By Jim Shimabukuro
MIT’s decision to grant credit for MOOC courses in their supply-chain management master’s program1 is the long awaited breakthrough to the next step in online education. With this move, they’re distancing themselves from the pack, creating a huge vacuum that’s sure to suck the others in.
This decision of a top-tier university to recognize MOOCs as a viable alternative for delivering college credit courses was inevitable. It was going to happen, sooner or later. Given the fact that colleges in the U.S. and around the world have been offering completely online credit courses for years, the only question is, what took so long?
Hats off to the MIT administration and faculty for extending the promise of traditional online courses to MOOCs. MOOCs will cover the first half of the course work required for the master’s, and those who do well and are accepted into the program will then be required to register for the remaining half in on-campus classes. Despite this blended approach, this is a gutsy move in more ways than one. It spotlights the first “O” in MOOC, which is the most critical feature in massive open online courses. It also opens the door to the inevitable next step, a proliferation of full undergraduate and graduate degree programs delivered completely online via MOOCs at a fraction of the cost of MIT’s proposed blended model.2
Once that credibility door is opened by an institution such as MIT, which is among the handful of defacto higher ed leaders in online education, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the entire wall between online and onground will crumble.
We’re probably going to see leapfrogging in the coming weeks and months, with the rest of the field scrambling to one up MIT. The intriguing question is, what forms will credit MOOCs take?
Considering the formless elasticity of MOOCs, options are wide open, limited only by imagination. The most imaginative and creative institutions will, as a first step, take a long hard look at the wealth of possibilities for innovation inherent in the MOOC structure and design courses that will shake up our ages-old model for college courses.
In this last quarter of 2015, we, the world, can begin to look forward to some massive surprises in online college degree options in spring 2016.
1Jeffrey R. Young, “MIT Master’s Program to Use MOOCs as ‘Admissions Test’” (Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 Oct. 2015).
2This paragraph was expanded on 10/8/15 at 19:13 to clarify the blended nature of the pilot program.