ATLANTA – Dary Merckens was in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, several weeks before moving to Las Vegas. He was also entering his second month in a master’s degree program at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
Merckens, who is 30, can take his education with him. That’s because he’s enrolled in Georgia Tech’s new online master’s degree in computer science.
The Georgia Tech program is in its first semester, with 375 students; the university has admitted about 500 more for the summer and fall semesters.
Advocates of online higher education hope this first-ever attempt by an elite institution to offer an entire computer science graduate program in a MOOC-style format will prove the value of so-called massively open online courses, which — after huge fanfare and dramatic growth — have been thwarted by high dropout rates, waning faculty support and slowing growth.
So far, say Georgia Tech faculty, Facebook and other social media are humming with the kinds of questions that come from students who are busy charting a degree program, as opposed to just taking a course. This suggests they’re engaged, and serious about finishing, said Charles Isbell, Jr., senior associate dean and professor at the college of computing.
“They ask questions like, ‘What series of courses do I need to take?’ for example,” he said.
Merckens, who worked at ESPN for five years before starting his own tech company, said he has taken MOOCs before, but this program feels different. He feels more focused on reaching a goal — the degree.
“There’s more dabbling when you’re not in a program,” he said. The young entrepreneur said his fellow students appear to have the same commitment, as they regularly exchange information online about the program and its course offerings.
[ Full article available at PBS NewsHour: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/new-degree-program-big-test-mooc-style-higher-ed/ ]