MIT was among the first to offer courses online for free with the launch of MIT OpenCourseWare 10 years ago. Now, the venerable institution is offering certificates for its online coursework, and the implications could go in any direction. The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle offers some points to ponder, including the following: “The role of schooling in upward mobility will change. This is kind of a cop-out, because I’m not sure which way the change runs.  I can tell a story where eUniversities make it radically easier for smart, poor kids to advance in their spare time.  I can also tell a story where education is very complementary to the kind of personal networks and social capital that middle-class kids can tap through their parents.  For poor kids who can get there (and stay there), college provides a lot of education on how to socialize with other college students, and of course, expert professionals who can help you find a job if you ask for help.” Read the full post.

MIT is going to offer certificates for completion of low-cost online coursework, an offering the university is calling MITx. Stephen Gordon ponders the implications: I’ve seen a fair amount of speculation along these lines. I’m probably more skeptical than most of the boosters, however.

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  • geri caruso

    I think people who are covertly advising young people not to go to college in the traditional sense, are doing a disservice to a whole generation. There is no current viable option to a college degree and taking a couple of courses from MIT (where you probably don’t even have to be actually admitted) is not going to impress an employer who wants to know you can go the distance.  Until there is a more thought out safe option, anyone who can get a traditional college degree is ill advised to do anything else. This includes spattering and dabbling in various “options” on the web. 20+ years ago we were told that the computer would lead to the paperless office. What a joke. The kind of change you are observing takes many years to come about whether you believe it or not and in the mean time, people rely on this kind of advice or observation and make life choices based on it.   

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