Georgia Tech, Udacity Team Up for Online Master’s Degree Program

As the nationwide debate rages over whether online education will be truly revolutionary, many universities are teaming up with massive open online courses (MOOC) such as edX, ‎Udacity, Coursera to offer free online courses. The Georgia Institute of Technology is taking that one step further by offering a master’s degree in computer science through MOOCs for a fraction of the on-campus cost, according to Tamar Lewin of The New York Times, making it the first elite institution in the country to offer a master degree program through MOOC.

The university has formed a partnership with Udacity, a Silicon Valley provider of the open online courses, to offer the master’s degree program.

Georgia Tech, one of the country’s top technology institutes, rolls out its MOOC-based online master’s degree in computer science for just $6,600 — far less than the $45,000 on-campus price. The program is expected to attract up to 10,000 students annually in coming years, many from outside the United States and some who would not complete the full master’s degree, according to Zvi Galil, the dean of the university’s College of Computing. The appeal to international students is clear: “Online, there’s no visa problem,” he said.

Through its degree program, Georgia Tech will approach a much greater number of students worldwide, an initiative that could signal a change to the landscape of higher education. The prospect of a prestigious low-cost degree program is generating great interest, and some consider that the full degree program could signal the next phase in the evolution of MOOCs.

“Perhaps Zvi Galil and Sebastian Thrun will prove to be the Wright brothers of MOOCs,” said S. James Gates Jr., a University of Maryland physicist who serves on President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. “This is the first deliberate and thoughtful attempt to apply education technology to bringing instruction to scale. It could be epoch-making. If it really works, it could begin the process of lowering the cost of education, and lowering barriers for millions of Americans.”

Georgia Tech plans to give 60% of the revenue to content developer and professors, while Udacity will get the other 40% for providing the computer platform and course assistants.

The projected budget for the test run starting in January is $3.1 million — including $2 million donated by AT&T, which will use the program to train employees and find potential hires — with $240,000 in profits. By the third year, the projection is for $14.3 million in costs and $4.7 million in profits.

Under the program, courses will be online and free for those not seeking a degree. Students in the degree program will take proctored exams and have access to tutoring, online office hours and other support services.

Students who cannot meet the program’s stringent admission standards may be admitted provisionally and allowed to transfer in if they do well in their first two courses. Also, students who complete only a few courses are eligible to receive a certificate.