MOOC-Based Degrees to Launch

Open University’s FutureLearn platform is partnering with Deakin University to deliver postgraduate degrees.

FutureLearn, a massive open online course platform owned by The Open University in the U.K., will partner with Australia’s Deakin University in Burwood, Victoria, to deliver postgraduate degrees. Launched in early 2017, the degrees include those in cyber-security, information technology, financial planning, humanitarian and development action, property, and diabetes education.

The degrees will be delivered in two stages. In the first stage, students will enroll in several free, short courses—which the partners refer to as “taster” courses. For example, current taster courses include “Disaster Management: Introduction to Humanitarian Aid” and “Cybersecurity for Small and Medium Enterprises: Identifying Threats and Preventing Attacks.”

Once students complete these courses, they can opt to continue as degree students, paying £1,500 or AUD$2,600 (approximately US$1,850) per subject. Each subject will comprise five short FutureLearn MOOC modules.

To facilitate group discussion and peer review work, FutureLearn also will coordinate the degree programs so that groups of students will start the course at the same time and be encouraged to continue the program at the same pace. Program coordinators expect that most students will work on two subjects at a time, while also completing self-directed study and assessments. Assessments include tutor-marked work, group work, and peer review; in addition, students will take exams at approved test centers around the world.

This model offers students the opportunity to take courses in a “pay-as-they¬go” format, says FutureLearn CEO Simon Nelson. “Our aim is to allow our learners to study a full degree flexibly, whenever they like, wherever they are, fitting the courses around the rest of their lives.”

This model also explores how MOOCs can be used to scale education to a large global audience of students, says Jane den Hollander, vice-chancellor at Deakin. The next step, she adds, is to look into ways these programs can set up reciprocal cred¬it-sharing arrangements with other institutions. “We are already exploring options for credit sharing with other FutureLearn partners around the world.”