The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign College of Business has received the seal of approval from its senate to launch the “iMBA”, in collaboration with Coursera, the $300 million-plus Silicon Valley start-up that produces Moocs and has amassed nearly 13 million users.
Online learning provider Coursera expected the digital degree to pass but its fate was not determined until a University of Illinois meeting on Monday, BusinessBecause has learnt.
Set to open for admissions later this year, the iMBA consists of a set of Specializations – Coursera online courses – in different areas of business.
The iMBA will cost a total of $20,000, the University of Illinois told BB – about one-third of the price tag of a traditional MBA from a similar institution.
The University of Illinois said: “We are moving firmly in the direction of disrupting the market.
“We’ve set in motion some new ways of conceptualizing the MBA that will affect not only the online market, but probably the offline market as well.”
The iMBA is unique because it will be “freely available for everyone”, according to Coursera president Daphne Koller, who will announce the course in a blog post to be published on Monday night and seen by BB.
Learners can take one course, one Specialization, or go on to take a set of Specializations in order to earn an MBA degree from the University of Illinois – ranked 45 out of the top-85 US MBA programs by Bloomberg.
Specializations will be offered on topics such as digital marketing, finance and accounting.
Daphne said: “As an open-admission graduate degree, the iMBA will open doors to people who wouldn’t have qualified for a graduate degree under traditional admissions criteria. Learners can try out courses with no commitment and apply for the MBA later if they feel confident in their success.”
She added that Specializations will be considered for student admittance “not just [on] test scores and past transcripts, allowing any prospective students the chance to enrol”.
It is the latest push by Coursera into the increasingly digitized business education industry, after the launch of a range of fee-paying online programs last year, with expansions developed with tech companies including Instagram and schools such as Wharton announced in February 2015.
Technology companies have been developing more vocational business courses in response to both student and recruiter demand, with the focus shifting to careers, and the idea that online courses can represent a genuine alternative to traditional degrees like MBAs.
Coursera’s rival edX announced plans to launch a series of short, paid-for executive courses last year that have been developed with leading universities including MIT Sloan, the business school.
LinkedIn, the social network, said last month that it will acquire online learning company Lynda.com for about $1.5 billion, which could see Lydna’s business and management courses hosted on the LinkedIn platform.