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MIT’s Hybrid MicroMaster’s Early Success

By Cait Etherington
July 17, 2018

Blended learning, which combines the best of both online and in-person instruction, is increasingly lauded as the most effective and cost-efficient model of education. It is on this basis that MIT recently launched its MITx MicroMasters, which combines a year of online learning with one semester of on-campus education. So far, the program has been declared a success, with the first cohort of students in the hybrid program performing just as well as their on-campus counterparts.

Structure of the MITx MicroMasters

The MITx MicroMasters has two parts. First, students must complete a series of five to six courses depending on the program. There are four programs to choose from including Supply Chain Management; Data, Economics and Development Policy; Principles of Economics; and Statistics and Data Science. Next, students must pass one or more proctored exams, depending on the program. Once they have completed the program and earned a MicroMasters from MITx, they can apply to complete a semester on campus to earn an MIT master’s degree. The entire suite of online courses can be purchased for $1080, which is much less than studying on the MIT campus. For example, a full-year of tuition in the master’s in Supply Chain Management program on the MIT campus is currently $74,000 and with student life fees, health insurance and living expenses, the estimated cost of studying in the program for a year is $103,306.

To date, 1,900 students have completed all the courses in the MicroMasters, 622 have written the final exams and passed, and over 40 students have been accepted to MIT’s on-campus program, along with another 17 in Zaragoza and 12 in Malaysia. The statistics for the program are already impressive. Students who went on to complete a master’s degree on campus were considered just as prepared as students who completed the on-campus program.

Hybrid Master Program Reaches Different Students

In an article posted in the MIT News on July 13th, Yossi Sheffi, the Elisha Gray II Professor of Engineering Systems and director of the master’s program in supply chain management, emphasized that in many respects, the success of the hybrid students is not a surprise. They are a unique and highly-motivated group of students.  Most of the students are working full-time and in many cases, working to solve real-life workplace problems for the capstone projects. “They have spent about 18 months, usually on nights and weekends, going over tough assignments in MIT-level classes,” Sheffi told MIT News. Sheffi further noted, “They have to do it on their own, after work and family obligations, at the end of the day. It shows their commitment, tenacity, and dedication. These are as important, and even more important, than something like intelligence.”

Chris Caplice, executive director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics and director of the MITx MicroMasters program in supply chain management, agreed that in many respects, the students enrolled in the hybrid program are an exceptional group, but it may also be that the rigor of the online program prepared them for the challenges they faced on campus: “The grit required to complete the online courses also helped prepare them for the fast pace of the on-campus classrooms. It was amazing and gratifying to see the blended students jump back in and excel in the intense MIT academic environment.”

Notably, in all the courses the hybrid students took on campus, they had better-than-average scores, and this is in a program where average scores are already exceptionally high. As Sheffi told MIT News, however, the most exciting thing about the new MITx MicroMasters is that the program makes it possible for people who otherwise would have never even dreamt of getting an MIT-level education to complete MIT degrees in an accessible and affordable way.