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Sebastian Thrun: World’s First Massive Online Degree Program Starts Today

Today, marks the first day in class for Georgia Tech’s new online Master’s degree in Computer Science program, which Georgia Tech, Udacity, and AT&T have jointly developed. This is a very big day for us. Udacity’s mission is to democratize higher education. With this program, we are making a top-notch computer science education available to a much broader group of students. And we are doing this at a price point of less than 20% of an on-campus education. I believe this is a watershed moment for students around the world.

We are very pleased with the application numbers for this new program. A total of 2,360 students applied within the 3-week application period. This is about 75% more than normally apply for the on-campus degree over the duration of an entire year. Of this pool, 375 have been accepted and start today and several others have deferred admission.  

Most striking were the demographic differences. Whereas the average age of the on-campus student is 24, it is 35 for this new program. This matches our experience at Udacity, in that many of our students are young working adults who seek to advance their careers in tech. Also, 88% of the applicants are US-based as compared to 10% for the on-campus degree. And the yield (students who accepted their admission) was more than 95%. This is unheard of for any top-notch computer science master’s program.  

The five courses launched in this first round are Advanced Operating Systems, Computer Networks, Machine Learning, Software Development Process, and AI for Robotics, created with Georgia Tech professors. They build on our goal of partnering with academia and industry to create courses to fill the job skills gap. While today, these courses are only available to students admitted into the program, we will open up the same courses for everyone in the world on the Udacity platform this Spring.

Udacity offers a range of additional courses built with leading tech companies, such as Cloudera, Salesforce and Google. All of these classes are bleeding edge, often way beyond the materials taught by universities. By making them available for everyone in the world, we are steadily changing the law of limited access to a world-class technical education. We are excited to start this visionary new program today, which underscores our commitment and dedication to set up our students for successful careers in tech.