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MIT’s online courses can now lead to a degree

“Anyone who wants to be here now has a shot to be here,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said. “They have a chance to prove in advance that they can do the work.”

Image via Wikipedia.

By now, you should know that MIT posted many of their courses and materials for free, on the internet. If you didn’t, well… now you do – you can access their open courseware here. But this story isn’t about this, it’s about taking things to the next level. Because now, with these course, you can actually get a degree.

The good

“We produce 40 students a year, and they say that’s a drop in the bucket; we need thousands,” said Yossi Sheffi, director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics.

In a pilot project announced Wednesday, students will be able to take a semester of free online courses in one of MIT’s graduate programs and then, after paying a “relatively modest” free of $1500 you can get a micro-masters degree – if you pass the exam, that is.

You basically pay $150 for each of the five online classes, plus up to $800 to take the exam, but hey, you get a degree from MIT, right?

The bad

Well, you do get a degree from them, but it’s not a masters degree. It is a credential granted by MITx for outstanding performance in graduate-level online coursework. MIT will definitely consider it and many learners will be able to then move on to an actual degree at MIT. It makes a lot of sense for MIT to want to attract outstanding students for conventional courses. If you’re good enough, you basically get to avoid the usual admission system.

“That admission system works well for people who went to schools we know very well,” Reif said. “But for people from outside that familiar circle, it can be hard to break in.”

It’s also relatively cheap, but it’s not really cheap – for most of the world at least. $1500 is still a respectable sum, one that many students will definitely have a problem coming up with.

“We will give students the chance to prove they can achieve excellence in a master’s program before they have to apply for admission. This will level the playing field: Students from lesser-known universities globally will be able to prove their mettle as prospective MIT residential students,” the website reads.

… and the ugly

Unfortunately, the only micro-master available through this pilot is a one-year Supply Chain Management (SCM). The purpose of this is not to make money, but to attract students. If it goes well, then it will definitely expand to other areas, but it will probably take a couple of years.

“Right now the main focus is quality, and hopefully the finances will work out later,” Reif said. “But this is not something in which we expect to make money. We want to break even.”

For more information, check out the MIT FAQ section.