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A groundbreaking MBA programme created entirely from massive open online courses (Moocs) is being jointly created by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Business and Coursera, the Silicon Valley education technology business.

The iMBA, as the degree will be known, will be divided into a set of eight “specialisations”, Coursera’s term for course sequences, including accounting and finance. Digital marketing, the first of these specialisations, is already available while others will be launched in 2016.

Individual courses can be taken for free as is the case with most Moocs, but students will have the option of paying about $3,000 to enrol in a specialisation so they can earn a certificate upon completion.

Those who complete at least six paid-for specialisations will be eligible to apply for admission to Illinois’s College of Business and earn the official MBA degree.

With the added cost of the identity verification fee, the total cost of the degree will be about $20,000, according to a spokesman.

The university does not have an existing online MBA, but it charges students from the state in the part-time MBA about $9,000 a semester. The two-year full-time MBA costs $21,974 per year for Illinois residents and $32,974 for non-resident and international students. The Mooc offerings will cost the same for residents and non-residents of Illinois.

The iMBA announcement comes less than two weeks after Arizona State University and edX, another US-based edtech business, unveiled plans to offer a year’s worth of credit through Moocs.

A faculty senate committee at Illinois approved the plans during a meeting on Monday night, which opened the way for the iMBA programme to launch next spring.

Illinois is one of Coursera’s most prolific partner universities, having created dozens of Moocs since joining in 2012.

The impetus for the iMBA was the 100th anniversary of the founding of Illinois’s College of Business, according to Larry DeBrock, the institution’s dean.

“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,” Mr DeBrock said.

Daphne Koller, co-founder and president of Coursera, said: “This is an educational model that puts learners first and is well suited to the needs of today’s workforce.”

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