Georgia Tech Offers MOOC Master’s Through Udacity

Earlier this month, the Georgia Institute of Technology announced its plans to offer a $6,630 online master’s degree to 10,000 new students over the next three years with the help of Silicon Valley start-up and MOOC provider Udacity.

The new program, subsidized in its inaugural year by a $2 million investment from AT&T, will be the first master’s degree track of its kind, reaching 20 times as many students as it does in its current online format and offering a degree to students across the globe at a sixth of the former price.

If status makes any difference to you, a master’s degree in computer science from Georgia Tech is no joke: US News & World Report’s grad school rankings places Georgia Tech at number five the U.S., tied with Carnegie Mellon. Out-of-state, full-time tuition for “Buzz” engineers, reports US News, is about $27,000 per year.

AT&T’s chairman and CEO, Randall Stephenson, called the program 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.”

Enrollment in the new Georgia Tech program starts in January, though the first year will feature a small test run of several hundred paying students drawn mostly from the military and the corporate world, particularly AT&T. 

According to a recent report from Inside Higher Ed, Georgia Tech and Udacity expect the program to rake in a profit of $4.7 million by the end of its third year. Georgia Tech will receive 60 percent of the revenue and Udacity the rest. The money to Georgia Tech will flow through its research corporation. Professors and the computing college both stand to gain from the effort. A professor will receive $20,000 for creating a course and $10,000 for delivering the content — meaning most professors will receive $30,000 per course. Professors will receive a royalty of $2,500 each time the course is offered again.

One of the computer science college’s hopes is that the plan will generate significant revenue and allow it to hire more faculty, according to the internal working group report. It also expects this effort can free up faculty time for research.

As perfect as the deal sounds, it has had its share of critics. Many members of Georgia Tech’s faculty expressed serious concerns about the partnership, including worries about diluting the Georgia Tech brand. Since Georgia Tech created its traditional on-campus master’s degree program in 1991, fewer than 2,000 degrees have been awarded, according to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. Under the new effort, that number could be awarded in a single year.

But most faculty members agreed that the college could not afford to hesitate.

“It is an experiment that no other institution of our caliber has embarked on (yet!) but everyone is talking about moving in this direction, so if we want to do it, we should do it right away,” one college spokesperson said in late February. “There is an opportunity to be a leader rather than a follower if we act quickly and thoughtfully.” 

In March, about three-fourths of the computer science college’s 80 or so faculty members signed off on the new partnership.

About

Saga has taught and tutored writing at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels. Her educational interests include psychology, creativity, and system reform. She earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from Oberlin College and lives in Portland, Oregon, USA.

You can reach her on Google+, @sagamilena or saga.briggs @ oc.edu.au.

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