My Udacity Nanodegree Story

So this is going to be a story of many parts. It took quite a while to write but I wanted to get it all down for myself, anyone else who is thinking of taking the Udacity Front-End Nanodegree or anyone who is curious.

My pre-Udacity story:

Let’s flash back to senior in high school/ freshman in college me. I had a Tumblr and at the time you could go in and change the code. I would go in and change colors and make snow fall and everything. Looking back it was all pretty much just basic CSS and HTML but it was cool to me then.

In Junior year of college I was briefly a computer science minor. Once we started laying out my schedule I realized with my study abroad I would be adding a year to college and really I just wanted to be done and out of school.

I knew there were ways to learn code outside of a structured college system. During this time I took a design class and a class about Object-Oriented JavaScript. THANK GOODNESS my roommate had the same professor because our group projects could be done with anyone in any of his sections so we worked on them together.

Looking back now I understand why this was so difficult. This wasn’t even a concept introduced until later in the Udacity course and I had one of those moments where I was like “I understand it now.” I am curious as to what my projects from that class look like but I have no clue where they are. All I remember is that our tests were on paper. If you ever try to code on paper it’s a lot harder.

Once I graduated I had more free time and I took some classes on Codecademy which covered more HTML and CSS basics because the college courses skipped over those. I’m assuming they thought everyone knew the basics.

The application process:

A couple months after graduation uncle told me if I was interested in coding to check out Udacity and take some free classes. However, if I don’t have a deadline it takes a lot more motivation to get things done. Since I had a Udacity account I got an email about this scholarship opportunity in October. I applied within the next week and we got informed in December if we got accepted or not.

This particular scholarship was called Grow With Google and there were four different tracks. Front-End Web Development (FEND), Mobile Web Specialist (MWS), Android Basics (ABND) and Android Developer (AND). I decided on web development because I work with websites on the daily so I thought it’d be a good fit.

There was a first section challenge course and then the top 10% of that group went on to the actual nanodegree section.

Basically this wasn’t a snap second decision. I knew this was a new(ish) thing I wanted to learn and pursue.

Google Udacity Scholar

Class Structure:

This was 100% online. We had the classroom, a forum and a slack channel we could ask questions and get responses in real time. There were student leaders, mentors and Udacity staff so there was pretty much always someone around. Pretty early on night owl and morning bird chat rooms were created in Slack so we knew people were up at super odd hours of the day.

During the first part the Slack channel was very overwhelming and I stayed in the forums. A portion of how they decided who went on was who contributed to discussions as well as if you finished the course. Because of this there seemed like there was a lot of white noise. It may have calmed down later for all I know. In the second part there was a lot less of people talking just to talk.

Every once in a while you had people telling you to do something and it was the same thing you had in your code or you explained that you did that in your question. Sometimes people talked like they knew what they were talking about and then you ask them to elaborate or explain so you understand WHY instead of just HOW and they’ll respond with a “well I haven’t actually gotten to that point yet…” Between all of that you generally get some good help.

My Udacity Story:

So the first part was actually pretty chill until the last couple of weeks. It started with basics, things I already knew so it wasn’t taking too much time – definitely not the full 10 hours per week it was predicted. Then we got into JavaScript and I understood it relatively well. I had to look things up and ask questions but it was still managable. Then came the final project of part one. It took longer than I expected but I wasn’t too stressed about it.

And then I realized I had two weeks left. Those last weeks were the only ones I was really stressed out during because what seemed like a very simple project just kept giving me more and more problems. It was a lot of JavaScript I didn’t know existed but once I had those moments where I was like “wow…. there’s a way to do this.” It became a lot easier.

Then the second part came. I got in (obviously otherwise I wouldn’t be talking about this). I thought it wouldn’t be the full 10 hours needed per week, just like how the first part went. I was so wrong. I worked on it pretty regularly the first three and a half months but it was probably only like five hours a week.

The second part (which is the actual Nanodegree) is intense. The lessons are pretty easy, it takes you through everything step-by-step and then you do bits and pieces of it by yourself and then tells you the solutions. Even if you just watch everything you can still learn from it. Obviously this is not recommended by myself or anyone.

The structure varies from topic to topic. The lesson can be either completely video or completely text or anywhere in between. It taught you the basic methods and syntax, gave you some examples and problems to solve, as well as resources to expand your knowledge. This program really makes you have to learn how to read documentation and where to find information which will be so beneficial when you start doing projects without a classroom there.

For example, the final project was creating a one-page web app that draws in the Google Map and information from an API (most of us used Foursquare) to display markers and a grid as well as implement a search feature. Which we learned in the lessons. The catch was we had to create it using React, a JavaScript library (which we had learned also).

It was putting together the puzzle pieces. At the time it just seems like a huge leap but it’s really just a big jump. You have a lot of the information but you look back when you’re done with the project and it’s like wow… I know so much more now.

We also had cohorts during the second part. It’s a smaller group of students you can talk to and encourage and I loved that. We had challenges we could participate in and mine ended up winning and got some swag. We all completed the 100 Days of Code challenge, we created webinars and in general it was a very positive atmosphere. We actually still keep in touch and plan to do some collaborations in the future.

Some last thoughts about the Udacity Nanodegree

If you do decide to do the nanodegree make sure not to put off studying because I think it actually would even out to more than 10 hours per week. Toward the end I was majorly sleep deprived. It wasn’t fun. It made stress levels go through the roof. But general lesson: don’t procrastinate.

Coding is not easy. It’s fun and addictive once you know what you’re doing. But this Nanodegree was one of the most challenging things I’ve done in my entire life. You get to a point in almost every project where it becomes so stressful because you feel like you’ve tried everything, you break down, question if you can actually finish and become a developer and then you figure out what the problem was and you learn and grow from those things.

Honestly if you’ve read all of that you deserve a cookie. Or a giant cake because wow that was a lot of words.

*This is a referral link we both get $50 off if anyone chooses to purchase a program with it. Terms and conditions in the link

If you have any questions let me know below. Even if I talk about it in this post I’ll give you just a quick explanation because I know this was insanely long.

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5 thoughts on “My Udacity Nanodegree Story

  1. So proud of you and all your hard work. I feel we don’t deserve the cookies but you do. I am happy your program is over just because you’re no longer stressed out and can finally sleep again lol.

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