Indian Computer Science (CS) & Information Technology (IT) Academic Reform Activism Consolidated Blog Document

Georgia Tech, Udacity and AT&T offer Online MS degree in CS under 00

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Georgia Tech, Udacity and AT&T offer Online MS degree in CS under $7000

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Last updated on June 14th 2013

I think this is the first degree in CS being offered online using MOOC and a well below on-campus-degree-price by a well known US tech. university. Here is the official news announcement from Georgia Tech, dated May 14th 2013,

Some key points:

  • The degree is known as Online Master of Science degree in Computer Science abbreviated as OMS CS.

  • All OMS CS content will be delivered via MOOC.

  • Price is expected to be below US $ 7,000, well below equivalent on-campus degree (which is reported to be slightly over US $ 25,000 for out-of-state students,

  • All OMS CS courses will be available free of charge on Udacity site but without Georgia Tech. credit & degree. However students who complete the free OMS CS courses on Udacity site may receive a separate certificate at significantly lower cost than OMS CS degree.

Sebastian Thrun calls the announcement an unforgettable moment of his life, He writes, "With Georgia Tech, we have a partner whose computer science program is among the best in the world! And equally importantly, with AT&T, we partner with a Fortune-500 company which is relentlessly innovating in the space of digital access to information. This triumvirate of industry and academia is now teaming up to use 21st Century MOOC technology to level the playing field in computer science education. And while the degree rightfully comes with a tuition fee -- after all, to achieve the very best in online education we will provide support services -- the bare content will be available free of charge, available for anyone eager to learn. We are also launching non-credit certificates at a much reduced price point, to give a path to those who don't care about Georgia Tech credit or degrees, but still want their learning results certified."

I was surprised to see AT&T's involvement. I think that bodes real good for the MOOC movement as AT&T can lend tremendous technological and financial muscle to this particular MOOC degree offering. Other technology giants may follow AT&T to provide competing MOOC degree offerings. Wow! These may be real interesting times for education. AT&T chairman and CEO, Randall Stephenson is reported to have said, "We believe that high-quality and 100 percent online degrees can be on par with degrees received in traditional on-campus settings, and that this program could be a blueprint for helping the United States address the shortage of people with STEM degrees, as well as exponentially expand access to computer science education for students around the world."

Here's a 2 minute video where Sebastian answers some questions about this new degree,

In a mail I sent out to readers with the above content I had written (slightly edited):

IMHO, this (Georgia Tech's OMS CS announcement) may turn out to be a watershed moment in the history of CS education worldwide (and later, other fields of higher education too).

A question was raised whether the OMS CS will lower quality of CS education. I thought I should share my response to that question, below:

As I have not gone through any Udacity course I cannot form any opinion as of now about the future OMS CS quality. I presume that Georgia Tech will ensure some decent teaching and evaluation standards as it is lending its well-known name to it. In the initial years, even if the teaching and evaluation standards are, say, around 60 % that of on-campus MS CS of Georgia Tech, I think the OMS CS will be better than many on-campus MS CS offerings from various parts of the world including India.

So, in a sense, it may be a poor man's MS CS (at least, in the initial years till things stabilize). But, IMHO, even that could have a significant good effect in CS education for non-elite CS education.

I think how Georgia Tech is able to control quality of evaluation/grading may be critical to this new OMS CS. If they are able to ensure 75 % or higher evaluation rigor of its on-campus MS degree for its OMS CS evaluation/grading with the $ 7000 that they charge then they may have a real winner. But will $ 7000 be enough to meet expenses required for ensuring such evaluation/grading rigour? Further, will Georgia Tech. have the political and business will to fail large numbers of students not meeting 75 % evaluation/grading rigour? We will have to wait and watch.

Udacity, especially Sebastian Thrun, seems to have made a name for itself/himself as a great MOOC teacher. But I get the impression that Udacity has not been been able to make a name for itself in terms of evaluation rigour. It is the Georgia Tech. name that makes this offering a potential game-changer in my humble view. To put it in a different way, I think many well off/middle class Indian parents may seriously consider paying 7000$ for their children to earn a Georgia Tech., USA, OMS in CS degree if such a degree is recognized by Indian government and industry for jobs. If it were Udacity alone they would have shied away. They would even shy away from edX and Coursera (as 'formal education' for their children) as I believe they do not offer a proper degree, as of now.

--- end response ---

Another correspondent who is US based and spends many times more than OMS CS expected fees on his son's education mentioned that this may be an "incredible" option for self-motivated or parent supervised students to study at home and get an MS at low cost.

My response was:

Or who band into small groups and study the online MS together. That would resolve the social and psychological issues involved in studying alone at home.


I think the OMS CS degree may open up business/service opportunities for facilitators who provide a study center like ambiance but rely on OMS CS for teaching, evaluation and grant of degree, and have a small charge for such services. Such a study center would be like a private tuition class and so easy to setup - I mean higher education regulator/government clearance would not be needed, I guess. Students may find the atmosphere a decent enough substitute for the non-elite college atmosphere, and parents may be happy to send their children there if the study center managers provide security and wholesome atmosphere for student interaction and study.

In India, large and hugely successful private software training institutes have been around for decades who mainly provide (or used to provide) private 'certificate' level training (not recognized as a graduate degree by government/industry) for students e.g. NIIT,; Aptech, [BTW it seems that these private institutes also offer some recognized graduate degrees now but I don't think they are well known.] These institutes already have all the facilities and franchise mechanism infrastructure across the country (I think they may have an international presence too). They may just have to float a new 'facilitator only' offering for a Georgia Tech., USA, OMS CS!

Other countries may have similar private computer training institutes who could also consider a similar 'facilitator only' offering.

1 comment:

Ravi S. Iyer, July 11, 2013 at 11:45 AM

I received a mail from Udacity recently with the following input:

Here is the expected timeline for the program:

*) January 2014: OMS CS degree program launches for pilot group and courses open for the public on Udacity

*) Spring/Summer 2014:Georgia Tech accepts OMS CS degree applications from the general public

*) Fall 2014: Students accepted into OMS CS degree program

--- end Udacity mail extract ----

Recently a friend informed me of his son having secured admission for B.E./B.Tech. in Electronics and Communication Engg. (If I recall correctly), at a well known technology institute in South India (not IIT or IIIT). I checked about the fees bit - he said it was an all-inclusive thing (hostel + tuition) and that he had chosen a two-bed room (i.e. two students sharing a room) with AC option (as it gets pretty hot there it seems) and so it came to Rs. 2.5 Lakhs per year! That makes it Rs. 10 Lakhs for the 4 year degree. At Rs. 60/- to a US dollar Rs. 10 Lakhs equivalent comes to US $ 16,667 (rounded).

But the OMS CS would be a 2 year degree I presume (instead of the 4 year engg. degree) so we can divide it by 2 which gives us US $ 8,334 (rounded). [The OMS CS is expected to cost less than US $ 7,000.]

Yes, hostel expenses are included in the South Indian tech. institute costs but for the Indian family the youngster staying at home (or going to a study center which provides a group and small college like atmosphere for a slight charge) will not be seen as adding very significantly to their family expenses.

And the degree is from a top-ten tech. university from the US! The South Indian tech. institute would be relatively unknown in the world as compared to Georgia Tech!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

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