MOOC Spotlight: Udacity

Massive open online course (MOOC) provider Udacity was founded by artificial intelligence expert Sebastian Thrun and Stanford professors David Stavens and Mike Sokolsky. The platform grew out of a free computer science class offered through Stanford University in 2011 which attracted an enrollment of 160,000 students from all over the United States.

Udacity launched in March 2012 with two classes, initially the company was funded with an investment from Charles River Ventures and $300,000 of Thrun’s personal money. However, in October 2012 venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz led a second round of investment that raised $15 million.

Udacity currently offers 15 math and computer science classes that are separated by skill levels, from a beginner level introduction to computer science to an advanced artificial intelligence for robotics class, and more than 750,000 registered students.

Each course utilizes video lectures with closed captioning, integrated quizzes, and follow-up homework. Recently Udacity signed an agreement with online translation community Amara who will provide subtitles to 5,500 of the company’s videos.

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Students who successfully complete Udacity’s introduction to computer science course are able to take a proctored end of course exam through a partnership with Pearson VUE. Students who successfully pass the 75 minute final exam, which costs students $89 and must be taken in-person at a Pearson testing center, are eligible to receive transfer credit from Colorado State University’s Global campus.

Additionally, Udacity recently announced that it was partnering with Morgan State University and Alcorn State University, two Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to bring their teaching styles to the world of MOOCs in 2013.

The company has also signed an agreement with the University of Alberta to incorporate the school’s data driven research methods into the development of the next generation of MOOCs. Udacity is also partnering with Startup Weekend to deliver a four-week class about building a successful startup.

Udacity also helps qualified students find jobs through its employment recommendation service. Student who consistently perform well in the company’s computer science classes are paired with tech companies in need of skilled labor.

Follow Alex Wukman on Twitter @alexwukman

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