- The University of Pennsylvania will offer online degrees in its crowded master of computer and information technology (MCIT) graduate program starting in spring 2019 — the first fully online degree offered by the university, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian, the university's student newspaper.
- The online program will cost students $2,500 per course, while face-to-face MCIT courses cost about $6,500. The online courses will present information in a series of seven-to-10-minute videos, while 80-minute lectures are typical in similar traditional in-person courses.
- The number of computer science majors at Penn has tripled in the last decade. A Penn official said the online program was being offered because the university had neither the facilities for the number of qualified students requesting the degree program nor enough teaching assistants and counselors. Also, the university wants to provide access to the degree programs for students with jobs and other life or financial challenges.
While many colleges report enrollment declines, the number of students in information technology majors has doubled nationwide since 2011 and tripled since 2006, according to the Computing Research Association. In response to demand, institutions are growing their online programs, so the meshing of tech training and distance education is the logical result, experts say. Graduate degree programs are especially good fits for online education because many enrollees are working adults.
Even law schools have been expanding their online offerings, but until recently they had been limited to 15 online credits by the American Bar Association. The ABA recently gave its blessing to programs allowing students to take up to one third of their law courses online.
Even small colleges, such as Muhlenberg College, in Pennsylvania, are carefully looking at online options, and an increasing number of private institutions are offering online courses just to stay open.
More recently, institutions have been initiating much-lower-cost online degree programs to try to boost participation among students who cannot come to campus as well as their overall enrollments. Besides Penn, Berklee College of Music, in Boston, recently began offering online courses at one-third the cost of face-to-face classes in a growing program.
Georgia Institute of Technology is initiating an online master's degree in cybersecurity following successful launches of online graduate-level programs in computer science and analytics. The Georgia Tech online cybersecurity degree will cost about $10,000 while the same degree achieved on campus costs about $20,000 for in-state students and $40,000 for out-of-state enrollees.
Meanwhile, competition for undergraduate students who want online offerings is heating up, too. Facing declining enrollments, large out-of-state universities are reportedly marketing aggressively to enroll a portion of California's large chunk of college-age students because the state is having problems meeting demand.