What do you get when you throw Georgia Tech, Udacity, and AT&T into a bowl and mix? Apparently it’s a $7,000 online Master’s degree in computer science. The goal of this project is to expand the capacity of a program while also lowering costs. Here is how it works.
Right now, Georgia Tech only has 300 students in this program, but they plan to expand that to over 10,000 during its online rollout. They will do so by focusing on four student types. The first type is traditional degree-seeking students who can complete the 12-course degree in approximately three years. They expect this group to consist of 6,000 of the 10,000 students. Second is “prospective degree-seeking.” These students will have to prove themselves in two core classes before moving into the program. They will not have to complete the GRE test, and are expected to account for 2,000 additional students. The third group can take several courses for a certificate that is short of a Master’s degree. This group should add the final 2,000 students. The last group can take this as a free online course, but they will not receive a degree or certificate. There is no estimate of how popular this option might be.
So how will Georgia Tech handle this massive increase in student traffic? Right now they only plan to add eight professors, a number that seems very low for such a large increase in students. However, Udacity will help. While Georgia Tech controls all of the academic lessons, Udacity will provide staff that can assist with answering basic questions and providing support to students, allowing professors to focus on more challenging work, including difficult questions and updated lesson to match evolving technology. And AT&T? They’ll be subsidizing the project, ensuring it breaks even over its first year. They’ll also be promoting themselves as a leader in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – a very popular focus in education for job growth.
No one is sure if this new combination will work, not even Georgia Tech. Their Provost Rafael Bras said, “At the moment, we’re just doing this in computer science. We’ll wait and see. I believe this is quite appropriate for professional master’s degrees, but I also believe it is less appropriate for non-master’s degrees and certainly for other fields.”
The program begins enrolling in January 2014, for a fall of 2014 launch. We’ll be watching closely to see how it does.