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University of Glasgow Set to Launch Online Master’s in End of Life Studies on FutureLearn

University of Glasgow — Dumfries Rural Campus

The University of Glasgow has announced that it will be launching an online master’s degree in end of life studies on FutureLearn, the leading European MOOC platform.

The degree is currently in development and is set to receive its first student cohort in September 2020. A three-week taster course, End of Life Care: Challenges and Innovation, is already open for registration with the class formally starting in November 2019.

The University of Glasgow is one of Scotland’s four ancient universities and a top-100 institution according to THE and QS world university rankings 2020.

The University of Glasgow was one of the first institutions to partner with FutureLearn. They launched their first MOOC on the platform, Cancer in the 21st Century, in May 2014 — nine months after FutureLearn’s first MOOC went live. Today, they offer about 20 online courses on the platform.

Recently, the university announced that later this year, they will also start offering MOOCs on Coursera. Besides partnering with MOOC providers, the University of Glasgow itself delivers close to 25 online qualifications, ranging from graduate certificates to full degrees. However, their upcoming online master’s degree on FutureLearn will be their first foray into the world of MOOC-based online degrees.

When asked about what prompted them to partner with FutureLearn, John Kerr, Learning Innovation Officer and MOOC Manager at the University of Glasgow, explained that they recognized an opportunity to reach more learners while offering a compelling learning experience. He added that unlike programs that are simply online versions of on-campus experiences, the upcoming degree is being “built from scratch for the web,” allowing to integrate innovative pedagogies that wouldn’t be available through a traditional mode of delivery.

The degree is being developed by the Glasgow End of Life Studies Group. The research group was founded in 2014 by Prof. David Clark and operates from the University of Glasgow’s rural campus in Dumfries, some 80 miles south of Glasgow.

“Every week, over one million people die worldwide,” explains Prof. Clark in a call with BestCerts. And that number is expected to almost double in the next 40 years. So how we view death and how we care for people approaching the end of their lives is becoming an increasingly pressing issue.

The degree aims to present a comprehensive, interdisciplinary, and unadulterated view of the delicate subject that is death. It will explore topics including palliative care, bereavement, and assisted suicide. It will approach these topics through disciplines such as medicine, social sciences, and humanities. And it will consider them through the lenses of ethics, policy, and culture.

The curriculum draws from the group’s ongoing research, most notably from its Global Interventions at the End of Life Project — an all-encompassing, five-year study of the challenges related to end of life across the globe. By rooting the degree in their research, the group hopes to offer a genuine and compelling learning experience that will attract learners from all walks of life, including researchers, clinicians, and activists.

The degree will balance theoretical concepts and empirical knowledge and will invite students to engage in research activities. The goal is to establish a two-way street where students benefit from exploring ongoing research, but where said research is also enriched by the students’ perspectives.

In addition to the online master’s degree, the University of Glasgow will launch two other qualifications in end of life studies on FutureLearn:

  • A Graduate Certificate — which corresponds to 1/3 of the master’s degree.
  • A Graduate Diploma — which corresponds to 2/3 of the master’s degree.

These qualifications will be stackable, meaning that they can serve as stepping stones toward the full master’s degree. FutureLearn’s online master’s are often structure this way.

The university is also developing a three-week taster course: End of Life Care: Challenges and Innovation. The course is free to audit for five weeks. It allows prospective students to tentatively explore the subject without having to commit to a full-fledged, paid qualification. The first session of the course will start on November 18, 2019, but registrations are already open.

Finally, students will be able to transfer from the online degree program to an on-campus degree program at the University of Glasgow. John Kerr explains the process:

[Online] learners will be party to the same rules and regulations as all University of Glasgow learners […] We will allow internal credit transfer if they wish to move from this program to another master’s. Any transfer of credit will [require] that the intended learning outcomes are of a compatible nature. 

The degree admission requirements haven’t been announced yet. However, all online master’s degrees currently offered by the University of Glasgow require a bachelor’s degree in a related subject as well as English proficiency scores for international applicants. Sometimes, relevant professional experience may be given consideration. The upcoming online master’s degree on FutureLearn will likely involve similar entry requirements.

Note that admissions will initially be limited to ensure adequate levels of student support. In subsequent cohorts, as the number of instructors required to support students becomes clearer, the program will be able to scale to accept more qualified applicants. Throughout their degree, students will be helped by a team including lead instructors (Professors, Lecturers) and teaching assistants (Doctoral Students).

The degree cost hasn’t been announced either. However, all online master’s currently offered by the University of Glasgow cost between £10,500 ($13,000) and £15,000 ($18,500). How FutureLearn’s involvement may impact the cost of the new degree is unclear. Time will tell.