Udacity is developing quickly, with two announcements last week that signal the direction it is taking.
- Introduction to Physics: Landmarks in Physics - the basics of physics "on location in Italy, the Netherlands and the UK", learned "through answering some of the discipline’s major questions from over the last 2000 years";
- Introduction to Statistics: Making Decisions Based on Data Statistics - "extracting meaning from data" learning "techniques for visualizing relationships in data" and for "understanding the relationships using mathematics";
- Logic and Discrete Mathematics: Foundations of Computing - the basics of Boolean algebra and discrete mathematics with an emphasis on their connections with computer science;
- Software Testing: How to Make Software Fail - "how to catch bugs and break software" discovering "different testing methods that will help ... build better software";
- Algorithms: Crunching Social Networks - "an introduction to the design and analysis of algorithms that enable you to discover how individuals are connected".
All start on 25 June.
Secondly, in partnership with Pearson's testing company VUE, students will be able to sit secure exams at one of 4000 centers worldwide in 165+ countries, the aim being to make success on a Udacity course count towards a qualification that is recognised by employers.
Note that in May 2012 VUE acquired another big (or bigger) testing company Certiport (which has 12,000 authorised testing centres and which runs the certification processes for industry-accredited training programmes such as those provided by Adobe, Autodesk, CompTIA, and Microsoft). So expect the number of centres where Udacity students can get tested to increase further.
According to Udacity's announcement "There will be a nominal fee required to take the exams, which will offset the cost of physical testing centers and staff."
The tie-up is a good example of deciding sensibly when to do things yourself (i.e. making and running courses), and when to work with others who already have capability alongside a very large scale operation (as in Pearson's case), that you can draw upon. On the other hand, if (and that is a big if) a way could be found to deliver uncheatable tests straight to a learner's desktop, then that would strip out the additional layer of complexity that running tests through someone else's systems and facilities will inevitably involve.
PS - I am gradually making progress in and enjoying my Udacity CS101 "introduction to computer science" course. I will report on this soon, drawing out the design and other differences between CS101 and the prototype AI course I did last year. In other news, I'm really pleased to learn that Riga-based Gundega Dekena (who wrote this Fortnightly Mailing guest contribution that compares three of last year's "Stanford" online computer science courses) is now working for Udacity as the course manager for the Programming a Robotic Car course.