Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Patchwork Degrees #298

Supposing you could make up the credits for a degree from many different sources both on-line and in the classroom. To a certain extent you can do this already - exemptions gained elsewhere are possible in educational institutions, and of course students move around from College to College. 

Most IT degrees will have common components - here are some of the subjects that are on one of Ireland's most popular IT degrees in DCU:
Image source: USA Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Software Programming
  • Web Design
  • Data Warehouses and Data Mining
  • Concurrent and Distributed Programming
  • Cryptography
  • Multimedia Technology
I'm sure that there are high-caliber Faculty delivering modules in DCU (and similar elsewhere) in these subject areas. But what if you could tap into a world-class series of lectures in each subject delivered on-line by the top experts in each field? How about taking a module on Machine Learning from Stanford University? Java Programming from the University of Hong Kong? HTML from W3C? Mathematics for Computer Science from MIT? Web Development from the Microsoft Virtual Academy? Introduction to Cryptography from Harvard? I'm certain that a patchwork degree could be made up exclusively by combining on-line modules - if a College or University could be found to accredit it. Here's where the major problem will lie.

Typically a four year science degree will have about 25-30 modules. If all of these were taken online from different institutions, where is assessment carried out? If each on-line institution had its own assessment, could these be combined to make up a degree? Would someone graduating with such a patchwork degree be able to participate in a Graduation Ceremony at a College of their choosing (where they may not have taken any modules)? I don't see this happening...... yet.

Some day - students will be able to build their own degrees from institutions all over the world. Maybe in the beginning students could be offered traditional campus based courses, but with a significant number of credits allowable on-line from other institutions. Of course these on-line modules would have to be formally accredited, but there is no reason why an international standard cannot be developed. After all, if  Introduction to Cryptography is good enough for Harvard University, it should be good enough for everyone else.

There's lots that an on-line only course cannot offer, such as face-to-face interaction with lecturers, college life, support, and drinking in the college bar. But I'm sure employers might be interested in the above model - variety and different experiences will add value to any degree. A degree parchment with the likes of Harvard, MIT, and Stanford on it might be more attractive than one that says just one College name???


  1. Would certainly keep 'management' busy writing policies on RPL

    1. We're working on that Greg. Take half your Supply Chain Management masters from MIT (for free) and if you can't afford the other half, we have no problem accepting that.