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Education The Almighty Buck

Big MOOC On Campus: Georgia Tech's $6,600 MS In CS 163

theodp writes "Next January, writes the NYT's Tamar Lewin, the Georgia Institute of Technology plans to partner with Udacity and AT&T to offer a master's degree in CS through massive open online courses for a fraction of the on-campus cost. Georgia Tech's Online Master of Science in Computer Science can be had for $6,600 — far less than the $45,000 on-campus price. The courses will be online and free for those not seeking a degree; those in the degree program will take proctored exams and have access to tutoring, online office hours and other support. AT&T, which ponied up a $2 million donation, will use the program to train employees and find potential hires. Initial enrollment will be limited to a few hundred students recruited from AT&T and Georgia Tech corporate affiliates. Zvi Galil, the dean of the university's College of Computing, expects that the program could attract up to 10,000 students annually, many from outside the U.S. 'Online, there's no visa problem,' he said."
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Big MOOC On Campus: Georgia Tech's $6,600 MS In CS

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  • by rubypossum ( 693765 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @08:36PM (#44603781)
    Such as myself, I wonder if it's worth getting the degree? I'm already a partner at a start-up and a decent coder. Is it worth it?
    • by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @08:39PM (#44603797)

      Being a decent coder has little to do with CS. It's a very valuable skill in its own right, but quite different.

      • by fluffy99 ( 870997 ) on Monday August 19, 2013 @12:11AM (#44604761)

        Being a decent coder has little to do with CS. It's a very valuable skill in its own right, but quite different.

        Very true. Unfortunately, many employers haven't a clue what the difference is. I see too many jobs ads looking for a CS degree when what they want is a good programmer. They end up with a CS major who hasn't a clue how to design or write good code. Or vice-versa, they get a programmer to do software engineering and wonder why they end up with a crap program that doesn't meet their needs.

      • An artist knows his tools and materials. CS training gives him that. It doesn't give him art, but it is essential to his art.
    • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

      Based on your UID, I assume you have been on /. for ~7-10 years? Why would you want to get a degree if you are an experienced programmed working at a startup? Sorry, but this is a pretty solid troll :)

      • I see we are UID dropping here?

        • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

          No, not really, but I guess you are ;)

          Actually, I think it would be interesting to see a graph of UID vs. registration date. I'm guessing it was fairly exponential at first, and then leveled out in recent years...

        • by aliquis ( 678370 )

          UID 0 or gtfo.


          Everyone can be UID 0.

    • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Monday August 19, 2013 @12:24AM (#44604813) Journal

      I've been there and done that. The start-up almost surely won't last forever. Even if it does, you won't want to work 55 hours a week while your baby is waking you up at 3AM. At some point, you'll probably want a nice 8-5 with good insurance and time off. When that time comes, you need letters behind your name.

      I had all of the other credentials. I have seventeen years of full professional experience. I'm an Apache contributor. At one interview, the interviewer asked me if I had experience with Debian, as that was their preferred distro. I asked if he'd seen that morning's Debian security update. He seen it and applied the update. My name was on that Debian alert, I discovered the security issue all Debian users were alerted to that morning. I didn't get the job. Put letters at the end of your name while you can.

    • I'll take the free courses and be glad of it to see what passes for a masters in CS these days. I don't meet the prereq to pay them, but I would do that too if I could. I expect to be saddened by the depravity.
    • The newest entrants may have never experienced a down part of the cycle. Employer get picky about credentials then. A college degress is usually always a requirement.
  • Retention rates? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @08:36PM (#44603783) Journal

    It will be very interesting to see what their retention numbers end up looking like. We've had cheap, modestly interactive, education since 'correspondence courses' hit the scene (examples date to at least the 18th century, with spikes and troughs in popularity over time); but we've had less success getting the results achieved in-person from even the most tech-laden variations.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The Open University have been doing this in the UK for many years, and appear to be going from strength to strength.

      • Indeed. I work closely with Open University as we extend the software they use (Moodle) to work for our students at the Texas A&M System. Until this year, people would travel from all over the world to attend our firefighter school for twelve weeks. Now, all of the classroom part is online, so they can either come to Texas for just six weeks, or they can do our online classroom and then do field exercises in their home area.

        We're rapidly expanding the capabilities of the software system it all runs on

    • Well since Ivy League schools pride themselves on the dropout rates of people who are paying $50K/yr because they are hard, if this school has higher fail out rates they can claim they are harder than Harvard without doing as much harm to the failed-out students. Remember: student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, and a degree does not promise a high-earning job.
      • I think that the Ivies focus more on rejection rates (If you can't get acceptances down to the single digits, you are letting just anyone in); but actually boast extremely high [] completion rates(this, of course, may hide a large number of would-be doctors who hit the organic chemistry weeder and decided that something a little softer was more their style; but actually flunking somebody out once you've let them in is... unseemly).

        An enthusiasm for attrition seems to be more of a tech school thing.

  • I already have two degrees from Georgia Tech, but not one in CS yet. For $6,600 a MSCS from Georgia Tech is a no brainer.

    • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

      Unless you collect degrees because you don't have enough artwork on your wall, it doesn't at all seem like a no-brainer. If you think you will put in effort and LEARN it might be useful, but that would in fact require a brain...

      • It's not a bad thing to go back to school later in your career to get up to speed on the state of the art and maybe even pick up new skills.

        • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

          Except colleges rarely teach "state of the art", they usually teach theory or programming languages a few years behind the times...

          I don't disagree a BS is a great foundation or that keeping up is a good idea, but once you are an experienced engineer it's really not that hard to "keep up" on your own - for free.

          Also, given a good, experienced software engineer can make $150-200k+ these days, any time away from that is probably a bigger expense than will ever be paid back through salary raises, etc.

        • Learning new skills should be some kind of badges system not the old school system.

  • I'm not sure from a cursory glance at the program description, but this seems to only involve courses? My perspective of a Master's is that courses are really just a tiny slice of what you do. Research and synthesizing that research into papers and/or a thesis is what really makes it different from undergrad courses. Maybe it's antiquated, but I wouldn't consider the two on equal footing because it's rather easy to go through a bunch of courses without really getting deeply familiar and involved with anythi
    • Re:Just courses? (Score:5, Informative)

      by jeff4747 ( 256583 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @08:53PM (#44603873)

      In my experience, what you describe is a doctorate program. A masters is mostly courses with research as an option.

      • Only if it's original research. A typical PhD program requires that you advance the field, whereas a masters program will permit you to conduct research that's just investigating things that have been investigated and synthesizing other people's research into new papers.

        • by Myopic ( 18616 ) *

          Whenever I've asked a PhD who I met how they "advanced human knowledge of the field", they have giggled at my naiveté. Based on a number of those experiences, I now take that requirement as not at all literal. Some PhDs advance the field; most don't.

      • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
        Well, I know in certain fields (say, MBA), you don't need to do research, and I have vaguely heard of a way of doing a Master's through courses solely, but I'd say 95% of the people I know (computer science, mathematics, physics people, so YMMV obviously) go down the thesis or article route. Again, from the perspective of someone going through such a thing, I doubt you'd be able to learn anywhere near as much just by following courses, especially remotely.
    • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

      Eh, for many schools - even the top ones like Stanford - an MS is just a chance to take more graduate level courses - TAing and research is optional. That said I find it hard to imagine you learn the same things online, since said "top schools" also put a lot of emphasis on sections and fairly complex programming assignments...

    • Re:Just courses? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @09:04PM (#44603947) Homepage Journal

      When you get a masters' degree, you spend a year or more committing yourself 24 hours a day to learning something, and you're in a community of people who are engaged in the same commitment to learning something. Your eating, sleeping, and social life revolves around an intellectual community. You learn a lot through serendipity. A chance meeting in the hall can give you a direction for your career.

      When you take a MOOC, you're not giving it the same commitment and you're not among the same community. That's especially true if you take it free.

      You could just read the same textbooks that masters' degree students read. But you'd be missing something.

      I could read transcripts of the Feynmann lectures. But that wouldn't be the same as going to school and taking lectures with Feynmann.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by jpublic ( 3023069 )

        But you'd be missing something.

        Not wasting money leaves an empty hole in my heart.

        Just because some people are lazy, unmotivated, and unintelligent doesn't mean that everyone is.

        • by nbauman ( 624611 )

          But you'd be missing something.

          Not wasting money leaves an empty hole in my heart.

          Just because some people are lazy, unmotivated, and unintelligent doesn't mean that everyone is.

          Either you're very hard-working, motivated and intelligent, or you're an example of the Dunning–Kruger effect. I wonder which is more likely?

          • by khallow ( 566160 )

            I wonder which is more likely?

            I'd say fallacy of the false dilemma. Plus, you still have yet to acknowledge the huge cost differential here.

      • I have two sisters with Masters degrees. One went the fairly traditional route of 4 years for an undergrad degree, a decade or so in the work force, then another decade or so working on her Masters at a traditional institution as time and budget permitted. She finally completed her degree shortly after she turned 40. She has been working as an globe hopping industrial trainer, author, and project manager all along.

        My other sister took about 20 years to complete her undergrad degree and another 4 to compl

        • by nbauman ( 624611 )

          I'm not sure what the benefit is of a degree that somebody takes over several years while she's working.

          For some jobs, particularly in the sciences and technology, the degree gives you information and understanding you need to do your job. But if you're already working in your profession, what else do you need?

          I realize that in some professions, like teaching, an advanced degree is high regarded for promotions and pay increases. I'm not sure whether that's just credentialization for its own sake or whether

  • How can they make sure a remote participant does not cheat during a test? Mandatory spyware?
    • by CodeArtisan ( 795142 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @08:54PM (#44603887)
      For the UK version at the Open University the exams are held at a local college and proctored in the normal way. Presumably this could operate in a similar fashion.
    • []

      "All exams are proctored using national proctoring standards. We have access to 4,500 physical proctoring facilities and are working with online proctoring institutions."

    • A "properly" designed evaluation method is pretty cheat proof even if not proctored. Especially if you've been having your students move in that direction over the previous assignments.

      Of course, designing such an assessment/evaluation is very hard to do, and grading it can be equally hard.

      But, for those instructors that just want to give a 50 question multiple choice test from the text publisher's test bank, yeah, they need a proctor. There are a few online proctoring services that use webcams, etc. to m

      • IT test needs to be more hands on based or graded not on all multiple choice but some kind of skill test.

        • Yup. Even in the face-to-face Linux admin class I teach only 20% of the students grade comes from exams (one of which is a hands on skill exam for copying files, dealing with tar.gz and tar.bz2 files, moving files, looking at permissions, etc). Rest is lab work and projects.

  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @08:52PM (#44603867)

    Sorry, folks, but no Master's in CS is worth $45,000, and certainly not from Georgia Tech when better schools offer the same for half the tuition (Univ. of Texas comes to mind), and regional schools for a quarter of this. This seems to be nothing more than a marketing ploy to show what a good "deal" you could get if you went 100% online while at the same time inflating the quality of the on-campus program at Georgia Tech.

    • Le Cordon Bleu gets USD$55k...
    • by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <(gterich) (at) (> on Sunday August 18, 2013 @09:06PM (#44603957) Journal

      UT Austin is 0.1 point above Tech in the rankings for CS Grad Schools. As has been noted, if you're in-state or on a GTA or GRA, the tuition drops precipitously or is basically waived. Whether it's a #10 or #9 school isn't really going to matter during interviews. Both are superb schools with an excellent reputation among hiring managers (and I've hired-a-plenty out of both).

      Tuition rates between the two schools are not significantly different. Tech is a bit over $13K/semester and UT Austin is a smidge over $12K/semester.

    • According to this [], the tuition cost of a 2 year grad degree at Georgia Tech would be $54,660 for out-of-state, assuming you have 12 credit our semesters. ($22,468 for in-state) It may be that it is not worth that much, but I don't think the $45k number was invented for comparison purposes.

    • Your post sounds like you think GT is a community college. Are you confusing Georgia Tech with UGA?

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Actually this fracturing of advanced study programs in computing could actually launch the start of something very new in computer education. The big shift to medical school like training, where learning is conducted at a major educational hospital and for computing learning would actually be at a tech services centre.

      So is the best possible learning for computers to be based around an on the job tech centre, where students work and learn and can specialise in centre tech specialities, software, hardware

    • Sorry, folks, but no Master's in CS is worth $45,000

      For $6k, you can list a legitimate MS degree on your Resume so HR can will put it in the 'save' pile instead of the 'circular file' during initial screening. That's a pretty valuable edge these days.

  • 8 times cheaper for awesome HR bypass material? Count me in! Even if you have a job now, a CS from a pretty well regarded school could give you leverage for a better salary.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 18, 2013 @09:04PM (#44603945)

    Somebody please *please* hear this message before it's too late. Too many bright foreign students who get into top notch schools are denied visas. I've seen this happen first hand multiple times at a good school. Politicians can debate visa allocation as much as they want in general. But when MIT (or some other top notch school) accepts someone can you please just give the kid a visa? Oh, and not kick him out when he graduates? Because if not, then your protectionist strategy creates a market for programs such as this one, which is a hundred times worse than the scenario you are trying to prevent.

    • by NoKaOi ( 1415755 )

      Somebody please *please* hear this message before it's too late. Too many bright foreign students who get into top notch schools are denied visas. I've seen this happen first hand multiple times at a good school. Politicians can debate visa allocation as much as they want in general. But when MIT (or some other top notch school) accepts someone can you please just give the kid a visa? Oh, and not kick him out when he graduates? Because if not, then your protectionist strategy creates a market for programs such as this one, which is a hundred times worse than the scenario you are trying to prevent.

      The point is to give first priority to non-foreigners. The point is not to crush foreigners, but rather to increase access for Americans to education and jobs. E.g. if a foreigner gets into and attends MIT, that's one less American that gets to attend MIT. Yes, it's a protectionist strategy (whether we should have such a strategy is a separate debate), but how does this program make things 100x worse? How does it prevent Americans from getting an education or a job?

    • by Myopic ( 18616 ) *

      I agree. Although I wouldn't want economic interests to decide every immigration case, it seems to me that America should be greedily hoarding the smartest people in the world by offering them a ticket into our culture, paid for by attending a major university, excelling there, and working in the field afterwards. Why the hell would we give them our top-notch education and then afterwards not let them stick around to grow our economy? Sure, many foreign students will want to return home and help their homel

  • by The Second Horseman ( 121958 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @09:30PM (#44604083)

    It's a $7000 MA for people hand-picked from Georgia Tech's corporate partners, funded by the $2 million dollar donation from AT&T. So, assume that's covering a large chunk of the cost. The press release says that it's "initially" expected to be under $7,000.

    So if you actually want the degree, it's currently not available to everyone, and it's eventually going to be more expensive.

    • Whoops. Meant MS. I'm assuming it's an MS?

  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @09:52PM (#44604201) Journal []

    Georgia Tech and Udacity Partner for Online M.S. in Computer Science

    Nothing different, except this time an NYT article that references the same?

  • Since this is Georgia, will they teach evolutionary algorithms []?

    They might just duck out entirely and skip the subject. Conversely, they could they could cover the evolutionary model and then teach an alternative theory that the results of the computations are due to divine intervention.

  • by recharged95 ( 782975 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @11:03PM (#44604489) Journal

    This makes some sense. Nearly all Fortune 500 companies offer some type of personnel training in the form of "University", aka Disney Univeristy, Oracle University, Cisco University, P&G University, etc... is typically what they are called. And if I recall can cost upto $2K (internal overhead) per course which lasts 2 weeks on avg.

    "Off shoring" the corporate training basically to Academia removes the overhead costs and the companies can reducing training offerings as needed (during layoffs for instance). As for Academia, they would like to have the funding of this extra private money and will legitimize smaller schools that want to compete against the big dogs (Ivy, big state universities). Somewhat of a win-win short term, BUT will push training responsbility off corporations to individuals (we all might as well be contractors) and schools will push what businesses want rather than trailblazing or going against the status quo, as basis for a free thinking environment. Hence long term this is is likely bad.

  • by cultiv8 ( 1660093 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @11:07PM (#44604509) Homepage
    I have two masters degrees (quant/stats and MBA), work in software development for 10+ years, and have been debating either getting a masters degree in CS or a law degree in IP in the next year or two. When I read this article, right this very instant, I realized it would be more profitable in the long run to get a law degree than to get a CS degree.
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @11:23PM (#44604575)

    for some IT jobs 4 years is overkill and for some parts of IT CS is not the right fit vs more of a trades fit.

  • in IT, the 4 year process doesn’t work for some, especially those who have learning disabilities,” “The older college system is not for all, and some people learn better on their own. It’s an antiquated system, especially in IT.”

    “Schools that are based around 2 years of intensive, hands-on IT training are much better equipped than those spending on English or composition classes. That’s how you can be more flexible and keep up with the industry. Even awarding badg

  • some of them are no credit and do not lead to a degree. Or some may only count in as part of big block of classes that when you drop in / take as on going learning.

    Also some stuff just leads to vendor certs but why can't we get away from degrees or have some kind of equivalent experience system that you can put down equivalent experience to X degree with not being said to be lieing about having X degree

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 18, 2013 @11:48PM (#44604693)

    I know this sounds lame but Masters Degrees helped me draw higher pay. MBA my salary rose by 40% same company, Engineering another 20% new company, stuck it our for 1.7 years and my salary rose by another 25% -now I've breached six figures in non trivial way with options and decent bonus on top of the nice base. Although I think degrees are over rated especially from big name programs, I still can't argue with the financial results. At $6k or $7k -a Masters in CS sounds like a steal?

    Wonder if any of the veterans on /. truly believe the extra letters and relatively cheap out of pocket expense would somehow hurt their careers or bottom lines. Most IT workers (managers and line coders alike) spend ours studying and techniques anyway. If you can get a few extra letters and more long term for a small outlay of $6k why wouldn't you???

    Even if you thought the degree added little to the field of CS overall, it's impact on a programmers earning power seems like it would be real enough on a cost vs benefit basis... And god forbid a decent programmer actually made it into management and actually helped fix what ails many organizations' IT/Business relations (ie a sane use of technology to advance business instead pet projects not worth the 8.5x11 powerpoint page used to write 'em up)...

    • by Myopic ( 18616 ) * on Monday August 19, 2013 @04:27PM (#44611075)

      Dude, this is Slashdot, people here will never ever agree that getting an education can help your career. Around here, the mythology is that super-genius programmers don't need any education at all, and anyone who isn't a super-genius programmer can go to hell because they don't fit into the mythology.

      As for me, my name-brand expensive education was hands-down the cheapest cost-per-value thing I've ever purchased by a long shot.

  • Mixed messages (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The blurb says 'Go ahead, take the courses online, $6600, work hard and get a degree'. The reality (when you read the site) is that online courses won't be available for over a year, if you want to be accepted to the program, you have to go through a rigorous application process, including multiple references from people, full documentation from post secondary institutions, and a highly regulated, process to allow entry to the program (there is a massive chasm between the blurb and the apparent reality).

  • Crap online courses (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday August 19, 2013 @03:13AM (#44605297) Homepage

    There are a lot of junk online courses out there. A lot of them are simply videos of lectures, repurposed as "online courses". Stanford does a lot of that. Their original machine learning class was like that, and it is painful. Especially since the instructor's blackboard writing (yes, it's video of a real chalk blackboard) is messy. This in a field which has its own unique (and not very good) notation.

    Khan Academy has courses which consist of a color etch-a-sketch display of the instructor's writing plus a voice-over. I viewed the lectures for forces and torques recently. The instructor had clockwise and counterclockwise reversed, used a multiply symbol where he needed an add, and went from talking about a body in free space to one pinned at a pivot point without mentioning that he'd shifted. Not only is the production value very low, nobody is reviewing that stuff, or even proofreading it.

    MIT's course on rotating electrical machinery is basically the class notes from a course. There are a few drawings, then endless math derivations. You don't get the labs online.

    I've seen some good online courses, but most of this stuff is a low-budget conversion of old lecture and notes.

    • by Myopic ( 18616 ) *

      Agreed, the quality has a long way to go. I've signed up for three or four online courses but the only one I completed was an excellent, well-polished and complete introduction to MongoDB (not exactly a college-level course, but very well presented). A video classroom needs to be even better than a personal classroom and so far the average product quality is decidedly subpar.

  • I've noticed a lot of wholes in MOOC course topics. However, at least half the courses seem to be in the computer sciences. So it would be likely that would be the first dsicipline to have complete curriculum.
  • There is no GRE required, but a BS in CS or related field is needed for the degree program.

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