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MIT Will Offer MOOC Curricula, Not Just Single Courses, on edX

MOOC companies are hardly universities unto themselves, but now a provider wants to move beyond offering one-off courses.

MITx, a division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that offers courses on the nonprofit edX’s platform, announced on Tuesday that it would soon offer special certificates to students who completed a prescribed sequence of massive open online courses from MIT. The sequences will be called XSeries.

MIT plans to offer its first XSeries sequence, Foundations of Computer Science, beginning this fall. The computer-science series will consist of seven courses that together “will cover content equivalent to two to four traditional residential courses and take between six months and two years to complete,” according to a news release.

EdX is working with Software Secure, a major player in the online-proctoring industry, to make sure that students who pass each course in an XSeries are who they say they are and aren’t cheating. The fee for identity verification is roughly $100 per course, meaning students who aim to earn XSeries certificates can expect to pay about $700 each, said Anant Agarwal, president of edX.

The failure of MOOCs to penetrate the traditional system of credits and degrees has made the fate of “alternative credentials” like XSeries certificates more interesting.

Coursera, a MOOC company based in Silicon Valley, recently announced that it had raked in $1-million since January by selling “verified” course certificates to students, who earn them by taking proctored exams.

Many students have taken multiple MOOCs, with hundreds of hardcore users having taken more than 10 courses. But before now there were no prescribed pathways. By offering certificates to students who complete a sequence of MOOCs, edX seems to be pushing alternative credentials to the next logical step.

An XSeries certificate in computer science will hardly equal a 15-course computer-science major at MIT, said Chris Terman, a senior lecturer in electrical engineering and computer science, but it should imply a broader understanding than a single MOOC certificate currently does.

“This is not the whole nine yards at all,” said Mr. Terman. “That said, I think you come away with a pretty solid basis in how computers do their job and the software that they run, and that’s something you can market.”

Correction (9/20/2013, 12:54 p.m.): This article originally misstated the reason for the roughly $100-per-course fee. It pays for identity verification of each student, not for a proctored final examination. The article has been updated to reflect this correction.

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