About three months ago I wrote an article on my motives as to why I decided to leave my master’s degree and go with Udacity’s Digital Marketing Nanodegree. Last week, I finally graduated from the course and wanted to share my experiences with you.
First things first. Do I think the Digital Marketing Nanodegree program was worth the time and money? Well, it depends on what you expect to get out of the course. For me, it certainly delivered on its promises to give me a thorough overview of the digital marketing landscape, and a holistic understanding of how all the different channels work together.
I applied my knowledge in multiple projects by leveraging several major platforms, such as Facebook (Social Media Advertising), Google AdWords (Search Engine Marketing, Display, and Video Advertising), MailChimp (Email Marketing), MOZ (Search Engine Optimization), and Google Analytics (Website Optimization).
In case you want to know more about the projects I was working on, go to my public Udacity profile, and scroll down to the “Projects” section.
The Digital Marketing Nanodegree is divided into 10 parts accompanied by 10 projects. You can find a detailed description of each on Udacity’s website, which is why I won’t elaborate on it. Instead, I’d like to give you a glimpse of what to expect from the overall course experience.
Let’s dive in a bit deeper and look at several components of the program individually.
Lifelong access to the course material (in case you graduate within six months). You can come back at any time and refresh your knowledge if needed. Udacity also updates their content on a regular basis.
Many crisp real-world examples that explain the different concepts well and vivid. Throughout the course, the instructors are frequently referring to three real companies, to illustrate certain ideas and methods, making the material more digestible and easier to recall.
You get to know many tools needed for your projects. Udacity staff even take you by the hand and walk you through the respective platforms.
They provide short summaries for almost all parts of the program, emphasizing the most important facts. It’s particularly helpful while working on the projects since you don’t have to re-watch the videos in case you forgot to take notes.
Each part concludes with a brief overview of the skill set required to find employment in one of the various digital marketing related fields. Furthermore, you can watch interviews with marketing professionals from different companies sharing insights about their day-to-day work.
You can test how well you’ve mastered the material in each part with a couple of quizzes. However, I wish I’d have had more quizzes or interactive exercises to solidify my knowledge even further.
Projects and Reviews
The program’s primary strength. The practice you get here is invaluable, especially if you are new to digital marketing. The amount of time you will spend to meet the project’s requirements can vary. Some projects may be easier; some may turn out a bit more challenging. Eventually, you can even create your public profile through Udacity’s Career Portal and share your project portfolio with your peers or employers.
The costs for running real advertising campaigns on Facebook and AdWords are included in the price for the course. You don’t have to spend any extra money.
At the very beginning of the program, you’ll have to choose a product you’ll want to market throughout the course. Depending on which area you’d like to apply your newly found skills after the Nanodegree program, you can either go with promoting Udacity’s Digital Marketing Nanodegree program, a B2C product, or advertise Udacity Enterprise, a B2B corporate training service. This approach comes in rather handy as you work on your projects because it’s much easier for you to relate to the person you are going to target, that is YOU.
I found the feedback I received for my projects rather standardized and wished it’d have been a little more specific from time to time. Besides, you won’t get extra credit for doing more than what is required. The reviewers primarily check if your projects meet the predefined specifications. Note though, that this may be due to the nature of the course, which has hundreds of participants each term. Providing a less standardized review would probably cost sufficiently more and would make the program less affordable.
Support and Community
The Digital Marketing Nanodegree program’s main means of communication are their forums and Slack channels. In case you’ve never heard of Slack before: Slack is a convenient and easy to use chat program equipped with lots of tools for remote team-collaboration.
The forum mentors are active, and you can expect to receive a response relatively fast.
Dedicated Slack Admins (shout-out to @merl) and students try to answer all the questions which may come up during your journey.
Moreover, if you take the time to search the forums, you may find that mentors have already answered many questions.
You are also assigned a personal mentor, who is an experienced digital marketer and familiar with the curriculum. He’s there to make your journey as smoothly as possible and supports you to stay focused and on track.
Office hours are hosted every Tuesday morning from 8.30 – 9.30 am (Pacific Standard Time), where you can ask anything related to the program. In case you couldn’t get any help from the resources mentioned above, someone will definitively answer your questions here. Note that you don’t have to be physically present at that time but can ask questions in advance.
If you don’t get a satisfying answer right away, don’t get frustrated. Follow up on the answer and just move on with the course in the meantime.
During my studies, Udacity invited me to a live event called “Coffee & Croissants”, where their marketing team provided some interesting insights about the future of digital marketing and tips on how to succeed as someone new to this profession. I encourage you to watch it!
Since the course is relatively new, Udacity staff is constantly trying out new things, like study groups or weekly quizzes/polls to engage with the community. Some things work out well; some don’t. I wish they’d do more to facilitate discussions and nurture relationships amongst students. A strong and active community could ultimately turn out a huge asset, not only for Udacity’s Nanodegree program but every alumni and fellow student.
Aside from the core curriculum, Udacity provides additional material that’s preparing you to seek employment as a digital marketer more confidently.
Conclusion and next steps
To recap, if you are rather new to digital marketing and don’t be thrown off track if something isn’t working out as expected, you get a great overview of the whole domain, its latest tools and tactics, plenty of practical examples, and many occasions to practice.
Could you learn about digital marketing without attending the course? Absolutely! Digital marketing is not rocket science. Besides, marketing content has been proven to be a well-working tool for most companies, which has led to a plethora of great, free resources at your disposal. Besides, most of the tools needed to get started are free of charge or require a very little upfront investment.
The only crucial question very few people take into consideration is, do you have the time and tenacity to learn everything completely on your own? Just ask yourself, why you’ve been to college. Why have you paid a ton of money for a degree when the only thing being necessary was to buy a bunch of books for a fraction of the cost and study on your own?
That said, I encourage you to explore digital marketing on your own first, and see how things are working out for you. If you’re not making any progress or are overwhelmed by the abundance of resources out there, I recommend giving Udacity’s Digital Marketing Nanodegree a try. They do an outstanding job in structuring the material and creating a curriculum which allows you to focus on what’s important and thus may save you a lot of time and energy. You can even request a full refund within 7-days after enrollment if you’re not satisfied!
Finally, you may wonder, what’s next? Well, this is entirely up to you and depends on what your initial goals were before taking the course. Graduating from the program is rather the beginning than the end. There are plenty of possibilities to evolve as a digital marketer, even as many that one might get lost and never actually begins. Start blogging, try to sell stuff online, ask friends and family if they may need your expertise or even consider your first gig as a freelancer. Whatever it may be “Just Do It”! 😉
Please note: I’m exclusively referring to the "Nanodegree Program" in my review, not the "Self-Study" option. Though both choices may look alike, there are some crucial differences. For more information, please check Udacity’s official website!