Engineers at ON24 click with Udemy online learning software

Organizations such as ON24 and AT&T are using e-learning software from Udemy and Udacity to keep employees up to date on new technical skills at an affordable price.

Brent Rojas, director of engineering for ON24, has simplified and improved training with Udemy online learning software.

Rojas used to send his team of software engineers to a conference for training or pay for an instructor to lead a course at his company's headquarters. But off-site classes can be expensive and time consuming, he said, and it was difficult to find space at his fast-growing company to train 10 to 20 people together.

ON24, based in San Francisco, makes webcasting technologies for companies, and the technologies tend to change quickly. Software engineers on his team are currently taking about 45 courses on the Udemy business platform, he said.

While learners need to invest the time to take the courses, the Udemy for Business platform allows for oversight. Managers can assign online courses to students, track the progress of individual learners including the courses they are taking and completing, and the time they are spending on the online learning software.

"We need to make sure that our developers are up to speed on all changes, the latest streaming technologies, for example," Rojas said. "We make sure that they take courses in Udemy that allow them to be up to date."

Rojas said the Udemy courses are on-demand, giving employees control over the pace of instruction. Employees can return to instruction, take quizzes and review materials to assure they have learned enough to proceed.

After taking courses on Udemy, two senior managers suggested to Rojas that the platform be offered for the department or the entire company. Rojas' group in the engineering department has been using Udemy since last August.

Online learning software could help meet rising demand

Plenty of employers are probably in the same boat -- stuck without a modern technology for learning
Brent SkinnerNucleus Research

Vendors in online learning software such as Udemy, Udacity, and Coursera and a dozen other providers are allowing people to take charge of their learning experience and instantly access a lecture, course or workshop on a needed skill, according to Deloitte's 2016 Human Capital Trends survey of 7,000 business and HR leaders from 130 countries.

More than 80% of the executives view learning management as an important or very important issue, the Deloitte survey said.

"In today's business environment, learning is an essential tool for engaging employees, attracting and retaining top talent and developing long-term leadership for the company," the Deloitte report said.

In corporate learning, there is a big shift away from internal training programs to innovative platforms that allow people to develop themselves, the report said.

Online learning courses offer opportunities at little or no cost and are in the early stages of transforming training at enterprises. Most importantly, the e-learning software allows employees to develop the skills they need, when they need them and at a time that fits their schedules.

AT&T gets good reception with Udacity

Currently, more than 1,000 AT&T employees have enrolled in one of Udacity's "nanodegree" programs, and nearly 400 employees have been admitted to the master of science in computer science program offered as a result of a partnership among Georgia Tech, Udacity and AT&T, according to John Palmer, senior vice president and chief learning officer at the company, based in Dallas.

"AT&T is moving to a software-defined, mobile first network," Palmer stated. "The need to reskill our existing workforce and to develop a pipeline of employees with the skills to succeed and to help us succeed has never been more critical."

Udacity did not replace classroom training at AT&T. Online programs are part of the answer for AT&T and other companies to reduce the shortage of employees with technical skills, according to Palmer.

Last year, AT&T invested about $250 million training employees and provided about 23 million hours of training through AT&T University, its flagship development program with on-site and online learning courses. In addition, the company spent about $30 million in tuition reimbursement.

Brent Skinner, principal analyst with Nucleus Research, said that despite a trend of organizations using as much human resource software as possible from one vendor, there is plenty of room for best-of-breed e-learning software vendors such as Udemy and Udacity.

Some companies, he said, have outdated modules for educating employees on laws, rules or company policies connected with their daily work. "There's a market for companies like Udemy and Udacity. Plenty of employers are probably in the same boat -- stuck without a modern technology for learning."

Udemy allows any expert, not just university professors, to produce online learning courses and offer them on the platform for consumers and businesses. Udemy for Business, which focuses on selling to enterprises, curates the best courses in professional categories and offers that collection to businesses, said Darren Shimkus, general manager of Udemy for Business.

Consumer courses on Udemy range from $20 to $50 each. The business subscription, which provides unlimited access, starts off at a few thousand dollars a year and scales for learning management for larger organizations with tens of thousands of users and more complex learning needs, Shimkus said.

Udacity specializes in technology, and it partners with industry technology experts and employers including AT&T, Google and Facebook to create "nanodegree" programs to teach skills the employers need.

The majority of Udacity's nanodegrees cost about $200 a month and can take between six months to a year to finish. Students can finish in as little as one to two months working full time. 

Udacity produces its own educational content and curriculum. The company has dozens of in-house instructors who build courses and assessments, along with a video production team and project management staff.

Coursera partners with more than 140 universities to offer courses to anyone in the world. The universities create the content with their instructors, and most of the popular courses are in technology and business.

Anyone can audit a course in Coursera for free, but a fee is charged for courses with grades and certificates. A fee can be waived with financial aid. Coursera is starting to offer full-scale online degree programs, with an MBA and master in computer science in data science available through the University of Illinois.

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