Published: Jan. 17, 2018 By

Students working on computersA University of Colorado Board of Regents committee on Wednesday approved a new and innovative MOOC-delivered master’s degree in electrical engineering. The full board is expected to vote on the new degree in February and it is awaiting Higher Learning Commission (HLC) authorization.

The on-demand, asynchronous and fully online degree, to be offered by the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering (ECEE) within the College of Engineering and Applied Science, will provide high-quality education to students around the world in response to growing workforce demand. If approved by the full Board of Regents, the new CU Boulder MOOC degree in ECEE will be the first of its kind in the world.

“It delivers the quality of the classroom education in a new way,” said electrical engineering Professor Bob Erickson, who was instrumental in developing the degree. “We will deliver a great degree to a lot of people nationwide and worldwide who otherwise never would have the opportunity.”

The degree is slated to launch in fall 2018 and is an evolution of the campus’s 2013 experiments with massive open online courses, or MOOCs. At that time, MOOCs were largely free and non-credit bearing. The degree, approved by the University of Affairs Committee, uses MOOC technology to offer not only a high-quality degree at a lower cost, but gives students unprecedented flexibility in how, when and where they complete their coursework.

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CU Boulder joins MIT, Georgia Tech and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which have also developed partially- and fully-online degree programs.

The new degree was developed through the department and has passed college and Graduate School approvals. Erickson worked closely with Vice Provost William Kuskin to get through the process and present the plan to the Regents.

“I’m so impressed with the department,” said Kuskin. “They’ve come together around the chance to do some truly innovative work here, and the university—from the Graduate School through Admissions to Business Services—has recognized its vision and helped the department achieve it.”

The degree takes advantage of the modular nature of the MOOC platform in a number of ways, including breaking down the three-student-credit-hour course as the basic content unit to allow the students to tailor their studies to their needs. As a result, it maintains the existing on-campus degree’s curricular content but adds a new level of flexibility.

“This type of innovative approach to learning is what a great university does,” said Provost Russell Moore. “This electrical engineering master’s degree, delivered on a MOOC platform, will provide an excellent new opportunity to not only the citizens of the state of Colorado but to the nation and to the world. I am eager for us to present the degree to the full Board of Regents.”  

Bobby Braun, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, has supported the degree proposal since its start.

“Expanding access to the technological world and increasing our global engagement is what our college is all about,” Braun said. “Through this new degree program, I'm excited to see the department leading the nation toward a 21st-century approach to education.”