Enrollment Motivations in an Online Graduate CS Program: Trends & Gender- and Age-Based Differences

Duncan, A., Eicher, B. & Joyner, D. A. (2020). Enrollment Motivations in an Online Graduate CS Program: Trends & Gender- and Age-Based Differences. In Proceedings of the 51st ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE). Portland, Oregon, USA. ACM Press.

Abstract: Demand for CS education has risen, leading to numerous new programs, such as the rise of affordable online degrees. Research shows these programs meet an otherwise untapped audience of working professionals seeking graduate-level CS education. In this study, we examine the motivations for enrollment among students in one such online MSCS program. Based responses to an open-ended question, we develop a typology of motivations, including goals (e.g. career transition), opportunities (e.g. enrolling without taking time off work), and assurances that their goals will be met (e..g the program’s accreditation). We then issue a closed survey question to a new group of students to further explore these motivations. In this paper, we discuss both aggregate and demographic trends in motivations, including the different motivations of men and women and what they imply about the program’s impact on the gender divide in computing. We also examine older students’ tendency towards intrinsic motivation to pursue an MSCS degree.

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