Online learning platform Coursera is set to offer its first degrees from UK universities, including its first ever bachelor’s programme.
The Californian company announced on 6 March that it would host a new public health master’s from Imperial College London, as well as a computer science bachelor’s from the University of London.
It also announced four new master’s degrees from US institutions, including computer science programmes from Arizona State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and public health and applied data science degrees from the University of Michigan.
The new programmes, which bring the number of degrees available via Coursera up to 10, are all expected to launch later this year or in 2019.
They reflect the evolution of online learning platforms from their roots offering free massive open online courses, to offering paid-for accredited programmes and full degrees.
While the UK degrees are a first for Coursera, its UK-based rival FutureLearn, which is owned by The Open University, launched a range of fully online postgraduate degrees from Coventry University last year. FutureLearn also offers degrees from Deakin and Murdoch universities in Australia.
Robert Zimmer, head of the computing department at Goldsmiths, University of London, which will deliver the content for the University of London degree, said that the new bachelor’s programme represented “the next stage of what it means to do distance education”. Moocs’ roots were in freely available short “top-up” courses, he said.
Like Goldsmiths’ existing face-to-face computer science students, those enrolling on the new online programme will be able to work on their own creative projects that are related to the real world, Professor Zimmer said.
Craig O’Callaghan, deputy chief executive of the University of London's distance learning programmes, said that he expected the first intake to consist of 125-150 students, growing to 3,000 within five years.
He added that the full degree will cost £9,600 for “independent learners” that have “no additional support from an outside agency apart from the module tutors”, and increase to £17,000 for those from developed countries. There is also an option for students to take supplementary tuition at one of the University of London’s teaching centres around the world.
Regarding the Imperial course, Gideon Shimshon, director of the institution’s Digital Learning Hub, said that the university’s traditional public health master’s only had space for a limited number of students, but “millions of additional health professionals are required by 2030 to meet the demands of a growing global population”.
“We were interested in providing our courses to a larger audience who we know would be able to be successful in this highly selective programme,” he said, adding that students will be able to start taking modules from next year.
Coursera also announced that the University of Leeds would start offering short online courses on the platform which could lead to the award of credits for an online MSc in engineering management at the institution.
Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera, said 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, affordable, scalable, and flexible,” he said.