Learning to code is growing ever more popular, both as a hobby and a career choice – and for many coding students, the method of choice for learning to code is through online learning platforms. Two of the most popular choices for learning to code are Udacity and Coursera, a pair of platforms with a number of key differences.
If you’re planning on learning to code, it’s important to compare platforms across a number of important factors such as price, course variety, and professional development. It’s likely that Udacity and Coursera are two of the main options you’re considering, so this guide will break down how they perform in a wide range of categories to help you make the best choice between in the Udacity vs. Coursera debate.
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One of the most important factors in choosing an online learning platform is how much choice it offers in terms of the courses it offers – after all, it’s important to develop a wide skillset. So how do Udacity and Coursera compare when it comes to course variety?
Udacity’s library of online courses is somewhat smaller than other platforms, but it still offers a good amount of variety. The platform focuses heavily on programming but also emphasizes courses on data science, new technologies like AI, and business-related programming.
What’s more, Udacity also offers some impressively niche subjects that you’re not likely to find on many other platforms, such as programming smart cars. So, while Udacity’s overall library of courses may be limited, it still packs in a good amount of variety.
Coursera offers a huge range of courses – there are over 1200 courses in its IT, computer science, and data science categories. These range from short guided projects to longer courses and even entire certificates or degrees.
Coursera doesn’t focus solely on IT-related subjects, so it’s also possible that you’ll be able to find courses in other subject areas that can teach you valuable soft skills and transferable expertise.
While Udacity does offer a decent amount of variety within its online courses, its smaller library does make it more limited than Coursera overall. Coursera’s much larger library covers more subjects than Udacity’s, and the platform also offers access to subjects beyond IT which could prove valuable for widening your skillset.
This said, focused approaches also tend to mean more quality. For example, Zenva takes an approach similar to Udacity, where because there’s less topics and subjects, they can focus more on making the courses the best they can be.
Having a variety of courses available to study is important, but it means nothing if those courses aren’t actually any good. It’s therefore a good idea to assess the course quality of different platforms to decide which is more worthwhile – so let’s look at the course quality offered by Coursera and Udacity.
Udacity’s instructors and mentors are heavily vetted, meaning that you’ll be taught by highly qualified individuals who know exactly what they’re talking about. This naturally means you’ll enjoy high standards of teaching in Udacity’s courses.
The production values for Udacity’s courses are also very high, thanks to their dedicated in-house video production team. Udacity also benefits from partnerships with a variety of industry leaders including Google, AWS, and Nvidia, meaning you can gain valuable industry insights through these courses.
Coursera’s courses are consistently high quality, being made by experienced industry professionals in collaboration with a range of universities and industry-leading organizations like Google and IBM. Production standards are very high – every course is very polished with high attention to detail.
The professional input on Coursera courses also leads to highly effective teaching styles, so if you’re looking for guided learning rather than a DIY approach, Coursera is a very good option.
It’s hard to pick a winner here – both Udacity and Coursera offer very high-quality online courses created and delivered by experienced professionals, with the backing of industry-leading organizations and teaching institutions. It’s safe to say that whichever you pick, you can be sure the courses you take will be consistently high quality.
While not true of every platform, other platforms, such as Zenva, do also offer similar high-quality courses due to more quality control over who is making the courses and making sure the skills are industry tested.
Another important factor in choosing an online learning platform is how well it matches your budget. Coursera and Udacity both use different pricing models, so which offers more value for money?
On average, Udacity’s Nanodegree programs cost between $339 and $399 per month – and since courses can often last between two and six months, this cost can quickly rack up. There is, however, a 15% discount for paying the entire course fee upfront, which can reduce the cost slightly if you can afford a bigger lump sum.
Udacity does offer a number of free courses and classes, but you won’t be able to access certain features like mentorship and certificates unless you pay for a course. If you want to take a course but can’t afford it, you may be able to apply for a Udacity scholarship to help with the costs.
Coursera’s prices vary widely – most individual courses cost between $29-99, while its online degrees may cost anywhere between $9,000 and $25,000. Prices can also be confusing due to the number of different options that Coursera gives you for paying for each one.
The platform does offer nearly 2000 free courses across all its subject categories, but you’ll have to pay for them to access features like graded assignments and certificates of completion. If you’re interested in taking a number of individual courses, then the Coursera Plus subscription offers decent value – a $59 monthly payment unlocks access to everything apart from MasterTrack courses, certain certificates, and degrees.
Both Udacity and Coursera fall on the pricier end of the spectrum compared to other online learning platforms. On the face of it, Coursera offers cheaper options when it comes to individual courses, but the confusing range of payment options often obscures exactly how much you’re paying and for what. Overall, both platforms are a fairly costly investment.
This is definitely an area where you should seriously evaluate other platforms. Zenva, to example one, offers courses at a fraction of the cost but still comes with a variety of features including 250+ courses, projects to construct courses, supplemental activities, and more.
IT is a field that’s constantly changing and evolving as new technologies emerge, which means that it’s important for learning platforms to reflect these changes and developments by frequently updating their courses. How well do Udacity and Coursera handle updates, then?
Udacity handles course updates fairly well, with courses updated on a regular basis, often adding entire new lessons to deal with recent developments and trends. This is helped by their partnerships with industry-leading organizations that can offer expert insights on new trends.
The one downside is that it’s unclear what the process is for reporting issues with outdated courses or requesting new content to be added. Other than this, Udacity fares very well when it comes to course updates.
Because Coursera’s courses are made alongside universities and industry partners, they’re usually kept highly up-to-date and in line with industry developments, meaning you’re unlikely to have any issues with outdated content on Coursera.
However, these partnerships are a bit of a double-edged sword, since the nature of Coursera’s collaborations can sometimes mean a slower response to problems with courses, as this necessitates making changes to the course through the partner organization in many cases.
Both Udacity and Coursera handle course updates very well, offering regular updates to keep courses up-to-date and relevant to current trends. This is helped by both platforms having solid relationships with industry organizations that can offer cutting-edge insights.
Now before you think is, the industry organizations are not what dictates course updates. For example, Zenva does not have the same industry partnerships as the platforms above. However, it still is able to maintain a regular course update policy – so be wary of platforms that offer zero course updates ever.
The usability of an online learning platform is another key factor to look at when weighing up your options – no matter how good a course is, you’ll have a hard time completing it if the platform itself doesn’t offer the right functionality. So how user-friendly are Udacity and Coursera?
Udacity is a fairly easy-to-use platform, with a mobile-responsive site for learners who need to study on the go. However, it doesn’t currently offer a mobile app – in fact, Udacity removed its mobile app from app stores in 2019.
For coding beginners, Udacity courses are fairly easy to get to grips with, with a number of beginner-friendly courses on offer. However, the focus is mostly on intermediate-level courses, although there is a fairly clear framework of progression to help you reach this level,
Coursera offers both a mobile responsive site and dedicated Android and iOS apps, allowing you to easily access courses on the go. However, Coursera limits the flexibility of your schedule somewhat, as there’s a time limit of 180 days for one-off-payment courses and a monthly subscription requirement for “specializations” offering multiple courses, meaning there’s some time pressure to complete courses before you have to pay for them again.
In addition, Coursera is often fairly unfriendly to beginners, since many of its courses require or assume prior knowledge and training.
This category is another close one – Udacity is more beginner-friendly and has less time pressure than Coursera, but Coursera offers more robust usability for mobile learners thanks to its mobile apps. Overall, it comes down to personal preferences for this one.
This is one area where you might want to consider price alongside it. To example again, Zenva which we’ve already stated has a fraction of the price has a mobile-ready website for learning. The platform also works wonderfully for beginner and intermediate developers alike, as there are plenty of courses for both and guided pathways.
Not everyone has the same requirements when it comes to learning, so it’s vital that learning platforms address this by implementing accessibility measures to help everyone access their courses. Let’s take a look at how Udacity and Coursera address accessibility.
All of Udacity’s courses come with closed captions in their videos, making them more accessible to learners with hearing difficulties. These captions are sometimes also available in other languages, and selected courses have been fully translated to a handful of languages including Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.
Udacity’s site also follows general accessibility guidelines, providing an easy-to-read site that caters to extra display options and makes various other accommodations.
Coursera takes accessibility pretty seriously – most of its courses provide closed captions for videos, and many of these have also been translate into a variety of languages to help learners whose first language isn’t English.
Coursera also states that it follows all applicable Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and most importantly, they have a dedicated accessibility team. This means that even if accessibility problems may crop up, the platform is actively working to improve its measures and proactively address issues that learners may have.
Both online platforms do a fairly good job with accessibility, but Coursera’s dedicated accessibility team shows a commitment to continuous improvements to accessibility in future, which makes them the clear winner for this category.
We also want to note accessibility should also be a bit of a red flag. While we aren’t saying a whole team is needed, there are plenty of platforms out there that basically offer nothing. So, you should aim to stick with platforms like those here or Zenva where accessibility is a priority and there are plenty of options to suit user needs.
Being able to see what other learners think about a certain course is a very helpful way of seeing if it’s one worth taking. Because of this, course reviews are a vital feature for any learning platform – so let’s see how Udacity and Coursera handle them.
Udacity does display course reviews on each individual course’s page, but it seems more like a feature for promoting courses than giving potential students access to previous learners’ feedback. Each course has an aggregated review score and displays some of the “top reviews”, but there’s no option to see more negative reviews to root out potential issues.
Each of Coursera’s courses comes with an aggregated user review score and makes it easy to view what past learners have to say about the course, helping you to assess whether it’s the right one for you. What’s more, instructors also have aggregated review scores, helping you to see how good your mentor will be as well as the course.
Coursera is the clear winner here, as it offers reviews to help learners pick the right course rather than simply using them as a promotional tool. The ability to see instructors’ review scores is also very helpful.
Bear in mind, though, other platforms do offer reviews too. Zenva for instance includes their platform reviews readily on the product pages – so it’s not a rare thing to put that much weight into. Then again, just keep in mind platforms that don’t take reviews at all should be held under suspicion.
To some, coding may simply be a hobby, but for others, it’s the path to a new career. It’s therefore important for learning platforms to provide frameworks for professional development. How well do Udacity and Coursera support their learners in progressing their careers?
Professional development is actually the core focus of Udacity. It offers a number of services such as project reviews, resume assistance, and job-searching to help learners advance their careers. The platform also provides clear frameworks for what to learn to enhance your skillset and employability, and there’s a focus on guided mentorship for those that want it.
If you take a paid course, you’ll also receive a certificate of completion for your resume; these aren’t accredited by any major organizations, but they’re widely recognized by employers in the industry.
Coursera’s partnerships with universities, academic institutions, and industry leaders are designed with career progression in mind – they’re all about getting you ready for a career in coding. There are a wide range of professional certificates you can achieve through Coursera, as well as full degrees through degree programs and other qualifications. You can even find university recognized online degrees within its offerings.
You can also take modular courses which can count towards a full degree, while other courses are designed to help you build up a portfolio of finished projects to enhance your employability. There are also some job listing resources on offer if you’re actively looking for your next position.
This is another category where Coursera and Udacity are very close. They both have a keen focus on enhancing employability through their courses, and provide various other features to support career development as well. Overall, which is better is likely to come down to exactly which qualifications or skills you want to pursue.
All this professional development help is quite the investment – and many would argue its not needed. Zenva, for instance, takes a project-based approach so users can focus on building professional portfolios as they learn to code. Yet, even with just that portfolio, plenty of students have found successful careers and jobs. And again – this was at a fraction of the cost.
The Final Verdict
Overall, Udacity and Coursera are two impressive learning platforms that offer a multitude of helpful features and a wide range of courses, powered by partnerships with industry-leading organizations. While each has its own strengths and weaknesses, it’s hard to say which is definitively better – it’s better to look at the pros and cons of each to decide which is better suited to you personally.
Udacity’s course library is smaller than other learning platforms, but still has a good range within its courses, as well as some surprisingly niche subjects you’re unlikely to come across elsewhere. It also offers more beginner-friendly courses than Coursera, making it a better option for beginners. However, be aware that its high monthly prices can quickly stack up.
Coursera is geared more towards those who already have a background in coding and are looking to progress their career to the next step. They offer a wide range of courses (many of them free), and depending on which courses you choose, it often works out cheaper than Udacity. However, its confusing pricing options can get very muddled very easily, which can be offputting if you’re not sure what you’re actually paying for.
Of course, Udacity and Coursera aren’t your only options for learning to code online – there are all manner of other platforms available, and many of them would be on a full list of the best online learning platforms. For example, if you’re looking for a more affordable option than Coursera or Udacity, then Zenva may be a good choice; their entire catalog of beginner-friendly, professionally-led courses can be accessed for just $20 a month.
So now that you know all about Udacity and Coursera, make sure to do your research on other platforms as well – even if you’re sold on one or the other, it can’t hurt to see what your other options are.
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