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How Udacity uses Asana to empower people through education

Kelsey Aroian

July 16th, 2014

Udacity was born out of a Stanford University experiment in which Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig offered their “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” course online to anyone, for free. Now Udacity is a growing team of educators and engineers on a mission to change the future of education by bridging the gap between real-world skills, relevant education, and employment.

A new way of delivering education
Jennie Kim is a Program Manager at Udacity and runs their partnership with Georgia Tech.
Jennie Kim - Udacity Program Manager
I joined Udacity because I believe in empowering people through education, and so does Udacity. At Udacity, we’re focused on providing high quality education at scale to students anywhere in the world.
Stuart Frye leads Business Development at Udacity.
Stuart Frye - Udacity Business Development
There’s a white space in accessible and relevant education. Udacity aims to close that skills gap by offering free classes and affordable support for a fraction of what it costs to receive a traditional education.
Jennie Kim - Udacity Program Manager
In the beginning, our team had an opportunity to fundamentally rethink how online courses were put together. A web browser can now be a very engaging and interactive classroom.
Stuart Frye - Udacity Business Development
Creating a new way of delivering education was a big undertaking. While creating the first courses, spreadsheets and documents got unwieldy and inboxes overflowed. As we grew our courses, our system at Udacity was like a shaky house—you knew it wasn’t going to last much longer. To help us achieve our mission, we needed something we could depend on, a system and process that would allow us to deliver these classes in a greater capacity. We realized Asana could be the solution we were looking for.

An Asana project for every initiative
Stuart Frye - Udacity Business Development
A few of my colleagues were Asana enthusiasts after using it with other companies, so we decided to try Asana for the pilot of the Udacity Coaches program. This project involved the business team, frontend engineers, backend engineers, and design. With Asana, we suddenly understood timing, blockers, and obstacles. We didn’t need to send emails back and forth—it was incredible. Asana completely changed the way we worked as a team and it was clear we needed to get all of Udacity onto Asana.
Through Udacity Coaches, Udacity offers mentors who work one-on-one with students through their entire course experience.
Michael Belfrage is one of Udacity’s first engineers.
Michael Belfrage - Udacity Engineer
On the Engineering team, we started using Asana for bug tracking, and now we use Asana for everything from company roadmapping and day-to-day operations. It’s been a tremendous step forward. We discovered that Asana is not just for task management, it’s a communication super tool. It really helps the whole organization work together around common goals.
Jennie Kim - Udacity Program Manager
Our core work of class development requires a lot of cross-functional collaboration between the whole company. Before we all started using Asana, there was no easy, trackable way to communicate with other teams about our content roadmap. There’s just more transparency now that every team uses Asana.Now, I can go to into a project for a new Data Science class and see that the Content team has delivered these lessons, the Production team has recorded these lessons. I can get reliable information about what’s going on, anytime. With Asana, any team—Content, Business, Design—can cohesively contribute to a higher quality course.

Partnering with Georgia Tech to deliver a new kind of degree
Georgia Tech‘s College of Computing has been educating generations of technological leaders for the past 50 years. Their Computer Science program is ranked 9th in the U.S.
Stuart Frye - Udacity Business Development
Since we started using Asana, Udacity has become a tightly integrated team that can take on more ambitious projects. We’re now able to scale online education at a more meaningful level.
Jennie Kim - Udacity Program Manager
College degrees have become increasingly important in today’s competitive job market. After getting our start, the next step was to make affordable, top-notch education available to a much broader group of students. So in 2014, Udacity partnered with a top school, Georgia Tech, to build a new kind of program—something that hadn’t been done before in online education. We launched the first fully-accredited online Masters in Computer Science.
Michael Belfrage - Udacity Engineer
There are so many people who want to learn from these great teachers. Udacity provides a way to expose these classes to the entire world.
The total tuition cost of the program is below $7,000, less than 20% of the price of on-campus enrollment.
Jennie manages the Georgia Tech partnership at Udacity using Asana.
Jennie Kim - Udacity Program Manager
Before, if you wanted a Masters Degree from a top school like Georgia Tech, you’d need to relocate, attend physical classes, and likely put off raising a family or working full time. Now, you can get all the benefits of an online degree, and all the benefits of a degree from a top school! This program really sets Udacity apart.Georgia Tech’s masters program has an intensive curriculum. My team had to develop a lot of new classes in a short period of time to deliver this program. Since we were already using Asana, tackling this project and looping in key stakeholders from other teams was possible.

We created project templates in Asana to standardize our process and create new classes for Advanced Operating Systems, Computer Networks, Machine Learning, Software Development Process, and AI for Robotics. It’s so much easier to cover your bases and collaboratively develop classes efficiently using Asana as a starting point.

Developing the Georgia Tech program was unique because we also had to maintain relationships with professors across the country from our California office at Georgia Tech. For us and for our partners at Georgia Tech, Asana offered a trackable path to success.

The Georgia Tech online masters degree program received 75% more applicants in a three-week period than on-campus program receives in an entire year.The average age of students enrolled online was 34.8, about 11 years older than their on-campus counterparts.

Jennie Kim - Udacity Program Manager
It’s an amazing feeling when you check off a task in Asana that represents this really cool thing that no one has ever done in the world of higher education, like making a world-class CS degree entirely accessible online.
The future of education, powered by Asana
Stuart Frye - Udacity Business Development
Now, people all over the world can decide to take a free class in Artificial Intelligence or get an affordable Computer Science degree online because of what we’re doing at Udacity. Education is the single biggest lever we have to improve people’s lives. We’re helping people get their dream jobs.
Michael Belfrage - Udacity Engineer
Asana lets us spend time on the things we’re most passionate about: giving people an opportunity to live a better life.