Colleges have offered online courses for years now, using the technology to unite students and professors who are separated by long distances. Now, one of the nation's leading universities is putting a new twist on the concept by using its online courses to create a new path to a master's degree.
Educators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently launched a half-online, half in-person master's degree program in supply chain management (SCM) that's attracting thousands of new students. MIT uses free virtual courses to draw in large numbers of scholars eager to learn the fundamentals of supply chain management. It then skims the top performers in those introductory courses and offers them admission to a paid program on campus to complete the degree.
School leaders say the program is not only making a profit but is also bringing dozens of new degree-seeking students to the Cambridge, Mass., campus. "We are so impressed by what we're seeing that there's a debate within the Center for Transportation and Logistics over whether we should replace standardized tests like the GMAT and GRE with taking one full [online] course and seeing how [students] do," Yossi Sheffi, an MIT professor of engineering and director of the center, told Inside Higher Ed magazine.
MIT launched the program in October 2016, taking a traditional one-year professional program and converting it to the new "inverted admissions" model. Under this approach, applicants are invited to take the entire first semester's worth of courses through the free, online course platform edX. Students who complete five courses are eligible to take a final exam, and those who pass can apply to complete the master's degree through a paid semester on campus, either at MIT or at one of a handful of other universities.