The Next Step on the Path to an Online-Only Education?

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If you want to get an education with massive open online courses (MOOCs), you have to approach it like an autodidact. Combine a couple MOOCs, three or four dozen Wikipedia romps, and even a few trips to the library, and you have something comprehensive.

Or that, at least, is the idea.

Today, MIT announced plans to offer something more comprehensive. The university will soon bundle MOOCs together into “course sequences” which tackle a coherent subject matter. After finishing one of these “XSeries” sequences, students can pay to take a test, which will earn them a special “Verified Certificate” from edX.

The end-of-sequences tests will cost around $700, and they’ll be offered through verify a student’s identity in part through their webcam. As Steve Kolowich points out at the Chronicle of Higher Education, the announcement of these pay-to-verify tests follows news that Coursera has made $1 million in 2013 selling similar “verified” tests. (Coursera recently announced another $43 million in funding.)

But it’ll be some time — two years — before edX starts seeing revenue from these XSeries sequences.

edX’s first course sequence will teach “Foundations of Computer Science,” designed for students at the “introductory undergraduate level.” Its first course teaches the basics of Python programmings — a typical MOOC topic — and it  begins this fall. MIT won’t offer the final course in the sequence, though, until fall 2015.

The second, starting next fall, covers “Supply Chain and Logistics Management.” It’s shorter — 3 courses, to the 7 in “Computer Science” — and it should end in summer 2015

Supply chain management, which deals with the flurry of inventory around the planet, is a topic in vogue (Apple’s success is due, in part, to its robust supply chains), and a MOOC which teaches its ways is likely to be popular. The university’s news release, too, says this sequence “has been developed at the graduate level for learners seeking to work professionally in the field.”

A MOOC, from MIT, which declares itself a vehicle of professional education, is a funny thing: It puts the Massachusetts school in the same business as the online, technical training company the University of Phoenix. These edX course sequences don’t offer academic credit, but they do offer professional education credentials — which, for employers, may be just the same.

I wonder if we’re seeing what happens when you try to cut costs in education in any medium. Cheap education can be marketing, or it can be systematic professional training. It seems now that often, in MOOCs, the twain will meet.


The Next Step on the Path to an Online-Only Education?Robinson Meyer : The AtlanticAtlantic Technology

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