By Jeffrey R. Young
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign plans to start a low-cost online M.B.A. program in partnership with Coursera, the Silicon Valley-based MOOC provider, hoping to meet its land-grant mission of improving access and also to create a new stream of revenue at a time of shrinking state support for higher education.
Students enrolling in the new online master’s program, dubbed the iMBA, could complete the entire degree for about $20,000 — far less than the approximately $50,000 for the on-campus version or the $100,000 for the university’s executive M.B.A.
Anyone would be able to view the course materials at no charge via massive open online courses offered by Coursera, but those who wanted the degree would have to go through the university’s admissions process and pay about $1,000 per course. And students officially enrolled in the iMBA would get greater support from faculty members and access to online discussions with other enrolled students.
The program is the latest in a string of high-profile experiments in using free MOOCs as part of cut-rate degree programs. Just last month Arizona State University announced a MOOC-based equivalent of the first year of a bachelor’s degree for about $6,000. And Illinois modeled its program on a $7,000 computer-science master’s degree offered by the Georgia Institute of Technology in partnership with Udacity, another MOOC provider.
One unusual aspect of the Illinois plan is that students would be able to earn smaller certifications each time they finished three courses, an idea leaders call “stackable credentials.” In that way, if students stopped early, they might still have a lighter-weight credential to show potential employers.
“Unlike a degree, which is this binary, zero-one thing, students are getting benefit at every step along the way,” said Daphne Koller, a co-founder of Coursera.
Students taking one-off courses would not be eligible for federal financial aid, though, unless they were officially enrolled in the degree program, because of a quirk of federal student-aid rules. Essentially the rules do not allow students to receive aid for prior knowledge, so courses taken before officially enrolling would not be eligible.
The program is starting small — only 200 students will be admitted in its pilot phase.
[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/article/Illinois-to-Offer-a-Lower-Cost/229921/ ]