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Professional development

How Udacity Designs Course Content to Drive Professional Development

Though skills generally have a half-life of about five years, IBM says that the half-life of technical skills is only about two and a half years. As a result, your workforce’s digital skills are quickly becoming obsolete, slowing professional development and hindering innovation. 

Business leaders understand that they need to upskill their workforce to remain competitive in today’s ever-changing landscape. But upskilling isn’t a one-time process. In fact, organizations must build a culture of learning and provide opportunities for their teams to update their skills as often as their industries, and the skills they need, evolve.

As Senior Manager of Content Quality and Pedagogy at Udacity, I use pedagogical frameworks to design our Nanodegree programs’ quality standards. My team makes sure that your employees are always learning the latest, most up-to-date skills in technologies like data science, artificial intelligence, cloud and cybersecurity

Employing Pedagogical Frameworks to Aid Professional Development Outcomes

The Content team employs pedagogical frameworks like Bloom’s Taxonomy so that our learners are prepared to meet their Nanodegree programs’ learning goals. For example, we use text and videos to explain the course material, and quizzes to help learners recall concepts and explain ideas. This multimodal learning technique ensures our content is engaging learners. We also strategically stack lessons together so that learners can apply their knowledge to complete open-ended projects at the end of the course. 

This way, our students are well-prepared to solve real-world problems in their roles. They’re able to draw connections between the course content and work projects and create innovative solutions using their new skills.

Complementing Quality Content with Human Support

Our Nanodegree programs are unique in that they set our students up to be independent thinkers. While many other learning platforms do require learners to complete projects, learners often simply follow instructions to pass these automatically-graded or peer-reviewed projects.  

In contrast, our projects are more hands-on and open-ended — learners exercise critical thinking skills, understand the context of the problem, rationalize their choices and technique, design the solution independently and make their own decisions about which solution works for what business needs and context. 

Udacity mentors on demand also make sure skillbuilding and professional development are always on track. Our mentors are subject matter experts in the industry, so learners get professional feedback on their projects. 

Even when they pass their projects, our expert mentors give learners feedback on ways they can improve their solution. This hands-on learning approach combined with human feedback makes sure learning outcomes are not short-lived and that our learners are prepared to apply their skills in real-world job scenarios. 

Improving Content Quality to Advance Professional Development 

In addition to following these pedagogical frameworks, our content quality team also constantly monitors both qualitative and quantitative feedback to improve our content. For example, we often gather feedback from both individual students and our enterprise customers. We use metrics that track Nanodegree performance based on quality benchmarks and use them to make content changes and refreshes. 

What’s more, when external platforms and tools change their UI, we make updates accordingly without interrupting our students’ learning experience. 

Organizations must play an active role in their employees’ professional development. Udacity’s Nanodegree programs are designed using pedagogical frameworks and cognitive science principles so that your employees can be upskilled for roles of the future. 

Learn more about Udacity’s enterprise offerings or request a free demo for your organization.

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Ruchi Bhanot
Ruchi Bhanot
Ruchi Bhanot is a learning scientist and has conducted over a decade of education research studies for ed-tech firms, foundations and federal agencies. She has authored several publications in areas of learning outcomes across ed-tech and online education products and K-12 education. She has developed content for the School of Data for Udacity. Her doctoral research looked at gender differences in STEM learning outcomes.