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The Value of an Online Computer Science Degree

Value of an Online Computer Science Degree

By Hatti Hamlin

First Georgia Tech Graduates Intend to Prove Value of Online Computer Science Degree

Marconi Board Member Zvi Galil is changing the face of online learning. 2,789 students are enrolled in Tech’s Online Master’s. The first 20 have just graduated and the results are strong. Galil writes, “I’ve heard from several people who’ve already leveraged their participation in the program to obtain promotions or new positions at major companies. Sometimes when they’ve only taken one or two courses. Nearly all of OMS students are already working full-time.”

Courses are all taught by regular GT faculty, who have developed the online curriculum. All students must pass proctored exams. Admission standards are as high as in the university’s traditional computer-science program.

Galil adds, “As far as rigor, Georgia Tech prides itself on the challenge of its academic programs, so we knew that OMS courses needed to set a very high standard. They are identical to their on-campus equivalents: same material, same projects, same assessments.”

Degree students pay only $7,000, much less than the on-campus tuition. The earning potential is high, The average graduate with a traditional Master’s from a top computer science program is likely to make over $1,000,000 over ten years. (Georgia Tech is ranked among the top dozen programs in the world.)

The courses are free if you aren’t looking for a degree or credit. Be realistic: these are graduate level courses and you really do need a strong background. I signed up for the Computer Networking course and it’s definitely challenging.

Can graduates of the online program do as well? I asked Marconi Fellow John Cioffi CEO of ASSIA, a medium size company which produces network and cloud software, what he expected the graduates would find in the job market. He says, ““Students who successfully matriculate with high marks from online programs are highly desirable employees.” Also, “They already demonstrate a strong capability to teach and manage themselves with minimal supervision and yet adhere to schedules, with the high marks also indicating they do so very successfully.”

Cioffi is also Professor Emiritus at Stanford, where he taught graduate students for 25 years. He advises the students, ”I was fortunate to have taken several classes on the original on-line ‘PLATO’ system at the University of Illinois in the 1970’s. They were amazingly close to what is done today (albeit the terminals were then in special 24-hour classrooms around the campus in which one had to sit to do it online). I took as many of those as I could, including physics, economics, and other subjects.

“I thought I learned more, and it allowed me to pace myself and better avoid the ‘all at once due/test’ problem that arises when a schedule is determined instead by teachers. If you are a self-motivated, good student, you’ll love online courses.”

Galil, Dean of the Georgia Institute of Technology College of Computing, wrote last year “Online learning, developed properly, can result in learning attainments fully the equal of in-person classes.” This year he adds “Our motto is ‘Accessibility through affordability and technology,’ and we know—because they’ve told us—that many OMS students would not be pursuing an advanced degree without this program. Two universities, the University of Illinois with its iMBA, and MIT with its Micro Master’s program, have followed our lead and adopted a similar approach to expanding access and lowering costs to students, and we certainly hope that others will follow.”