In the latest twist on the debate about higher education, The University of Illinois recently announced that students can now take an entire MBA course online, free of charge. The course dubbed the iMBA is offered through the open source platform, Coursera and you can read about it in more detail in the post from Bloomberg Business below.


You Can Now Take an Entire MBA Course Online for Free – Bloomberg Business.

The catch of course is that you can only receive a certificate of completion for the courses. If you want an actual MBA degree it will cost you $20,000 and you will have to complete the traditional enrollment process. This raises some interesting, potentially precedent setting, questions about open source and the future of higher education;

  • Would you, as a student, complete this type of curriculum knowing that you wouldn’t actually be granted an MBA? Why or why not?
  • How would you, as an employer, evaluate someone’s credentials in a job interview who completed this program but did not ‘purchase’ the official degree? Would you consider them an MBA?
  • For someone who successfully completed the program, is their education any less valid than the ‘official MBA’?
  • Universities have historically granted honorary degree titles for those who have contributed disciplined and relevant work. Would offering an honorary title be appropriate here?

Critics of open source argue a lower quality vs. paid education stating that students miss the social interaction that the class room offers but wouldn’t that then be true for all online courses whether free or not? Plus, online education offers students from all over the world to engage in the material and discussion via video, chat forums, social media and the like. Does education require that all parties be in the same room?

Another big criticism of open source education is that without the big price tag students won’t have any skin in the game, they’ll be less likely to complete the course. So wouldn’t that make such a course even more telling about a students level of commitment and discipline? Anyone who has ever taken a self-guided course knows that it requires a tremendous amount of personal discipline and commitment to complete. There is no one pushing you to focus other than yourself, there is no big price tag or debt quilting you into completing it, It’s just you pushing you.

These courses still must be completed in order to receive a certificate, you still have to pass, you still will get graded on your work. As an employer, wouldn’t you want someone with this level of initiative and self-discipline?

 It would be great to get some reader comments and opinions on this topic.

2 thoughts on “Open Source Degrees…What’s Your Opinion?

  1. Why do colleges have a monopoly on granting degrees? Why do employers put so much emphasis on having one? I have two, and I can tell you, most of my knowledge has come from actual on-the-job experience, not from my schooling, all schooling really did was expose me to the technology and the industry jargon.


    1. Thanks for your comments Logan. I do agree with you about the value of practical education. I’ve been teaching Marketing, Sales, Customer Service and Profit Analysis for 15+ years in what I call the “Virtual MBA”. Almost all of that experience comes from Fortune 500 companies, not college. Higher education, however, exposes students to new ideas, topics outside of their comfort zones and the discipline of research. In answer to your questions, there must be a governing body to certify that the degree was earned. Much like you need a DMV to grant a credible driver’s license. The issue that remains to grow is the gap between earning a degree and receiving an education.


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