Udacity vs Coursera: What Platform Should You Pick in 2021?

Udacity Vs Coursera

Designed to be excellent, provide tremendous value, and offer something that standard educational practices don’t offer, Udacity and Coursera have both made names for themselves at top-tier online learning platforms.

However, they’re not direct competitors. While Udacity has a more computer engineering-based side to it, Coursera has a broader scope.

How do the two compare? We set out to learn for ourselves.

It’s the battle of Udacity vs Coursera. We’ll find out how accessible they are, what their value is to students, and whether or not they’re right for you based on what fields you want to break into.

Udacity and Coursera Compared

udacity vs coursera

Coursera leads the online educational world in terms of accreditation, but how does Udacity hold up?

Can they really compete with that level of education? We’re going to draw a conclusion between pricing, course structure, pros, cons, and everything in between to help you make a decision for your next online learning experience.

What is Udacity?

Udacity is a source of online courses for computer engineering, data science, cloud computing, AI, and other highly sought-after technical skills in similar fields.

Their greatest offering is their Nanodegree, which—while not being accredited—will help you get from an amateur standpoint to skill mastery in a hungry market that’s looking for these promising individuals.

The goal is to become a whiz in technical computer-based skills in a short amount of time, and get yourself out into the workplace. Udacity is here to help.

What is Coursera?

Coursera is an online education platform that’s been accredited by over two-hundred universities, including Stanford and Duke, and features partners from nearly fifty countries around the world.

With Coursera, you can earn an actual degree from top US universities, including a Master’s Degree in as little as six months.

Coursera is an online college and online college alternative, allowing you to train hundreds of skills for free or upgrade to pursue professional certificates, degrees, and enhanced learning to increase your earnings.

What Courses Do They Offer?

coursera student program

Both Coursera and Udacity offer career skills. While Coursera has a wide view regarding business administration, digital marketing, product management and more, Udacity is on the more technical side of things.

Udacity offers cloud computing, artificial intelligence learning, data science, and they do also offer business courses.

In terms of what types of courses they offer, these include pre-recorded video lessons. These courses can be filled with text-based information, PDFs, and other downloadable or streamable content that goes along with the videos you’re watching.

For the most part, just like standard college classes, you’re dealing with lectures. They’re effective, although a bit less interactive than many online course alternatives.

Who Teaches the Courses?

On Udacity, they choose one select instructor to teach you everything. On rare occasions, they’ll choose two instructors for one course. Keep in mind that all courses are pre-recorded across both services.

Coursera offers some free courses, and their pickiness for those instructors isn’t that bad. The instructors are still knowledgeable and actually understand what they’re teaching, so that’s good.

Coursera doesn’t oversee every individual instructor, so some courses offered through accredited universities will choose their own instructors, but more often than not everyone is highly educated and/or experienced in their field.

Pricing

It’s not exactly wise to go into something like education without knowing what it’s going to cost, and what you can expect to get from it.

While Udacity and Coursera have a lot in common in terms of quality, delivery, and the user experience, they couldn’t be more different when it comes to pricing.

Udacity

Udacity has a simple, linear pricing structure. Most of the courses are completely free, however, they offer Nanodegrees. These offer credentials that are exclusive to Udacity, and you can sign up for these at $399 per month.

The faster you work through these pre-recorded courses, the faster you get those micro credentials and the less money you have to spend on everything.

Coursera

With Coursera, you’re actually taking classes that will land you with a Bachelor’s Degree or a Master’s, and they’re designed by the top universities in the country. For those, you’ll pay anywhere from $10,800 up to $39,480 depending on the level of education and your involvement.

Keep in mind that these prices aren’t ridiculous when you consider the fact that you can complete a Master’s Degree in six months, or that you can save $60,000 on a would-be $100K education simply by doing it online at your own pace.

Coursera also has hundreds of free courses, which you can either complete for the sake of knowledge, or purchase professional certificates upon completion.

Features

nanodegree certificate

When you log into either platform, you’re met with a list of features.

Even something as simple as playing a video is technically a feature, so when we break these down, we’re essentially breaking down the way you interact with their services and what functions you perform to get the information and education you need.

Udacity

  • Interactive Content: You’re not just viewing videos, but you’re interacting with certain course material. This not only helps you get as much hands-on learning as possible through the computer, but it enhances your learning experience by keeping you engaged.
  • Skill Gap Analysis: This lets you know when you’re lacking in a certain area by analyzing what you’ve learned, and showing you what you need to improve upon to enhance your knowledge.
  • In-Depth Video Content: In some courses, Udacity goes the extra mile by providing extra-long courses. With data science and other intricate skills, this helps you to leave the course with as few questions or concerns as possible.

Coursera

  • Offline Learning: If you need to, you can download videos to view offline on your PC and mobile device through their app. Coursera doesn’t bother with petty paywalls or restricting features out of fear of piracy; they know that you’re using their platform to learn, and that it delivers an experience unlike any others. Offline video content lets you learn on the go.
  • Bulk Payments: Can’t pay for a full-fledged course at once? That’s okay—you can opt for bulk payments, where they split up a tuition into four separate parts. This may not seem like a big deal, but since you can work at your own pace, you could map out three months of schooling per bulk payment and let this work with your budget and schedule rather than against them.
  • Personalized Browsing: As the library on Coursera grows, it can be harder to find the course that you want—they changed that difficulty. Now you can get a personalized feed of what you’re projected to be interested in to make searching easier.

Teaching Methods of Udacity

udacity online training

Udacity uses interactive content more than most online learning platforms. They use similar levels of interactive content as Pluralsight, which is often used to accompany or in lieu of Udacity with their programming courses.

Udacity still features video, text, and image-based content that accompanies their courses. However, the interactive hands-on content is where you’re going to find most of your value out of using them.

Teaching Methods of Coursera

Coursera and Udacity both use videos, text-based content, and downloadable content (sometimes images/infographics) to help explain course material.

Both plans use modules: videos and accompanying information in a step-by-step, or sequence by sequence pattern that starts with beginner-level information, and gradually works up your knowledge of the subject until you can tackle harder modules.

It’s a linear learning method that’s proven to work. For this, we can’t really say that Coursera is any different from Udacity, minus the low amount of interactive content compared to them.

Udacity Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Mostly Free: Most courses on Udacity are actually free. They only make money through their Nanodegree program, and while it’s good, it’s not necessary to get started in any of these fields. Udacity makes it easy to hop into a new field as a beginner.
  • Working Knowledge: Udacity is very interactive, and that basically means you’ll have a stronger hands-on knowledge of a skill or field by the time you finish your certificate or courses.
  • Quality Content: They don’t waste any time. Instructors are focused, and content is edited appropriately so you aren’t spending half of the lecture listening to “Um, so, yeah,” in between every verbal paragraph. They keep a tight lid on production.
  • Knowledgeable Instructors: Udacity is very picky about who they choose to teach subjects, so you’re getting information fed to you from someone who not only understands the subject material, but also has an affinity for learning.

Cons

  • Salesy: When you go on Coursera, it’s basically just showing you everything they offer and letting you decide. Udacity isn’t making the kind of money that Coursera is, so they go the more salesy route with what they offer, email newsletters, and things of that nature. This isn’t bad per se, but it does feel like it gets in the way of your education from time to time.
  • English Exclusive: You’ve made it this far, so I anticipate English is your native language or you’ve spent a lot of time studying it. If English isn’t your primary language, you’ll run into some problems. Udacity doesn’t even have translated subtitles for their courses.

Coursera Pros and Cons

coursera learning methods

Pros

  • College Accredited Courses: You can earn a Master’s Degree on Coursera, or at least get college credits to transfer over when you decide to attend a top college. Most credit hours transfer over.
  • Learn Anywhere: With the Coursera app, you can learn on a tablet or smartphone, you can learn on your laptop or PC, and you can even earn offline. They’re not trying to bottleneck your experience; they give you as many options as possible to choose from.
  • Taught by Experts: You learn from the best of the best. PhD holders, career veterans, and some of the most accredited people on the planet. Coursera was designed by college professors, and they know how to spot talent and educational minds when they see them.
  • Easy to Use: Coursera is simple: you log in, you click on your course, and you’re right where you left off. It counts your credit hours along the way. There is no easier way to learn online.

Cons

  • Hard to Predict Pricing: Coursera lists the price of many courses on the sales/landing page for that individual course, but not on all of them. It can be hard to know what it’s going to cost you to go into a field since Coursera aren’t the only ones setting prices here.
  • Not Always Ready for Beginners: Some Coursera content doesn’t really have a starting point. In fact, a lot of Coursera users claim to get their beginner knowledge ready on sites like Skillshare, Udemy, Pluralsight, and others before they port over and go for a full degree. You need some know-how before getting on here in more advanced subjects.

Certification

With Udacity, you can’t get certified like you can on Coursera. You’ll get Nanodegree credentials, which can add up to Udacity-exclusive degrees.

Now, in the fields they offer, such as data science and artificial intelligence, degrees don’t mean as much. What matters is that you know what you’re doing and can provide those skills to a potential employer, completely on-demand, so that they can assess you.

A piece of paper doesn’t necessarily tell them anything, and they’re aware of this. They care about the solutions you can provide, which is why tons of self-taught high school dropouts become leaders in these fields.

That being said, certifications do have their usefulness depending on what field you’re going for. With Coursera, if you’re not going for a full degree, you can take a free class and at the end pay for a professional certificate.

This works well for Google programs like IT, as well as IBM data science, and more. These certificates could put you on the fast track to work with these companies, but they could also help in other areas where their services are used.

Who Has the Better App: Udacity or Coursera?

coursera phone app

Udacity no longer has an app as of 2019, which means that by default, Coursera’s app wins. That being said, they’re not getting a pity win: Coursera has a truly fantastic app that provides about 90% of all the utilities that their website application has.

Coursera also allows you to download videos on the go, so you can still watch your course material to study while you’re in the subway on a commute, or if you’re visiting somewhere with deplorable internet and Wi-Fi.

Why Did Udacity Discontinue Their App?

In late-2019, Udacity redid some of their online platform. Not all of these features could be seen on the front end, but their learning systems exceeded what the average person currently has capability for with their mobile devices. 

Is One Better for a Specific Skill?

It’s not that black and white. Udacity has a strict number of course topics that they cover, and it’s because they provide extensive education solutions.

They don’t do anything halfway. But we also know that Coursera doesn’t skimp on quality, so it becomes hard to decipher which service offers the better results. You have to go topic by topic to really know.

Machine Learning: Udacity vs. Coursera

Udacity very narrowly takes the cake here, and it’s not for the reasons you would expect. Udacity simply has more courses and overall longer runtimes than Coursera, and this isn’t a simple topic to cover: it’s extremely complex and ever-evolving.

Udacity also does a good job of keeping their machine learning courses updated rather consistently. It’s a hard choice because both platforms offer immense value, but another perk is the $399 monthly cost for Udacity to stay on top of machine learning, versus the five-figure course costs that you run into with Coursera.

Data Science: Udacity vs. Coursera

This is a tough one, because they both offer fantastic data science courses. From what we were able to view (without enrolling in $10,800 courses), there’s really not too much of a difference in terms of quality.

The only difference here is accreditation, because Udacity is not an accredited institution, which is why they don’t charge as much. We would say that there’s a seriously high level of quality on both ends, and it’s not a simple task to pick them apart.

Coursera was designed by Stanford professors who already had connections, but we would wager that plenty of accredited institutions would also host classes on Udacity with the right connections.

Drawing the Line Between These Two Online Course Giants

As you can see, it comes down to the skills you want to learn more than anything else. While Udacity’s lack of an app isn’t very 2021-friendly of them (especially with so many still working from home), their service is solid and they provide pretty good value.

The ultimate choice comes down to what you value in an online learning experience, and whether or not these two separate education platforms grant that to you. We’ve laid out the nitty gritty and aired the dirty laundry, now it’s time for you to make your decision.