Yup, Stanford University is poised to become the nation's first major research university to offer a master's degree online, starting this fall.

The new online program will offer 30 courses leading to a master's degree in electrical engineering.

"In the industrial age, we went to school. In the communication age, the school comes to us," said Andy DiPaolo, director of Stanford's Center for Professional Development.

The approximately 50 students who will be accepted into the program will likely be working professionals who will take three to four years to complete their degree work.

Stanford officials say the workload online will be just as rigorous as the more traditional student's, and that they are even taking care to provide intellectual interaction for cyber-students by creating interactive seminars and chat line discussions.

Online education itself isn't new.

About a third of higher education institutions including Stanford already offer courses online, and several consortiums of colleges and universities offer degrees. Those include a group of Colorado community colleges and another of 17 Western states.

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