Udacity Natural Language Processing Nanodegree Review
The more that mankind tends to rely on technology, the more gaps there are to be filled. These gaps blur the lines of machine and man, attempting to help one another understand and respond seamlessly and more efficiently. This sort of translation process between distinct languages takes a broad range of skills, where a solid understanding of statistics, machine learning and distinct styles of text representations all come in handy. This title is better known as Natural Language Processing, where experts in the field hold the responsibility of developing and creating NLP applications. As you may already know, this skillset and wide range of knowledge are two things that require special training, one that will set a strong foundational ground as the field and the technology used continually advances.
Trainings for computer skills are scattered around the web, many of them promising to be the best. What makes an academy the best and how can you decide which program is right for you? While a quick walk around the web may help you better choose, we have hand picked one course to highlight today, Udacity’s Natural Language Processing Nanodegree. If you’re thinking about a career in the field, this certification program claims to come with all you need to successfully break into a new career after course completion. It was made in collaboration with Amazon Alexa and IBM Watson, something that already catches your attention. We will take a deeper look at all the important stuff, digging into the course and the academy in this in-depth review.
A Bit About Udacity
First, a bit about the academy. If you’ve never heard of the academy, you may be living under a rock! They have made a splash in the world of online certification courses since their birth back in 2012. The very idea of the academy was created by two professors from Stanford University with the goal of bringing free computer science courses to all those eager to learn. Seeing the growth in demand for jobs in the industry created an equally large demand for knowledge in the field putting the academy on the map. Several powerful partnerships and successful graduates later, they are still going strong now offering nanodegrees for more complex concepts.
The nanodegree programs are made to introduce learners to more complex topics in the field. Some are created in collaboration with industry leaders while others provide projects that mirror those in real-life. In the case of this course, as well as every other nanodegree offered by Udacity, learners will get to take advantage of a few extras which we have listed here:
When it comes to time, you set your schedule and duration. You will have access 24/7 to learn whenever you want and wherever you want, completely adapting the course to fit your lifestyle.
- A Mentor
Not just there to answer when you have technical difficulties, you’ll have a mentor to cheer you on. They will help keep you on track and focused seeing you through until the end.
- Real Projects
Most courses feature mini-projects that come after each section and sometimes one large capstone project at the end which allows learners to tie all their new knowledge in together. Whatever the combination of the projects is in the course you’re taking; each one comes inspired by real projects which those in the field have solved or are attempting to solve.
- Career Services
You won’t have to take any of the first steps to break into the field on your own. You will get help building a resume and even have an opportunity to schedule a mock interview that comes with feedback on how you can stand out among the crowd. Not to mention you’re enrolled in the Udacity career database, an area where recruiters are known to crawl looking for a new addition to their team.
Udacity’s Natural Language Processing Nanodegree Instructors
Besides the extras, each nanodegree is taught by an A-list squad of instructors that vary between degrees. You’ll be learning from experts that have years of experience that have dabbled around now holding a broad range of knowledge. The instructors for this course include:
Working as a machine engineer with Google, Luis gained knowledge in the field and first-hand experience after graduation with a PhD in mathematics.
His degree in computer science would become a basis for his thoughts and knowledge in the topic of high-technology startups. He is now investment principle with STV, a venture capital fund with over $500 million at hand.
Arpan is an instructor for the academy and also for Georgia Tech where he lectures on computer science. He’s got years of experience and is also author of language specific books related to R.
She’s worked with Motorola on developing embedded systems and is an instructor for Georgia Tech. Her education includes a bachelors in electrical engineering followed by a masters in computer science.
Udacity’s Natural Language Processing Nanodegree Prerequisites
You will be hitting the ground running in this course and expected to hold at least an intermediate level of knowledge in the following:
- Python, including being able to write nestled loops and comprehend code written by others
- Statistics, making sure that you’re familiar with concepts of probability
- Machine Learning techniques, with at least a bit of practice with neural network architecture
- Deep learning frameworks, including TensorFlow or PyTorch
If there a few concepts that seem to be out of your league, you can always brush up or begin with a few of the free courses offered from the academy. You can find them here: https://blog.udacity.com/category/free-courses
So, now on to the course. There are three sections split with the most foundational first and the more complex ideas coming at the end. Here, we will take a look at the sections, introducing you to the concepts that you’ll begin to learn.
Introduction to Natural Language Processing
The course begins with an introduction where you will learn about the most basic topics to stemming and lemmatization. At the end you will put these concepts to practice, building a speech tagging model.
Computing with Natural Language
This is where you will begin to take the fundamentals much deeper, working with things like embedding and machine translation. This will help you understand the process as information flows from one place to another. This will end with a machine translation activity, where you will get some hands-on practice.
Communicating with Natural Language
Perhaps the most important process of turning speech in to text and vice versa is shown here, where you will use this to eventually build a speech recognition model. Start to dive into deeper machine learning in this section combining all that you learned in the beginning all the way through to the very end.
Though you are welcome to take as much time as you’d like, the academy estimates that it will take you a total of 3 months if you’re dedicating only 10 to 15 hours a week. The Udacity estimate is used as part of a discount deal which we will get to in a second. The price directly affects the total course price, and the longer you take the more it will cost. If you’re unsure of the time it might take you, it could be a good idea to create your schedule first and stick to it so that you’re not driving up the total.
So, what is the cost anyway? Well, that depends. As we mentioned above, the time it takes directly affects the price. This is because Udacity has a unique way of charging for their courses, making the total based off of the number of months you have access. Each month that you have full access to the course comes in at $359. You can use this option if you want to pay per month. If you’d like to bundle up your access and go with Udacity’s estimate, then you get a slight discount of 15% which brings the price down to $206.
At the time of writing this, there is a promotional deal for all nanodegrees, where the academy is giving one month of free access. This is a great deal and makes the all-inclusive course even better, as it could come out much cheaper than initially thought. The promotional free month comes with both the per month and bundled deals, allowing you to use whichever suits you better.
Let’s also take a look at the reviews. These come from learners who have taken the course, and were found across the web. Looking at the overall rating first, the course scores a 4.5 out of 5 stars where learners were, for the most part, satisfied. We have included some of their own words below from all different ratings so you can see what they have to say for yourself.
“This is a fantastic program with practical Natural Language Processing applications required in practice. I highly recommend taking this coursework. I have a master’s degree in Language Technologies – thus course information was familiar and was able to complete the course with improved understanding.” (5-stars)
“I expected to learn more about vectors, but I love that we are learning the very basics of NLP.” (4-stars)
“This nano degree worth no more than $400. The projects are some summaries of the projects can be found on github. Either add more useful projects or reduce the charge will be good for it.’ (1-star)
Natural language processing Job Market:
Another important thing to consider when deciding if this course is right for you is the job market. It is good to know what you’ll be stepping into when you have successfully completed the course. The good thing is, technology doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon, and is increasing and advancing by the day. This makes a number of careers in the field attractive including an expert Natural Language Processor.
A study by IIHT.com showed that the market grew by 200% in one year. This came as things like Chatbots, messengers and other types of chat applications boomed. Also, the use and ownership of mobile phones has become global, no matter if the country is developing or highly economically advanced. Taking a look at your own mobile habits could help you to understand the need, as more companies aim to create the same ability to enhance communication.
PayScale also has an analysis on the career, checking out the average salary at the entry level. They claim that, as a newbie (1 to 4 years of experience), you will be starting off with a salary on average over $100,000 per year. This doesn’t include things like bonuses, which are typical in this career and also pay raises which are expected to come rapidly the more abilities you give companies to increase their understanding.
So, what should you make out of all of this? While you surely have enough information here to do an analysis of your own, we will leave you with a quick summary and question to ponder. The course is made by a credible and reputable academy in collaboration with two powerhouses in the industry, IBM and Amazon. They have a strong team of instructors that will lead each lecture and real projects sewn in to test all the knowledge you’ve learned from the very beginning to the end.
On top of that, the extras, the stable and growing job market, and higher than average entry-level salary make this a career and skillset worth having. Now is the best time to enroll, especially thanks to the discount that makes the nanodegree course more affordable than ever. This combined with all the extras and loaded informative concepts you’ll learn seems like a recipe for success, one that you will not want to miss out on. A new and exciting career can be all yours, and the Udacity NLP Nanodegree can be just the thing to launch your skills.