New, Digital Path to a Master’s

In February 2016 MIT rolled out its newest path to a master’s degree: the MicroMasters. The pilot program allows broad access to master’s-level coursework in MIT’s top-ranked Supply Chain Management program, and will serve as a test case for future MicroMasters offerings. In October 2016, edX announced a partnership with 13 more universities that are adopting MIT’s credential and bringing 18 new MicroMasters to learners across the globe.

The pioneering program from MITx consists of five online courses, open to anyone, and culminates in the new MicroMasters credential from MITx, MIT’s online learning initiative, for those who successfully complete the material and pass a proctored exam. There is no application process and enrollment is free. There is a small fee per course for those who want to obtain the credential.

Exceptional performers can then be considered for admittance into an accelerated version of the traditional, on-campus, yearlong Supply Chain Management master’s program at MIT—with credits already equal to one semester of work. This “inverted admissions” approach allows students to take courses before even applying for a master’s program, instead of having to wait until acceptance. The October 2016 announcement included new additional paths to a master’s degree from Queensland University and from Curtis University, both in Australia, giving online learners more flexibility to advance their careers and education.

“Inverted admission has the potential to disrupt traditional modes of access to higher education,” said MIT’s vice president for open learning, Sanjay Sarma. “We’re democratizing access to a master’s program for learners worldwide.” With the MicroMasters program, MIT is expanding its existing digital-learning opportunities and integrating them more seamlessly with its traditional residential learning path. This approach builds on the recommendations of the Institute-Wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education convened by President L. Rafael Reif in 2013.

Supply Chain Management makes a particularly attractive candidate for the pilot because its concepts translate well into online learning. Further, there is a worldwide talent shortage driving a need for greater numbers of educated practitioners. Already attracting a global roster of 36–40 students per year, the program’s reach now extends farther afield, offering supply chain expertise to countless future leaders.