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30 days with Udacity: A fast-paced and challenging path to Android development

Derek Walter | Sept. 11, 2015
The Udacity nanodegree is a tough, but excellent, start if you want to become an Android developer.

udacity android 4
Credit: Udacity

Mobile apps are the key driver behind the explosion in learn-to-code schools, with startups like Udacity, Udemy, Coursera, and others promising to give you the right toolkit and know-how to to make a career switch.

Google has latched on to this trend in an effort to bolster the ranks of Android developers. A recent  partnership with Udacity birthed the Android Developer Nanodegree.

The semantics behind “Nanodegree” give a more hip spin on the old-school “certificate” you used to get when completing a ten-week program at a brick-and-mortar school. But the concept is the same—a short-term curriculum leads you to the right skill set to get a career change.

I was offered a 30-day trial by Udacity, so I brought my passion for Android and what turned out to be a paltry skill set to the intense world of app development. Here’s what I found, with some thoughts about how it may impact your decision to jump on board a course like this.

Minimal design, excessive chat options

When I first signed on, I was impressed with the clean interface. I’m a fan of design that gets unnecessary clutter out of the way. Udacity does this, with big buttons for easy access to the videos, material, and discussion forums. 

It’s the latter, though, that eventually gave me some consternation. The options for connecting with classmates is rather scattered. There’s a discussion forum, which broke down nicely conversations by category. There was also a  Google+ Community. But no, that wasn’t all. 

udacity course
Udacity’s courses include videos to walk you through the concepts. Also, where can I get those cool, stuffed Androids?

There was also a Slack community. Slack is a great tool for teams, but at 799 students at last count that’s one heck of a huge team. Fortunately, despite the size I did make some helpful connections through part of the coursework.

For example, when downloading an update to Android Studio the software flipped out and crashed every time I tried to install it. Some students through Google+ recommended wiping the software and deleting all those annoying hidden files and then doing a fresh install. 

Sure enough, it worked. I also got a neat perspective on how international the interest in Android is.  There were students from Africa, South America, the UK, and other parts of Europe, along with the United States of course. It’s easy to forget that Android, through its open nature and abundance of affordable handsets, truly has a global footprint.

Taming the green robot


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