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Think of your best learning experiences. What were you doing? You probably weren’t simply listening to a speaker or reading a book. To really energize the learning centers of our brains, we need to engage multiple aspects of our bodies as well. Something as simple as taking notes in the margin can increase comprehension and retention. We have the best learning experiences when we’re actively involved in the activity of learning — from changing a tire to drawing an image to kicking a ball.
This form of active, experiential learning is most effective when accompanied by multiple reinforcements and true learner involvement. The famous quote, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn,” makes a simple point. The best way to learn is to present information in three different ways — audial, visual, and kinesthetic — and then direct the learner to synthesize the information at their own pace and later apply their learnings.
At Udacity, we follow the same learning approach. We provide asynchronous learning materials in video, text, and visual forms, all of which reinforce each other to give learners a comprehensive understanding of each topic within our courses.
Our material engages both sides of the brain — listening and analyzing within the left and visual and spatial understanding on the right. Once learners understand the material, they participate in hands-on activities and exercises, whether that be programming workspaces or providing learning tools to follow along with the instructors as they work through a problem.
Next, students work on industry-relevant projects that enable them to synthesize their learning and master their skills. Our reviewer network then gives learners personalized feedback on their work.
Udacity’s hands-on exercises, workspaces, and projects are what truly set us apart from other providers. Rather than showing completion by a passive, “lean-back” experience where learners only watch videos and read text, our educational experience allows learners to “lean in” and engage with the material.
We challenge ourselves and our learners to not only think through the problems presented to them, but show their work — work they can be proud to share with colleagues, mentors, and management teams as evidence of their skills in the technologies of the future.
The Udacity experience is not for those that want an easy route to course completion as a banner to post on their walls. Rather, it’s for learners who want to be challenged and empowered to acquire the tools and breadth of skills needed to achieve their full potential. When students complete the final projects of each course within a Nanodegree program, they can take pride in their accomplishments, knowing that they are now fully equipped with the skills to solve real technical challenges in the real world.