MOOC master’s degree outpaces on-campus programs

The Georgia Institute of Technology has received a considerably larger number of applications for its MOOC-inspired online computer science master’s degree than applicants for its on-campus counterparts combined.

Georgia Tech’s MOOC master’s degree drew much media attention last summer.

Over an enrollment period of 21 days, 2,359 people applied for Georgia Tech’s online computer science master’s degree program, a survey of the course found.

The total number of enrollment for all traditional, campus-based computer science master’s degrees for the entirety of last year was 1,806.

“[That’s] very strong application numbers with virtually no marketing,” Georgia Tech noted in a summary of the survey.

That doesn’t mean the program has gone without publicity.

The program is based on – and uses the technology behind – massive open online courses (MOOCs) built by Udacity, but differs in that none of the courses are free.

In total, the program would cost a student more than $6,500, which is still a deep discount when compared to the $44,000 price tag for on-campus students.

That discount, and that the program is the first MOOC-like degree of its kind, inspired a flood of national news coverage when the experiment was announced in May.

See Page 2 for a more detailed breakdown of what the applicants are like.

Also generating press, as well as debate, was the somewhat unusual arrangement of the telecommunications company AT&T offsetting much of the program’s cost.

Even U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan weighed in on the news, saying that the program could be a model for how campuses, MOOC providers, and corporate entities can partner to provide low-cost education.

“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,” Duncan said.

Five hundred and fourteen of the program’s applicants are AT&T employees.

Georgia Tech’s survey also found that 75 percent of those working toward the degree are employed full-time, with 82 percent working in computer or IT fields.

The online degree program will be available to about 10,000 students over the next three years, the university said.

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