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Worldwide change takes global effort

The American University in Cairo is the first school to grant master's credits to MITx Data, Economics, and Development Policy MicroMasters program learners.
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The American University in Cairo is the first school in the world to pair with MIT in accepting the DEDP MicroMasters credential to help students embark on their master’s education.
The American University in Cairo is the first school in the world to pair with MIT in accepting the DEDP MicroMasters credential to help students embark on their master’s education.

In keeping with its mission to expand access to affordable education around the world through the innovative use of online learning, MIT Open Learning welcomes an international university that has elected to grant course credits to their students who complete the MITx MicroMasters in Data, Economics, and Development Policy (DEDP). The American University in Cairo (AUC) will be the first school in the world to pair with MIT in accepting the DEDP MicroMasters credential to help students embark on their master’s education.

The engagement with AUC was first initiated as part of an Al Ghurair Foundation for Education (AGFE) and MIT collaboration to enhance and expand the use of online learning in the Arab world as well as to integrate digital learning into university courses. The collaboration includes utilizing MITx courses as models for blended learning on campus and demonstrating the potential of online tools for STEM education. AGFE has also been supporting Arab world learners who participate in MicroMasters programs with scholarships.

MicroMasters programs are open to all learners throughout the world. The only requirement is that they have access to the online curriculum. The DEDP program was designed by MIT’s Department of Economics in conjunction with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). J-PAL is a research center at MIT whose mission is to combat poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. J-PAL does this through research, policy outreach, and training, utilizing its network of 158 affiliated professors from 51 universities and staff in six regional offices. The DEDP program consists of five courses, which provide students with rigorous training in development economics, microeconomics, program design and evaluation, and data analysis.

“We’re excited to see the enthusiasm for our program — both from learners and universities. At this point, we have students from 190 countries working hard to master the material and earn our MicroMasters credential,” explains Esther Duflo, director of J-PAL. “When universities recognize these learners’ efforts by offering credit for our classes this creates new opportunities for students all over the world. Universities often struggle to spot talent in unusual places, stacking the cards against those who didn’t attend prestigious universities for their undergraduate degrees. The MicroMasters helps alleviate these issues, as universities — MIT included — can rely on the credential to select the best and the brightest regardless of background. We see enormous potential in this blended learning model, and are thrilled that others see it, too.”

The DEDP program was designed to be accessible to people in any stage of life, including those with work and family responsibilities, and was priced to be affordable to everyone regardless of their economic background. After completing the five online courses and passing in-person assessments, students are eligible to apply for an accelerated degree program through the Master of Applied Science in Data, Economics and Development Policy at MIT or the Master of Arts in Economics in International Development at AUC.

“Blending online learning with learning that happens on our campuses can help us transform how we educate professionals around the world, for the world,” says Krishna Rajagopal, dean for digital learning at MIT. “We have a long history of pedagogical innovation at MIT; digital learning is the new frontier, bringing us new ways to share how we teach with the world. We are excited that AUC will offer credit towards their own master’s programs to students who complete the DEDP MicroMasters credential and pass the AUC admissions process, and we believe that their collaboration will advance the education and careers of many learners who would not otherwise have been able to complete master’s degrees.”

Online and blended learning initiatives offer universities the ability to rethink and reinvent education. From inverting the classroom to inverting admissions, digital technologies are transforming the traditional education model. They are creating a dynamic, adaptable system that can scale educational programs while dramatically reducing cost, particularly in poor and developing regions where access would otherwise be prohibitively difficult.

“We collect evaluations and feedback from learners who engage in the MITx MicroMasters programs,” says Tracy Tan, director of MicroMasters programs at MIT Open Learning. “Collectively, the students report a tremendous interest in continuing their educations. In fact, recent survey results show that more than 50 percent of MITx MicroMasters learners report a desire to pursue their first or second master’s degree.”

Extraordinary change is coming to worldwide education, but transformations require the cumulative efforts of a global community. MIT seeks to establish a robust network of universities around the globe that develop pathways to educate the growing population of learners. While global universities like AUC are known throughout the world, regional universities and community colleges can also benefit by expanding their capacity to develop and deliver innovative educational opportunities to their students.

“Through the DEDP MicroMasters program and other open learning initiatives, we look to identify and engage talented people who are passionate about learning,” says Sanjay Sarma, vice president of open learning at MIT. “By building upon our online learning initiatives, we hope that AUC can reach new and vibrant learning communities and help deliver high-quality education and life-changing experiences to all corners of the globe.”

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