Inside Udacity: Developing Intro to Programming


Hi, I’m Sara! I work at Udacity as a course manager, meaning I’m often on the Udacity end of the conversation when students check in with questions about our courses. I’ve also recently donned a course developer hat, meaning I work with Professor Cay Hortsmann and Cheng-Han Lee to develop our new Intro to Programming course.

Developing a course at Udacity is pretty exciting. It generally goes like this:

Brainstorming, scripting & writing sample code

Initially, Cheng-Han, Cay, and I brainstorm cool examples of things you can program, like drawing a graph of your friends. Next, we write lesson scripts and test out all the example code.


When we film the videos, I always find that the code has a mind of its own. I plan some mistakes so students can see the process of reasoning about bugs, but sometimes I make new mistakes while filming. I guess those ones will be more authentic 🙂 Recognizing and fixing bugs is a critical skill. Bugs are a constant reality of programming, and they are conquerable.

Cay and I in the recording studio
Cay and I in the recording studio


When I finish recording a video, I hand it to our talented video editors, who edit the footage so that it flows well and feels like a finished product.

Coding quizzes & assignments

The polished footage is uploaded to the site where Cheng-Han codes all the quizzes and programing assignments. Without this last critical step, all the content would be just another lecture. At Udacity, we plan the course around the questions, because when you make mistakes while answering questions, your brain grows.

Cheng-Han coding in stealth mode
Cheng-Han coding in stealth mode

I love being a Udacity course developer for Intro to Programming because I believe that very soon, if it hasn’t happened already, we will realize that programming is as important for careers as reading and writing is. It’s something you can use to communicate with the world, and to build your ideas into realities.
More and more, the world needs people to learn CS, and we’re struggling to keep up with educating all of the students who want to learn. I came to Udacity because if I build good content here, potentially thousands of people can use it to learn to program. Working at Udacity, I am able to make a difference by reaching students at a scale I never dreamed of. If you want to take the course to earn college credit with San Jose State University, you have three more days until enrollment closes on Friday, May 24th.

Sara Tansey
Udacity Course Manager & Developer

Sebastian Thrun Takes Coffee Break to Discuss Online Masters Degree

Welcome to this week’s Coffee Break!

It’s been a big week for us at Udacity, what with our HTML5 Game Development certificate program launch, announcing our collaboration with Georgia Tech and AT&T to offer an Online Masters Degree in Computer Science, and debuting our I/O course.

Whew, that’s a full week! The buzz around these new developments has been tremendously encouraging — thank you for all of your support in these new adventures.

For this week’s Coffee Break installment, Sebastian talks with fellow Udacian, Clarissa, about the Online Masters Degree, as well as course certificate alternatives for students who aren’t interested in the entire degree.

For more thoughts from Sebastian, be sure to read his blog post reflecting on MOOCs, empowerment and education.

Happy Friday and Happy Coffee Break!

10 Reasons to Take Your Education Online

Happy Friday, Udacity!

Millions of people are getting inspired by a new era of online education, and we here at Udacity are absolutely thrilled to watch empowered students advance their education and their careers with our free, online courses. Virtual classrooms are filling up all over the interwebs!

We are so jazzed about online learning that we decided to make a list for everyone who needs a few extra reasons to take their education online. We polled the office and this is what we came up with!

Here’s one of the reasons: There’s no such thing as being late to your laptop.

This man has never been late in his life. Only early.

We care deeply about the future of education and believe that higher education is a basic human right — Udacity’s mission is to bring accessible, affordable, engaging and highly effective education to the world.

We also believe in having fun, so stay tuned for more lists.

College Algebra with Udacity and San Jose State University

Hi, I’m Miriam, one of the course developers for College Algebra, a course you can take this summer with Udacity and San Jose State University to learn the fundamentals of algebra — and earn college credit while you’re at it.

College Algebra, taught by San Jose State’s Dr. Julie Sliva Spitzer, fellow course developer Sarah Norell, and myself, will take you all the way from defining variables through finding roots of higher degree polynomials through solving exponential and logarithmic equations.

Learn to use algebra to predict panda population growth.
Learn to use algebra to predict panda population growth.

Whether you are new to algebra or want to strengthen your understanding of the subject, College Algebra will make concepts resonate on a deep level and will help develop your intuition for problem solving. The engaging, and often amusing, examples used will give you a chance to play around with math while also realizing its relevance for everyday life.

If you’d like to help out a startup that makes windshield wipers for glasses, determine the age of the Dead Sea scrolls, or predict how a panda population will grow, joins us in College Algebra!

One of the awesome things about Udacity is that once a course is created, it will always be available. Now that all of the lessons for College Algebra have been released, you can work through the entire course at your own pace, whether you want to zip through as quickly as possible or give yourself a generous summer vacation break.

Also, join me as I fly through the solar system!
Also, join me as I fly through the solar system!

Of course, if you want to earn college credit this summer at San Jose State University, you do have to enroll for credit by Friday, May 24th, so sign up today!

Miriam Swords Kalk
Udacity Course Developer

Entry-Level Mathematics with Udacity and San Jose State University

Summer is almost here! You might have travel plans or you might be staying in one place. Either way, I hope you’ll find time to learn something new and join me for Entry-Level Mathematics. My name is Chris Saden, and I’ve teamed up with not just one but two professors at San Jose State, Sandra DeSousa and Susan McClory, to create an exciting math course.

Now if you’re thinking, “Hey, Algebra is not for me” or “I’m no good at math”, then watch this clip about London’s Black Cab Drivers and see if you can change your mind.

These drivers learned an immense amount of knowledge over time, and the number of their neural connections actually grew. You have that same ability to make your own connections with math!

In this course, we will take a visual approach to learning Algebra. We’ll explain math symbols, like a cube root, by drawing perfect cubes, and we’ll draw diagrams to support our reasoning.

I’m much more of fan of showing rather than telling so here is a sample question from the course.


If this has you thinking, then come join us for Entry-Level Mathematics. Be sure to register by May 24th if you’re seeking to satisfy the the ELM requirement in California. While this course does not offer college credit toward a degree, successful completion of the course can allow you to take more advanced math courses.

This course will prepare you for our College Algebra course so if you are looking to brush up on the basics or wondering which course to take, this is a great starting point. I hope to see you in class!

Chris Saden
Udacity Course Developer

Sebastian Thrun: Announcing Online Masters Degree in Computer Science in Collaboration with Georgia Tech and AT&T


There are a few moments in my life I will never forget. Like the moment I proposed to my wife, Petra. Or the moment Stanley crossed the finish line in the DARPA Grand Challenge.

Today is one of those moments.

I grew up in Germany, a country that offers excellent education. Yet when I started my Master’s degree in computer science, I found myself among 1,200 other Master’s students with just five professors. Needless to say, I ended up mostly educating myself through books that were available at a nearby research institute.

Today is my opportunity to give back. Ever since Peter Norvig and I launched AI Class, I have been dreaming of putting an entire computer science degree online, and to make access to the material free of charge, so that everyone can become a proficient computer scientist. With Georgia Tech and AT&T, this is my dream come true. If, as a young student, I had the chance to learn from the best professors in the world, my life might have been different. I have been fortunate. Yet so many potential learners are still denied access. Education has become much more exclusive, and getting into a top-10 computer science department, like Georgia Tech’s, is still out of reach for all but a chosen few.

I co-founded Udacity to bring the very best of higher education to everyone worldwide. With Georgia Tech, we have a partner whose computer science program is among the best in the world! And equally importantly, with AT&T, we partner with a Fortune-500 company which is relentlessly innovating in the space of digital access to information. This triumvirate of industry and academia is now teaming up to use 21st Century MOOC technology to level the playing field in computer science education. And while the degree rightfully comes with a tuition fee — after all, to achieve the very best in online education we will provide support services — the bare content will be available free of charge, available for anyone eager to learn. We are also launching non-credit certificates at a much reduced price point, to give a path to those who don’t care about Georgia Tech credit or degrees, but still want their learning results certified.

I wish I had been born in the 1990s. Back when I was a college student, the Web did not exist. How many young students are there in the world today as eager to learn as I was? Only time will tell how many young people we’ll be able to empower to reach for the stars. If you are a student in our program and come across this blog post, please drop me a line at If only a single life can be touched with this program, it will be a success!

Elementary Statistics with Udacity

Katie-KormanikHello! I’m Katie, and I’ll be explaining most of the concepts in Udacity’s Elementary Statistics course. There are many reasons to get excited about Elementary Statistics, which you can take this summer for college credit with San Jose State University.

I’m excited about teaching this class because statistics is an incredibly useful science centered around describing and analyzing data. There are many ways of doing so, and in this class you’ll learn the most standard and practical methods, and gain an intuitive sense of why these methods are useful.

Another reason to learn statistics with me: You’ll learn how to use spreadsheets! Alongside gaining a conceptual foundation for understanding these concepts, by the end of the class you’ll be able to describe and analyze data both by hand and in Google spreadsheets. Proficiency in using spreadsheets can be beneficial both in your career and personal life, as spreadsheets are a great organizational tool. You’ll also be able to interpret the results of statistical software.

We also teach statistical research methods. Here, I hit the streets to ask how to define and measure constructs like happiness.

The nice thing about an online class is that you can start whenever, wherever. Even if you aren’t sure if you want to take the entire class, feel free to dabble in the material! I think you’ll enjoy the class’s format, visuals, and real-world examples. If you want to take the course for college credit, make sure to sign up by May 24th. We would love to hear about your experience in the forums!

Katie Kormanik
Udacity Course Developer