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Online Graduate Degrees in 5 Years?!

Last week, the BBC reported that there is a possibility of some of the leading universities offering fully accredited, online, undergraduate courses within the next 5 years. The idea has stemmed from an educational technology conference in London where the chief executive of Coursera, Daphne Koller, made the prediction and is keen to get the idea moving forward.

Coursera was founded in California 4 years ago and has now become one of the World’s biggest providers of “massive, open, online courses”, also known as “Moocs”. They are now looking into extending this success over to the wider population around the World and offering degrees to a wider audience with the help of top universities. This idea is extremely appealing, especially thanks to the lower tuition fees and being able to work around a personal life.

“The next stage for online learning would be leading universities offering mainstream undergraduate courses online, with invigilated exams and full degrees” 

The technology to create this process is already available, however universities are “hesitant to use it due to their reputation”. The main concern that they have is a worry that the students will be taught without any personal interaction. A concern that, according to professor Koller, can easily be resolved with the use of webcams.

“When you have a lecture hall with 300 people, you’re not getting personal interaction.”

 Taking the argument further, Koller also stated that the comparison of the online learning to the “students walking on lawns next to ivy-clad building” is unrealistic. Although there is a “personal touch” by attending a university campus, there are larger groups of students in lecture theatres and seminar rooms decreasing the attention solely being on one undergraduate at a time. Having the online degree course will open up opportunities for individuals to be taught on a one-to-one basis more frequently. This will be perfect for students who work more successfully on their own, on the contrary to myself who is a chatterbox, who thrives off company!

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The online undergraduate degrees will offer options for those who want to improve their qualifications, but haven’t got the time, nor money for a campus-based degree. Life can take up a lot of time, especially for families, so these courses can be completed on people’s personal terms, in their own time whilst working around their personal schedules.

The opportunities are not only given to families and people who have busy schedules though. The online courses could also be carried out in places such as India, where there is a huge shortage of campus building space. The degrees can also be completed by refugees, for example Syria, who have been displaced due to conflict. Teaching those affected by civil war will help them towards getting jobs and furthering their lives.

Coursera already has a partnership with the US State Department where refugees are taught English courses to help with their future careers, already showing the great success of the online degree process.

Research has shown that over the last 4 years, there has been a rapid increase in numbers of people who will be more than happy to use an online degree system to improve their qualifications. A big change that universities unfortunately seem to be reluctant to go along with. But who knows?! Maybe within 5 years, they’ll be grabbing hold of such a huge market! 

Posted by: Michael Hurd

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