Take Classes Toward your Degree for FREE?

MicroMastersFree online college courses are an up-and-coming trends. Many online schools and educational institutions are offering people the opportunity to learn without footing the expensive bill of a degree – in the past, these classes weren’t usable toward any sort of degree, they were just something nice to put on your resume. This was the case for MIT, which has been offering free online courses for over four years, but a new project could change that.

The recently-announced project would allow students to take a semester of free online courses in one of the many graduate programs offered by MIT. After they complete the classes and pass a corresponding exam, they could then pay a fee of $1,500 to earn a “MicroMaster’s” from MIT.

So, no, it’s not totally free, but for a one-year master’s degree program in supply chain management would usually be paying upwards of $60,000, so in comparison, it might as well be free. This pilot project is focused only on the supply chain management degree for now, and it would allow students who passed the exam to acquire their full master’s degree – not just the MicroMaster’s – for half the tuition.

According to MIT’s President, L. Rafael Reif, people now “have a chance to prove in advance that they can do the work” and earn a degree at MIT.

The MicroMaster’s costs $150 per course (5), plus a fee of up to $800 to take the final exam. The first semester will begin this winter, and MIT hopes that about 40 students will graduate from the program and finish the degree program on-campus.

Because there is such a high demand for well-trained supply chain managers, but most qualified candidates are already full-time workers, this program was developed as a way to test a potential solution to that issue. MIT isn’t the first school to try to merge free online classes with usable degrees and credentials – Arizona State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Illinois have recently developed similar models of their own. MIT did, however, have a hand in founding edX, one of the major providers of free online college classes (without credit). The MicroMaster’s was simply the next logical step.

This is also a great way to help students break into the educational field of MIT, which can sometimes be challenging.

According to Reif, if the model is successful, it could definitely expand to other MIT programs – as long as the school can continue to balance quality and cost.