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MITx introduces ‘XSeries’ course-sequence certificates on edX

EdX also introduces new ID verification service.

MITx, the massive open online course (MOOC) effort at MIT, has announced new certificates for completion of sequences of related modules or courses on the edX platform. The sequences, called “XSeries,” 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.

The two initial XSeries sequences are “Foundations of Computer Science” and “Supply Chain and Logistics Management.” Curriculum for each XSeries is developed by MIT faculty members and overseen by their academic departments.

“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 Anantha Chandrakasan, the Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT and head of MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). “XSeries sequences allow our departments to reimagine the building blocks that structure teaching in our disciplines for the digital environment.”

Each XSeries will cover content equivalent to two to four traditional residential courses and take between six months and two years to complete.  In a break from previous MITx offerings, the “Foundations of Computer Science” and “Supply Chain and Logistics Management” XSeries sequences are composed of shorter, more targeted modules without direct equivalents among MIT’s residential courses. 

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

The first module of the “Foundations of Computer Science” XSeries will begin this fall, and the “Supply Chain and Logistics Management” XSeries will start in fall 2014. As part of the pilot, the initial XSeries sequences are pitched at different student levels: The “Foundations of Computer Science” XSeries is designed at the introductory undergraduate level, and the “Supply Chain and Logistics Management” XSeries has been developed at the graduate level for learners seeking to work professionally in the field. The programs will offer certificates of achievement but not academic credit.

“We’re hoping to understand more about the credentials that learners value,” said Chris Caplice, executive director of MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL), who, together with CTL faculty members, is developing the “Supply Chain and Logistics Management” XSeries. “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.”

Starting in spring 2014, the XSeries sequences will use edX’s new ID verification process, providing the added value of identity assurance for the certificates. This new edX functionality uses webcam photos to confirm student identity, provides linkable online certificates and requires a modest fee. Prices for XSeries courses will be announced later this fall; students will also have the option of auditing the sequences for free. EdX is piloting ID verification on three standalone courses this fall, including 6.002x (Circuits and Electronics) from MITx, and two courses from BerkeleyX: 169.1x (Software as a Service) and Stat 2.1x (Intro to Statistics: Descriptive Statistics). These courses will continue to be offered with an honor-code certificate option as well.

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