OMSCS

I’ve finally completed my Master’s in computer science.

If you’ve never heard of the OMSCS, it’s Georgia Insitute of Technology’s Online Master’s program done in collaboration with AT&T. It’s exactly the same degree as the on-campus Master’s. You can find more information about the program here

There’s been a trend of students sharing their perspectives about what it was like doing a master’s online. Here are some of the courses I took and the direction I went in for my degree.

Courses

I completed the computing systems specialization, which required a total of 10 courses for the degree.

I had to implement MapReduce in C++ basically from scratch, memory buffer and socket management in C, learn about cognitive neuroscience to build usable react apps for my research, PLC Programming, virtual machine monitoring, virus detection, java decompilers -the list goes on. It was a difficult and rigorous experience and required a lot of special things in the program to be going well in order for students to succeed.

There’s a few specific principles I think are crucial for this kind of education to work generally. I’ll first define them broadly.

Materials

The materials in this program vary in quality from course to course. Certain courses have much higher quality materials than others.

There is a student tool created called OMSCentral that gathered informal reviews from students anonymously that has been crucial for the program as well.

It was just so clear how to find out which courses were worth doing and which were not.

I found more value on average in courses that had more project work than less.

Community

Community is what separates a course from a solitary positive experience to a community with shared purpose in pursuit of a common goal. It can be incredibly rewarding and positive for students to have the ability to share their experiences in the program with peers as they work through the projects.

Other online institutions should take note that is is this very thing that makes this program work at all. In the case of OMSCS, the facilitator of community is without a doubt our slack community. It’s enabled a completely different and so much more engaging way to experience online education than anything I’ve experienced with Coursera, Codecademy, or even Udacity.

It’s entirely student controlled, and though there are TA’s and Instructors on it, the students drive the conversation in all kinds of different directions. The amazing thingis that so many students are from so many different areas of industry and the world. My group in IHI consisted of myself from New Jersey, and three colleagues from Tunisia, Kanya, and Australia (a timezone nightmare for scheduling team meetings).

Time investment

The biggest thing about this program, and perhaps these kinds of programs in general is that they take a LOT of time.

Each course has it’s own structure and projects that are all different from each other and require a lot of time to follow along with changes on Piazza and keep up with emails to make sure you understand and have accurately mapped out what is due when.

I fortunately only had to pull one all-nighter throughout the program as I had two different assignments for two different classes due at the same time.

Final Thoughts

This is a challenging and rewarding program, there are some difficult classes that really do help you grow in your knowledge. The ones I recommend the most are Intro to Information Security, Educational Technology, Intro to Operating Systems, Advanced Operating Systems, and Graduate Algorithms. Looking back, I’m thankful for the opportunity to have paid my way through school and come out on the other side ready for something new. I also owe a special thanks to my family and friends who have supported me along the way.

After ranting about a project in one of our group chats, my friends changed my display nickname to “gradstudent.exe has crashed” and I didn’t realize for two months.

At the end of the day; being a good engineer requires integrity and decication, two things Georgia Tech has in spades.

This program has made me a hell of an engineer.

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I promise it's worth it.

A. D. A.