Master’s at Scale: Five Years in a Scalable Online Graduate Degree

Joyner, D. A. & Isbell, C. (2019). Master’s at Scale: Five Years in a Scalable Online Graduate Degree. In Proceedings of the Sixth Annual ACM Conference on Learning at Scale. Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Abstract: In 2014, Georgia Tech launched the first for-credit MOOC-based graduate degree program. In the five years since, the program has proven generally successful, enrolling over 14,000 unique students, and several other similar programs have followed in its footsteps. Existing research on the program has focused largely on details of individual classes; program-level research, however, has been scarce. In this paper, we delve into the program-level details of an at-scale Master’s degree, from the story of its creation through the data generated by the program, including the numbers of applications, admissions, matriculations, and graduations; enrollment details including demographic information and retention patterns; trends in student grades and experience as compared to the on-campus student body; and alumni perceptions. Among our findings, we note that the program has stabilized at a retention rate of around 70%; that the program’s growth has not slowed; that the program has not cannibalized its on-campus counterpart; and that the program has seen an upward trend in the number of women enrolled as well as a persistently higher number of underrepresented minorities than the on-campus program. Throughout this analysis, we abstract out distinct lessons that should inform the development and growth of similar programs.

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