The world was a rather comfy place until Covid-19 disrupted it. This disruption has affected many businesses across the world.
There is no doubt that black swan events like the pandemic often lead to unintended consequences. Some players manage to leverage the situation, others wilt under uncertainty.
In my opinion, one sector that has benefitted from this disruption the most is higher-education.
Enter Nanodegrees. They are not exactly a novel product. If you have been online to upgrade your skills in the last 3-4 years, you would have come across nanodegrees.
What Are Nanodegrees?
Nanodegrees are legit, paid credentials from top-notch universities that you can earn from the comfort of your home.
Udacity – the online education platform – blazed a trail with first nanodegrees in 2015. Udacity’s website says that it creates the programs in mutual consultation with industry partners who then also hire some of these graduates.
It’s a winsome proposition for those looking to plug specific loopholes in their CVs. A full-time degree can also do the same but it’s a steep option if you are well down the career road.
The opportunity cost of enrolling in a full-time degree could mean leaving the cushion of a day job. Things compound when you have a family to support and a home mortgage to repay.
Additionally, there is also the factor of long absence from academia. This can make sitting through 25-30 hours of classes every week a hard proposition for any working professional.
Nanodegrees aptly fit the bill.
Why A Nanodegree? What Are The Other Options?
MOOCs on platforms like Coursera, Udemy, EdX, and others, you may think. I beg to disagree.
Candidly, MOOCs have been around for close to a decade, but employers – barring a few exceptions – have not really warmed up to them. It hasn’t worked for the platforms either. MOOCs haven’t really taken the education industry by storm.
To counter the waning appeal, the likes of Coursera, EdX, and others launched full-scale degree programs in association with universities from across the world.
But the problem still persists.
As a professional, you are aware of the specific gaps and you want to plug only those gaps.
You don’t want the whole enchilada. A one-year online Masters’s degree on Coursera can set you back by $15K-18K. This is approximately the same amount you might pay for a full-time degree at many decent universities.
What’s the point?
Look, if you are a marketing professional seeking a career change – a switch to a digital marketing role, let’s say, then attending a two-year Masters’s degree in marketing is not something that aligns with your goals. What you need instead is a specific chunk of that degree program. A nanodegree gives you that option.
It comes with the benefit of only taking what you want at a fraction of the overall cost and overall time for a degree.
Do Nanodegrees Have A Future? Would Employers Warm Up To Nanodegrees?
Unfortunately, there is no credible third-party study to establish the impact of nanodegree programs. Udacity in an internal survey claims that 70% of those surveyed made successful advances in their career.
Frankly, it’s still early days to comment about the success trajectory of nanodegree programs, but the wheels have certainly been set in motion.
I think with a shift in workplace demands, especially, at the back of the pandemic, the rise of nanodegrees will continue.
The tech sector has turned out to be the flagbearer for nanodegrees and there is no better example than Udacity – the online varsity for techies. In 2019, Udacity enrolled 75000+ graduates with the help of over 200 industry partners including Big Five.
So buoyed has the response been from the industry that Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun labeled nanodegree as the 4th degree after Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D.
Can Nanodegrees Replace Traditional Degrees? Can Universities Breach This Space?
The way things are, nanodegrees can become a strong contender as legit substitutes to the formal degree programs. I might be getting ahead of myself here, but unless the universities wake up from self-induced slumber, a rude awakening awaits them.
Industry, sooner than later, will grow receptive to the benefits of nanodegrees. The most awesome benefit being that they cater directly to the specific needs of both the students and the corporates. Further, you can take your nanodegree(s) to job interviews and if you can walk the talk, you could be in business.
Traditional universities, in my view, will have to counter this threat by launching nanodegree programs of their own. They can do this in both online and classroom delivery modes, thus holding a competitive edge over Udacity and others.
That said, a few institutions have seen an opportunity in these chaotic times. The opportunity to innovate and carve a definitive niche.
One avant-garde university from the Baltics has taken this leap already. Estonian Business School, the oldest business university in the region, has arguably become the first higher-education institution to offer Nanodegrees in Europe via classroom delivery.
It remains to be seen whether universities in other countries across the globe see nanodegrees or micro-credentials as an opportunity to leverage, an opportunity to build a new product segment – one that serves mature students. My sense is there is a latent demand for such products. And, sooner than later, universities are going to jump into the fray.