I have a friend with a bachelors degree from a good school. He currently teaches Secondary School CS but wants to continue his education. However, he is limited in his ability to move except within a radius of a hundred or so miles from NYC. Short term travel outside his home range is probably a possibility, but not a residential program.

He is bright and works hard and is focused, for now, on teaching Computer Science. His goals require an advanced degree, ultimately a research doctorate, not just self learning. He is looking to remain in teaching and to do research as well.

What opportunities does my friend have for part time and/or distance graduate education?

I've suggested to him that there are (must be) week-end and summer programs that, while intensive, only require part time presence outside his home range. What options do you know about that might help him and others like him?

If you suggest a program/institution, please say why you think it is appealing. Note that MOOC type programs are not useful here. The program can be very intense, but needs to provide a solid, recognized degree.

Serious and continuous contact and interaction with faculty and other students would be considered as an important plus.


Georgia Tech announced an Online Master of Science in Computer Science degree in 2013, which has received very positive press. You said you don't want MOOCs because they don't "provide a solid, recognized degree." Georgia Tech's degree is solid and reputable.

According to a 1996 New York Times article:

With one of the top 10 computer science departments in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report, Georgia Tech had a reputation to uphold. So it made the online program as much like the residential program as possible.

Charles Isbell, a senior associate dean at the College of Computing, helped lead the effort. Mr. Isbell has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence and machine learning from M.I.T., and he teaches those subjects at Georgia Tech.....

In theory, on-campus programs offer direct access to professors and peers. Mr. Isbell began noticing differences in that respect between his residential and online students. He was interacting much more with students who had never set foot on the Atlanta campus.

“I never see students at my office hours,” he said. A few linger after class to ask scheduling questions, but that’s about it.

Many of the thousands of online students, by contrast, are constantly interacting on a website set up for that purpose, where Isbell can log on and help. “I can jump in and say: ‘No, you should be thinking about this,’ ” he said. “I spend more time helping them with assignments online than I ever do on campus. The experience for the students and for me is much richer online.”

This seems to provide the desired interaction with professors, albeit online.

While it is not a research master's, it should put someone in a good position to apply to PhD programs.


Commenters have correctly pointed out that this is not a research Master's, and a Master's degree is not needed to apply to PhD programs. Thus, it is not a perfect fit. It is, however, the only highly reputable distance CS grad program of which I am aware.

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    $\begingroup$ Would a practical masters be looked at in a positive light, or basically as a waste of time? $\endgroup$ – Ben I. Aug 21 '17 at 2:31
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    $\begingroup$ Well, no rigorous program in something you're interested in studying is a waste of time. Whether it will help for PhD admission probably depends on how prestigious his undergraduate degree is. (Most people apply to PhD programs with only an undergraduate degree.) Someone could come out of this program with a strong recommendation from a Georgia Tech professor. $\endgroup$ – Ellen Spertus Aug 21 '17 at 2:41
  • $\begingroup$ I'm thinking that this is much more applicable to someone who wants to work in industry rather than develop an academic career. Not that it would be a waste of time, but it would cost time that might be better spent. $\endgroup$ – Buffy Aug 21 '17 at 13:29

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