The future is here

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.

Eventually, the program came together for about $6,600 per degree. In a blog post, Thrun compared the day of the announcement to the day he proposed to his wife.

There is more here.  Hi future.


University of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign had an online computer science masters back in 2001

The real interesting story will be how many students sign up. Wait and watch.

I'm definitely signing up. While I could probably use some backfill of "classical" CS instruction, I'm coming up on 19 years of professional IT experience.
This is a cheap credential that will help me get past the moron gatekeepers in HR. Hell, I'll probably even get my employer to pay for it.

This is perfect, I can only afford a Master's degree in Europe, and Computer Science is the only thing I was looking at. 3-year programme and will cost under $7000? Very few (even outside the US) will be left out, that price is negligible for what you get.

The most interesting thing to me is that this is the first price point. Where will the second entrant position themselves? MOOC-watchers want to know.

(And yes, I'd think $7K for this degree should have good ROI.)

Yes, it seems likely that this type of degree would result in a better salary offer. And an extra $1,000 in salary would make the initial cost well worth it.

If you had been working at your first job in the 3 years you spent doing the MSc you certainly would have gotten a $1K raise during that time. Plus you are forgoing 3 years of income.

I don't see much benefit in doing a Msc or Phd in comp sci. A Phd can get you an interesting job at Google or IBM after you finish but can actually exclude you from other types of employers. Unless you end up being a specialist in something that turns out to be particularly pertinent, it won't make much of a difference 10 yrs later.

I have a bachelor's degree and do the same work as people who did Phds 10-20 years ago in artificial intelligence and distributed computing.

I agree with you but a Masters in comp sci can benefit folks changing careers.

My assumption is that you can obtain the Masters while you are currently working. So you would not forgo any salary.

If you can have the same education free as the students who pay for their degree and you can also get some sort of certificate for that (according to the blog post, you can get "non-credit certificate" at reduced cost), wouldn't this allow students and their future employers bypass the university certification system completely? Surely it doesn't matter what kind of piece of paper you have if you can in some way proof that you have gone through the same education as the "real" university students?

I'm not saying this is a bad thing, I'm just wondering who wants to purchase the 7000$ certificate while the actual education is free.

"I have a Masters" is an easier pitch than "please read my course transcripts."

That's an easy fix for the MOOC companies. All they have to do is break down their work into a few broad "levels", and you can get a quick understanding of someone's degree of expertise.

"I have an L-4 in electrical engineering" might sound weird at first, but once employers understand that it's equivalent to a Masters Degree under the old system you can expect them to adapt quickly. Especially after the first hire or two prove they know their stuff.

A sixth? More like a hundredth. Maybe more.

And to think that MRU will likely always have an option to watch its courses for free, with certification available for the public good.

If only because the people actually paying the bills want it that way. Because while a certification may cost money, a worldview is priceless.

You realize your whole premise is nonsense, right?

As it stands, if they paid $50,000 they overpaid, despite paying almost nothing, they can now pay nothing. Not to mention BIG MONEY has been running universities since...ever. Some people like BIG GOVERNMENT MONEY, but that is irrelevant.

He's just a troll. You'd be better off ignoring him.

If I were a professor, that's what I would do!

Well, except for the fact that my perspective is consistent.

And based on my personal experience of actually working at GMU, though admittedly, a couple of decades in the past.

Though considering how certain comments of mine get deleted, it seems as if any recognition of that fact is worthy of the memory hole (ask Andrew' how that works - his comments in responseto mine were equally worthy of deletion).

For example, mention of a certain GMU VP's aspargus garden was worth deleting (tumblr proof coming soon - after all, unlike my PR days at GMU, it isn't as if my job depends on this) .

Is this just further evidence of how casually the word 'troll' has been degraded?

You used to work at GMU? You should have mentioned this before.

Oh wait, apparently a couple thousand of your comments testifying to this fact slipped through the GMU filter.


And to think that I know people, back in the later 80s and early 90s, who made a living from exactly this (want to guess the number? And if it isn't in multiple digits, it is obvious you didn't grow up in Northern Virginia - at least in the right context, by some measures). I left the U.S. actually, since in terms of job security, vacation time (six weeks every year is certainly better than what the Commonwealth offered), and health care, Germany is as far ahead of the U.S. as Fairfax, where I grew up, was ahead of the U.S.

However, to return to the point of MRU. let me quote ftom the unadorned New Yorker article from a previous post (they didn't mention MRU, it seems) - 'They wrote, “The thought of the exact same social justice course being taught in various philosophy departments across the country is downright scary.”'

What do you think the MRU is? And why would anyone here think that MRU is scary to the people that psid for its creation?

Or would you like to post the other 'free' econ courses currently available on-line?

Never forget, according to whois records, the domain registration for marginal revolution university predates marginalrevolution by 3 years (2001 vs. 2004).

Generally, no one forks over a cool 100,000 dollars plus (web site creation alone - tumblr documenting this with web links coming soon) for no reason.

But as noted, a worldview is priceless - especially when it lasts a lifetime. And the price for acquiring it is as low as possible.

Your premise is that some billionaires give a rat's ass about $50,000.

By the way, every day I come here to discuss how the government wastes money. Oh, roughly half our potential GDP or so I'd guess.

Nope- my premise is that someone considers a few million chump change when it comes to influencing public discourse.

And unlike you, I have been paid from exactly that perspective. Just like the co-authors of this site.

Not to mention being aware of just how profitable it can be, for those willing to play along (see above). Generally, it wasn't S. Fred Singer personally who was explaining how the game was played, after all - it was a colleague in the GMU PR department (want to guess to her relationsship to him when she got a job at CSIS? - and if you need an explanation of what those initials means, it means you are younger than I or Prof. Cowen - admittedly, Kissinger isn't the draw he used to be.)

Funny. You are exactly wrong!

Academia is horribly unprofitable. That's the whole problem. That's why they have to go hat in hand.

If only you'd been at a few more universities. Since you apparently are the kind of fellow who can't believe something unless it is experienced personally, if you had I think you'd realize that nothing you say (well, you keep saying the exact same thing) isn't exactly what it is like everywhere in academia. This is the actual problem, of course, everyone copies the same flawed system.

'If only you’d been at a few more universities. Since you apparently are the kind of fellow who can’t believe something unless it is experienced personally, if you had I think you’d realize that nothing you say (well, you keep saying the exact same thing) isn’t exactly what it is like everywhere in academia.'

I'm personally unaware of any university other than GMU which was so avid in collecting the various centers it did - not that anyone in the GMU PR dept was unaware of how the game worked. What was interesting was seeing how GMU became the focus of this effort over the years that are considered 'Emergence' at this link - You may want to even look at the amount of money involved - after all, GMU relied on it to expand.

I'm sure you have the familiarity with both NoVa/DC and GMU to provide insight into this era, or else feel it is universal enough that those working so diligently in the GMU PR department then can simply be ignored, as if their work was unimportant.

Which in all fairness, is also my view. The Mercatus Center and IHS were much more effective in influencing national discourse than our paltry efforts on the Commonwealth's dime.

In my engineering department I'm sure there are 20 or 30 centers.

That's what I said, btw, 'you' are unaware.

You just aren't going to convince me that the 10% grant rate for a government grant isn't just as bad, perhaps in a slightly different way. What's funny is you don't even realize that is something you need to convince people about. You think you are doing something just by continually shouting it at people.

"Since you apparently are the kind of fellow who can’t believe something unless it is experienced personally"

This is an unfair characterization, as I can prove without even leaving this thread.

"Germany is as far ahead of the U.S. as Fairfax, where I grew up, was ahead of the U.S."

No personal experience, beyond living in Northern Virginia a couple decades ago, is needed for PA to make laserlike judgments about the whole of the USA.

If only he had time in his busy schedule of blowing the lid off of academic centers to tell Americans what descent into a police state is like, for instance!

I'm not sure how different an MIS is from a MCS, but University of Phoenix's Masters in Information Systems runs $18k (tuition only); $24k including expenses, so this sounds like a bargain. Plus a degree from GT > UPhoenix to most recruiters, I'm sure.

My reaction to the $7,000 tuition is that it seems very high; if students actually pay it. In my experience, grad students do not pay tuition, they get paid. Maybe it is different in computer science, but in econ everybody was on some sort of fellowship/scholarship/grant.

They pay tuition. They also may get paid. Master's students often don't get paid.

Yes, grad student tuition is often "paid" by federal grants that go to R&D projects. It is a good way to transform federal dollars earmarked for research spending into general-use dollars that universities can do anything with.

You are right. Sometimes their tuition is "waived" if they on assistantship. If you want a real paper trail on how the money works, go see Prior_Approval. He's got it figured out.

Yep, we get TA positions. Well, I did, anyway.

But even if they pay, 7,000 $ over 3 years is 200 $ a month. For a degree that you can take while you are working, that's really affordable.
I am on a 3-year MA program in Philosophy ( ) which costs roughly the same and I can work almost full-time while studying for it.

CS is much more highly valued than IS

CS is much more techncial usually often associated w/ engineering school, IS often from the business school,

I am glad I have tenure. In the long run, I think that the offering of inexpensive online courses will decrease the demand for professors. Giving the course once to thousands of students will be equivalent to giving it twice, etc to yet more thousands of students. It will, however, increase the demand for "assistants" with just enough knowledge to do the grunt work. (A role for bright BA or MA students?) It will also increase the demand, perhaps, for secure sites to administer exams. A few researchers will be necessary to attract people to the particular learning site. And they will give some of the lectures.

I pity the universities (like, I think, NYU) who are relying on increasing or stable tuition to support their endeavors of expansion. Rude awakening coming?

Tenure won't save you when the school goes out of business.

It won't. NYU will last until the bitter end. It will just stop hiring.

I have the same worries about the long-term effects on our system of higher education once we decide to stop paying professors and just run pre-recorded lectures.

They hired only 7 or eight additional instructors to manage the new program..

Just wait until they hire the 8 additional administrators to oversee and manage the program.

Then, you'll see the price go up to $15,000 a year.

While we are playing farther futures ... what happens when a good Indian Uni offers the same?

Or a personal tutor who will help you with the course. Personalization may have value, and personal interaction costs what it costs for a person. So, even if you go electronic and disseminate a lecture--viewing it as a fixed cost spread over a world audience--the value could come from having a personal tutor along with you will you take the course to answer your questions.

In fact, I'm surprised that there haven't been personal tutor services develop along side a college credited course. Instead, people seem to rely on discussion fora and the internet.

I tutor part time now, but I used to do it full time. Many of my students were attending online colleges. The dark side of tutoring online classes is the rampant cheating. I've had people offer to pay me to take their class for them. Average pay from the tutors I knew who supported the cheating was roughly 2k to just take the final for the student. I don't think the online degrees will have any merit until the testing situation is straightened out. I've also been offered cash to be a sympathetic proctor for a student who was taking an online class. Rejecting the cash was surprisingly easy. The inherent wrongness bothered me, but for some people the lure of easy money was too much. An hour taking a test in a "college class" that really was highschool math for a grand was just too much to pass up for some of the tutors.

I now restrict my students to the precious few who actually want to learn. I get paid to talk about something I'm interested in. It's a beautiful thing.

Sounds like a potential growth area for the companies that run test centers.

Thrun compared the day of the announcement to the day he proposed to his wife.

Oh boy. That must have been one nasty night after Thrun got home.

With comments like that, it is exceptionally clear that Georgia Tech is the right place for this guy.

One of the major drawbacks of MOOCs as compared to traditional colleges is the lack of a social life and dating opportunities. But as compared to GT, it's roughly a draw.

True but that is less of an issue in grad school. Also, the announcement notes that the degree can be stretched out over 6 years if needed. I'm going to guess that lots of people doing this will be non-traditional students who won't have the time to take advantage of a campus environment.

I'm most interested in seeing the quality of the courses they end up pulling together. I'm really hoping that this isn't just a bunch of traditional lectures and course work posted online and is something truly unique.

"One of the major drawbacks of MOOCs as compared to traditional colleges is the lack of a social life and dating opportunities."

This class of critiques is so funny to me, especially followed in the same comment by the (true!) joke about GT. I wasn't at GT, but a comparable place and spent YEARS alone in the basement.

You know, girls don't evaporate if the university goes away, not that it is going away. Simply not walking to classes would have saved me an hour a day.

A great way to meet people might be on-line, btw.

Yeah, seems like there's lots of super datable types populating the MR comments.

Yes, soon we'll be able to put an end to the unfortunate phenomenon of people having to get up an move around.

If you need to pay 10,000 $ a year to have better social life and more dating opportunities, you won't be vrey successful in either of them.

Cutting comment, but empirically false. College presents a perfect storm of thousands of people, almost all single, of exactly the same age, eating in the same places, sleeping in the same buildings, only working 25 hours or so a week, with plenty of social opportunities and no real obligations or stressors (I say this in retrospect; it didn't seem quite so stress-free at the time.) Also you can stay out late and sleep in with minimal consequences. It's like it was designed with social opportunities as the primary goal, and education was tacked on as an incidental.

Will the two type of masters degrees be indistinguishable?

Excellent question. Bet they won't. Even if GTech tried to, I bet interviewers would find out from other clues.

Do "interviewers" really care? I don't doubt you that they sometimes do, but I curious about what professions this actually happens in.
I do get the general "HR needs a filter, and a degree [from somewhere recognizable] can be used as a course filter", but in what fields
would an actual interviewer (not HR) care to spend time thinking about clues as to what type of degree it "really" is.

Even if they won't be indistinguishable, having an online MA will still be better than having no MA. Especially as the person getting the online MA might have continued to work during that time.

So this is how the great recession ends...

Might've, had the government taken time out from their medical boondoggle to stop haranguing for-profits.

Two question for the group:

Let m(t) = the "mainstreamness" of online education platforms as a function of time, with an m value of 0 signifying the general perception "no way that will ever be a mainstream product" and 100 signifying the general perception "Of course that's mainstream, hasn't it always been that way?".

The questions are:

1) What kind of function is m(t)? When society goes from "online education will never work" to "a few pioneering eccentrics are doing it but it will never catch on" to "the most mainstream institutions are now getting into online education" in just a few years, that feels like an exponential progression. Is that right? Could it be a faster-than-exponential progression?

2) Why is m(t) that kind of function?

Once you cross the chasm, discontinuous innovation is exponential. The question is have we crossed the chasm.

Let me just point out that at a German university, one of the fundamental requirements for a an engineering degree is six weeks work experience before the second year of earning a batchelor's degree in the subject.

Anyone willing to venture a guess when that becomes part of the American certification process?

Co-ops and internships are highly encouraged. A ton of students do them. It is not obvious to me that it is that great a thing, and a requirement for such would definitely be bad, and whether the good outweighs the bad is an interesting question. Do you have a study?

Six whole weeks, huh. Friend of mine got an engineering degree last semester. He interned with a company for three straight summers, as well as working 15-20 hours a week during the school year for the last 2 years or so of his degree.

Best satire commentor on the web.

I did two Summer internships and was looked askance upon for not co-oping the standard 3 alternating semesters (some friends did 4 or more semesters). I finished in a relatively rare 4 years which seemed like a good idea at the time, though looking back, that joke is on me.

But those were German weeks, don't forget. Those are better.

The main issue with these has always been credibility, because we are after all talking about credentialism. Thrun's presence might solve that problem.

Obvously CompSci is particularly well-suited to this. When you start working, you will generally be learning your marketable skills the same way. And if you're good at learning this way you can be extremely valuable to an employer -- or yourself.

how about a masters in statistics online?

Colorado State, Penn State, and possibly one from Columbia on the way (there is already a stats certificate program at the last).

As a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech, all I wanted to say is 'Go Jackets!'

First of all I would like to say fantastic blog! I had a quick question which I'd like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing. I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out. I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Many thanks!

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