Udacity and Georgia Tech join to offer a $7,000 M.S. Computer Science online

This very exciting bulletin came up simultaneously on two of our favorite feeds: Tyler Cowen and Sebastian Thrun. Here's Tyler:

The Georgia Institute of Technology plans to offer a $7,000 online master’s degree to 10,000 new students over the next three years without hiring much more than a handful of new instructors.

Georgia Tech will work with AT&T and Udacity, the 15-month-old Silicon Valley-based company, to offer a new online master’s degree in computer science to students across the world at a sixth of the price of its current degree. The deal, announced Tuesday, is portrayed as a revolutionary attempt by a respected university, an education technology startup and a major corporate employer to drive down costs and expand higher education capacity.

Georgia Tech expects to hire only eight or so new instructors even as it takes its master’s program from 300 students to as many as 10,000 within three years, said Zvi Galil, the dean of computing at Georgia Tech.

…The deal started to come together eight months ago in a meeting between Galil and Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun.

“Sebastian suggested to do a master’s degree for $1,000 and I immediately told him it’s not possible,” Galil said.

(…)

And here's Sebastian:

Today is my opportunity to give back. Ever since Peter Norvig and I launched AI Class, I have been dreaming of putting an entire computer science degree online, and to make access to the material free of charge, so that everyone can become a proficient computer scientist. With Georgia Tech and AT&T, this is my dream come true. If, as a young student, I had the chance to learn from the best professors in the world, my life might have been different. I have been fortunate. Yet so many potential learners are still denied access. Education has become much more exclusive, and getting into a top-10 computer science department, like Georgia Tech's, is still out of reach for all but a chosen few.

I co-founded Udacity to bring the very best of higher education to everyone worldwide. 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 wish I had been born in the 1990s. Back when I was a college student, the Web did not exist. How many young students are there in the world today as eager to learn as I was? Only time will tell how many young people we'll be able to empower to reach for the stars. If you are a student in our program and come across this blog post, please drop me a line at sebastian@udacity.com. If only a single life can be touched with this program, it will be a success!

I think this is a very big deal – hope I'm right!

Update: here's the Georgia Tech site for OMSCS with FAQ and intro videos. From the FAQ:

How is this degree different from residential Georgia Tech MS CS?

The OMS CS will deliver educational content completely through the massive online format. This means it will differ from the residential MS CS in course structure, for example, but will provide an educational experience no less rigorous than the on-campus format.

How is the OMS CS different from other distance-learning and/or online degree programs that have existed for a long time?

The Georgia Tech OMS CS is the first online degree in computer science from a top-tier university that students can obtain exclusively through the massive-online format.

How much does the degree program cost?

We’re not yet ready to announce a specific program cost, but the plan is to offer the Georgia Tech OMS CS for a total cost of under $7,000—a fraction of the cost of Georgia Tech’s on-campus program and even less than that of comparable private universities.

What evidence do you have of market demand for this program?

At present, around 160,000 master’s degrees are bestowed in the United States every year in computer science and related subject disciplines; the worldwide market is almost certainly much larger, perhaps even an order of magnitude larger. We conjecture that the present structure is vastly underserving the market and will conduct market research in the first year to check these estimates and help target our course offerings.

How long does it take to complete and receive a degree?

We anticipate the typical time for students to complete the OMS CS will be about three years, though we will allow for longer enrollments— up to six years—for those students who need greater flexibility.

How does the student workload compare to a residential degree? How many hours a week will students spend on it?

The total workload is the same as the residential program; the weekly or hourly workload depends on how quickly students wish to complete the program.

Who can take courses?

All OMS CS courses will be available free of charge for anyone, anywhere in the world. Degree-seeking students will be virtually separated from “open” students to ensure degree program rigor.

 

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