As the costs of graduate education skyrocket and students demand cheaper, more-convenient ways of learning, colleges and universities are increasingly experimenting with so-called “stackable degrees.” Think Lego blocks of college education, letting students start with a MOOC, then add a few more MOOCs to get an online certificate, then add yet more courses to get a traditional master’s degree.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced such a degree on Wednesday. Starting this fall, students can enroll in an online master’s degree in data science, offered in conjunction with Coursera, the for-profit platform that produces massive open online courses.
The cost of the full master’s program is $19,200, dramatically less than the price of an on-campus master’s program.
“This is a future” of graduate education, says John C. Hart, a professor of computer science and executive associate dean of graduate studies at Illinois. “But we are not abandoning our on-campus courses.”
Since the university runs a top program in computer science, it gets far more applicants than it can accept. Over the last several years, Mr. Hart said officials have been looking at how to scale the program to accommodate students from around the world.
The university established the program building on MOOC sequences it had already created on the Coursera platform that lead to certificates in two computer-science specializations: data mining and cloud computing. Students who have already received those certificates will have a head start toward finishing the new degree, since those certificates make up two of the four distinct areas of study. The others are data visualization and machine learning. If admitted into the program, students could trade in those certificates for course credit.
[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/article/More-Colleges-Turn-to/235886 ]