The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is planning to offer a free online course sequence that will up the ante in the MOOC sector by giving a verified certificate issued by the Institute for the successful completion of a series of online courses.
Students who complete one of these XSeries sequences can earn a special verified certificate from edX, the platform on which the courses are offered, after taking a test. The first course sequence offered is Foundations of Computer Science that is designed at the introductory undergraduate level. The second is the Supply Chain and Logistics Management XSeries that has been developed at the graduate level, MIT said in a statement.
Curriculum for each XSeries is developed by MIT faculty members and overseen by their academic departments.
"These sequences are an opportunity for MIT to both explore how subjects can be addressed in depth through the MOOC format and to better understand student interest in various types of certification," remarked MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department Head Anantha Chandrakasan in discussing the announcement. "XSeries sequences allow our departments to reimagine the building blocks that structure teaching in our disciplines for the digital environment."
Each XSeries will cover content equivalent to two to four traditional residential courses and take between six months and two years to complete.
"We are no longer constrained to structure course material in 14-week units to fit the academic semester," said MIT Senior Lecturer Chris Terman, part of the instructional team for the Foundations of Computer Science XSeries. "We can split the material into more approachable modules, each focused on key concepts of computer science and computational thinking, and assemble those modules into new programs intended for a larger audience."
The first module of the Computer Science XSeries will begin this fall, while the Supply Chain and Logistics Management XSeries will start in fall 2014. The programs will offer certificates of achievement but not academic credit.
Starting in spring 2014, the XSeries sequences will use edX's new ID verification process. The new edX functionality uses webcam photos to confirm student identity, provides linkable online certificates, and requires a modest fee.
The university did not disclose prices for XSeries courses and is expected to announce the cost later this fall. Students will also have the option of auditing the sequences for free.
According to Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic, the end-of-sequences tests will cost around $700, and they will be offered by verifying a student's identity in part through their webcam. Steve Kolowich writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education that the announcement of the pay-to-verify tests follows news that Coursera has made $1 million in 2013 selling similar "verified" tests.
This fall, edX is piloting ID verification on three standalone courses, including 6.002x Circuits and Electronics from MITx, and two courses from BerkeleyX: 169.1x Software as a Service and Stat 2.1x Intro to Statistics: Descriptive Statistics. These courses will continue to be offered with an honor code certificate option as well.