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MOOC 2.0: Free Degree Courses

Leading online learning providers now offer full university degree programs. Some of the online courses can be accessed free of charge.

MOOC 2.0: Free Degree Courses
Pictures: d97jro/pixabay, screenshots edx/coursera

Several providers of MOOCs (massive open online courses) have recently published free courses that are part of full university degree programs

Online students can start by taking an introductory online course. Some course participants may then decide to pursue the full degree online.

EdX, FutureLearn, and Coursera have recently added several courses that are part of academic degrees. 

Learners who just want to learn without a course certificate can access these course materials for free. 

Why is this an important development for students?

Degree Content Will Improve Online Course Quality

Traditional MOOCs are produced for online learning audiences only, and therefore do not always cover the same content as regular academic courses. MOOC quality can thus vary greatly.

However, these new programs allow online learners access to the same academic content as regular university students.

We expect that the overall quality of MOOCs will benefit. Universities will make sure that only high-quality content will count towards their degrees.

MOOC 2.0: Free Degree Courses

EdX: The Inventors of MicroMasters 

Online course platform edX has pioneered the availability of online degree courses with their MicroMasters program.

  • For example, students can start by enrolling in the Analytics MicroMasters course series, which includes three online courses over several months. The individual courses can be accessed for free in the audit track.
  • If students then decide to continue their learning with Georgia Tech's Master's Degree in Analytics, their MicroMasters certificate may count towards academic credit for this degree. To follow this path, students need to be enrolled in the paid version of the MicroMasters program, which includes a verified certificate.

(degree programs) (edX courses)

FutureLearn: British and Australian Universities

UK-based FutureLearn has a similar program in place. They have teamed up with several British and Australian universities.

Learners can take an introductory online course (in the free audit track, or in a paid certificate track). If they decide to continue in their chosen field of study, they can enroll in several online degree programs.

(degree programs) (FutureLearn courses)

Coursera: Computer Science and Business Degrees 

Coursera, as the largest MOOC provider, has teamed up with several universities from the U.S. and other countries to offer degrees in computer science and business. Some of the degree components are offered through MasterTracks.

(degree programs) (Coursera courses)

MOOCs 2.0: Free Courses That Are Part of Degree Programs

The online degree courses can be taken as part of a (paid) full academic program. This is equivalent to a regular course of studies at a university.

However, because the audit track for individual courses is usually open for anyone, many more learners now have free access to the same high-quality academic online courses.

Thus, MOOCs are no longer a slimmed-down version of university courses. This development will bring MOOCs one step closer to being a relevant component of a free online university education for everyone, even if official degrees will still carry a price tag.

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