What it is: Udacity is offering an online course teaching computer science and engineering workers with the necessary skills to develop autonomous vehicles.
Here’s how college used to work. Information progressed so slowly that colleges could wait for textbooks on a subject and then offer courses that were relevant to what was currently needed in the workplace. Here’s how colleges work today. They’re falling behind.
In the technology industry, changes happen so fast that looking at typical college course catalogs is like looking at a time capsule from the past. While today’s technology focuses on machine learning, the Swift programming language, Linux, and Python, many college computer science departments still focus on C/C++, Java, and Visual Basic. In other words, most college computer science departments are still focused on a Windows-only world, completely ignoring today’s latest changes because they likely don’t have the hardware (Macintosh computers) available for students to learn on.
While colleges still seem rooted in the world where Windows dominated, colleges are also falling behind in the new world of self-driving car engineering. In the old days, colleges could wait for a professor to write a textbook and then offer a course based on that subject. Today, the world of self-driving cars is so new that engineers are literally learning on the job. Can you find a textbook on self-driving car engineering?
Chances are good anyone capable of writing a textbook on self-driving car engineering is already working in the field and doesn’t have time to write a textbook. Look at colleges and find out how many of them offer dedicated degrees in self-driving car engineering. The traditional college approach to teaching subjects is fine for slow-moving fields like history, geography, or political science, but simply cannot keep up with technological change.
That’s what makes online learning so important. Not only can people and schools create online courses much faster than offering traditional courses in a classroom with a required textbook, but online learning can reach people who aren’t physically able to attend the same classroom.
Josh Hartung, CEO of PolySync, a self-driving systems company, said, “There’s a gap between entry-level robotics education and what it really takes to build a self-driving car. The ability to get that done in a year or less as opposed to four years is tremendous acceleration.”
Online learning can never substitute for hands-on laboratory learning, but online learning has the tremendous advantage of moving faster than traditional classroom settings can ever do. Udacity’s online nano degree costs $2,400 and is led by five autonomous vehicle experts. Students can expect about 10 hours of work each week on instructor-led forums and projects. Applicants must have experience in programming and a background in mathematics.
While Udacity and other online learning courses offer timely instruction on the latest and hottest fields in technology, you can still attend a typical college course, pay an outrageous amount, and learn ancient technology like Visual Basic on a Windows PC. There’s nothing wrong with learning older technology like Java or C/C++. The only problem is that with online learning, you could learn newer, more exciting technology at a far lower cost. If you still want to learn the basics of programming, online courses are often more interesting and convenient while being less costly as well.
How can colleges justify putting students in six-figure debt when they graduate and still not adequately prepare them for the latest fields in the workplace? Until colleges can answer that question, online learning has a bright and growing future.