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‘Courses For Anyone Who Wants To Explore Digital Technologies’

In an interview with BENET, Steven Moran, Chief Learning Officer at Bertelsmann, explains how the second round of the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program differs from the previous year. He also looks back on the scholarship initiative’s successful first round.

In mid-September, Bertelsmann launched the second round of its #50000Chances digital initiative, in which it is awarding an additional 15,000 scholarships for Udacity courses in the fields of Cloud, Data, and Artificial Intelligence (see BENET report). In an interview with BENET, Bertelsmann’s Chief Learning Officer Steven Moran looks back on the program’s successful first round and explains how Round Two of the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program differs from the previous year. 

Udacity is considered one of Silicon Valley’s leading educational platforms and a pioneer in the field of digital learning. Is this the reason for the high interest in the first round of the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program? 

Steven Moran: It’s a combination of two key factors: state-of-the-art content, and the way it is communicated. Udacity responds continuously to changing market demands and, together with leading technology sector experts such as Microsoft, is constantly developing content for new courses, such as the “Cloud Developer with Azure” course. Udacity also teaches skills in an exclusively digital, condensed, and above all user-focused way. Although this kind of learning requires intensive, focused engagement with the content, it offers the opportunity to quickly acquire knowledge that can be directly applied in practice. At a time when technological change is progressing faster than ever, the number of applicants last year (45,600) proves just how great the demand for continuing training is. 

Can you summarize again why skills in these areas of technology are so important today, especially for Bertelsmann employees? 

Steven Moran: Promoting digital business models at Bertelsmann is essential for the Group’s diversified portfolio. In recent months, we’ve once again seen an acceleration in the need for technologization due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. These digital business models are especially driven by technologies such as cloud, data, and artificial intelligence. It is therefore essential that we all keep building and expanding our skills and knowledge in these areas – not just to further develop these business models, but also to be well positioned for the working world of the future. Bertelsmann’s in-house completion rate of 55 percent among all Bertelsmann scholarship holders is well above the Udacity benchmark of 25 to 30 percent. This result confirms this scholarship program’s added value all the more. 

The application phase for the second round of the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program is currently underway. How does the second round differ from the first? Who can apply this year? 

Steven Moran: In principle, as was the case last year, it’s possible for anyone interested to apply. With a total of nine different Nanodegrees over a period of three years, we would like to enable very different target groups to participate in the program. For example, the first round of the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program was aimed more at experienced programmers, who were able to develop their skills in courses such as DevOps and Deep Learning. In the current, second round, on the other hand, we are particularly addressing people who are open to new technologies and their enormous potential, but who don’t yet have in-depth expertise in these areas. So prior tech knowledge is not absolutely necessary for courses such as AI Product Manager and Predictive Analytics for Business. The new course content is aimed at anyone who wants to explore the digital technologies. Just as Thomas Rabe wrote in his letter to all employees at the beginning of the application phase, I, too, hope that as many Bertelsmann colleagues as possible will apply. Perhaps they will include those who flirted with the idea of taking a course last year, but haven’t yet decided to do so. Of course, graduates from the first round are equally invited to apply again. As already mentioned, they can look forward to completely new content. 

How can interested parties obtain information and apply?

Steven Moran: Together with Udacity, we have designed a website for the scholarship initiative where all interested parties can find more detailed information about and descriptions of the respective courses, and also apply until November 16. Compared to the previous round, we have simplified the application process this year, so that applications can be completed even faster. The local HR departments are, of course, also available for further consultation. My recommendation is to proactively approach your supervisor and let them know about your proposed participation so that they can also discuss with other managers how best to reconcile participation with your everyday work. The recipients of the Challenge Course scholarships will be announced at the beginning of December, and the courses will start immediately afterwards. The complete Nanodegree program phase that follows the Challenge Course, for which only ten percent of all students will qualify, starts in March 2021.

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