M.I.T. adds credentialing to its online course program

by Grace

M.I.T. has enhanced its long-standing free online course program.

But the new “M.I.T.x” interactive online learning platform will go further, giving students access to online laboratories, self-assessments and student-to-student discussions.

CREDENTIAL for demonstrating mastery of the subjects taught!

While access to the software will be free, there will most likely be an “affordable” charge, not yet determined, for a credential.

“I think for someone to feel they’re earning something, they ought to pay something, but the point is to make it extremely affordable,” Mr. Reif said. “The most important thing is that it’ll be a certificate that will clearly state that a body sanctioned by M.I.T. says you have gained mastery.”

The certificate will not be a regular M.I.T. degree, but rather a credential bearing the name of a new not-for-profit body to be created within M.I.T; revenues from the credentialing, officials said, would go to support the M.I.T.x platform and to further M.I.T’s mission.

Will employers buy it?

“It seems like a very big deal because the traditional higher education reaction to online programs was, yeah, but it’s not a credential,” said Richard DeMillo, director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “So I think M.I.T. offering a credential will make quite a splash. If I were still in industry and someone came in with an M.I.T.x credential, I’d take it.”

Related:  Is higher education on track to lose its credentialing monopoly?


10 Responses to “M.I.T. adds credentialing to its online course program”

  1. Didn’t know that. I’ve heard so much positive about it, but never heard it roundly criticized. I’ve never looked at a course myself.


  2. The quality of the OCW courses varies by course (of course…), and I think it may vary by when the course was added to OCW. Anyway, turns out that OCW is most often used as a supplement to a course someone is taking elsewhere. That’s the way I used it last year when taking a class at a different university, and the way current MIT students use it as well.

    IMO, one interesting aspect to this MITx thing is that MIT is going to make the course software infrastructure open-source.


  3. The Stanford online AI course was a stripped-down course (missing the projects where the students at Stanford actually did the learning), but the machine learning course was supposedly the full course.

    The state universities have been doing non-degree credentials for decades. I know that UCSC Extension has had a bioinformatics credential (which is very watered down from a bioinformatics degree and does not include any courses taught by UCSC bioinformatics faculty) for at least 10 years. These credentials are seen as valuable by industry, like continuing education credits for any professional. They don’t usually replace degrees, but serve as supplements to them, particularly for older engineers to show that they are keeping up with current technology.


  4. Bonnie, I checked out Gudzial’s posts and have two follow-up comments.

    1. Maybe MITx, with its online labs and student forums, is a step towards making Open Courseware closer to a real class, although I don’t see it actually replicating MIT’s traditional courses just yet.

    2. The whole “flipping the classroom” discussions keep bringing up how teachers no longer have to lecture and can spend time on more interesting stuff. In theory this may be attractive, but many of us fear that in practice it will simply mean teachers completely putting off the the responsibility to teach and instead focusing on wasteful class activities. Kitchen Table Math has a post on that and here’s one comment.

    I’ve complained before, and will again: does Khan REALLY THINK that the biggest problem in today’s schools is TOO MUCH LECTURE?

    Because if KA is just going to be used by schools so that conventional schools can do even more charades, puppetry, and baking than they do already, I’m against it.


    And I also posted this. https://costofcollege.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/more-classrooms-trying-khan-academy-finding-it-better-than-group-projects/


  5. gasstation – In addition to being seen as valuable by employers, apparently this new MIT development has piqued the interest of some overachieving high school students (or should I say overachieving parents!) who can now promote an MIT credential in their college applications. Have you ever run across something similar with the state school credentials?


  6. I’ve not seen high schoolers touting UC extension courses or certificates—probably because most people realize that continuing education units are of highly variable content and quality. I have seen a lot taking community college classes, for a variety of reasons, one of which is to show that they are capable of doing “college-level” work (especially home-schoolers and those in schools with inadequate AP offerings).

    Of course, some of the “college-level” courses at the community college are really high-school level. I recently met one home-schooler doing Algebra 2 there—I didn’t have the heart to tell her or her parents that it was quite likely a remedial course for students who had not taken or failed algebra 2 in high school, and so likely to be at a lower level than a high-school course with the same number.


  7. I don’t remember reading that the Kitchen Table Math group all loved Khan. In fact, there seemed to have been a lot of skepticism expressed, along with some optimism that the data collecting and videos could create efficiencies. Now that we realize it’s being used instead of a teacher’s direct instruction, it’s raising red flags.

    Flipped classrooms?

    It is actually closer to what a lot of those people on kitchen table advocate than they might imagine.

    Oh, that would be nice, but I don’t think so. At least, not in the ways I’ve seen, where videos replace teacher instruction and class time is taken up with hands-on projects that many of us consider wasted time. But, I haven’t looked at it too closely. I mean, I’m unsure what the commonly accepted definition of “flipped” actually is, if there is one.


  8. Bonnie, the way you and others in college science courses are flipping classes makes sense.

    I still disagree that a few complimentary posts and comments about KA over at KTM means that everyone loved it. Catherine was expressing some doubts even in the comments of that first post.

    The way I view it is that the idea of using KA videos (which are being described as direct instruction) to supplement class instruction was considered as a promising, positive innovation. They do work, after all, for many. But when schools started to (mis)use the videos as a way to let teachers escape direct instruction and use class time for “fun” but useless project work, the KTM crowd started to view this with great skepticism.

    Many people are labeling schools that use Khan videos as flippers, so I guess this term means different things to different people. But the originators of the term wrote this:

    The traditional definition of a flipped class is:

    Where videos take the place of direct instruction
    This then allows students to get individual time in class to work with their teacher on key learning activities.
    It is called the flipped class because what used to be classwork (the “lecture” is done at home via teacher-created videos and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class.

    But from our perspective, as successful flipped teachers, we believe it is so much more. We also realize there is a lot of mis-information about the Flipped Classroom and quite a bit of controversy about whether or not this is a viable instructional methodology. Thus the purpose of this article is to list out what we believe it is and what we believe it is not.

    And then they go on to clear up misconceptions.

    And this:

    When you read anything about The Flipped Classroom mentally substitute “a class that uses screencasts as an instructional tool” for The Flipped Classroom and all will be well.




  9. Yup, dumb projects are dumb projects. For example, I completely oppose creating a portfolio of artwork featuring medieval figures for a college prep high school global history course. Yes, some students will learn from such a project, but drawing is not the core college/life skill that writing is. And for many students, these drawing projects are a complete waste of time.



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