MOOCs widen the reach of professional education both geographically and in terms of the numbers of learners who can access these programs. Take, for example, the new “MicroMaster” credential in supply-chain management launched by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last year. A primary mission of the program is to democratize education in the growing field. More than 300,000 learners from 192 countries have enrolled in at least one MicroMaster course, and over 25,000 individuals have attempted one or more full courses.
These statistics reflect the unprecedented reach of MOOC-based professional education.
But this new model provides much more than scale. Since MOOCs function in an online environment and automatically track student participation, the programs are generating a flood of data on the learning process. For example, MicroMaster generates hundreds of thousands of data points on various aspects of the program such as the effectiveness of course content and the pace at which individuals learn.
The insights gained from analyzing this vast volume of data — using advanced analytical methods such as machine learning to derive such insights — can translate quickly into program improvements. For instance, feedback loops can be created to measure and evaluate specific issues, which isn’t as easy to do in conventional classrooms.
Online education won’t replace residential models; it will complement and enrich them with access to industry leaders or innovative facilities via video, as one example. At MIT, high-performing graduates of its online course can also apply for the school’s residential supply-chain graduate program — or any of 21 other universities that recognize the MicroMaster credential.
This new hybrid program shows that non-traditional learners need not be disadvantaged. Last year, the program’s first students earned their master’s degrees, and they performed just as well as their traditional classmates with different academic backgrounds.
Courses and programs that combine the best of online and residential education models will grow in popularity and value as they continue to revolutionize supply-chain education — and help the industry meet a rising demand for talent.
Yossi Sheffi is director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics.
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