Steven Moran, Chief Learning Officer at Bertelsmann, sums up the most important information about Bertelsmann's "Udacity Technology Scholarship Program" in an interview and provides insights into why this global initiative also contributes to developing a learning culture.
Bertelsmann has teamed up with Udacity again for the Technology Scholarship Program – who or what is Udacity anyway?
Steven Moran: Udacity is a global pioneer in the field of lifelong learning. It is one of the leading online education platforms, which develops and offers practical, technology-oriented online courses together with global technology companies. Beyond this, Bertelsmann is one of Udacity’s largest and strategically most important shareholders.
What makes Udacity’s offers so timely with regard to today’s understanding of learning?
Steven Moran: On the one hand, their content, certainly. This is developed together with leading experts in the technology industry, such as IBM Watson and Google. These courses let participants quickly acquire the latest tech knowledge and conclude with a nanodegree. These certificates are now recognized degrees and qualify their holders for jobs in various business-relevant areas, such as software development, data science, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and many more.
...and on the other hand?
Steven Moran: ... The way the content is taught is up-to-the minute, too. All programs are conducted 100 percent online. And always in small, consumable units – in the form of videos, but also – and this is a unique selling point – through practical exercises and project work. Participants receive support from Udacity during the learning process and, thanks to a very strong network of fellow learners, can support each other if they have questions about what they have learned, or with the challenges during the exercises. So participants can’t just learn the content from anywhere, but can create their own individual learning and time schedule to perfectly match their life situation. It’s this combination of quality content and time flexibility, coupled with the use of different learning methods, that is essential to systematically promote a learning culture of self-directed learning at Bertelsmann. I’d also like to emphasize that Bertelsmann is a global pioneer when it comes to providing such a diverse and self-directed continuing training program that employees can choose from according to their needs – and that is aligned with the company’s strategic goals and technological needs.
And what is the basic rationale behind the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program?
Steven Moran: Given the success of last year’s Data Science Scholarship Initiative, Bertelsmann is now launching the "Udacity Technology Scholarship Program", another, much more extensive global education initiative to strengthen tech skills, spanning three years. With a total of 50,000 scholarships, the present program offers three different learning paths for the key technologies that have the greatest impact on Bertelsmann’s business: first, Cloud, i.e. applications for internet-based IT infrastructures; second, Data, i.e. applications for the analysis and interpretation of large amounts of data; and third, Artificial Intelligence (AI), which deals with applications involving machine learning and intelligent algorithms.
Why are skills in these fields so important for Bertelsmann employees?
Steven Moran: Bertelsmann’s businesses are changing at an ever faster pace due to the opportunities offered especially by the key areas of Cloud, Data, and AI. With this in mind, it is becoming more and more important to make sure our employees have these skills to keep developing them for the working world of the future. So with this three-year scholarship initiative we are promoting a culture of lifelong learning.
Who can apply?
Steven Moran: In principle, all Bertelsmann employees can apply. I can only second what Thomas Rabe wrote in his letter today: We are, of course, hoping for as many applicants as possible from our own ranks. Like last year’s Udacity scholarship initiative, the program is also aimed at anyone outside Bertelsmann who wants to expand their cloud, data, and AI skills.
Which group of employees are you targeting with the program?
Steven Moran: In designing the program and selecting the learning paths, we took care not only to appeal to experienced programmers but also to beginners who are required to have basic computer skills and a strong motivation to deal with these technology subjects. That’s why, starting today, we’re awarding the first scholarships for “Challenge Courses.” They provide participants with basic know-how and initial skills in the required systems of the stipulated tech areas. Upon completion, each participant of this course receives an electronic participant certificate. Afterwards, the top ten percent of these participants are given the opportunity to go on to complete a full Udacity nanodegree in the areas of cloud, data, or artificial intelligence. The nanodegree programs are once again much more comprehensive and in-depth in terms of the knowledge learned.
How can interested parties obtain additional information and apply?
Steven Moran: Together with Udacity, we’ve designed a special landing page for the scholarship initiative (www.udacity.com/bertelsmann-tech-scholarships), which can be used by anyone interested in finding out more about the respective courses and to apply. In addition, we offer all our employees the opportunity to find out more about the program in one-hour web sessions. The local HR departments are of course also available for further information. My recommendation is to proactively approach your supervisor and inform them about your participation. You can also discuss with your managers the extent to which your participation can be reconciled with your work routine.
What is the timeline going forward?
Steven Moran: Today we launch the first application phase. It ends on November 6, 2019. The scholarship recipients for the Challenge Courses will be announced in November 2019, and we start the courses on November 20, 2019. After the Challenge Course, the full nanodegree program phase, which the top ten percent of graduates from the first part qualify for, will start in March 2020. For some, this timetable may feel a bit long – but we’ve done this especially to take into consideration our colleagues who have seasonal business and may therefore only be able to get involved after a short delay. (benet)