November 6, 2014
By Steve Kolowich
Among all recent inventions that have to do with MOOCs, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s online master’s program in computer science may have the best chance of changing how much students pay for a traditional degree.
The program, which started last winter, pairs MOOC-like course videos and assessments with a support system of course assistants who work directly with students. The goal is to create a low-cost master’s degree that is nonetheless “just as rigorous” as the on-campus equivalent—producing graduates who are “just as good,” to quote one of the new program’s cheerleaders, President Obama. The price: less than $7,000 for the three-year program, a small fraction of the cost of the traditional program.
It’s too early yet for a graduating class. But researchers at Georgia Tech and Harvard University have studied the students who have enrolled in the program, in an effort to figure out “where the demand is coming from and what it’s substituting for educationally,” says Joshua S. Goodman, an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard.
By understanding what kinds of students are drawn to the new program, Mr. Goodman and his fellow researchers think they can begin to understand what competitors it might threaten.