Udacity and Coursera are two well-known e-learning platforms, but they structure their education in different ways – like how they bundle courses, projects, and specific skills. Udacity features project-based skill-building programs called “Nanodegrees”, while a popular alternative on Coursera is a “Specialization” comprising a collection of courses and projects regarding a specific topic.
So why pick a Udacity Nanodegree vs. a Coursera Specialization, or the other way around, or maybe both? There are a number of factors involved, including available topics, program length, and cost. This article will provide some general information and comparisons about both course bundles, so you can choose which one is right for you.
What is covered in this article
We’ll start with some fast facts and surface observations about each type of lesson structure. Then we’ll get into more detailed overviews of what a Nanodegree is and what a Specialization is, and what advantages each has over the other.
Udacity Nanodegrees vs. Coursera Specializations: comparison table
So what’s the main draw of going with a Udacity Nanodegree vs. Coursera and its Specialization bundles, or vice-versa? Here’s a quick at-a-glance look at how the two types of e-learning programs stack up.
|Udacity Nanodegree||Coursera Specialization|
|Best For...||Intensive, practical training to prepare to apply for and work in a job in an emerging technology or business sector||Learning new skills and gaining credentials that can help your academic or professional life down the road|
|Average Duration||3-6 months||5-8 months|
Since a summary only tells so much of the tale of the tape, let’s take a closer look. We’ll start with Udacity’s Nanodegrees.
For those looking to dive into today’s most cutting-edge technology and business fields, Nanodegrees offer some possible avenues. They’re aimed at giving practical industry experience and job-hunting assistance so you can hit the ground running in an in-demand job.
What are Udacity’s Nanodegree programs?
Nanodegrees are advanced, paid-for programs that make up about ⅓ of Udacity’s course library. They are project-oriented courses designed around teaching a specific set of skills needed to solve a series of multi-step problems, built by veterans in their industries. Fortunately, you’ll have on-demand help from Udacity mentors who will walk you through tough spots and give you in-depth critique on your work.
Benefits of Udacity’s Nanodegree programs
Practical challenges from industry vets: Udacity course instructors have each spent over 5 years in their respective fields, so the skills they teach and the challenges they provide are based on things you’ll commonly encounter in the workplace.
On-demand technical help: Through its mentoring program, Udacity provides students with one-on-one coaching and project feedback to help them master tough problems and produce better work.
Career fast-tracking: After you complete a Nanodegree, Udacity’s career services division and corporate partners will work with you to give you a golden opportunity at quickly landing a position where you can put your newfound skills to work.
How Udacity’s Nanodegree programs are better than Coursera’s Specializations
Shorter length: Most Nanodegree programs only take between 3 and 6 months to complete if you work diligently at them, which is better if you’re looking to break into a particular industry quickly.
More personal help and feedback: Udacity is better at giving one-on-one help and critique on your work than Coursera, which uses more of a community discussion approach.
Career assistance: Udacity not only helps buff up your professional portfolio after you finish a Nanodegree, but they can also give you an inside track to getting hired in a particular industry through their numerous corporate partnerships.
That’s what you can expect from Udacity Nanodegrees. Next, let’s look at what Coursera’s Specializations have to offer.
If you’re an international student and/or someone who is interested in topics other than cutting-edge technology, Coursera’s Specializations may be more your style. They’re much less focused on getting you hired than a Nanodegree, but they’re still great for acquiring and showing off new skills. And that could come in handy later in your academic or professional life.
What are Coursera’s Specializations?
Coursera’s “Specializations” are curated sets of courses based around a particular skill or topic. Enrolling in one also enrols you in all the courses it contains. Once you finish these courses, you are required to complete a “capstone” project to demonstrate what you have learned. If you pass all of these requirements, you get a certificate stating that you completed the Specialization. You also get completion certificates for each of the courses that make up the Specialization.
Benefits of Coursera’s Specializations
Free trial: You can try out a Specialization for a week, and you can cancel it without paying anything if you don’t like it.
Internationally accessible: Many programs on Coursera are translated – or at least have subtitles – in numerous languages, which makes learning easier if English isn’t your native language.
Multiple credentials: Completing a Specialization gives you certificates for both itself and every course in it, which means more to show off to potential employers in your portfolio!
How Coursera’s Specializations are better than Udacity’s Nanodegree programs
Less expensive: Specializations cost a fraction of what Nanodegrees do, even when you factor in that they both price by the month and that Specializations usually take longer to complete.
Broader subject options: Udacity’s Nanodegrees are primarily focused on business and technology, so if those things aren’t your bag, Specializations cover other topics as well.
Multilingual: Most of Coursera’s programs are available in 10-12 common languages (or sometimes others, like Greek or Brazilian Portuguese), so they’re more accessible for international learners than the English-only Nanodegrees.
Whether you choose a Udacity Nanodegree or a Coursera Specialization (or both) mainly comes down to your learning objectives. If you’re looking to get a job in a new technology or business sector relatively quickly, then a Nanodegree is definitely the superior option. If you just want to pick up some extra skills and credentials for when an opportunity opens up somewhere down the road, then a Specialization will serve you better.
We should also mention that Coursera has programs called Professional Certificates, which are more alike to Udacity’s Nanodegrees than Specializations are (at least in terms of outcomes). Professional Certificates also have many of the same strengths and weaknesses as Specializations with relation to Nanodegrees, but there are far fewer of them (around 25-30).
Anyway, that does it for our comparison of Coursera Specializations and Udacity Nanodegrees! If you want to see more of what each platform as a whole has to offer, we have a Udacity vs. Coursera guide you’ll want to read!