Free DIY Master of Arts in English

In the age of the Internet, I think it’s backward to pay outlandish tuition, constrain yourself to unrealistic time commitments, and cut through the unnecessary exclusivity of graduate programs in English literature and creative writing. Who has the time, money, and energy for all that? I don’t, which is why I set out to create my own master’s curriculum.

While the following program does not conclude with an accredited or official master’s degree (I emphasize this because it’d be a real bummer to do all this work expecting something like that!), it does include all the components of a traditional master’s program. And more.

What is a DIY MA in English?

A DIY MA in English is a curated course of study that uses a combination of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), books, and other online resources to deliver a high-quality education for a fraction of the cost of a traditional university.

Courses range in length and intensity, so while one course may only require 6 hours of study, another might require up to 85 or more. The DIY MA in English curriculum includes 39 courses and 843+ hours of study, spread over 6 modules:

  1. Writing and Grammar (11 courses, 111 hours)
  2. Linguistics and History (5 courses, 89 hours)
  3. Shakespeare (5 courses, 112 hours)
  4. Literature (8 courses, 365 hours)
  5. Poetry (3 courses, 44 hours)
  6. Foreign Language (7 courses, 122 hours)

From what I gathered while researching actual master’s programs, most programs focus on just one of the above modules. That degree of laser focus is great if you know exactly what you want to nerd out on, but I personally prefer a more all-encompassing English education.

Most Ivy League master’s programs also require proficiency or fluency in at least one foreign language. I like that idea, so I chose to (re)learn Spanish; that’s what I’ve provided in this curriculum. A great (free) supplemental language learning resource is DuoLingo. It’s language learning, gamified.

Wait, what’s a MOOC?

A Massive Online Open Course! Top universities around the world, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, etc., release their actual course content online. For free. That content is packaged in video format and served as a MOOC, for anyone to access at any time!

Coursera and EdX are the two most popular MOOC platforms, so that’s where you’ll find the vast majority of the DIY MA in English curriculum. I spent hours pouring through every single English-related MOOC on those platforms and chose the courses best suited for this DIY MA in English. I think you’re going to seriously love it. I do!

Who is this program for?

Short answer: anybody!

This program is not for you if you require an MA in order to pursue your goals. But if you’re like me and want your MA in English for the following reasons, this DIY MA is for you!

  • Most important: you love learning for the sake of learning!
  • You want a well-rounded English education
  • You want to work on your book, short story collection, memoir, etc.
  • You want to focus on and improve your writing
  • You want to read the classics
  • You want to read (and understand!) Shakespeare
  • You want to learn a foreign language
  • You like having a personal and challenging goal/mission to accomplish
  • Your career would be enhanced by this knowledge, but…
  • Your career does not depend on the completion of an official master’s degree

This program does not require that you have a BA first, but I think it probably helps to approach this DIY MA with at least some background knowledge and experience. But you do you.

How long does it take to complete?

Short answer:  you could finish it in about 5-6 months, if you study like a madman for 40 hrs/week.

This program is 100% self-paced so you can work through the curriculum as quickly or leisurely as you want. I plan to complete it in about 2 years, give or take. No rush!

MOOCs are typically split into weeks and/or months, but I broke down the time into hours because it’s a consistent unit of measure and hey, there’s nobody stopping you from completing an entire week of work in one day (sounds intense, but it’s a good way to spend a Saturday if you’re into this stuff)!

If you work through the material at the suggested pace included with each MOOC, it should take about 843 total hours. I might also add more time for supplemental reading, draft revisions, and online writer’s workshops. You can choose how many hours per day/week/month to dedicate to the program and calculate from there how long it will take you.

Also–and this is my favorite tip of the 21st century–you can watch all videos in .5–2x speed! I find this helpful on both ends of the spectrum, depending on how difficult the content is.

How much does it cost?

Short answer: $0+

This program is 100% free, assuming all your books can be found at your local library and you don’t purchase verified certificates for each course.

If you choose to purchase verified certificates from each course, which I plan to do, the total cost is about $1,461. In addition to supporting MOOC creators, there are two primary benefits to purchasing certificates:

  1. You can prove to employers that you completed this course of study
  2. You have built-in accountability to actually finish the course you started!

If you buy your books, which I plan to do so I can annotate, your total book cost will vary depending on where you buy and whether you buy used or new. See the complete reading list on Amazon.

Why did I create this program?

I almost spent over $20,000 and 2 years pursuing an online Master of Arts in English and Nonfiction Creative Writing from SNHU. Taking a closer look at their curriculum, I noticed all the coursework was writing related, which while exciting and fun, wouldn’t prepare me to teach high school English (my end goal). I asked if I could customize my degree and add some literature courses, but they said no due to “accreditation reasons.” What TF?

So I left wondering: why would I pay $20,000 for a master’s degree that lacks in multiple departments, is not technically required to teach high school, and is notoriously “useless” anyway? For that matter, why would I spend any decent chunk of money on an education that could easily be curated from free online resources and books? Spending that much money for an official degree that didn’t meet my actual needs just didn’t seem worth it.

That’s when I set out to create my own curriculum, complete with everything I’d ever want in a master’s program. Here is the entire curriculum for free–the way this kind of thing ought to be–, outlined and detailed below. Enjoy!

The Curriculum

39 courses | Free – $1,461+ | 843+ hours

A typical master’s program includes far fewer than 38 courses, but MOOCs tend to be much shorter and easier than your typical university class. Plus, I wanted this to be extremely well-rounded and thorough because my undergraduate English courses were a) a long time ago, and b) not well-rounded.

The courses can be taken in any order, but I personally recommend working through the courses in each module in the order provided. For example, you can jump from one module to the next based on what you feel like studying, but I recommend not jumping from course to course within a module.

While none of the courses technically require that you purchase books, I included recommended reading for each section, based on what texts are studied in the courses themselves and what is commonly recommended in similar master’s level coursework. I took a lot of time selecting the books, so I highly recommend you get and read every single book. Personally, I’m a paperback person, but if you like Kindle e-books, check out the Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans. If you prefer audiobooks, try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks.

1. Writing and Grammar

11 courses | $197+ | 111 hours

Recommended Books

Writer’s Workshops

There are so many online writer’s workshops available, some of which are free, but most of which are paid. If creative writing is your jam, I highly recommend signing up for one of them to get your writing workshopped by other serious writers. I cannot personally vouch for any (yet), but I’m going to start with Scribophile, one of the few free options. I’ll probably write another blog post reviewing it after I’ve poked around the site and had some writing workshopped. Stay tuned for that!

2. Linguistics and History

5 courses | $222 | 89 hours

3. Shakespeare

5 Courses | $197 | 112 hours

Recommended Books

4. Literature

8 Courses | $600 | 365 hours

Recommended Books

5. Poetry

3 Courses | $98 | 44 hours

Recommended Books

6. Foreign Language

7 Courses | $147+ | 122 hours

Ready to get started?

I know I am! As I personally work through the above curriculum at my own leisurely pace (I currently work full time as a creative writing teacher), I will come back to this blog post and make any adjustments/additions as necessary. I consider this post to be somewhat of a living document, as it is subject to change. If you are reading this, rest assured this is the most recent version. I am kind of OCD about keeping things updated around here.

To help you (and myself) get started, I created an Amazon “Idea List,” which contains all of the suggested reading material for the entire curriculum. I’m kind of tempted to buy all the books at once, but maybe I should hold off and buy them as needed…

Access the complete DIY MA in English book list on Amazon!

To stay organized, I recommend using the free software Trello to keep track of your progress. If you haven’t used Trello yet, get ready to have your mind blown. It’s fantastic. If you’re like me and prefer to organize in the real world (not online), check out this amazing 3ft X 4ft dry erase 12-month calendar, which is the best $50 I’ve ever spent.

Reply below with any comments, questions, or suggestions; I’d love to hear from you! I’m super excited to share this program, so I’d love to keep the conversation open. Feel free to bookmark this post, share on social media, or forward to a friend who might be interested. It’s exactly the kind of thing I’d be super pumped to stumble across online.

Happy learning!

Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored post, however, this page contains affiliate links, which simply means that I earn a commission if you purchase through those links, but your price remains the same. Thank you for your support!


3 thoughts on “Free DIY Master of Arts in English

  1. Cool stuff Ash. When did you transition from your corporate (sales job?) into teaching creative writing? Have given me some great food for thought here. Seeking to update my skills with some MOOCing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Sam, thanks for your comment! I have worked in several industries (real estate to insurance adjusting to scuba instructing!), including various teaching positions throughout the years. I recently transitioned to full-time English teaching this summer 🙂 Hope you find these MOOCs helpful!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s