other developers in a particular community.

Surround Yourself with Better Programmers

It is always mind boggling how humble the best programmers I know actually are in real life. I believe they know it is a virtuous circle that great programmers make great programmers which in turn make great programmers. We become who we surround ourselves with and the best thing you can do for your career is to find a great mentor and start to diligently emulate and apply their advice.

Surround yourself with programmers

Beyond building relationships through Meetup and Google Groups, you can (and should!) become involved on Github. Did you know that the code for most of the projects we use is online for everyone to see? I have spent hours reading through the AngularJS source code and found it to be overflowing with great ideas and approaches. The next step would be to find something that you can fix and submit a pull request. One of my first contributions to the AngularJS project was actually some spelling errors I found in the documentation. Busy engineers love help and fixing a bug or making an improvement will immediately put you on solid footing to establish a positive relationship.

The Community’s Success is Your Success

Speaking of virtuous circles, when you put value into the community, it will always come back in spades. If you have learned something new and exciting then share it with the community. If you have just solved a tricky problem then it is safe to bet that at least one other person has run into that same problem. It is also safe to bet that someone will run into that problem in the future and if you took the time to make your solution available, you may end up saving that developer hours of frustration. Value is the product of valuable people and when you are helping other people by providing value then invariably that association will be made.

And now take all the advice that I gave and change the direction from consumption to contribution. Be friendly. Make yourself available for questions. Be helpful. Don’t be afraid to hop onto StackOverflow and answer questions. If there isn’t a meetup in your area, go ahead and start one!

The Bottom Line

There is a lot to be said about technical prowess but I believe that true career velocity is the result of making friends, making the right friends and helping friends. There is no magic formula for being a “rockstar” developer and that is good! It is just about surrounding yourself with excellent people and in turn helping to make people excellent.

Developer Tools: Facebook “Hacking” Tutorial

We’ve all played pranks on friends. It’s how we show we care.

In this inaugural episode of Udacity After Dark, a YouTube show where we talk technology and share what we’ve learned , we’ll show you how to use Google Developer Tools to prank  a friend’s Facebook profile page. (And the best part about playing a prank like this is that the “damage” is undone as soon as the page is refreshed.)

Check it out in the video below!

Developer Tools (or DevTools, as the pros call it) provides a robust toolkit for debugging and modifying web applications. You can also use it to change text and images on a web page. It’s easy, simply:

Right-click on the part of the page you want to modify and select “Inspect Element.” Here, I’m right-clicking on my name.

Inspect elements using DevTools.  via udacity.com

This will bring up DevTools at the bottom of your screen. The part of the page that you want to modify will be highlighted. In this case, you can see that the element with my name is highlighted.

Inspect elements using DevTools.  via udacity.com

Then, all you need to do is double-click the element to change text or image URL. You’ll see your changes happen in the page right away!

Inspect elements using DevTools.  via udacity.com

And there you have it: a fun prank to pull on friends that doesn’t require any clean up!

Nanodegrees and Beyond

Udacity’s mission is democratizing education

At Udacity, our mission is to democratize education, making it accessible and affordable to anyone who wants to get a new job or advance a career.

The world demand for computing skills is increasing at a historically unprecedented rate with supply unable to keep up, regardless of the best efforts by academia, companies and governments. This phenomenon is not limited to Silicon Valley alone. Technology is transforming every industry, be it food, retail, healthcare or transportation. Companies from Columbus to Cologne and Sao Paolo to Sapporo are hungry for technical talent.

In our effort to bring education to a greater number of professionals, we are excited to have closed a financing round of $35 million with investors from around the globe. The lead investor in this financing is Drive Capital, a fund with a large presence in the American Heartland. Mark Kvamme, founder of Drive Capital, will join our board. We are fortunate to have Bertelsmann in Germany; Recruit in Japan and Valor Capital in Brazil join us to further expand our presence for students around the globe. Cox Enterprises is also participating in this financing. Our partners from the start, technology stalwarts Andreessen Horowitz and Charles River Ventures with Peter Levine and George Zachary complete the round.

The new investment will mainly be used to double down on our work with nanodegrees, a new type of credential for students to gain skills recognized by employers around the world. In fact, today we are opening our first nanodegree, built with AT&T, to an initial group of students. In time, the program will be open to everyone.

We currently have close to three million enrollments from 119 countries for our classes thatare built with industry leaders like Google, Facebook, AT&T, Cloudera and MongoDB amongothers. These classes, available on any device anywhere, come with personalized coachingand a project to demonstrate mastery of skills — something no other company does today. We often say at Udacity, we are built by industry for industry.

In many ways, we are still at the start of our journey. With the strong interest and passion for learning we are seeing from students and partners, we are fully committed to bring education to millions of people to help them get jobs and advance their lifelong learning. When a store clerk goes from shelving cans to getting a job in technology, raising his standard of living, because of a Udacity class, we know we are on the right path. As we march towards more of these, we want to thank the Udacity team, our partners, investors and most importantly, our students, for joining us on this audacious journey.


Vish Makhijani
COO