MIT innovating in online education

EdX is an online education platform launched through a partnership between MIT and Harvard. EdX offers courses from these universities as well as many others directly online, and students earn certificates of achievement for completing the courses. However, they do not earn the equivalent of a traditional degree for the work that they complete.

That is, until now. MIT recently announced that it is partnering with edX to offer a MicroMaster’s degree in Supply Chain Management (SCM). The traditional SCM Master’s program is a one year course that’s taken on campus after being admitted following a traditional application process. The MicroMaster’s degree brings two new innovations to this approach.

First, it lets anyone who wants to complete the first semester’s worth of courses required for the degree to do so fully online. If you successfully complete the courses and pass a proctored exam, you earn the MicroMaster’s degree in SCM. While it stops short of being the full SCM degree, it’s a much stronger credential than the certificate you earn after completing a single online course. And unlike the full SCM degree, it’s open to anyone. You prove your merits by successfully completing each course, not passing the filter of an admissions committee.

Second, after you complete the first semester’s worth of courses online and earn your MicroMaster’s degree, you’re able to apply to the full SCM Master’s program. Admittance isn’t guaranteed but you’re much more likely to be accepted after showing that you can successfully complete the first semester’s courses. And if you’re accepted you only need to complete the remaining courses of the second semester on campus. So in addition to having obtained your MicroMaster’s degree, you have a more merit-based shot at participating in the full Master’s program than before.

The practical impact of this program is huge. Many students who are very motivated to learn about a specific field but who wouldn’t have been able to gain acceptance to the field’s Master’s┬áprogram because of a lack of commonly expected resume credentials will be able to showcase their motivation directly through the courses. At the minimum they’ll have full control of their ability to obtain a MicroMaster’s degree from MIT, and to benefit from the resulting career opportunities it creates. And if they’re successful enough, their motivation is also likely to land them into the full Master’s program.

It’s a great way to level the playing field for accessing a great education. I hope that it becomes a role model for other departments at MIT and other universities across the world.