Sebastian Thrun, founder of Google X and the former project lead of Google Glass, started Udacity in 2011 to bring "university-level education to the world." But the lofty mission of his unaccredited for-profit online education racket is already dead, and Thrun just pulled in 35 million more investment dollars to promote his organization's "Nanodegrees."
Udacity's Nanodegree program was proudly "pioneered together with AT&T," so you already know it's crooked. And it is: Nanodegrees are faux-trade school diplomas for short-cutting techies that are only recognized by partnering companies. Via Re/code:
The startup now teaches people computing skills that will help them get jobs, awarding what it calls "nanodegrees" recognized by partner employers like Google, Facebook and AT&T.
Thrun insists upon the legitimacy of his Nanodegrees, explaining to TechCrunch that many of the courses are designed by the partnering corporations themselves (specifically, Google built Udacity's Android developer classes). Besides, the startup trade school claims to be only supplemental education, not a replacement for a proper degree:
Udacity has been excoriated by academics, who fret that the company's emphasis on vocational training could replace the liberal arts degree as debt-saddled students opt for cheaper (and ostensibly faster) paths to a career than spending four years in an ivory tower.
Thrun's response is that Udacity is not meant to replace four-year degrees but supplement them. And some grounding in computer programming is essential before a student can enroll in one of its nano-degree programs.
"We are distinctly not in the college space," says Thrun.
Emphasis mine. That's a big change in tune compared to Thrun's stumping in June, when the Udacity co-founder told the New York Times that the company "is like a university, built by industry." In fact, one year ago while on a conference stage with Gavin Newsom, the California Lieutenant Governor trumpeted the disruptive impact of Udacity, claiming "If this doesn't wake up the U.C., CSU and the community college systems, I don't know what will."
Bailing on a UC degree for a quick, $200/month coding tutorial from eHow: The University might be fast way to land yourself soul-destroying gig at AT&T. But as soon as you want to get another job, you're screwed.