7 minute read  written by  . Published on April 18, 2017

Over the past few years, MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) providers have focused on creating their own credentials. Some that you might have heard of include Udacity’s Nanodegrees or Coursera’s Specializations.

Another trend that has been slowly gaining momentum is the one in which MOOCs sometimes count toward official academic credit. Some credentials, like edX’s MicroMasters (which are offered by fourteen universities), can be used to earn a semester’s worth of academic credits towards an on-campus master’s degree. A detailed list of MOOCs that can be taken for credit can be found on Class Central here.

Breakdown of what different MOOC providers do or don’t provide in April 2017
Breakdown of what different MOOC providers do or don’t provide in April 2017

But the trend I want to talk about here is master’s degrees that you can take online, and which are offered by MOOC providers. The first MOOC-based degree was announced back in 2013. It took two years for the next one to be announced in 2015. But in the last year or so, seven more completely online master’s degrees have been announced by MOOC providers. If fact, Coursera plans to offer 20 such degrees by the end of 2019.

The advantage of MOOC-based master’s degrees is that many courses which are part of the degree are free to take. So you can preview a part of the content before committing to anything. Also, all of them are based on the pay as you go model; you only pay for the courses that you are currently taking. Some have the option to earn partial academic credits.

One thing to be aware is that each degree has its own application process (and deadlines), as well as minimum requirements like a bachelor’s degree or minimum work experience. Many require you to submit different standardized test scores, like GRE, GMAT, or TOEFL.

Without further delay, here are nine completely online master’s degrees that have been announced so far.

1.  Georgia Tech and Udacity: Online Master of Science in Computer Science

Announced Back in 2013, Udacity and Georgia Tech’s completely online Masters in Computer Science was the first degree announced by a MOOC provider. It was dubbed “OMSCS.” The entire degree was going to cost less than $7,000.

The tuition fee has since then increased from $402 per three-credit hour to $510.

Zvi Galil, Dean of Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, speaking to OMSCS students at an event (which I got to attend) organized by Udacity at SXSWedu.
Zvi Galil, Dean of Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, speaking to OMSCS students at an event (which I got to attend) organized by Udacity at SXSWedu.

Things were really slow at the beginning. It took two years before the first batch of eighteen students graduated in December 2015. A year later, in December 2016, around 200 students had graduated.

But the OMSCS is gaining momentum. There are now over 4,500 students enrolled in the spring 2017 semester.

You can find more details here: https://www.omscs.gatech.edu/

2. Georgia Tech and edX: Online Master of Science in Analytics

Building on the success of its OMSCS program, Georgia Tech has announced a second, similar program: Online Masters of Science In Analytics (OMS Analytics). According to Georgia Tech, the OMS Analytics will cost less than $10,000 and will be offered in August this year.

Three of Georgia Tech’s OMS Analytics foundational courses will form the Analytics: Essential Tools and Methods MicroMasters credential program on edx.org. It consists of three free online courses: Introduction to Analytics Modeling, Computing for Data Analysis, and Data Analytics in Business. The first of these courses starts on May 14 2017.

The tuition fee will be $825 per three-credit hour course, and an additional $301 per academic term of enrollment. The first cohort will start in August 2017 and will be limited to 250 students. Applications opened on January 12, 2017.

You can find more details here: https://pe.gatech.edu/online-masters-degrees/online-master-science-analytics

3. University of Illinois and Coursera: Master of Business Administration (iMBA)

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign became Coursera’s first partner to announce a fully-fledged business degree with them. Announced back in 2015, the iMBA (as it’s called) costs around $22,000 and is designed to “help you achieve deep mastery of business strategy and leadership.”

Coursera’s degrees are built on top of Specializations, which are sequences of courses that amount to micro-credentials. These Specializations are open to anyone in the world, and as far I can tell the individual courses of these Specializations are free to audit.

According to Coursera, the iMBA program is heavily interactive, with live global classrooms, team projects, and personal contact with top professors.

You can find more details here: https://www.coursera.org/university-programs/imba

4. University of Illinois and Coursera: Master of Computer Science in Data Science (MCS-DS)

According to U.S. News & World Report, the University of Illinois is in the top five schools for Computer Science. So it’s a good thing that they launched a MS CS in Data Science.

MCS-DS costs less than $20k. Here is what the information page says about the program:

The MCS-DS builds expertise in four core areas of computer science: data visualization, machine learning, data mining and cloud computing, in addition to building valuable skill sets in statistics and information science with courses taught in collaboration with the University’s Statistics Department and iSchool (ranked #1 among Library and Information Studies Schools.)

Similar to iMBA, the MCS-DS consists of Specializations that are available for anyone to signup for everyone. Two of these Specializations, those on Data Visualization and Cloud Computing, are already available.

You can find more details here: https://www.coursera.org/university-programs/masters-in-computer-data-science

5. University of Illinois and Coursera: Master of Science in Accounting (iMSA)

According to U.S. News & World Report, the University of Illinois’s on-campus accounting program (both undergrad and master’s degrees) is a top three program. The cost of the online program is an estimated $27.2k, making it the most expensive master’s degree offered by the University of Illinois on Coursera.

This iMSA was announced just last month, and applications for the first cohort are open now.

You can find more details here: https://www.coursera.org/university-programs/imsa

6. HEC Paris and Coursera: Master’s in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OMIE)


HEC Paris became the second university to offer a masters program on Coursera. HEC Paris is one of Europe’s highest ranked business schools (#2 on the Financial Times’ rankings).

The online Master’s in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OMIE), announced last month, costs €20,000. OMIE also includes a certificate program, which costs €5,000. The Certificate in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship does not have an application process and is open to everyone. Once completed, it can be applied towards the full degree.

You can find more details here: https://www.coursera.org/university-programs/masters-innovation-entrepreneurship

7. Deakin University and FutureLearn: Cyber Security

FutureLearn is a UK-based MOOC provider backed by The Open University. Last year FutureLearn announced that it will launch six post-graduate degrees in partnership with Australia’s Deakin University.

The certifications awarded by FutureLearn and Deakin University are: a graduate certificate, a graduate diploma, and a master’s degree. Of the five announced so far, three of them are available as a master’s degree.

Each degree will consist of up to sixteen FutureLearn Programs, which are similar to a Coursera Specialization or a Udacity Nanodegree. Most of the courses that are part of these degrees will have a fee attached, but there will be a few “taster courses” for each degree that are free.

The Cyber Security master’s degree will cost around £30k. Students will “gain knowledge from system security and digital forensics to analytics and organisational security.”

You can find more details here: https://www.futurelearn.com/degrees/deakin-university/cyber-security

8. Deakin University and FutureLearn: Professional Practice: Information Technology

Here is a description of the degree on FutureLearn:

This degree recognises the discipline-based knowledge and skills developed by professionals in the workplace. This is coupled with employability skills that are validated and endorsed through a final holistic assessment. Upon the completion of this degree, graduates will possess advanced skills and complex knowledge in the discipline areas they have selected.

FutureLearn’s degrees haven’t launched yet, and complete details are still lacking. The pricing for this degree will be around £10.7k.

You can find more details here: https://www.futurelearn.com/degrees/deakin-university/information-technology-professional-practice

9. Deakin University and FutureLearn: Development and Humanitarian Action

This master’s degree has been developed in association with Save the Children. Here is a description of the degree on FutureLearn:

These degrees – developed in association with Save the Children – build a unique, global platform where development & humanitarian practitioners and academics can share knowledge and experience, with a focus on improving leadership, preparedness and response capacities to national and international emergencies and developmental issues.

This master’s degree consists of sixteen programs and costs around £24k.

You can find more details here: https://www.futurelearn.com/degrees/deakin-university/development-and-humanitarian-action

  • Dedakin must be m ad to charge a tuition for a MS degree 24.000 pounds that is close to 30.000 $ wovvvv?? British is more capitalist than American s .

    • Geoff Parsons

      Not sure why you use the word “British” for Deakin University when it is said above to be in Australia..?
      However, the cost does seem high for e-learning – it does not appear to be expressed in Australian currency..?

      • Sorry . Did I say British Uni. YHes it is Australian Uni . I thought I said that. Sorry .
        I know the cost of online for the last 20 years .
        Now lately cost is almost ZERO ZERO ZERO . Only cost is university overhead + intellectual property rights of the professors. They are just 1-2 $ per person . Internet cost is zero almost $ 0.5 or so per person per year .
        Demand is high, therefore suppliers are just sucking poor customers . This is capitalism I say it is wild capitalism . When I was young I sold the merchandise at the price customer paid nomatter what the cost is . Today it is the same . Today I am not proud . It took me 50 years to change my mind .

      • Sorry Geoff . Originally Australians are from British Islands . Therefore I have said British . If you object that I apologize .
        Currency is mentioned in POUNDS that is British Money . Australia uses Australian Dollars which is lower than US $ .

  • Serious degrees are
    2 from Georgia Tech and
    3 from University of Illinois .
    That is it .

  • liv333

    This is so sad. Education made into money-maker once again. MOOCs are completely losing its purpose, contribution to society and appeal. I stopped using Coursera the moment I started seeing more-and-more of PAY windows there. First one I saw was actually for learning about Buddhism and selflessnness, which was crazy enough. Changes every two months, each time for the worse. And having ‘volunteers’ (unpaid people told/still believing in the great cause of the entire thing) translate the courses, when the customers in other countries pay, is just a complete greed.

    • Dean Schulze

      State run universities charge their students much more than MOOCs do. Why do you consider MOOCs so bad? They are providing much better value to students than traditional universities do.

      • Airis Damon

        That’s debatable.

    • liv333
      I agree with you .
      There are good people and bad people in the world .
      Bad people just suck people whenever they find a chance . Sad.
      From the beginning I did not like Coursera . But they said honestly ” we want to make money, but we do not know how make money yet ” Now they learned . Sure it is said .
      So I rely on EDX now . Non profit . But I expect them charge a decent fee and provide degrees like Georgia Tech only top university providing online master degree at a price 80 % lower than on campus prices . That means it is possible . And they still make lots of money .
      When they increase enrollment price will come down more .

    • Jadab Kumar Pal

      In fact it is so sad. The whole world is running after money. Coursera should play the lead role to arrange financial aid to the students.

      • No Sir . C pourse declared in the first day ” they do it for money ”
        At least they are honost to confess that . So we have to act accordingly .

  • Lawrence Kin

    Excessively expensive.

    • Georgia Tech Master Degree is $7.000 for whole degree it is fantastically good and low cost , Uni of Illinois online MBA is expensive $ 20.000 shame on them , Deakin University Australia requires £ 30.000 they are just crazy . They think people are stupid . No not any more .

  • Jeff Bozo

    nice if you have lots of money

  • Nauman Younas

    online degrees costing 20k are available with decent universities directly, what exactly is the purpose of MOOCS program then?

    • You are right. PennState and similar several universities are sucking people with their not bad online degree programs with the same tuition as oncampus courses while cost of online is almost ZERO . Shame of them .Now therefore I do not admire Uni of Illinois and Daekin Uni in Australia with their high price for online degree programs .
      Cost of online courses is just zero . Only cost is overhead of the university, some intellectual rights of the professors paid only once . Cost of delivery by computer and internet is zero it is for 1 million or 10 million .
      Lately I concluded that this is a matter of ethics. Education is in demand , therefore supply can increase their price not cost, just to suck people . Shame shame shame . DOE should do something for it . You cannot say that ” it is free enterprizes ” . MONOPOLY by good universities cannot go on . Please stop them . Look up the honest universities . Georgia Tech online degree program is 80 % less than oncampus program . Are they not smart . They love their country . They do not suck people .

  • I ve been using and volunteering with Coursera for 3 years or so.Indeed they were not that “many” calls for paying in the previous versions,but even today,you can get financial help if you really need it.

    I for one have taken several courses ,some with verified certifications,without so far having to pay one cent.
    All i had to do is to write to Coursera about my circumstances,and even though i live outside the USA i was awarded financial assistance more than once.
    So i wouldnt rush into conclusions about people who have to earn a living too…:):)