Photo by Ethan Baron

The online education company is expanding to India, its first country outside of the U.S.

By Leena Rao
September 21, 2015

Online education company Udacity will start offering classes tailored to Indian students, marking the startup’s first effort to target a country outside the U.S.

The move is a major step for the company as tries turn its popular courses into a real business, something it has strived to do since its founding in 2012.

Udacity, the brainchild of former Google roboticist and Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun, initially gained attention by putting free college courses online to make learning more accessible. However, that plan ran into trouble after students performed poorly and colleges ended their partnerships.

Last year, Udacity introduced its “nanodegree,” a paid intensive certification course that trained people for technical jobs such as software development. With today’s expansion to India, Udacity is taking the nanodegree abroad.

In India, Udacity will offer its degrees in areas like Android development and data analyses for around $148 per month. That’s still a hefty price to pay for Indian students, but Udacity says that half of the tuition will be reimbursed to them following their graduation.

The nanodegrees, which take an average of six to nine months to complete, are being offered in partnership with Google GOOG and Indian conglomerate Tata. The companies will dole out 1,000 scholarships to students in the Android nanodegree program. All graduates will be invited to a job fair early next year hosted by Google in India.

India seems to be a logical next step for Udacity’s technically focused nanodegrees because the country has the second largest number of college and graduate students outside of the U.S. India also boasts 3 million software developers, the second largest number worldwide.

Having a localized version of the nanodegree, which offers access to local jobs at marquee companies like Google and Tata, could be potentially lucrative for Udacity. According to reports, Indian students spend an estimated $3 billion annually on online learning. As internet access in the country continues to expand, there will be more opportunity for students to log on to a computer or smartphone to complete a course.

The big question with Udacity’s certification courses is whether they will translate into jobs for graduates. Although Google and Tata are helping sponsor Udacity’s India degrees, there is no promise that participants will emerge with high paying work.

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