FutureLearn will become the first massive open online course provider to offer a suite of postgraduate degrees entirely on its platform through a new partnership with Australia’s Deakin University.
Six postgraduate degrees will be on offer from early 2017, including four master’s degrees in cyber security, development and humanitarian action, information technology and financial planning; a graduate certificate in diabetes education; and a graduate diploma in property.
The initiative will allow students to take a free two-week taster course before deciding to enrol in a programme. Each programme will be made up of five short FutureLearn courses, and students will need to take 12 or 16 programmes to complete a master’s degree.
Beverley Oliver, deputy vice-chancellor at Deakin University, told Times Higher Education that the short courses allow students to complete their degree in “small chunks”, while carrying out additional self-directed study and completing assessments. They will also have the opportunity to join small online study groups.
She added that students registering for the degrees will be subject to the same entry requirements as students applying for face-to-face degrees on the university’s campus.
Tuition fees for the master’s degree will range from A$30,000 to $40,000 (£18,000 to £24,000), while the graduate certificate and the diploma will each cost A$13,140.
Unlike on face-to-face courses, international and domestic students will pay the same fees and most students will be “mature, self-directed learners” looking to advance or switch their career, Professor Oliver added.
The new degrees follow the launch earlier this year of FutureLearn’s first programmes allowing students to earn credits towards a university degree, in partnership with the University of Leeds and the Open University, which owns FutureLearn.
In March, US Mooc provider Coursera launched a master’s degree in data science with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
However, Matt Walton, chief product officer at FutureLearn, said the new initiative with Deakin is distinctive in that it offers a range of degrees and is delivered entirely through FutureLearn’s platform. He said the Coursera programme is partially delivered through Illinois’ own online platform.
The six postgraduate degrees are among the courses already on offer through Deakin University’s in-house learning management system, but Professor Oliver said FutureLearn’s global platform will enable students who are studying different subjects and based in different parts of the world to interact “more freely”.
“The learning management system is like a walled garden – you can only interact with students that are enrolled in the same subjects as you or occasionally the same degree, not with any student,” she said.
Jane den Hollander, vice-chancellor of Deakin University, added: “Now more than ever it is incumbent on universities to provide broadening, global experiences for their students. In a troubled world where borders seem to be closing, we need more learners engaging with peers around the world.
“These degrees are only the start. We are already exploring options for credit sharing with other FutureLearn partners around the world to further enrich the experience for our learners.”