Wednesday 2016-10-26

Fully online curriculum can pick up more students than otherwise.

We study the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Online M.S. in Computer Science, the earliest model to combine the inexpensive nature of online education with a highly-ranked degree program. Regression discontinuity estimates exploiting an admissions threshold unknown to applicants show that access to this online option substantially increases overall enrollment in formal education, expanding the pool of students rather than substituting for existing educational options. Demand for the online option is driven by mid-career Americans. By satisfying large, previously unmet demand for mid-career training, this single program will boost annual production of American computer science master’s degrees by about seven percent. More generally, these results suggest that low-cost, high-quality online options may open opportunities for populations who would not otherwise pursue education.
-- NBER Working Paper No. 22754

We'll see how the edX Micromasters trial goes....

Importantly, the degree OMSCS students earn is not labeled “online” and is in name fully equivalent to the in-person degree. As a result, the reputation and labor market value of Georgia Tech’s in-person degree now at least partially depend on the extent to which Georgia Tech can ensure that the quality of its graduates does not differ substantially across the two formats.
The average in- person applicant is a 24-year old non-American recently out of college, whereas the average online applicant is a 34-year old mid-career American.
AT&T provided roughly $4,000,000 in start-up funds to supplement GA Tech’s own initial in- vestment. Much of that funded production of the roughly 30 courses OMSCS offers, each of which initially cost about $300,000 to produce, though production costs have since dropped to under $200,000. Such costs reflect the fact that OMSCS does not record and re-broadcast in-person lec- tures as some online courses do, but instead produces original videos and other materials for each course. Individual faculty members are paid $20,000 for initially creating a course and $10,000 each time they teach the course, which many of them continue to do. In 2015, OMSCS had net revenues of about $2,000,000 and by fall 2016 had returned the Computer Science Department’s initial investment in the program.
Well-represented in the list are tech- nology giants (Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple), military branches (Air Force, Army, Navy), defense contractors (Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Boeing), and financial and consulting firms (Bank of America, Accenture). Such firms, with more than 25 employees apply- ing to OMSCS, comprise less than one-fourth of the applicant pool. Firms with 2 to 25 applicants comprise one-fifth of the applicant pool. Remarkably, nearly half of applicants to OMSCS appear to be the only employee from their firms applying to the program, suggesting that demand for such training is widespread and not simply concentrated among a few large firms.