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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Georgia Tech Causing a Higher Ed Disruption

Disruption has become a buzzword in higher education with more than eight million references available through a simple Google search. Now, Georgia Institute of Technology is about to take disruption up a notch.

Georgia Tech, in partnership with massive open online course (MOOC) provider Udacity, is set to offer a master’s degree in computer science through a series of MOOCs for $6,600, nearly $40,000 less than the same degree would cost traditional on-campus students.

“This is uncharted territory,” Zvi Galil, head of the school of computing at Georgia Tech, told Slate magazine. “There is a revolution. I want to lead it, not follow it.”

Georgia Tech turns away nearly 1,200 students each year for its traditional master’s in computer science, so the institution will be able to reach many more applicants with this low-cost alternative. Offering the master’s as a MOOC also opens it up to a worldwide audience that may help ease demand in the job market, according to Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun.

Plans call for the online master’s program to be beefed up with more human oversight, interaction, and student advising to make sure homework is done on time, just as in a traditional course. There’s also a $2 million gift from AT&T to help defray start-up costs.

Both Georgia Tech and Udacity also expect to make money on the program, estimating that by the third year it will have more than 2,000 students. If that number is realized, the program is projected to cost $14.3 million with revenues of $19.1 million.

“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,” a working group of faculty members wrote in a report about the program. “There is an opportunity to be a leader rather than a follower if we act quickly and thoughtfully.”

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