‘NanoDegrees’ Offer Entry-Level, Job-Specific Credentials

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AT&T and the online education company Udacity have unveiled a “NanoDegree” program designed to teach the basic programming skills necessary to qualify for entry-level technology jobs. The program costs $200 a month and can be completed by a working student in six months to a year, without their having to take time off. Starting this fall, courses will be offered in front- and back-end Web development, iOS development and data analysis. More subjects—including Android development—are on the horizon.

AT&T says it will offer up to 100 internships to NanoDegree graduates, and will also provide some full scholarships. “We are trying to widen the pipeline,” Charlene Lake, an AT&T spokeswoman, told New York Times columnist Eduardo Porter. “This is designed by business for the specific skills that are needed in business.”

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Udacity is working with other companies to create NanoDegrees of their own. Business Insider says Cloudera, Salesforce.com, Autodesk, Technet, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, sf.cit and the Business Roundtable will also recognize NanoDegrees as a job credential.

The NanoDegree differs from other approaches to online education–like Massive Open Online Courses, or “MOOCs”–in that the program develops skills tied directly toward a certain type of job. In that respect, students have a clear motivation for completing the course. That’s a notable distinction from MOOCs, where research suggests fewer than 10 percent of students see the program through to the end. And while it’s certainly not as comprehensive as a full college education, the Porter notes, the NanoDegree “could offer a plausible path to young men and women who may not have the time, money or skill to make it through a four-year or even a two-year degree.”

MOOCs seem to appeal most to workers looking to develop new skills that will enhance their careers. For example, Google and Udacity offer courses for programmers who want to learn their way around Google platforms using Android or game design in HTML5.

Given its low cost and pragmatic, job-oriented approach, the NanoDegree could offer a new avenue into the tech workforce for people who can’t afford the cost or time investment required to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Certainly, AT&T thinks that’s one way to fill the talent pipeline. It’s something job seekers should keep their eye on.

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6 Responses to “‘NanoDegrees’ Offer Entry-Level, Job-Specific Credentials”

  1. John Doe unemployed americann citizen

    Wow. people are actually gonna give money hand over fist for this crap. Next big thing I bet. Companies will ask you got your nano degree. Funny crap. Guess Barnum was right huh? There is one born every second…hahahahahaha

    • Nightcrawler

      Unfortunately, desperate people *will* scrape together the last nickels they have and hand them to these shyster companies. It’s not that they are stupid or senseless, or looking for a “get rich quick” scheme. It’s that they are desperate, terrified, and vulnerable to con artists who promise them a way out if they are simply willing to “work hard” and “make a small investment.”

  2. Jane Doe Currently Employed

    I’d rather pay for a nano degree that gave me real world useable skills than spend any more of my life in financial slavery paying off bachelor’s degree loans for a piece of paper that was an exercise in mediocre generalities.

    • Nightcrawler

      I took my Math/CIS diploma and put it through a paper shredder. That tells you how I feel about my bachelor’s degree. It was the single worst mistake of my life, and I’ll never forgive myself or stop hating myself for getting it.

      Problem is, though, just because these “nano degrees” CLAIM to be teaching real-world skills doesn’t mean this is actually the case. And while $200/month isn’t as bad as $4,000/course, it’s still quite a bit of money, especially to someone who is earning zero or close to it. Finally, by the time you complete the “nano degree,” the “real world” skills it allegedly imparted on you might very well be obsolete, having been replaced by the next shiny, glittering, “hot” new programming language.

      I am leery of anything that comes out of this wretched industry. It’s worse than a used car lot.

  3. I am a member of the Front End Nanodegree program and there are so many problems with it I am embarrassed to be paying for it. The curriculum is not even finished so I am stuck paying $200 a month waiting for them to finish it or give up entirely.

    Unfortunately, “JOHN DOE UNEMPLOYED AMERICANN CITIZEN” and PT Barnum had it exactly right. “There is another one born every second” and I am one of them. Thanks a lot Udacity for the hype, but none of the follow through to make it worth the while!