Online learning nonprofit edX is toying around with a new kind of verification service. Using one of its founding institutions as a guinea pig, MITx will now be giving away certificates to lifelong learners.
MITx introduced Tuesday the “XSeries”—new certificates for completing sequences of related modules or courses on the edX platform.
“These sequences are an opportunity for MIT to both explore how subjects can be addressed in depth through the MOOC format and to better understand student interest in various types of certification,” said Anantha Chandrakasan, head of MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, in a statement. “XSeries sequences allow our departments to reimagine the building blocks that structure teaching in our disciplines for the digital environment.”
Rather than focusing solely on individual classes per the tradition of most massive open online course platforms, edX is providing two initial “sequences”: one in “Foundations of Computer Science” and another in “Supply Chain and Logistics Management.” The sequences consist of seven and three courses, respectively, and feature curricula developed by MIT faculty members that are overseen by their academic departments.
Each XSeries will cover content equivalent to two to four traditional residential courses and are estimated to take between six months and two years to complete. Instead of needing to stretch course material over a 14-week span, MIT professors can tighten classes into shorter, more approachable and targeted modules that are better suited for a global audience.
The first module of the Computer Science XSeries is slated to begin this fall. The “Supply Chain and Logistics Management” XSeries will then start in fall 2014, but both will target different student levels. The pilot is designed as introductory undergraduate level courses, while the latter is being developed at the graduate level for learners seeking to work professionally in the field.
Although the XSeries will only offer certificates of achievement and not academic credit, starting in the spring of 2014, the sequences will use edX’s new ID verification process. What the process provides is “an added value of identity assurance for the certificates.” For a “modest fee,” online learners can be granted the proof necessary to show employers they have passed classes on the platform with a certificate similar to the one photographed above.
EdX is piloting the ID verification on three standalone courses this fall, including one from MITx and two from BerkeleyX. Prices for XSeries courses will be announced later this fall, yet students will have the option of auditing the sequences for free.
For employers to ever take online learning seriously, certification is crucial. A college degree is still heavily valued, and if MOOCs can’t provide students with necessary credentials, those students will continue to pay the hefty tuition fees just to say they did, indeed, receive a “proper” education.
That said, edX is off to a strong start. Let’s just see if the nonprofit can make a profit off of the shift.