New Udacity Classes On Games, Graphics, Parallel & Chips
Written by Sue Gee   
Monday, 22 October 2012

Udacity has details of four courses that are now open for enrollment and will start in early 2013, plus titles of three others that will follow at a later date. They also signal a slight shift in emphasis.

When we talked to Sebastian Thrun in June, he had looked forward to having a complete Computer Science degree curriculum in place quite soon. But while the four new classes have CS in their titles, making the number of CS courses now available up to 15, there are still some obvious gaps - mostly the "boring bits" such as a course on operating systems.

Now however, Udacity seems keen to point out its differences with traditional universities - in particular its responsiveness to the  pace at which technology changes. It already had an on job placement for its bright and best students and the latest addition in the Udacity blog makes it clear that giving students skills that will put them at an advantage in the workplace is a main focus:

The Udacity blog explains the strategy that sees it making new links with high profile technology companies:

Technologies change quickly. While savvy companies are quick to adapt to these changes, universities are sometimes slower to react. This discrepancy can lead to a growing gap between the skills graduates have and the skills employers need.  So how do you figure out exactly what skills employers are looking for? Our thinking: work with industry leaders to teach those skills!

And that’s what we’re doing. We are working with leading academic researchers and collaborating with Google, NVIDIA, Microsoft, Autodesk, Cadence, and Wolfram to teach knowledge and skills that students will be able to put to use immediately, either in personal projects or as an employee at one of the many companies where these skills are sought after.

The unifying features of the four new Udacity CS courses is that they are on cutting-edge topics and have at least one presenter from an industry partner. Follow the links for details of the syllabus. You'll notice that while any of them might be an option on a traditional computer science degree they are not core topics:


An intermediate level course on Building High Performance Web Applications that walks you through the major components of building GRITS, an HTML5 game. It looks at standard game development techniques, and uses them to create high performance HTML5 applications. Students are expected to have basic knowledge of HTML, Javascript, and how the web works and CS253: Web Application Engineering would make a good basis for it

Its tutors are Colt McAnlis, a Developer Advocate at Google who focuses on Chrome Games and Native Client, and Peter Lubbers, a Program Manager at Google in the Chrome Developer Relations team who is the co-author of Pro HTML5 Programming (Apress)



This Introduction to 3D Computer Graphics is also at the intermediate level and "knowing how to program" and some knowledge of JavaScript is the only prerequisites. In it Eric Haines, a Senior Principal Engineer at Autodesk, will teach you about the basic principles of 3D computer graphics: meshes, transforms, cameras, materials, lighting, and animation.


is about Using CUDA to Harness the Power of GPUs and is taught by John Owens, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Davis, where he leads a research group in parallel computing, and David Luebke who helped found NVIDIA Research in 2006 after eight years teaching computer science on the faculty of the University of Virginia.

In the class, you'll learn about parallel programming by coding image processing algorithms and will be able to program and run your assignments on high-end GPUs, even if you don't own one yourself. Students need to have "solid experience with with the C programming language and basic knowledge of data structures and algorithms"..




How to Verify Chips and Eliminate Bugs starts from the premise that when developing chips it is essential that they get verified thoroughly because it is very hard or impossible to fix them once they have been manufactured. The class will show how to program verification environments that verify chip functionality efficiently and cover aspects such as constrained random test generation and code reuse. Both its tutors, Axel Scherer and Hannes Fröhlich  are from Cadence Design Systems, a leading global Electronic Design Automation company.

So far, one of the gaps in the Udacity Computer Science curriculum has been hardware. This advanced course plugs the gap a bit - but is a rather esoteric and requires programming experience,including object-oriented programming, and knowledge of data and control structure.

Looking further into the future, three more classes will be added: 

  • Mobile Applications Development with Android
  • Applications Development with Windows 8
  • Data Visualization with Mathematica

Again these will appeal for being up-to-the-minute in the case of Windows 8, highly sought-after in the case of Android and relevant in a wide range of disciplines in the case of data viisualization.

The blog also explains:

Additionally, through our partnership with Wolfram (creator of Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha) we will be integrating new computational tools into our courses. This means that if you want to visualize that amazing new path-finding algorithm you just wrote, the equations of motion you just learned, or the robotic car you just programmed, you’ll be able to easily do that right in the browser!

The is an attractive extra and gives Udacians even more reasons to welcome the way in which Udacity is forging links with companies rather than with universities.  



More Information


Four New Classes (Udacity blog) 

Related Articles

A Computer Science Degree from Udacity?

Udacity Has More Computer Science 

Sebastian Thrun Resigns from Stanford to Launch Udacity 


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Last Updated ( Monday, 22 October 2012 )