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Online 'Nanodegree' Concept Introduced as College Alternative

When most high school students think of a college degree, they envision going to a four-year or two-year institution. Now there is a new concept on the higher education landscape: The "nanodegree."

AT&T and Udacity, the online education company, on June 16 rolled out job-focused credentials that students can earn in six to 12 months through online courses. The first nanodegrees, offered this fall in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) format, will prepare students for jobs such as a front-end web developer, data analyst, or Android mobile developer, according to an AT&T announcement and a Udacity blog post.

With a price tag of $200 a month, a nanodegree could be an affordable alternative for someone seeking postsecondary training but who doesn't want to invest the time or money in an associate or bachelor's degree. Udacity also is pitching nanodegrees as something employees might want to do throughout their work life to learn new skills or switch careers.

The nanodegree will equip students with technology skills for the jobs industry needs, such as software development positions at AT&T, John Donovan, senior vice president at AT&T writes in an online post.

An article in The New York Times June 17 suggests the move may be more than a vocational twist to online training. "It may finally offer a reasonable shot at harnessing the web to provide effective schooling to the many young Americans for whom college has become a distant, unaffordable dream," the article said. "Intriguingly, it suggests that the best route to democratizing higher education may require taking it out of college."

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