Generally, if something seems too good to be true then it probably is- Hence my concern with the new online honours digital degree thing offered by the Digital Skills Academy. The Digital Skills Academy, henceforth the Academy, is a commercial venture. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s located in the digital hub (remember when this was going to be the creation of the equivalent of Stanford?), And has a history of delivering a variety of training courses and upscaling courses around things digital. So far so good, we need more of these kind of things.
It has recently announced a new initiative, the delivery of a Honours level degree in digital technology design and innovation. This is to be delivered online, part-time, over one year… That’s right, an online one year degree. In everything about to say I have no intention of suggesting that there is anything untoward with this. The degree, as much else in the Academy, appears to be accredited by the Dublin Inst of Technology. DIT has history of delivering really high quality courses, and is an incredibly credible academic institution. I have to assume therefore that the Academy program has been vetted and approved by DIT. They are in fact awarding the degree
An honours degree in Ireland, from whomever, is a level VIII qualification. Full details on the qualifications framework is available here. Having been involved in a number of accreditation, validation, and revalidation panels over the years, one year of a degree is typically taken as 60 ECTS credits. 5 credits are the standard base from modules, and a five credit module has to achieve 125 hours of learning, made up of classroom contact, seminars, examinations, students study etc. 60 credits therefore require 1500 hours of work. This is explicitly recognised by the Academy.
The problem with this is that the marketing of the course suggests that the degree can be achieved in as low as eight hours or so per week. This is is explicitly stated in the frequently asked questions. 1500 hours equates to 30 or so hours per week, a long way away from eight hours. Either the program is grossly understating to prospective students the required time they will have to input into it or something is missing… It seems to me that asking people to do 30h pw on top of a fulltime work committment is tough (and yes, I do know something about this as I have done a pg degree parttime). It can be done, but its going to be tough. Its not clear that a lot of time or mental capacity for reflection and cogitation is going to go on in that year.
The programme also seems to be unique, to my knowledge, in undergraduate honours degrees in Ireland – it has absolutely no examinations. Now examinations are one way of assessing student learning. They are neither the best nor the worst, but they do provide a well-established structure within which one can assess the extent to which students are able to reproduce and address the learning outcomes which they are being asked to achieve. examinations are also useful way of ensuring that the student achieving the qualification is actually the student that has done the work. Peer assessment, project work, there are a whole pile of other approaches, none of which, in my personal opinion, should be used exclusively. At an honours undergraduate degree the learning objectives should be such complexity that no single assessment method can adequately insured at the students are able to demonstrate their achievement.
Finally, the entry requirements suggested an ordinary, that is to say a level VII, degree is required. There is a note however, in that “recognition of prior learning” may supplement, or supplant same. It’s not clear how such prior learning will be mapped across to a level VII qualification, but one assumes that this has been worked out by the Inst of technology.
Lots of questions, hopefully some answers will come out.
Edit: in response to some queries, it seems to cost between 8-10k. So that is 24-40k for a ‘regular’ degree equivalent.