Georgia Tech Launches World's First Massive Online Degree Program

January 14, 2014

Approximately 375 students begin coursework today in Georgia Tech’s online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) program, the first and only degree program from an accredited university that operates entirely on the “massive online” platform for course delivery.

Offered in collaboration with Udacity and AT&T, the program marks one of the most significant innovations to date in the area of online learning. Most students will pay less than $7,000 for a graduate degree from Georgia Tech’s top 10 College of Computing. The traditional master’s program can cost nearly $45,000 for on-campus students.

“Since we announced the online Master of Science in Computer Science last May, our goal has been to create the best possible academic experience for our online students, just as we try to do for all of Georgia Tech’s residential students,” said Georgia Tech Provost Rafael L. Bras. “Today marks the culmination of several months of extremely hard work by faculty, administrators and staff at Georgia Tech and the beginning of a new opportunity for lifelong learners.”

OMS CS received 2,360 applications during a three-week period in October, which is approximately 75 percent more applications than are received for the on-campus program during an entire year. Of those 2,360 applicants, 401 students were offered admission during the Spring 2014 semester (additional applicants will be admitted for subsequent terms). With about 375 students enrolling, and several more deferring admission for summer or fall, OMS CS’ first admissions class boasts a yield rate of greater than 95 percent.

“The United States and the world need more computing professionals, and I’m proud that Georgia Tech and our college are leading the way to help educate them,” said College of Computing Dean Zvi Galil. “We will treat all of our OMS CS students, and especially this first cohort, as partners in helping to optimize the courses and infrastructure required to support them.”

Of the approximately 375 students for Spring 2014, about 330 are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, in contrast to Georgia Tech’s on-campus MS CS students, about 90 percent of whom are international. OMS CS students’ average age is 34.8, about 11 years older than their on-campus counterparts.

“This program addresses a clear and growing need globally: to provide flexible, high-quality education in vital fields for a price that’s affordable for working professionals,” said Nelson Baker, Georgia Tech’s dean of professional education. “Almost every student enrolled this spring is also working full time, something that would be extremely difficult to do in a traditional program. OMS CS represents a valuable option to a population of students who need it.”

More than 80 of the initial students are employees of AT&T, which provided $2 million to support program costs. The company intends to use OMS CS as a significant training option for its workforce.

“This new approach is a huge step toward revolutionizing higher education by making an advanced technical curriculum more accessible and affordable,” said Bill Blase, senior executive vice president for human resources at AT&T. “We need highly skilled software engineers, network engineers and data scientists. Through this program, we will enhance training for our current workforce and ensure a great pipeline for these roles and others going forward.”

The five initial OMS CS courses were developed according to the Udacity model for massive online courses. They include courses on Advanced Operating Systems, Computer Networks, Software Development Process, Machine Learning and AI for Robotics.  Udacity has hired additional staff to support the technical infrastructure and answer student questions about accessing course materials. Georgia Tech will provide support personnel for all academic and enrollment questions.

“Today, every industry, from healthcare and commerce to automotive and agriculture, is transforming and creating a huge unfulfilled demand for technical skills,” said Sebastian Thrun, founder and CEO of Udacity. “At Udacity, our mission is to set up students for success. Today’s announcement is historic and sets the foundation for a new way to approach and deliver education to students across the globe.”

Georgia Tech has scheduled two additional application periods for OMS CS: March 3-23 (admission for Summer 2014) and April 21-May 11 (admission for Fall 2014). Visit www.omscs.gatech.edu for more information on the program.