Two things stood out in this announcement. The first was that MITx is working on re-imagining the traditional 14 week, single course approach to educating students in 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 second major piece is that MITx believes that learners and employers will ultimately find value in an earned certificate, signaling meaningful professional development.
To provide that initial form of certification, starting in Spring 2014, the XSeries sequences will use edX’s new ID verification process, providing the added value of identity assurance for the certificates. This new edX functionality uses webcam photos to confirm student identity, provides linkable online certificates, and requires a modest fee.
Kudos to MITx and edX for thinking outside the box and utilizing the strengths of the online education environment to provide course work in a form that is better suited to it, than classes that were built for a bricks and mortar world. And then taking that further and for modest dollars, giving the student a form of certification to show employers that they have mastered the material.
It remains to be seen how this will all work, but in the world of MOOCs, the winners will be likely be those who provide education in the right format, at the right price, and have a way to show that the learning has taken place by the student provided the certificate.
Not only will MIT and edX learn more about successful teaching models, but they will also see who values the “paper” provided to the student acknowledging competency. EdX and MIT have taken another great step forward in this evolving teaching paradigm — the MOOC.
– Douglas M. Winneg, CEO and Founder | Software Secure, Inc.