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Georgia Tech Takes MOOCs to the Next Level


Georgia Tech announced yesterday that it is teaming up with Udacity, one of the leading providers of massively open online education, to offer a full graduate program in computer science. For a mere $7,000 dollars—or 1/6 the cost of the equivalent program offered on campus—students who meet the prerequisites can fulfill the requirements of a master’s degree entirely through open courseware.

This is a big deal. As the Washington Post notes, even MOOC-friendly colleges like Stanford, Harvard, and San Jose State have been reluctant to actually grant credentials for their online courses, preferring to use them as a teaching aids rather than as the foundation of a program. There have been the usual concerns about quality control, as well as worries that an all-MOOC degree could dilute the value of Georgia Tech’s traditional degrees, but Georgia Tech claims it has taken these concerns into account:

Notably, the university said it hoped to admit anyone who meets its admissions requirement, which it emphasized remain stringent. It estimated it could eventually enroll 10,000 students in the program, in a field facing a shortage of workers. That’s nearly half the size of the whole student body on Georgia Tech’s Atlanta campus.

“We’re turning down people that are probably capable. We just can’t handle them,” said Rafael Bras, Georgia Tech’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, who said current demand for the program outstrips supply by 10 to 1. “We’re now reaching out to the world through a different medium. There’s a lot of people out there that will have this great opportunity.”

At $7,000 per student and with these kinds of enrollment numbers, this may be not just a boon for students but a good way of significantly widening Georgia Tech’s student base: 10,000 is a lot of students, and the open nature of MOOCs makes it relatively simple to scale up without dramatically expanding staff or administrative costs.

This is the first program of its kind, so nobody knows if the students it graduates will pass muster in the marketplace. But the potential for both cutting costs and broadening the educational base is certainly there. Rest assured we will be watching to see how this experiment shapes up.

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  • skhpcola

    I thoroughly enjoy your writing, but this:

    “For a mere $7,000 dollars—six times less than the cost of the equivalent program…”

    is nonsense. Six times less than a positive number is a negative number five times larger than the original number. For example:

    3-(6×3) = -15

    One time less than a number is zero.

    I think that what you mean to say is that $7,000 is 1/6th of the equivalent program.

    • Andy Iacobucci

      Noted and fixed, thanks!

  • Nick Bidler

    Well, as a prospective comp. sci. major (who already has a degree in history), this bodes well for me. It’s still a toss-up whether or not even a STEM degree will get me stable employment.

  • WilliamK

    It should not be about admission requirements but how one performs in the coursework.

  • teapartydoc

    This is only the beginning of a long revolution. The end point will be free content and payment for testing and credentialing.

  • Jim Luebke

    My church introduced this year’s crop of confirmands today. Among them was a student who had watched each class on YouTube, and undergone a 100-minute in-person examination, which could probably have been done by teleconference. This, from a church that takes its confirmation classes very seriously.

    Online courses just make sense.

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