Udacity, the tech-focused online learning company that raised $15 million in October, has expanded the ways it offers its lessons after it began allowing downloads of video-lessons to help reach new pockets of would-be learners online.
The startup said last month it is serving more than 750,000 students worldwide but it believes that its existing access points, which include free videos on YouTube, don’t cover all of the people that it is trying to reach, as it aims to improve access to learning across the planet.
“Sometimes technology is not really helpful and instead gets in the way of our mission…not everyone is able to watch YouTube videos,” it says on its blog, before explaining some usage scenarios where it is unable to penetrate issues.
“Internet connections can be slow. Schools often block Youtube because of laws surrounding ads and to prevent student distractions. Sometimes, Youtube is banned throughout an entire country. People in these situations should still have access to free, high-quality education,” the post reads.
Reacting to that issue, it has taken the first step to bringing downloads to its service after bundling up its videos by units, while adding playlists and optional subtitles.
Links to video downloads can be found within course wikis or, alternatively, at its central download site – here.
Not only is YouTube regularly unavailable in countries like Iran but it is blocked entirely in China, which just so happens to be the world’s most populous market, and therefore clearly a target for Udacity. Although the firm doesn’t specifically mention China, this move will make its lessons available to the country’s 500 million plus Web users.
For those that are not familiar with Udacity, it’s a company focused on merging education with technology to help make learning accessible, engaging, and effective to the world. The founders believe that higher education is a basic human right and hope to “empower students to develop their skills in order to advance their careers.”
All courses are free for students to take and it can be done at their leisure. There are currently 14 different classes that students can enroll in — all related to technology: Introduction to Computer Science, Web Development, Interactive Rendering, Artificial Intelligence, HTML5 Game Development, Applied Cryptography and more.
The company is headed up by CEO Sebastian Thrun, who is a research professor of computer science at Stanford University and also a Google Fellow and Vice President. Fellow co-founders Mike Sokolsky (CTO) and David Stavens (COO) are, like Thrun, robotics graduates.
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