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Coursera joins online degree expansionists with six new degrees

Online learning provider Coursera, which works with university partners around the world, is launching six new fully online degree courses. The news comes just weeks after FutureLearn, another provider of global online degrees, also announced an expansion of its full degree offerings.

The six new options will expand Coursera's online degree offering to 10 courses.The six new options will expand Coursera's online degree offering to 10 courses. Photo: Flickr/ Rainer Stropek

Some online degree learners will also have the option to see tutors and seek face-to-face help

In a shift to Coursera’s offerings, which nearly all are provided in conjunction with HEIs around the world, the US firm will now provide online degrees from institutions as varied and well-known as the University of London, University of Michigan, and Arizona State.

“We are pioneering a new model of credentialing… [providing] certificates along the way towards earning a degree”

In total, six new degrees have been launched. These include bachelor’s and master’s qualifications.

Jeff Maggioncalda, Coursera CEO, said in a statement that the move was made because of the “gateway” effect of MOOCs, which Coursera also supplies. 

“We are realising that the vast reach of MOOCs makes them a powerful gateway to degrees. We are working with our university partners to build degrees on top of our open online learning platform that are high quality, modular, affordable, and scalable,” he said. 

With a total of ten fully online degrees now available through the platform, Coursera’s chief academic strategist Deanna Raineri told The PIE News that the effort to create online degrees continues to be made by Coursera for an ideological reasons, with the company hoping to ease access to blossoming areas of study and work.

“With our partners, we’re working to democratize access to degrees from top universities in fields where jobs are booming like computer science, data science, business and healthcare,” she said.

Digital sciences are at the forefront of this effort, Raineri explained, with four of the six courses announced either focusing on computer science or data science.

“Computer science degrees can lead to the highest-paying, fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. economy. There are currently over 500,000 open computing jobs, in every sector, from manufacturing to banking, from agriculture to healthcare, but only 50,000 computer science graduates a year according to the Computer Science Education Coalition,” Raineri relayed.

Although Coursera make it clear that their main aim is entirely online, the company confirms that where partners have global bases where distance learners are already given the opportunity to see tutors and seek face-to-face help, online degree learners will also have this option open to them.

44% of Coursera’s customer base is located is emerging markets, but Raineri told The PIE News that the company does not make geographic targets, and “expect to see traffic and sign-ups from a whole range of markets”.

“Computer science degrees can lead to the highest-paying, fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. economy”

But there is a twist to the new format of online degrees, according to Coursera and Raineri.

“Traditionally, degrees are an all or nothing endeavour. Completing 90% of the degree is worthless,” Raineri explained. “We are pioneering a new model of credentialing with our partners that enables learners to gain valuable certificates along the way towards earning a degree,” she continued.

This is an effort to reach students without a “traditional education background”, and a realisation that online degrees are as much work as a full-time degree in person at a university. This will also take the shape of a flexible recruitment process, which will include “past work” being included in the calculation of program requirements.

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