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Udacity, Georgia Tech and AT&T have partnered together to offer a fully online Master of Science in Computer Science degree at a fraction of the normal cost starting September 2014. Udacity, a MOOC (massive open online course), is the system which will allow Georgia Tech to offer a top-tier degree to an exponentially larger pool of students. While there has not been an announced official program cost yet, the total cost is expected to be under $7,000, compared to the $40,000 cost of the traditional degree program. When you combine these numbers with the long-term Georgia Tech estimation of 10,000 students enrolled in a program that used to count only hundreds in its numbers, you can see why this is huge news for the world of higher education.
It was only a matter of time for a top-tier university in the technological field to capitalize on the distribution platform of massive open online courses. Fields such as Computer Science are almost entirely objective, meaning that there is a right or wrong answer. This allows the majority of student work to be automatically graded and evaluated.While automation is a huge cost cutting and time-saving measure, the technologies for grading students on such a huge scale are not fully developed yet. Georgia Tech is expecting to be “using a significant portion of the tuition fee to support the scaling of student evaluation through such technologies.”
It is hard to predict the future of MOOCs along with top-tier universities. While subjective fields such as Computer Science and Mathematics are conducive to the massive open online course format, it would be difficult to offer Bachelor of Arts degrees which focus on essay writing and diverse perspectives. As well, universities may wait to see if prospective students and businesses view the Georgia Tech Masters Degree as undermined by their widened enrollment. While on one hand the exclusivity of Universities add to their prestige, the demand for useful, marketable degree programs at an affordable price gives huge weight in the favor of expanded fully online degrees to a wider number of students.
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