MITx MicroMasters Program Maturing, Expanding

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

The MITx MicroMasters program first launched by MIT in 2015 allows online students to take master's-level courses on the edX platform and then complete a master's degree in one full semester on MIT's campus. edX is now partnering with several other institutes, such as the University of Michigan and the Rochester Institute of Technology, to expand the availability of online master's degrees.

More than 127,000 students from over 189 countries have signed up for at least one course. In total, 13 more universities will be joining the leading online non-profit education experience. The universities will offer 18 new programs including artificial intelligence and project management.

In specific, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) wants to ensure that its students have the skills necessary to lead teams in any industry. Project management is an incredibly fast growing field that RIT hopes it will be at the forefront of with the new online course options:

Jeremy Haefner, RIT provost of Academic Affairs, said, "This is terrific opportunity for RIT to engage with edX's more than 8 million learners and show how RIT can help them advance their careers. The MicroMasters program will allow those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue an academic credential faster and at a reduced overall cost."

For the University of Michigan, the edX program will add 20 more courses to the already large catalog of 92, notes Laurel Thomas Gnagey for Michigan News. Many of the courses are open and enrolling now while some will open in January. Michigan's goal with the new MicroMasters courses is to make options available that other universities just don't have yet.

James Hilton, University of Michigan's vice provost for academic education, said, "What's particularly exciting about these MicroMasters is that they highlight Michigan's mission-based commitment to addressing the societal issues of today, and they do it in ways that take advantage of hybrid modes of discovery for global, residential and lifelong learners."

Both edX programs and MicroMasters programs follow a similar path to completion. In both programs, there are five courses and a capstone exam that allow students to get a hands-on approach to coursework even though the classes are taken online.

Scott Bureau writes for University News that the importance of these programs is heightened in an ever-changing digital age. These courses are important for both the universities that host them and for the students that undertake their coursework through them. In an age where education doesn't have to be classroom centered, it is becoming increasingly important to allow access to degrees and certifications in an online environment:

"We are proud to be a pioneer for higher education's next step in engaging learners worldwide. Not all high-potential master's candidates can afford to spend a year or more on campus, so it's important to provide multiple pathways to a degree. MicroMasters gives learners the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities through a series of online courses, earn a valuable credential and, if they excel, complete their master's with an additional semester's residence," says Sanjay Sarma, vice president for open learning at MIT.

The new options aren't just opportunities for currently enrolled or new students, but are also for teachers and students who have already graduated.

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