A low-cost, online “NanoDegree” earned in six to 12 months could revolutionize higher education, writes Eduardo Porter in the New York Times.
AT&T created the new credential with Udacity, the online education company founded by Stanford Professor Sebastian Thrun.
For $200 a month, it is intended to teach anyone with a mastery of high school math the kind of basic programming skills needed to qualify for an entry-level position at AT&T as a data analyst, iOS applications designer or the like.
. . . “We are trying to widen the pipeline,” said Charlene Lake, an AT&T spokeswoman. “This is designed by business for the specific skills that are needed in business.”
“It is like a university built by industry,” said Thrun.
The NanoDegree is designed to be a flexible, efficient and stackable job credential for people who don’t want to spend two or four years in college to qualify for an entry-level technical job.
But, so far, Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, aren’t closing the opportunity gap, writes Porter. Those who do best with MOOCs tend to be college graduates who want to learn new skills. In a Penn study, fewer than 10 percent of MOOC enrollees completed the course. Most lost interest in a few weeks.
Most community college students don’t have the literacy or drive necessary to succeed in courses that offer little or no face-to-face interaction, concluded a study by Teachers College, Columbia researchers. MOOCs are for the self motivated.
However, online education that’s directly tied to a job “may do better in giving low-income students a leg up,” writes Porter. “And companies, rather than colleges, may be best suited to shape the curriculum.”
AT&T will accept the NanoDegree as a credential for entry-level jobs and plans to hire 100 interns with the degree. Udacity is creating NanoDegrees with other companies. “It’s a more focused education with less time wasted,” Mr. Thrun told me. “They can get a degree quickly, get a job and then maybe do it again.”