So, How About That Online Computer Science Degree?
It was last spring when Georgia Tech rocked the higher ed world.
In January 2014, in collaboration with AT&T and the educational organization Udacity, it introduced the Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS) — a degree from a No. 9-ranked computer science graduate program at one of America’s top 10 public universities — all for just an approximate cost of $6,600.
Despite the many skeptics, one year later the program is in full swing, with about 2,000 students enrolled. And there’s glowing feedback to go along with the impressive enrollment.
Alina Fotache, Telecom Software Engineer – Middletown, New Jersey
“This online experience has absolutely exceeded my expectations,” said Alina Fotache, an AT&T employee who was part of the cohort that began when the program launched. “The content of the teaching videos is very thorough, the professors are witty and dedicated, and there are quizzes that make you apply the concepts right away in an easy, friendly manner.”
That isn’t to say, however, that the OMSCS program is lacking in rigor. Even President Barack Obama hinted at that. In his August 2013 College Affordability speech, he mentioned Tech’s plans to introduce the program and noted that, although this degree could be earned at a fraction of the cost of a traditional one, the curriculum would be “just as rigorous.”
Fotache can attest to that.
She says that while she always knew the journey to become a technology expert would not be easy, she was “surprised a little” at the amount of hours required for the assignments and to master the concepts. For her, this meant forgoing family and leisure time on occasion. She’s quick to point out, though, that the level of sacrifice would’ve been greater had she signed up for a traditional program.
“If I would’ve been on campus, I would’ve had to sacrifice more, because I’d have to add driving time to get to and from the university,” she said. In fact, that was one of the biggest obstacles that held her back from starting a master’s degree.
Then OMSCS came along.
Excerpts from CS 7641: Machine Learning
Want to see what a course is like in Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in Computer Science program? Check out this short preview of the Machine Learning course, co-taught by the dynamic duo of Charles Isbell and Michael Littman.
The Perfect Fit
“The OMSCS program is providing me the luxury of studying from my home,” said Fotache.
So, would she recommend it?
“Absolutely! In a fast-paced field like computer software, this delivery of content, with the added dedication required to complete a master’s degree, is fabulous,” she said. Her full-time job and two small children were the other reasons Fotache found the opportunity to be just right.
For Alexandra Bowers Schoen, OMSCS is the perfect fit for different reasons.
For several years, she’d been looking to further her education in “just about any field.” She began taking one online class per semester to complete a broad spectrum of prerequisites before entering a master’s program — in a field outside of computer science. But, after changing jobs, she realized how much she, in fact, enjoys computer science. So, she was very excited to discover OMSCS and enrolled in the fall.
Alexandra Bowers Schoen, Software Engineer – Atlanta, Georgia
“It has allowed me to continue my education at the pace I’d already become accustomed to — at a highly ranked university,” said Bowers Schoen. “Having an employer that will pay for most or all of the program (because the cost is low enough and because I can continue working) was a side bonus that helped me quit procrastinating on completing the application.”
And she has no regrets about finally taking that step to apply.
“My expectations have been more than exceeded,” Bowers Schoen said. “I did not anticipate the thoughtfulness of the instructors, the clear crafting of the online lectures, the in-lecture participation, or even the professor responding directly to students through class discussion boards. It has been far more hands-on than I anticipated.”
Like Fotache, Bowers Schoen is keen to recommend OMSCS.
“It’s not been an easy program, but it’s been exceedingly informative, well-crafted, and rewarding so far. I also like that large barriers to starting — time and monetary commitments — have been lowered enough to make them non-issues.”
Skype Interview with OMSCS Student Christina Carlson