I’ve been thinking recently more about the Udacity platform as a whole. I’ve already written a review of Udacity, and on the whole I like it. So when they recently announced an iPad specific app, I wanted to see if they could translate the best parts of their online application to the iPad.
First thing that I noticed is that there does not seem to be a speed control on videos. Both Treehouse and Coursera allow you to watch videos at 1.25x, 1.50x, or 2.00x. But the Udacity iPad App just delivers videos at normal speed. It’s a strange omission. The benefit of having a speed control is being able to watch a course in a fraction of the time. People (and particularly teachers of online courses) tend to talk slower to ensure they are understood by people for whom English is not their first language. Anyone who is highly proficient in English can view videos at a slightly faster speed most of the time.
The app is slick. After watching each video, the app informs you of your progress. The videos also auto-forward and do not require a click in order to go from video to video. Udacity videos tend to be shorter (a few minutes) than Coursera or others, and so this makes sense in this context.
Another thing the app seems to be missing is the ability to operate offline. You cannot load the app, not view the videos, without an Internet connection. This can be considered a big miss to some. One of the cool ideas of mobile learning is being able to learn from anywhere. If you have a 1-hour train ride to work every morning and evening, you should be able to load up your Udacity app and make some progress on your course. But unless you have an unlimited data plan, you can’t do this.
Udacity has a wide variety of paid options, including offering tutoring, graded projects, and verified certificates. But I cannot verify if this app supports any of that since I don’t have a paid plan with Udacity. I expect it does not, since supporting those would be as much work as just delivering video and quizzes. But I might be wrong.
So, in summary, I do like the app. I think the design is among the best of all MOOC providers. But it does seem to be missing some basic features such as the ability to download videos for offline viewing, and being able to set the video playback speed. I hope they are able to add those features to a future version of the app.
But for what it does – delivering the course videos and quizzes – it does a perfectly fine job at. I can certainly see me (and other Udacity students) using this app to watch videos from a more comfortable spot such as a sofa.
Update: Of course, just before this post was scheduled to go live, Udacity releases a revision to their app that allows videos to be downloaded for offline viewing. And their app now runs on the iPhone. Will still need to test that out. Will update this post in the near future.