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Online Degree Hits Learning Curve

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Two professors at the University of Texas at Austin deliver their lecture in front of a camera crew.

An inexpensive online computer science master's degree program launched two years ago by the Georgia Institute of Technology has had mixed results.

Credit: Jared Moossy/The Wall Street Journal

The Georgia Institute of Technology's (Georgia Tech) launch of an inexpensive online computer science master's degree program two years ago has had mixed results, with 2,789 students enrolled this semester and more than 1,300 applying for each new term.

However, among the pitfalls the program is experiencing is slower progress by students than anticipated, according to Georgia Tech College of Computing associate dean Charles Isbell Jr. Students enroll in 1.4 courses each term on average, while the less-than-$7,000 price for the degree may be encouraging students who may have only dabbled in a few classes without wanting to earn credit to enroll, and thus bring retention rates down. Nearly 80 percent of the program's students are from the U.S., and many of them already are employed. Meanwhile, the majority of students attracted to the campus-based program are foreign-born.

Nevertheless, Isbell is optimistic about the program's future. "It wouldn't surprise me if three years from now we're talking about 10,000 students instead of 3,000 students," he says. "This is sustainable and this is scalable."

From The Wall Street Journal
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