Why the Georgia Tech-Udacity tie up is a big deal

When the news broke last week that Georgia Tech had reached an agreement with Udacity and AT&T to offer a Master of Science degree in computer science for just USD7000, this must have sent shivers down the spines of university Vice-Chancellors and Presidents all around the world.

If it did not, it should of done. Currently ranked 24th in the world for computer science, Georgia Institute of Technology is certainly no slouch. Throw a Fortune 500 company like AT&T into the mix, and the hip, new delivery platform provided by Udacity and you have a potent combination.

George Siemens (@gsiemens) simply tweeted: ‘OK, this is significant’ with a link to the Udacity blog and Sebastian Thrun’s statement about the deal. It is significant if Siemens says its significant given he was one of the architects of the original MOOC concept back in 2008, albeit when it was a very different beast to the one today. Siemens and his collaborators (the so-called cMOOC group) are critical of the private equity led xMOOC model because of its behaviourist — as opposed to connectivist — educational philosophy. I happen to agree with these criticisms but this is of little relevance right now, given this latest development, because the academic debate about the merits of one learning theory or another take second place to economics and what consumers of higher education perceive to be value for money. In terms of the chart above (courtesy of Phil Hill), it seems at least two of the problems faced by the xMOOCS have just been fixed; viz. credentialing and a revenue stream.

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