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Diversity is a big issue in the workplace, even more so today in the advent of social media and instantly sharing experiences online especially for those who are not afraid of taking bold actions regarding the topic. In fact, it has created its own momentum in efforts to bring a wider range and a more equal distribution of people, culture, sexual orientation, and race.

Admittedly, there is great demand for computer science and IT-related education, however, it is still debatable whether the students might not have been better off in the residential program.

In the past few years, there have been more discussion about race since the civil liberties marches of the 1950s and 1960s. The issue is not just equality in law, but equality in everything else, from the workplace, opportunities, education, law enforcement, and in all other aspects of life.

There have been efforts at more diversity and inclusion, especially in the workplace but sometimes the causality is in question. Understanding what causes more diversity in education or in employment can help in creating more opportunities for people of color and minorities.

Recently, a story came out stating that there is more diversity in Georgia Tech’s online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) program compared to its residential program. The online degree program had 212 enrollees, while the residential program only had 64 students.

Although the disparity is obvious, what is not is the cause. Are there more enrollees in the program because it is online, or is it due to the lower cost? The online degree costs $6,600, while the residential program costs $42,000 per year. This is important due to the more diverse enrollees in the online degree program. This also relates to having more enrollees for underrepresented minorities and women: are these sub-populations enticed to enroll because these are online courses, or because the cost is much cheaper?

There is also the separate issue about online courses, on whether there is a difference in results or learning between studying online and attending in the classroom. The only way to test this is in the ensuing employment, whether those who attended online courses have had as much success as those who attended the residential program.

Scaling Up Online Education

Images of different races of workers.

The experience in Georgia Tech is important for higher education in general. The school scaled up its online program to lower the cost of matriculation. It has resulted in an expanded enrollment, with more diversity. This can be a point to the use of online learning as a tool to increase diversity in the academe.

With today’s social climate, the more pertinent issue is how to prove that online learning can help fuel diversity. Admittedly, there is great demand for computer science and IT-related education, however, it is still debatable whether the students might not have been better off in the residential program.

Although the question of which is the better program in terms of employment output should be a separate issue, what is clear is that more students enroll in online courses, and this has allowed more enrollees from underrepresented minorities and women to avail of the program.

What is clear is that for whatever reason, whether it is due to being online, or due to the lower cost, there are more enrollees across the spectrum. This program may end up to be an agent of diversity in higher education.

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