Coursera, The University of Illinois brings iMBA programme

image004The University of Illinois College of Business will launch an online-only Master of Business Administration degree programme, pending approval by the U. of I. Board of Trustees. The degree, called the “iMBA,” will be the first online graduate business degree offered in partnership with Coursera, the Silicon Valley educational technology company that already offers a number of U. of I. courses through its platform of massive open online courses, more commonly known as “MOOCs.”

The online degree will democratize access to both the coveted business credential and the world-class faculty of the Urbana campus, said Larry DeBrock, the Josef and Margot Lakonishok Endowed Dean of the College of Business. “The University of Illinois has a tradition of excellence and a distinguished reputation as a leader in research, teaching and public engagement, and our faculty is at the heart of that tradition,” he said. “All of the classes for the new degree program will be taught by faculty members from the College of Business as well as industry experts. In leading the new endeavor, they will continue our college’s tradition of excellence.”

According to DeBrock, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the U. of I. College of Business was the impetus behind the development of the program. “We considered it an opportunity to reinvigorate the land-grant mission of the University of Illinois as a public university,” said DeBrock, who noted that the iMBA program will cost one-third as much as a master’s degree from an institution of similar stature. “We’re entering the online MBA field motivated in part to find new ways to return to the tradition of great public universities making an elite education available to all.”

The program also amounts to a total rethink of the online MBA degree curriculum, said Raj Echambadi, the associate dean of outreach and engagement for the College of Business and a professor of business administration. “This will be the first for-credit graduate program from a top university to offer individual certificates in subject areas that can double as building blocks to earning a full MBA degree,” Echambadi said.

The “stackable credentials” will be offered in topics such as digital marketing, accounting and finance – courses that have their own appeal for current professionals, Echambadi noted.

Illinois is also leveraging Coursera’s innovation-friendly platform to reconceptualize business subject areas. “Rather than simply transferring traditional MBA content online, we’re mixing academic disciplines into active learning packages about how businesses work that are pre-assembled for students,” Echambadi said.