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Georgia Tech offer degree ala MOOC

05.20.2013
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year you’ll have no doubt come across MOOCs.  Sites like Coursera, edX and Udacity have made huge waves by providing a platform for some of the finest universities in the world to offer courses online for free.

They’ve proved hugely popular, with many courses attracting over 100,000 enrollments.  Thus far however they haven’t generally offered formal certification at the end of them.  Sure, Coursera have teamed up with Pearson to allow you to take a test at their Vue centres, but they still fall short of an actual degree when it comes to validating your knowledge.

The rise of the MOOCs has had a number of contributory factors, not least of which have been the high cost of tuition at universities.  Coupled with the spread of high speed internet and it’s become possible to offer courses online for reasonably low costs to large numbers of people.

Georgia Institute of Technology have taken this to its natural next stage by offering an online only masters degree in computing.  They’re teaming up with Udacity to power the course, and hope to attract around 10,000 students onto the course, with each paying $7,000.  That is just 1/6 the usual price of the degree.

The move will see student numbers rise from 300 to 10,000, although the university expects to only hire an extra 8 academics to help teach the course.

It’s a move that Udacity are branding as MOOC 2.0.  They will receive 40% of the revenue from the new degree, with Georgia Tech receiving the rest.  Telecoms company AT&T are also contributing in order to ensure the degree is a success.

Of course, distance learning is not a new thing, with the Open University offering degrees remotely for several decades.  Where the Georgia Tech degree is innovative however is that the costs are significantly lower for their online degree than for their bricks and mortar version.

Despite the class being 20 times larger than the existing class, Georgia Tech say they have no plans to drop standards, instead hoping to lure students from around the world to enroll.At the moment the plan is to only offer this mode of learning in computer science.

“At the moment, we’re just doing this in computer science,” said Georgia Tech Provost Rafael Bras. “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.”

With the cost of university education spiraling, this is a good development, and hopefully the MOOC model will encourage other institutions to follow suit with their own online courses in over the next few years.