How MOOC-Based Master’s Degrees May Transform Higher Ed


A new master’s degree offering from MOOC platform EdX and seven partner universities allows online learners to earn a post-baccalaureate diploma at a fraction of the cost of a traditional program.

For EdX, a pioneer of massive open online courses, this is an ambitious expansion, taking the current MicroMasters certificate program and scaling it up. Aside from the 50 MicroMasters listed online, EdX now is making nine fully fledged master’s degrees available through partner universities. Costs range from a low of $9,900 for a master’s in analytics from the Georgia Institute of Technology to $22,379 for a post-baccalaureate marketing degree from the University of Queensland. By comparison, EdX officials note the same GIT degree costs $36,000 for residents and $49,000 for out of state students.

“Digital technology is revolutionizing every aspect of our society and changing the nature of work. Existing industries are evolving while new fields are emerging, and there is a clear demand for the advanced knowledge needed to succeed in this new workplace. However, the investment of time and money required to gain this knowledge through a traditional on-campus Master’s degree is a challenge for many,” said edX CEO and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Anant Agarwal in a news release from the nonprofit company announcing the move. “EdX is launching Master’s degrees that address both of these challenges. These stackable programs deliver the critical knowledge needed and demonstrate how we are pioneering graduate-level education at scale.”

Of the seven partner universities announced last week, master’s programs will be led by Arizona State University in supply chain management, Curtin University in marketing, Georgia Institute of Technology will offer both analytics and cybersecurity, Indiana University will offer both accounting and information technology management, University of California, San Diego will offer data Science, University of Queensland will offer leadership in service innovation, and computer science is available through the University of Texas at Austin. Programs at UC San Diego and Texas are pending final approval.

Like EdX, Coursera, Udacity, and FutureLearn all have launched degree programs. With MOOC platforms moving into the market in recent years, some higher ed experts think colleges will have to rethink prices.

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