Our department has announced a new, entirely online, bachelor’s degree in computer science which can be completed in one year. Given that we are a public university, this translates to a $17,500 degree*.
I will admit, when I first heard the idea I did not have very good thoughts about it. My negative thoughts included
- one year? yeah right!
- what about programming languages, theory of computation, AI, etc.?
- are we designing ourselves out of jobs? (courses will be administered by non-tenure-track instructors)
- how will standards be maintained?
But then, I got to hear the details. First, it is a post-baccalaureate degree. So, students will already have a bachelor’s degree, and will have need to meet OSU’s post-baccalaureate admissions standards. They will likely be more mature and perhaps working as they study. I’m also glad to see that they are cautioning that completing the degree in one year would be a very intensive, full-time schedule and include two and three-year plans of study. The degree is intended as a second degree, so all optional classes in CS are not mandatory. Of course, this must ruffle some feathers as many courses that are required for graduation in our regular 4-year, first-degree program are not required by this post-bacc degree. (I’m glad algorithms made the cut.) As a post-bacc degree, we will still have the usual cohort of students seeking a CS degree straight out of high-school. Finally, it seems there is a consensus to require 2 proctored exams per course and, at least for the first few years, the assignments and exams will be the same as in the on-site classes.
I’ve been thinking more generally about online classes and online degrees and their social implications. One commenter, pointed out some very valid points of the benefits of online education, that I have to agree with. This degree provides an opportunity for the un- or under-employed to retrain for less than the cost of a new car. The flexible schedule and location of the online classes will allow untraditional students to study when they can, at the pace that they can. I’m excited to see who will complete this program and from where they study. I’d like to see a concerted effort to recruit women to complete this degree to perhaps counter the gender imbalance in our on-site program.
So, this coming fall, I will be converting my undergraduate algorithms class into an online class in time for a Winter 2013 release. I’m excited to do this** and I’m sure I will have plenty to say about it in the fall.
* ~$15,000 for tuition (in- or out-of-state) plus additional expenses, such as textbooks (~$50 per course), a compatible laptop or computer (~$600), graduation fee ($300) and 2 proctored exams per course (~$30 each).
** And very glad that my department treats this course development as one class-worth of teaching assignment.