The Georgia Institute of Technology’s plan to offer a low-cost online master’s degree to 10,000 students at once creates what may be a first-of-its-kind template for the evolving role of public universities and corporations.
When it agreed to work with Udacity to offer the online master’s degree in computer science, Georgia Tech expected to make millions of dollars in coming years, negotiated student-staff interaction down to the minute, promised to pay professors who create new online courses $30,000 or more, and created two new categories of educators — corporate “course assistants” tasked with handling student issues and a corps of teaching assistants hired by Georgia Tech who will be professionals rather than graduate students.
New details about the internal decision making and fine print of Georgia Tech’s revolutionary effort are based on interviews and documents, including some that the university provided to Inside Higher Ed following an open records request.
Georgia Tech this month announced its plans to offer a $6,630 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 and Udacity, a Silicon Valley-based startup, will work with AT&T, which is putting up $2 million to heavily subsidize the program’s first year. The effort, if it succeeds, will allow one of the country’s top computer science programs to enroll 20 times as many students as it does now in its online master’s degree program, and to offer the degree to students across the world at a sixth of the price of its existing program.
A contract between Georgia Tech’s research corporation and Udacity spells out the time that Udacity staff members are to spend helping students, though representatives of both the company and the university say their understanding of how much time students will need is likely to evolve.