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MITx Launches MOOC Sequences with Certification

MITx, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's massive open online course (MOOC) program, will begin offering certificates for completing sequences of related modules through the edX platform.

Dubbed XSeries sequences, the new offerings "represent a new approach to MOOC instruction and certification across integrated offerings more expansive than the individual courses that have thus far defined the MOOC landscape," according to an MIT news release.

The first two sequences, developed by MIT faculty with departmental oversight, are "Foundations of Computer Science" and "Supply Chain and Logistics Management."

"Each XSeries will cover content equivalent to two to four traditional residential courses and take between six months and two years to complete," according to a news release, and will be "composed of shorter, more targeted modules without one-to-one residential course equivalents."

Courses in the "Foundations of Computer Science" sequence, which is designed for introductory undergraduate-level students and will begin this fall, include:

  • Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in Python;
  • Introduction to Computational Thinking and Data Science;
  • Software Construction in Java 1;
  • Software Construction in Java 2;
  • Computation Structures: Digital Circuits;
  • Computation Structures: Programmable Architectures; and
  • Computation Structures: Computer Systems Organization.

"We are no longer constrained to structure course material in 14-week units to fit the academic semester," said MIT Senior Lecturer Chris Terman, MIT senior lecturer and part of the instructional team for the Foundations of Computer Science XSeries.  in a prepared statement. "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."

Courses in the "Supply Chain and Logistics Management" sequence, which is designed for graduate-level students and will begin in fall 2014, include:

  • Supply Chain and Logistics Fundamentals;
  • Design of Supply Chain; and
  • Supply Chain Strategy.

"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 MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department Head Anantha Chandrakasan in a prepared statement.  "XSeries sequences allow our departments to reimagine the building blocks that structure teaching in our disciplines for the digital environment."

Beginning in Spring 2014, XSeries sequences will use the new edX ID verification process, which is being piloted by three edX courses this fall and "uses webcam photos to confirm student identity, provides linkable online certificates, and requires a modest fee," according to information released by edX.

"We're hoping to understand more about the credentials that learners value," said Chris Caplice, who, together with other faculty members at the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics, is developing the Supply Chain and Logistics ManagementXSeries. "We hope that learners and employers will ultimately find the Supply Chain and Logistics Management XSeries certificate to be valuable in signaling meaningful professional development, but we are in the early stages of exploring these kinds of programs."

Individuals will be able to audit the XSeries sequences for free, but certification will require a fee that will be announced this fall.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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