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A closeup view of the Tech Tower sign.

Georgia Institute of Technology College of Computing made big waves in the U.S. higher education community when it announced on May 14 that it will offer a two-year master's degree online at much less cost than a traditional degree.

The Online Master of Science degree in computer science can be earned entirely through massive open online courses (MOOCs). The MOOC classes will be available to the general public for no credit via the Web. Those wishing to receive a degree from Georgia Tech will pay a tuition cost expected to be below $7,000, The New York Times said. Degree-seeking students will need have to have a bachelor's degree in computer science to gain admission to the course, the story said.

AT&T and online education provider Udacity Inc. are partners in the new venture. A pilot program set for the 2013-14 academic year will be limited to a few hundred students recruited from businesses affiliated with AT&T and Georgia Tech.

Charles Isbell Sr., associate dean for Georgia Tech's College of Computing, told the Wall Street Journal that the quality of online technology has recently improved to the point that the school can scale its lectures and course work for a large online audience and still maintain quality.

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Upfront costs to create the online lectures will run between $200,000 and $300,000, but ongoing costs will be minimal, the story said. That's because the school would need only "one full-time teacher for every 100 online students as opposed to one full-time teacher for every 10 or 20 students who study on campus."

The first-of-its-kind master's degree program shows that the blurring between traditional universities' massive open online courses has reached a new level, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.