The iTunes Of Higher Education
Career College Central summary:
Soon you’ll be able to take a series of online courses in computer science and earn an official certificate from MIT — one of the most prestigious engineering schools in the world — all for only a few hundred dollars. And you will be able to do it without having to meet any admissions requirements. MIT will be launching these XSeries Certificate programs in the next few months, including one in “supply chain management.”
MIT's program is the beginning of the unbundling of the American university. Much in the way that 12-song albums gave way to 99-cent iTunes purchases, universities are now under pressure to offer more ways to slice off smaller bits of education.
Degrees, the currency of higher education, have traditionally been traded in large denominations: four-year bachelor’s degree, two-year master’s degree, five-year (or much more) Ph.D. But a variety of forces, from skyrocketing tuition to the proliferation of online classes, are now compelling universities to rethink that approach. High fees are keeping many would-be students from enrolling in conventional degree programs, while universities are under pressure to unlock new revenues.
Universities are also wary of diluting the value of their traditional degrees, so they are creating smaller coinage: sequences, certificates, and the like. These aren’t recognized as formal degrees. Yet, at many institutions, they have a tantalizing appeal: a way to share a little bit of a university’s prestige with the masses while bringing in some extra cash. Most universities have already put a chunk of their courses online, so crafting a new certificate program allows them to simply repackage that same content into a smaller bundle, then sell the new format. In MIT’s case, it is looking to find an economically sustainable way to deliver its massive open online courses, or MOOCs, which so far have been offered for free.
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