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First-of-Its-Kind Online Master's Draws Wave of Applicants


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The number of applicants for Georgia Tech's online master's program suggests a growing demand for online learning.

Credit: Little Things Matter

Since implementing a new low-cost online master's program in computer science based on massively open online course (MOOC) technology, Georgia Tech has received almost twice as many applications for the program in the past three weeks as its residential program receives in a year. Unlike most MOOCs, the course is not offered for free, with applicants paying about $6,600 to participate, compared with approximately $44,000 for residential students. The number of U.S.-resident applicants for the Georgia Tech program also was 14 times higher than those for the residential class.

College of Computing dean Zvi Galil estimates that 79 percent of the online master's applicants were U.S. citizens, versus 9 percent of the residential applicants. This trend indicates a strong demand among adult students to receive an education while also staying at home, or being employed, or raising a family, says Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun. Udacity created the program in partnership with Georgia Tech and AT&T, and also announced the Open Education Alliance, which lets students earn a free certificate based on courses developed with the company's partners.

"I think this is symptomatic of a lot of what we're going to be seeing in the future," says the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute's Ronald Ehrenberg.

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