Less than two years after it launched, Georgia Tech’s first-of-its-kind online master’s program in computer science will produce its first graduates tomorrow as the Institute celebrates its 250th Commencement ceremonies.
The online master’s in computer science (or OMS CS), a collaboration between Georgia Tech, Udacity and AT&T, is the first program from a top-ranked, accredited university to combine the instructional style of “massive open online courses” with a deeply discounted price (about $7,000 for most students). On Dec. 11, the first 20 students to complete their studies entirely through the OMS CS curriculum will receive their master’s degrees in a ceremony to be held at 7 p.m. in Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion.
“We are proud to welcome these newest graduates to the worldwide community of Georgia Tech alumni,” said Provost Rafael L. Bras. “The OMS CS program has proven that we can make an advanced degree from a school like Georgia Tech accessible to a much larger population of students, both in the United States and around the world. It has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations.”
To date, the program has received more than 8,000 applications and has admitted about 55 percent of those applicants. In the Fall 2015 semester, 2,841 students enrolled in at least one course, and the overall student enrollment is expected to surge past 3,000 in Spring 2016.
Though they hail from parts far and wide, including countries outside the United States, nearly all of the first 20 OMS graduates have traveled to Atlanta to participate in Commencement. For most, the visit is the first time they have seen any of their fellow students in person.
“I enrolled in OMS CS because of Georgia Tech’s reputation and with the goals of continuing my own professional development, furthering my career, developing a global network of peers and working with world-class faculty—all of those things happened,” said graduate Nathaniel Payne, who was one of the program’s first 380 students in Spring 2014. “The program has been one of the best things I have experienced and has been literally life-changing.”
OMS CS has been in the spotlight since it was announced in May 2013. President Barack Obama has praised the program by name twice—first in August 2013 and then again while visiting Georgia Tech in March 2015—as the kind of innovation that is needed both to address the rising costs of higher education and as a strategy to provide much-needed skilled labor for STEM-related positions.
Through its signature philanthropic initiative, AT&T Aspire, AT&T has contributed $2 million to help launch OMS CS and has committed an additional $1.5 million to support course development and other startup costs. More than 300 AT&T employees have been admitted to OMS CS, and some of those are among the graduates set to receive their diplomas on Friday. AT&T Aspire drives innovation in education to help students succeed in school and beyond.
“We’ve turned to innovative programs like OMS CS to help our current and future employees adapt to the ever-changing world of technology,” said Scott Smith, AT&T senior vice president of Human Resources Operations. “These programs provide new and innovative ways to help our employees at all levels and across the globe develop the skills they need to succeed in their roles today and prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.”
Indeed, OMS has shown to be particularly effective in attracting U.S. students. Its citizenship demographics are nearly the inverse of those for Georgia Tech’s residential Master of Science in Computer Science degree, whose students are overwhelmingly international. By contrast, 79 percent of OMS CS students in Fall 2015 were U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
“Our first priority is to address the STEM shortage in America,” said Dean Zvi Galil of Georgia Tech’s College of Computing. “What OMS has proven is that we can indeed greatly expand accessibility through affordability and technology. I’m very proud, not only of our first OMS graduates but of the dozens of Georgia Tech faculty, staff and students who have worked to make this program a success.”
“The dynamics of today’s workforce require new and more flexible options for advanced training and education,” said Sebastian Thrun, co-founder and CEO of Udacity. “When we began discussing the partnership with Georgia Tech several years ago, we knew it had incredible potential to reach new markets, and today's success is testimony to our earlier vision. We look forward to continuing our work with Georgia Tech.”
For more information about OMS CS, visit the program’s website at www.omscs.gatech.edu.