Inc. (USA) - - UP NEXT - —A.W.

Tech­no­log­i­cal change vastly out­paces uni­ver­si­ties’ abil­ity to adapt, and fu­ture work­ers will need con­tin­ued skills-re­fresh­ers to stay rel­e­vant. En­ter nanodegrees: hy­per­spe­cific learn­ing pro­grams that of­fer cer­ti­fi­ca­tions for tech-based skills and in­creas­ingly im­por­tant al­ter­na­tives to tra­di­tional four-year de­grees. Nan­ode­gree in­sti­tu­tion Udac­ity has schools of busi­ness, data sci­ence, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, and au­tonomous sys­tems, in which 50,000 stu­dents spend an aver­age of 10 to 15 hours a week in chal­leng­ing cour­ses built to ri­val the big schools’. Its com­peti­tor Cours­era of­fers cer­tifi­cates in hun­dreds of sub­jects. Th­ese pro­grams’ fees are gen­er­ally far cheaper than even com­mu­nity col­leges’. And next-gen­er­a­tion nan­ode­gree pro­grams may soon in­clude adap­tive learn­ing tools that ap­ply ma­chine learn­ing to map in­di­vid­ual stu­dents’ strengths and weak­nesses and the pace at which they grasp key ob­jec­tives—and then per­son­al­ize cur­ric­ula to them.

Fu­ture job ap­pli­cants may have a con­stel­la­tion of nanodegrees rather than one diploma from a sin­gle in­sti­tu­tion–and the most-qual­i­fied stu­dents may take dif­fer­ent paths from high school to the work­force, and still pos­sess skills that can be put to im­me­di­ate use. Cur­rently, only cer­tain li­cens­able pro­fes­sions—like medicine—re­quire con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion to main­tain pro­fes­sional stand­ing. It’s pos­si­ble that, for other de­grees to stay cur­rent, we’ll be sup­ple­ment­ing our ed­u­ca­tions with nanodegrees ev­ery few years.

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