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MOOC-based Master's Degree in Computer Science

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a game changer in education. See Here are two quotes that help provide some of the (relatively short) current history of MOOCs.

Quoting from a 8/2/2011 IAE Blog at

Stanford University is going to make its regular Introduction to AI course available free on the Web this fall (2011). The course regularly enrolls nearly 200 students. Students taking the free online version of the course can turn in lessons that will be graded and can take the tests. They can receive a certificate indicating their level of performance in the course relative to the regularly enrolled students.

For details, see

Quoting from a 8/27/2011 IAE Blog entry at

Among the awards is the [Bill and Melissa Gates] foundation’s first contribution to so-called MOOC’s, or Massive Open Online Courses, where professors let anyone online take their courses, sometimes attracting tens of thousands of learners. Specifically, the Gates Foundation is giving $1-million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for its MITx project, which offers such open courses. The grant is focused on an effort to help colleges serving low-income students teach an official course based around MITx materials, using an approach called the “flipped classroom.” Students at the partner colleges will watch the MITx video lectures for a computer-science course, and use traditional classroom time at their own institution for additional exercises and to get help when they’re stuck.

The following 6/11/2012 article is indicative of the rapid progress that was occurring during the early development of MOOCs. It presents personal experiences of four faculty members who developed and taught early MOOCs.

Young, J.R. (6/11/2012). Four professors discuss teaching free online courses for thousands of students. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 6/13/2012 from

For more background information about MOOCs, see

College Credit and Degrees Via MOOCs

MOOCs are designed to handle enrollments of hundreds of thousands of students. The feedback provided to students and grading are both highly automated. Years of progress in artificial intelligence have aided in developing this type of teaching/learning automation. See

Initial MOOCS offered certificates of completion to people who enrolled, completed, and passed the course. From the beginning, it was evident that high-quality courses could be developed that were in many ways competitive with the traditional face-to-face on-campus courses. Instead of just offering a certificate of completion (for a small fee), why not offer university credit (for a larger fee)? Why not go even further—why not offer MOOC-based degree programs? The following article discusses a newly created MOOC-based Master’s degree in Computer Science at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Kahn, Gabriel (7/23/2013). The MOOC that roared. Slate. Retrieved 7/26/2013 from

The in-state tuition for this Master’s Degree in Computer Science is about $21,000 and the out-of-state tuition is about $45,000. The tuition of the MOOC-based degree is being set at $6,600. Quoting from the article:

The $6,600 master’s degree marks an attempt to realize the tantalizing promise of the MOOC movement: a great education, scaled up to the point where it can be delivered for a rock-bottom price. Until now, the nation’s top universities have adopted a polite but distant approach toward MOOCs. The likes of Yale, Harvard, and Stanford have put many of their classes online for anyone to take, and for free. But there is no degree to be had, even for those who ace the courses.

A Game Changer

It seems obvious to me that this bold move by a prestigious university is a good indicator of major changes that will occur in education throughout the world. MOOCs will continue to improve, will become still more readily available, will be less expensive than traditional coursework, will cover an increasing number of curriculum areas, and will become a routine component of education at both the precollege and higher education levels. This will bring about worldwide competition among colleges and universities for students to enroll in their courses and/or degree programs. This may well help to improve education throughout the world.

Current research suggests the value of hybrid courses that blend a combination of online and face-to face instruction. A great many institutions are using this approach in one or more of their programs of study.

The research to support the effectiveness of this hybrid course approach to education is relatively sparse, but is slowly growing. Here is one specific instance of a success story. Anant Agarwal, an MIT computing specialist, says:

If you combine online with in-person, you get [a hybrid course] the best of both worlds. You don't have to drag students to a lecture at 8 am, they can learn at their own pace. Yet they can still get in-person help from the professor when they come to class. This type of model can be very successful. When our blended circuits and electronics course was taught at San José State University in California, outcomes were staggeringly good. Traditionally, about 40 per cent of the students fail the class; this time, the failure rate fell to 9 per cent. See

This is indeed a remarkable story. The 40% failure rate of the traditional course is not unlike what occurs in college algebra courses at many major universities. But a single example, even though it is tied in with some past historical results, does not in itself constitute good educational research—nor is there any claim that it does so. There will be a need for carefully designed and on-going research projects to determine the actual value of the MOOCs.

What You Can Do

You are living at a time during which progress in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is leading to major changes in your world. This technological progress is facilitating major changes in education. As an educator, you will want to keep abreast of how these changes are affecting or will likely affect teaching and learning in the disciplines you teach. You will also want to help your students prepare for their future lifelong learning in a world that is steadily making increased of MOOCs and other forms of online education.

Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications

You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button.

Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries.

Here are some examples of publications that might interest you:

Are we missing the point of effective assessment? See

Continuing innovation in Information Technology. See

Effective study skills. See

General Educational Development (GED®) and online testing. See

Keith Devlin’s thoughts about MOOCs. See

Supersized online courses (MOOCs). See

The big three [places that offer MOOCs] at a glance. See

Project Head Start and B-1B Bombers
Testing Supercomputers and Testing Students


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Friday, 03 December 2021

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