Microsoft and Udacity Team Up on ML on Azure Training

Online educational services provider Udacity is collaborating with Microsoft to provide scholarships for Udacity's new Machine Learning Nanodegree program in Microsoft Azure, the two companies announced. The program is the first of several educational projects focused on Azure cloud services the two companies plan to design and develop together.

The program starts with a two-month-long intro course: "Introduction to Machine Learning on Azure with a Low-code Experience." This foundational course is a prerequisite for the full Nanodegree program. To earn one of up to 10,000 spots in the foundational course, students submit an application. Udacity states that the scholarships are open to all applicants who have experience with basic Python programming and the basics of statistics and algebra. The company also recommends basic familiarity with fundamental machine learning concepts. The course will be taught in English, and applicants much be 18 years of age or older.

"Successful applicants will ideally have basic programming knowledge in any language," said Alper Tekin, chief product officer at Udacity, in a blog post, "preferably Python, and be comfortable writing scripts and performing loop operations. Other considerations are outlined in the scholarship application process."

That foundational course lasts about four months, and includes:

  • Hands-on projects in an Azure environment with personalized feedback
  • Built-in Azure labs accessible inside the Udacity classroom
  • Mentorship to clear roadblocks and help complete the course
  • Career services including resume, Github, and LinkedIn profile review
  • One-on-one calls with a career coach

Applications for the scholarship program are due on June 30.

The top 300 students from the intro course will be selected for one of 300 scholarships to complete the Nanodegree program. The scholarship recipients will be selected based on two criteria: the successful completion of the foundations coursework, and the "level of participation and support of classmates in the student community as selected by the community team," Tekin explained.

"AI is driving transformation across organizations and there is increased demand for data science skills," said Julia White, Corporate VP in Microsoft's Azure Marketing group, in a blog post. "Through our collaboration with Udacity to offer low-code and advanced courses on Azure Machine Learning, we hope to expand data science expertise as experienced professionals will truly be invaluable resources to solving business problems."

Udacity's Nanodegree curriculum is the result of a strategic pivot by CEO and co-founder Sebastian Thrun, whose company had been one of the leading providers of MOOCs for higher education. In 2013 Thrun abandoned the MOOC, declaring that his company had "a lousy product," and announced plans to shift focus from higher ed to corporate training.

Udacity has trade-marked the term "nanodegree," but the concept of an institution-agnostic micro-credential isn't new and the company isn't the only provider. Coursera , for example, partnerships with tech companies to provide a series of "microdegrees."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at