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Georgia Tech to Offer Massive Online Master's Degree in Computer Science

Students will pay a fraction of the cost of traditional on-campus master’s programs; total tuition for the program is initially expected to be below $7,000.

The Georgia Institute of Technology College of Computing announced recently that it will offer the first professional Online Master of Science degree in computer science (OMS CS) that can be earned completely through the “massive online” format. The degree will be provided in collaboration with online education leader Udacity Inc. and AT&T.

All OMS CS course content will be delivered via the massive open online course (MOOC) format, with enhanced support services for students enrolled in the degree program. Those students also will pay a fraction of the cost of traditional on-campus master’s programs; total tuition for the program is initially expected to be below $7,000. A pilot program, partly supported by a generous gift from AT&T, will begin in the next academic year. Initial enrollment will be limited to a few hundred students recruited from AT&T and Georgia Tech corporate affiliates. Enrollment is expected to expand gradually over the next three years.

“Georgia Tech’s vision is to define the technological research university of the 21st century. We will explore technologies and instructional approaches that will improve our role as a leading provider of the best and most effective education in the state of Georgia, the nation and the world,” Rafael L. Bras, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Georgia Tech, said in a news release.

Georgia Tech has been involved in online education for more than 30 years, and in the past year has taken a national leadership role in massive open online courses. Offering a master’s degree in this format is the next step in expanding Georgia Tech’s online offerings.

 “We are thrilled to be able to join with Udacity and AT&T in taking this bold next step,” Bras said. “We are proud of the visionary role of Dean Zvi Galil in the creation of this degree offering from our nationally renowned College of Computing.”  

 “We are excited to team with Georgia Tech, whose College of Computing offers CS degrees of the very highest caliber. AT&T is a champion for innovation in education, and we are grateful for its vision in supporting this endeavor,” Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun said in the release. “Udacity has been at the forefront of innovation in online pedagogy. We hope our work with Georgia Tech and AT&T will induce transformational change in higher education.”

The OMS CS could help address the nation’s growing shortage of qualified workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, one of the primary reasons AT&T decided to lend its financial support. The company also supports vastly expanding the accessibility and lowering the cost of quality education.

“Because of this collaboration, anyone with a broadband connection will have access to some of the finest computer science instruction in the world,” Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO, said in the release. “We believe that high-quality and 100 percent online degrees can be on par with degrees received in traditional on-campus settings, and that this program could be a blueprint for helping the United States address the shortage of people with STEM degrees, as well as exponentially expand access to computer science education for students around the world.”

Said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: “Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have quickly become one of the most significant catalysts of innovation in higher education. As parents know all too well, America urgently needs new ideas about how to make higher education accessible and affordable. This new collaboration between Georgia Tech, AT&T and Udacity, and the application of the MOOC concept to advanced-degree programs, will further the national debate—pushing from conversations about technology to new models of instruction and new linkages between higher education and employers.”

While courses related to the OMS CS will be available free of charge on the Udacity site, only those students granted admission to Georgia Tech will receive credit. Degree-seeking students will pay tuition based either on individual courses or the entire degree program. Georgia Tech and Udacity also will develop a separate credential for those students who successfully complete courses but do not qualify for full graduate standing. 

“The OMS CS will set a new agenda for higher education—real, rigorous and marketable graduate education in computer science will now be available to tens, even hundreds of thousands of additional students around the world,” said Zvi Galil, John P. Imlay Jr. Dean of Computing at Georgia Tech. “Computing is the catalytic field of the 21st century. Now we could potentially double the number of trained computing professionals worldwide in as little as a decade.”

Additional details on the Georgia Tech OMS CS can be found at www.omscs.gatech.edu

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