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EdTech: Business Mooc Maker Udacity Guarantees Jobs Or Will Refund Tuition

Online learning site makes bold bet on careers

Udacity, the Mooc platform valued at $1 billion last year, has an audacious proposal: they guarantee you a job within six months of graduation, or will give you 100% of your tuition back.

The new program, Nanodegree Plus, costs $299 per month. It will be available for courses focused on machine learning, and web, Android and iOS development. But Udacity said it plans to roll this out across its portfolio of programs. Among the most popular are business and management related courses on subjects such as tech entrepreneurship and big data.

“The Nanodegree Plus program will extend to other Nanodegrees and other countries over time,” Vish Makhijani, COO of Udacity, told BusinessBecause. Nanodegrees are paid-for online courses, developed with companies including Google.

Udacity is one of a handful of Mooc platforms rivalling universities and business schools, along with the likes of Coursera, edX, and Alison, with cheaper, digital alternatives to bricks-and-mortar degrees.

“Online technologies continue to rapidly reshape our world,” said John Matsusaka, academic director of USC Marshall School’s online MBA.

Both Google and LinkedIn have edged into cyberspace, with the latter snapping up online learning company Lynda.com for $1.5 billion last year.

The battle of bricks vs clicks has seen a number of elite schools, such as Stanford, Harvard, and Wharton, invest heavily in online learning.

“Given the increasing importance of online for management education, being a leader is important,” said Peter Zemsky, dean for strategic initiatives and innovation at INSEAD.

Ivan Bofarull, director of the Global Intelligence Office at ESADE Business School, said: “Business education is transitioning to a hybrid business model.”

Udacity will hope the job guarantee gives it an edge over its growing number of competitors. The online learning market is expanding at a rapid pace: investment in edtech hit $2.5 billion in the first half of 2015.

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In November 2015, Udacity raised $105 million from investors including Google Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, the Silicon Valley venture capital group that backed Airbnb and Twitter.

The new frontier for the sector is increasingly careers. Udacity has launched a new career advisor program and career concierge services. Its graduates are working at companies including Accenture, AT&T, Amazon, Salesforce, and Goldman Sachs, it said.

“For us, helping people learn so they can advance their careers is the cornerstone of online education,” added Vish.

In a blog post to be published on Wednesday and seen by BB, Sebastian Thrun, Udacity CEO and founder of Google’s secretive innovation lab, Google X, will say: “Today’s job landscape is changing, with new types of jobs being created and job tenure shortening.

“The new Nanodegree Plus program offers students the latest technology skills for jobs that are most in demand today, like Android and iOS developers, at a fraction of the cost of a traditional education — and a job guarantee at the end.”

At Google X, Sebastian called projects “moonshots”: bringing seemingly impossible ideas into reality. If Udacity gets this wrong, it could be its most costly moonshot yet. 

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