udacity
Photo courtesy: Udacity

Udacity Brings Its Nanodegree Programs to China

Apr 18, 2016

Online education company Udacity will start offering classes tailored to Chinese students, which is the second major international expansion for the startup.

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. In 2014, Udacity introduced its “nanodegree,” a paid intensive certification course that trains people for technical jobs such as software development. Last year, Udacity expanded its nanodegree program to India.

Similar to the Indian expansion, Udacity has localized many of its most popular nanodegree certifications to China, including courses in iOS, Android, and machine learning development. Udacity has a local team in China that is providing in-person reviews and coaching in Mandarin.

Udacity said it is working with Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com, and ride-sharing company Didi Kuadi to build customized courses for students. Udacity previously partnered with Google to create coursework targeted at Indian students.

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The nanodegree courses, which take six to nine months to complete, will cost $150 for Chinese students, and similar to its operations in the U.S., Udacity will refund half the tuition back to students upon graduation.

The company is also providing access to 100 free online courses in China.

Thrun told Fortune that it took nearly a year to launch in China, and the company recreated much of its software for the Chinese market. "We want to get the Silicon Valley style education in front of everyone," he said.

For Udacity, international expansion also comes with the promise of an additional revenue stream. With nanodegrees, Udacity’s revenue is growing nearly 30% month over month and is profitable, Thrun said in 2015. One source previously pegged the company’s annual revenue run rate at around $24 million. Udacity also just became a unicorn—a startup valued at or above $1 billion—in its most recent $105 million funding round in 2015.

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