Georgia Tech offers a cost-saving ‘MOOC’ computer science degree option

19 Aug

Moi has posted quite a bit about “massive online open courses” or MOOCs. In Can free online universities change the higher education model?
Beckie Supiano and Elyse Ashburn have written With New Lists, Federal Government Moves to Help Consumers and Prod Colleges to Limit Price Increases in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the U.S. Department of Education’s new site about college costs. As college becomes more unaffordable for more and more people, they are looking at alternatives to college.

Tamar Lewin wrote in the new York Times article, Master’s Degree Is New Frontier of Study Online:

Next January, the Georgia Institute of Technology plans to offer a master’s degree in computer science through massive open online courses for a fraction of the on-campus cost, a first for an elite institution. If it even approaches its goal of drawing thousands of students, it could signal a change to the landscape of higher education.
From their start two years ago, when a free artificial intelligence course from Stanford enrolled 170,000 students, free massive open online courses, or MOOCs, have drawn millions and yielded results like the perfect scores of Battushig, a 15-year-old Mongolian boy, in a tough electronics course offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
But the courses have not yet produced profound change, partly because they offer no credit and do not lead to a degree. The disruption may be approaching, though, as Georgia Tech, which has one of the country’s top computer science programs, plans to offer a MOOC-based online master’s degree in computer science for $6,600 — far less than the $45,000 on-campus price….
The plan is for Georgia Tech to provide the content and professors and to get 60 percent of the revenue, and for Udacity to offer the computer platform, provide course assistants and receive the other 40 percent. The projected budget for the test run starting in January is $3.1 million — including $2 million donated by AT&T, which will use the program to train employees and find potential hires — with $240,000 in profits. By the third year, the projection is for $14.3 million in costs and $4.7 million in profits.
The courses will be online and free for those not seeking a degree; those in the degree program will take proctored exams and have access to tutoring, online office hours and other support services. Students who cannot meet the program’s stringent admission standards may be admitted provisionally and allowed to transfer in if they do well in their first two courses. And students who complete only a few courses would get a certificate.
“This is all uncharted territory, so no one really knows if it will go to scale,” Dr. Galil said. “We just want to prove that it can be done, to make a high-quality degree program available for a low cost.”
Would such a program cannibalize campus enrollment? “Frankly,” he said, “nobody knows.”
Not everyone believes that such a degree program will be sustainable, or that it would even be a step forward.
“The whole MOOC mania has got everyone buzzing in academia, but scaling is a great challenge,” said Bruce Chaloux, the executive director of the Sloan Consortium, an advocacy group for online education. “I have to believe that at some point, when the underwriting ends, to keep to keep high quality, Georgia Tech would have to float to more traditional tuition rates.”

Doug Ward posted the article, Why Online Education Has Gained Revolutionary Momentum at PBS Media Shift:

The rush to create large, free online classes has generated anxiety at universities around the country. With finances already tight and with a surge of movement toward online learning, universities are being forced to move quickly to change centuries-old models of learning. Terms like historic,seismic and revolutionary now pop up in descriptions of the challenges that higher education faces in the coming years….
Technology leads the way
Internet connections, computers and cellphones have become faster and cheaper, providing easier access to online material and creating the potential to speak with, work with, and learn from nearly anyone in the world. Information, once something people had to seek out, now flows relentlessly to them. In education, lecture capture and lesson creation have become easier and cheaper, and online storage has made retrieval cheap and easy. Free tools like Moodle, Jing, YouTube, and Twitter have provided new means of information sharing and collaboration. Smartphones and the iPad have provided portable means of accessing and creating information, making learning more portable than ever…
College costs have skyrocketed
The expense of higher education has risen more than 550 percent since 1985, pricing many students out of the market even as a college degree becomes more important than ever for reaching the middle class. At the same time, the cost of technology has dropped, allowing more people easier access to the Internet and to resources for learning….
Convenience attracts students online
Online and hybrid education offers students freedom to work through course material when and where they want, and at their own pace, repeating material if needed, and reducing the amount of time they sit passively in large lectures…
Teachers innovate for a digital generation
Educators have been experimenting with technology, sharing ideas and collaborating as they try to find ways to reach a generation of students that has grown up with computers, cell phones, Xboxes, Nintendo and other electronics. K-12 schools, especially, have shown increased interest in using games, phones, iPads and other unconventional means to engage students in the classroom. Social media have accelerated the spread of ideas, spurring even more innovation.
Online and hybrid education offers new means of engaging students through interactive lessons, videos, animations, games, discussion boards and chats. These are all familiar and comfortable technologies for a generation of students that has grown up with ubiquitous technology….
Digital education offers a broad reach
Online education allows universities to reach students who can’t or don’t want to move to a physical campus, eliminating physical boundaries for recruitment and making nearly anyone anywhere a potential student.
Distance education is nothing new. It has existed for more than a century in the form of correspondence courses taken by mail. Radio and television allowed educational material, often lectures, to be broadcast, and educational shows such as “Sesame Street” combined education and entertainment…
For-profit colleges compete for students
The University of Phoenix and other for-profit colleges have attracted millions of students and millions of dollars in tuition with online courses. This has caught the attention of traditional colleges and universities, which see many potential students slipping away. Some critics of traditional education have even indicated that a degree matters less than tangible skills, and have suggested using certificates, badges and other means as a way to authenticate those skills….
Big online courses gain notoriety
New organizations such as Coursera and edX have made headlines by attracting large numbers of students, large investments of capital, and commitments from big-name universities. That has increased the buzz about online and hybrid education, especially as new deals have been struck and new money has flowed to the organizations.
The success of large online courses, or MOOCs (for massive open online courses), at attracting students and capital, and the success of for-profit colleges have sent many colleges and universities scrambling to avoid the perception that they lack vision or the ability to change in an era of digital learning. No university wants to look like an also-ran….
College budgets keep shrinking
Administrators are looking to online education and technology in general as a means to save money. Budgets have been squeezed, especially at public institutions, even as fixed costs remain high.
Bowen and his colleagues at Ithaka S+R offer one of the more persuasive arguments about potential cost savings through more efficient use of technology, personnel, and facilities. Upfront costs are higher as courses are developed, they say, but once a hybrid course is created by a faculty member, additional sections can be added using less-expensive adjuncts and teaching assistants….
Where is this headed?
The move toward technology-aided learning will only accelerate in coming years. Many K-12 schools have been investing heavily in tablets and other technology in hopes of reducing costs on textbooks.
Others have embraced a bring-your-own-device model, which draws on students’ growing ownership and use of cell phones, laptop computers and tablets. Many schools are also investing in tools such as lecture capture, high-speed wireless networks, cloud computing, and social networking, and combining technology-aided education with classroom work.
Despite these many changes, online education is unlikely to push aside a traditional four-year on-campus degree in the near future. That “college experience” allows students to make connections with faculty members, to work closely with peers and teachers, to improve their critical thinking, and, perhaps most importantly, to mature as they live away from home for the first time. With technology changing the way younger students learn, though, and with more new options for learning popping up constantly, universities have no choice but to adapt and make it clear to students what they offer over the myriad online alternatives.
Doug Ward is an associate professor of journalism and the Budig Professor of Writing at the University of Kansas. He is the author of “A New Brand of Business: Charles Coolidge Parlin, Curtis Publishing Company, and the Origins of Market Research” and a former editor at The New York Times. You can find him online at and, and follow him on Twitter@kuediting.

With any education opportunity the prospective student and their family must do their homework and weigh the pros and cons of the institution with with the student’s goals and objectives. In answer to the question of whether online college is a threat to traditional bricks and mortar universities, it depends. The market will answer that question because many students do not attend college to receive a liberal arts education, but to increase employment opportunities. If the market accepts badges and certificates, then colleges may be forced to look at the costs associated with a traditional college degree.

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Will ‘massive open online courses’ (MOOCS) begin to offer credit?

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