MIT Online Certs--Degrees Next?
MIT has been offering free online courses for some time, but now they will begin offering "affordable" certificates for completion of those courses. As noted in the article, MIT is a brand with high acceptance. How long before someone begins offering degrees based on the certs?

Quote:M.I.T. Expands Its Free Online Courses
Published: December 19, 2011

While students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pay thousands of dollars for courses, the university will announce a new program on Monday allowing anyone anywhere to take M.I.T. courses online free of charge — and for the first time earn official certificates for demonstrating mastery of the subjects taught.

“There are many people who would love to augment their education by having access to M.I.T. content, people who are very capable to earn a certificate from M.I.T.,” said L. Rafael Reif, the provost, in a conference call with reporters Friday.

M.I.T. led the way to an era of online learning 10 years ago by posting course materials from almost all its classes. Its free OpenCourseWare now includes nearly 2,100 courses and has been used by more than 100 million people.

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.

Mr. Reif and Anant Agarwal, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, said M.I.T.x would start this spring — perhaps with just one course — but would expand to include many more courses, as OpenCourseWare has done.

“The technologies available are much more advanced than when we started OpenCourseWare,” Mr. Agarwal said. “We can provide pedagogical tools to self-assess, self-pace or create an online learning community.”

The M.I.T.x classes, he said, will have online discussions and forums where students can ask questions and, often, have them answered by others in the class.

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.

Educators at other universities applauded the M.I.T. move.

“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.”

M.I.T. said its new learning platform should eventually host a virtual community of learners around the world — and enhance the education of M.I.T.’s on-campus students, with online tools that enrich their classroom and laboratory experiences.

The development of the new platform will be accompanied by an M.I.T.-wide research initiative on online teaching and learning, including grading by computer.

And because the M.I.T.x platform will be available free to people around the world, M.I.T. officials said they expected that other universities would also use it to offer their own free online courses. Mr. Reif said that M.I.T. was investing millions of dollars in the project, and that it expected to raise money from foundations and others.
Now THATS cool! I can get an MIT education at home? Cool
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
It's a "game-changer," according to Forbes. Interesting how they immediately begin speculating on the effect of "free" on the bottom line of for-profits. For-profits seem to have no problem competing with below market prices offered by many state programs. They offer service (accessibility, convenience) not available at the government schools. They also offer degrees, which don't appear to be on the menu (yet) with the MIT program. I suspect it's the wealthy "non-profits" who hate this the most.

M.I.T. Game-Changer: Free Online Education For All

For Wall Street Occupiers or other decriers of the “social injustice” of college tuition, here’s a curveball bound to scramble your worldview: a totally free college education regardless of your academic performance or background. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) will announce on Monday that they intend to launch an online learning initiative called M.I.T.x,which will offer the online teaching of M.I.T. courses free of charge to anyone in the world.

The program will not allow students to earn an M.I.T. degree. Instead, those who are able to exhibit a mastery of the subjects taught on the platform will receive an official certificate of completion. The certificate will obviously not carry the weight of a traditional M.I.T. diploma, but it will provide an incentive to finish the online material. According to the New York Times, in order to prevent confusion, the certificate will be a credential bearing the distinct name of a new not-for-profit body that will be created within M.I.T.

The new online platform will look to build upon the decade-long success of the university’s original free online platform, OpenCourseWare (OCW), which has been used by over 100 million students and contains course material for roughly 2,100 classes. The new M.I.T.x online program will not compete with OCW in the number of courses that it offers. However, the program will offer students a greater interactive experience.

Students using the program will be able to communicate with their peers through student-to-student discussions, allowing them an opportunity to ask questions or simply brainstorm with others, while also being able to access online laboratories and self-assessments. In the future, students and faculty will be able to control which classes will be available on the system based on their interests, creating a personalized education setting.

M.I.T.x represents the next logical evolution in the mushrooming business of free online education by giving students an interactive experience as opposed to a simple videotaped lecture. Academic Earth (picked by Time Magazine as one of the 50 best websites of 2009) has cornered the market on free online education by making a smorgasbord of online course content – from prestigious universities such as Stanford and Princeton – accessible and free to anyone in the world. Users on Academic Earth can watch lectures from some of the brightest minds our universities have to offer from the comfort of their own computer screen. However, that is all they can do: watch. Khan Academy, another notable online education site, offers a largely free interactive experience to its users through assessments and exercises, but it limits itself to K-12 education. By contrast, M.I.T.x will combine the interactivity of the Khan Academy with the collegiate focus of Academic Earth, while drawing primarily from M.I.T.’s advanced course material.

“M.I.T. has long believed that anyone in the world with the motivation and ability to engage M.I.T. coursework should have the opportunity to attain the best M.I.T.-based educational experience that Internet technology enables,” said M.I.T. President Susan Hockfield in the university’s press release.

According to the university, residential M.I.T. students can expect to use M.I.T.x in a different way than online-only students. For instance, the program will be used to augment on-campus course work by expanding upon what students learn in class (faculty and students will determine how to incorporate the program into their courses). The university intends to run the two programs simultaneously with no reduction in OCW offerings.

According to the New York Times, access to the software will be free. However, there will most likely be an “affordable” charge, not yet determined, for a credential. The program will also save individuals from the rigors of the cutthroat M.I.T. admissions process, as online-only students will not have to be enrolled in the prestigious, yet expensive, university to access its online teaching resources.

Those chomping at the bit to dive into M.I.T.x will have to wait, as the university doesn’t plan to launch a prototype of the platform until the spring of 2012. According to M.I.T. Provost L. Rafael Reif and Anant Agarwal, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, the prototype might include only one course, but it would quickly expand to include many more courses.

Once launched, M.I.T. officials expect the M.I.T.x platform to be a giant hit amongst other universities looking to create or expand upon their online course materials. “Creating an open learning infrastructure will enable other communities of developers to contribute to it, thereby making it self-sustaining,” said Agarwal in the M.I.T. press release.

Whether M.I.T.x will directly threaten the margins at for-profit online universities, such as the University of Phoenix, APUS, or DeVry remains to be seen. But as M.I.T.x starts to provide many of the salient virtues of for-profit online colleges, such as a robust learning management systems and real-time virtual interaction, these publicly traded education companies might have to lower fees in order to compete with M.I.T.x’s compelling free price. In addition, the success of M.I.T.x, OCW, and Academic Earth may push dramatic technological innovation at for-profits, so that they can maintain a unique selling proposition versus their free competitors. Moreover, as the rapidly growing number of what are termed “self educators” choose free college education, a cottage industry of social media support services might evolve to bring them together for free in-person study and help sessions.

Which is all to say that, against this country’s sizable need for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates, M.I.T.x is nothing short of revolutionary. This is especially true if you aren’t a credential freak and, like me, just want to improve your chops in a marketable subject area. Heck, maybe Gene Marks’ (“If I Were a Black Kid”) tech-based view of education can become a reality after all.
Quote:Stanford University Provides Free Online Classes On Everything From Game Theory to Anatomy.

January 11, 2012 9:00 PM | Cassandra Khaw

Is this a sign of the encroaching apocalypse or an indication of better things to come? Stanford University used to be one of those top-notch educational institutes that cost an arm and a leg to attend. And now they're offering free courses? I'm not sure what to think about this but I'm definitely not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

There are actually a fair number of courses being offered. I'm not sure how useful Anatomy is going to be to an aspiring game designer but I'm willing to bet that there's more than a few out there who could benefit from the Game Theory (Thanks, Alexey!) classes or the Human-Computer Interaction course. In general, it looks like the courses will consist of eight to twelve minute lecture videos, an assortment of integrated quiz questions, standalone quizzes and various other assignments. And before anyone asks, the answer is 'no'. No, you will not be getting credits. You may, however, gain insight instead and that, as any well-pickled philosopher can tell you, is worth its weight in gold.

You can find out more here.
(01-20-2012, 02:51 AM)Herbert Spencer Wrote:
Quote:Stanford University Provides Free Online Classes On Everything From Game Theory to Anatomy.

January 11, 2012 9:00 PM | Cassandra Khaw

Is this a sign of the encroaching apocalypse or an indication of better things to come? Stanford University used to be one of those top-notch educational institutes that cost an arm and a leg to attend. And now they're offering free courses? I'm not sure what to think about this but I'm definitely not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

There are actually a fair number of courses being offered. I'm not sure how useful Anatomy is going to be to an aspiring game designer but I'm willing to bet that there's more than a few out there who could benefit from the Game Theory (Thanks, Alexey!) classes or the Human-Computer Interaction course. In general, it looks like the courses will consist of eight to twelve minute lecture videos, an assortment of integrated quiz questions, standalone quizzes and various other assignments. And before anyone asks, the answer is 'no'. No, you will not be getting credits. You may, however, gain insight instead and that, as any well-pickled philosopher can tell you, is worth its weight in gold.

You can find out more here.
It says that this course will not be offered for credit.

Still it definitely raises your cool score to say that you attended Stanford.
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Quote:Online course start-ups offer virtually free college
By Jon Marcus, Published: January 21

An emerging group of entrepreneurs with influential backing is seeking to lower the cost of higher education from as much as tens of thousands of dollars a year to nearly nothing.

These new arrivals are harnessing the Internet to offer online courses, which isn’t new. But their classes are free, or almost free. Most traditional universities have refused to award academic credit for such online studies.

Now the start-ups are discovering a way around that monopoly, by inventing credentials that “graduates” can take directly to employers instead of university degrees.

“If I were the universities, I might be a little nervous,” said Alana Harrington, director of, a nonprofit organization based in the District. Established by entrepreneur Michael Saylor, it offers 200 free online college courses in 12 majors.

Another nonprofit initiative is Peer-to-Peer University, based in California. Known as P2PU, it offers free online courses and is supported by the Hewlett Foundation and Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox Web browser.

A third is University of the People, also based in California, which offers more than 40 online courses. It charges students a one-time $10 to $50 application fee. Among its backers is the Clinton Global Initiative.

The content these providers supply comes from top universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkeley, Tufts University and the University of Michigan. Those are among about 250 institutions worldwide that have put a collective 15,000 courses online in what has become known as the open-courseware movement.

The universities aim to widen access to course content for prospective students and others. At MIT, a pioneer of open courseware, half of incoming freshmen report that they’ve looked at MIT online courses and a third say it influenced their decision to go there.

But the material, which includes videos of lectures, can also be scooped up by others and organized into catalogues of free courses.

Some providers develop their own content. StraighterLine, a Baltimore for-profit company, charges students $99 a month plus a $39 registration fee for each of more than 30 online courses.

These start-ups have a tiny share of a fast-growing online market. An estimated 6.1 million students a year pay for online courses from traditional or for-profit universities.

By contrast, University of the People has registered 1,100 students in two years. StraighterLine says it enrolled 4,000 in the past two years. doesn’t have a count of how many students take its courses; P2PU says that about 25,000 users have opened accounts on its Web site since 2009 but that there is no tally of how many have finished courses.

Still, analysts say the notion of free or very low-cost online college is gaining attention from students who often must borrow heavily to pay spiraling tuition costs at traditional schools.

“Maybe these upstarts don’t have all the bells and whistles of the beautiful campuses. But people are deciding it’s not worth paying for that,” said Michael Horn, director for education at the Innosight Institute, a nonprofit think tank.

To be sure, similar arguments are advanced in favor of community college as a proven, low-cost path toward a degree.

Some students who complete courses through the new online-only providers are able to win credit from conventional colleges. Albany State University in Georgia, for instance, encourages incoming students to take StraighterLine courses to build credits toward a degree.

Still, most conventional colleges and universities refuse to accept transfer credits from these programs. Universities say that they can’t always judge the quality of courses offered by others and that reading online content alone, or even watching lectures, is not the same as attending class in person.

“Libraries are free, too,” says Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. “You can roam around, read books and study. But hardly anyone would say that spending time in the library is a good preparation to work in any economy, much less this one.”

Denial of credits means that students who want a degree from a conventional university often find that they must retake certain courses — and pay for them.

“The last thing universities have to protect themselves is this withholding of academic credit,” said Philipp Schmidt, co-founder and director of P2PU. He contended that conventional schools simply want to prevent competition. “It’s not about a deep concern for the interests of the students. It’s about a deep concern for the interests of the institutions.”

Debbie Arthur of Kingsport, Tenn., who has taken courses from StraighterLine, said many classes at conventional universities are no more personal than the ones online.

“The Pollyanna version of college is that you’re learning and discussing things with your professors,” Arthur said. “The reality is that you have 450 kids in an auditorium listening to a teaching assistant.”

Some free-content providers are devising new credentials in lieu of credits or degrees., for instance, next month will introduce an “electronic portfolio,” more detailed than a college transcript, that students can show employers.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is running a $2 million competition to design digital “badges” that can be used instead of university degrees to prove a job candidate’s experience and knowledge to employers. P2PU and Saylor are experimenting with such badges for students to show they have completed courses.

This spring, MIT will begin offering certificates of completion to anyone who successfully finishes courses the university makes available free online. There will be a small fee for certificates in this project, known as MITx.

Meanwhile, some businesses that offer tuition reimbursement to employees are becoming interested in the free- and low-cost education providers.

CompuCom, a Dallas information technology company with 5,000 employees, has begun to work with StraighterLine. Burck Smith, chief executive of StraighterLine, said such partnerships mean “colleges that want these students later will have to accept StraighterLine credits.”

Ed Rankin, who oversees CompuCom’s tuition reimbursement, said “there’s no question” other companies will follow suit.

“If there is a way to lower the price of higher education, you can’t stand there for long and say, ‘I’ll resist this and prevent it from happening,’ ” said Shai Reshef, founder and president of University of the People. “Maybe it will be a harder road than it needs to be. But it will happen.”
(12-21-2011, 12:22 PM)Armando Ramos Wrote: How long before someone begins offering degrees based on the certs?

Still not quite "degrees for certs," but that appears to be the direction things are headed...albeit slowly.

Quote:Without Credit
July 18, 2012 - 3:00am
By Steve Kolowich

The University of Washington plans to offer “enhanced” versions of the massive open online courses (MOOCs) it will develop through a partnership with Coursera, according to the university’s provost.

The "enhanced" versions will add a number of features designed to make them more closely resemble conventional online courses -- including more assessments, direct interaction with instructors, and the opportunity to earn a certificate that hypothetically could be redeemed for course credit.

But the “enhanced” MOOCs will also come with price tags and enrollment caps. And while students might be able to redeem their completion certificates for credit toward a University of Washington degree, they could do so only if they enrolled as tuition-paying students at the university, says David P. Szatmary, the provost.

Apart from residing online and on the Coursera platform, these “enhanced” and potentially credit-bearing courses will hardly qualify as MOOCs.

Even as traditional universities have embraced massive free courses, those institutions have drawn a line on the matter of offering credit. Some professors send a letter of recognition to students who succeed in the free, online versions of their courses, but the universities have refrained from offering those students course credits that count toward the completion of a traditional degree. So far the only way students might redeem their success in MOOCs for formal college credit is by seeking validation through prior-learning assessment apparatuses.

This despite rumors, following Monday’s news of 12 new universities plotting to broadcast free versions of their highly regarded courses, that Washington was going to become the first traditional institution to take the plunge on offering course credit for its MOOCs. Washington is slated to develop 19 courses with Coursera -- covering topics in economics, business, biology and computer science -- making it the company’s most ambitious partner.

“[S]ome of them will offer credit,” The New York Times wrote of Coursera’s new partners in a widely circulated article about the company’s announcement. The article cited Washington, in particular, as planning to offer university credit for its MOOCs this fall, and noted that “other online ventures are also moving in that direction.” The report was the most e-mailed story on the Times’s website Monday, and the detail about Washington offering credit was parroted in several places around the Web.

But Szatmary, Washington's provost, says the university does not plan to offer course credit for its MOOCs. What it does plan to do is offer people the option of paying to take versions of its Coursera offerings that include additional layers of online instruction and assessment that will be make the courses “more conventional.”

According to the provost, people who choose the “enhanced” versions of Washington's Coursera offerings will pay for the opportunity to earn a certificate. And the prices will not be significantly lower than those of the existing certificate programs offered through the university’s center for professional and continuing education, Szatmary says. Those typically range from $2,500 to $4,000 per three-course program, he says.

Students currently enrolled at Washington may be able to take the “enhanced” versions of the Coursera courses for credit, but in accordance with university policy they will not pay any less than they would for a normal Washington course.

The university expects that instructors and students will benefit from the technology embedded in the Coursera platform -- including tools that quiz students as they are working through material, gauging both the individual progress of each student and the general effectiveness of different teaching resources.

But as far as price, the Coursera partnership is “not likely” to be a cheaper alternative to anything the university already offers in the credit-bearing realm, says Szatmary.

Washington, like many universities, still links creditworthiness and a threshold of contact between students and instructors -- and actual MOOCs, which often enroll more than 100,000 students in a single course, don’t pass muster.

“We likely could not create a course that would offer credit for 100,000 people, out of the box,” Szatmary says. “We wouldn’t have the instructional resources for that.”
Quote:Stanford's Next Lesson: Free Online Courses For Credit And Degrees?

As Stanford, Harvard and other top American universities digitize more courses for free public consumption, will students one day be able to get an actual degree online from these institutions without having to pay for it?

John Hennessy, president of Stanford University, says his school "can see moving in that direction."

Currently, Stanford offers online courses on subjects such as cryptography and human-computer interaction — all free, but without credit. (Students do get a "certificate of completion" signed by the instructor for successfully completing the coursework.)

One major challenge to offering actual credit, according to Hennessy, will be how to assess the performance of a degree-seeking student in an online course.

"The requirement to assess student performance is significantly higher than it is if you're offering students the opportunity to be exposed to a course and do their own assessment," Hennessy tells All Things Considered's Robert Siegel. "And that's going to demand, at least for the foreseeable future, significantly more effort on behalf of faculty and support staff in order to ensure that students have really mastered the material."

Hennessy says Stanford's online course program is "still very much in the infancy [stage]" and the university's small seminars and more interactive courses are difficult to duplicate digitally. But he says the new program is meeting the needs of some students.

"I think we'll be serving, at least initially, a community for whom coming to Stanford is probably not practical," Hennessy says.

As you can hear in the above audio of the full interview, Stanford's president also speaks about how the school, well-known as an incubator for successful Silicon Valley startups, tries to balance against an overemphasis of career-focused tracks for students, as well as his concerns about declining financial support for public universities.
Great post Herbert...the thought of getting a "certificate" from Stanford sounds fantastic!...the Harvard of the "west coast" they say, and for FREE! My brother-in-law attended Stanford's engineering school, and later got his MBA from UCLA. I'm going to send him an email, with this exciting new development. I guess this is Stanford's wonderful way of giving back to the community...a great university, just got that much better...I always liked the Cardinal
(12-21-2011, 12:22 PM)Armando Ramos Wrote: How long before someone begins offering degrees based on the certs?

Good call Armando. Looks like the answer is "about a year."

Although it appears it's only the "first course" that is free and for-credit. Do colleges get their marketing strategies from drug dealers?

Quote:January 23rd, 2013
A new business model for MOOCs: Gateway to degree programs
By Sarah Langmead, Assistant Editor

MOOC2Degree allows students to take free, open, for-credit courses so as to encourage them to enroll in college full-time.

Nine universities will pilot a new game-changing business model that offers students free access to massive open online courses (MOOCs) for credit in hopes of increasing college enrollment and accessibility.

The new model, called MOOC2Degree, is presented by Academic Partnerships, a Dallas-based firm that helps universities develop and market online courses.

“The concept is to make the first course in a degree program a MOOC—open, free, and for-credit,” said Randy Best, chairman and CEO of Academic Partnerships. “I think MOOC2Degree is a game-changer in that it applies to almost any university around the world. It gives them greater access to students, [and] the ability to observe [students'] academic performance—and [it enables] tens of thousands of working adults to try online learning risk-free to see if it fits them.”

The nine universities set to pilot the MOOC2Degree program are Arizona State University, Lamar University, Florida International University, the University of Arkansas System, University of Cincinnati, University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing, University of West Florida, and Utah State University. The program is set to launch this spring.

Best asserts that MOOC2Degree not only will increase global access to higher education, but also will help draw working adults to bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Academic Partnerships and the participating schools said they believe that, by offering students a single, free, for-credit course, universities will see a return on their investment via increased enrollment numbers.

“We are so committed to being able to offer [this opportunity] that we’re going to take that risk,” said Elizabeth Poster, dean of the University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing. “We have confidence that once [students are] in the program, they’re going to continue on.”

The University of Cincinnati’s David Szymanski, dean of the Carl H. Lindner College of Business, said he agrees. “We’re confident that once a student takes the MOOC course and sees the quality, they’ll continue on in our program,” he said.

The question of quality has dogged the MOOC movement, but Poster and Szymanski anticipate thousands of students flocking to their schools’ respective MOOC2Degree programs.

“We are committed to providing nurses with more creative opportunities to expand their education,” said Poster. “This innovative initiative allows nurses nationwide to experience the flexibility and convenience of online learning risk-free as the first step toward obtaining their BSN degrees.”

What sets MOOC2Degree apart from other programs is the idea that it is a stepping stone to a credential—a starting point on a roadmap to a higher-ed degree.

MOOC2Degree “is the same program, the same course, it’s just made free, open, and for-credit,” said Best. “[It's a] conversion of an existing course into a MOOC. The courses will have the same rigor, the same assessment.”

If students complete the free, for-credit course and ultimately decide not to enroll in the university, it is the university’s prerogative to still grant or withhold credit value.

Best said participating universities are free to decide which platform works best for their individual needs, though Academic Partnerships has a solid relationship with Instructure’s Canvas platform, which universities could benefit from exploring.

“Due to the partnership between Academic Partnerships and Canvas, universities can use the Canvas Open Network System at no cost to offer MOOC2Degree courses,” according to a company press release. “Canvas is widely lauded [for] its intuitive design, flexible pedagogy, integrated multimedia, deep social network integration, and easy-to-use authoring system.”

Neither Academic Partnerships nor participating universities will see a monetary return on their investment just yet, but Best asserts that MOOC2Degree will, in time, create a new revenue stream that will become quite profitable. In the meantime, participants can celebrate their efforts to increase college accessibility and further market their school’s brand worldwide.

Best believes that once universities have achieved a greater scale, with that scalability will come profits.

“I believe [MOOC2Degree] will become a standard process of universities for introducing their degree programs on a global basis,” he said.

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