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Extension School and MIT Develop New 'MicroMasters' Initiative

Dean of the Division of Continuing Education and Extension School Huntington D. Lambert.
Dean of the Division of Continuing Education and Extension School Huntington D. Lambert. By CSU Photography
By Cindy H. Zhang, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard Extension School and MIT unveiled on Monday a joint initiative that establishes the MITx MicroMasters program as a new pathway for an Extension School graduate degree.

Huntington D. Lambert, dean of the Division of Continuing Education and Extension School, hailed the new program as a great addition to the School’s existing offerings.

“From an Extension School perspective, it's really simple,” Lambert said. “Here are amazing, pre-qualified students who can do really high-level academic work, who are the same profile as our students. I would love to give them a pathway into our programs.”

Students utilizing the MicroMasters pathway must have an accredited bachelor’s degree and take an additional course at the Extension School before being formally admitted into one of three graduate fields of study: management, sustainability, or development practice. The MIT Data Science MicroMasters program is “in the process” of being qualified as an additional pathway to the Data Science graduate field of study at the Extension School, according to Lambert.

The first cohort of MicroMasters students will be able to take Extension School courses next spring, according to the press release.

Though Lambert is excited about the potential influx of “highly qualified, self-motivated” students, the Extension School will take a hit financially by adding these pathways and accepting them for credit, he said.

“We give up $10,800 of revenue because we waived four courses,” Lambert said. “But the key message I want to say is that we’re happy to trade revenue for great students because it’s students and academic quality first, second, and third.”

The program is comprised of a series of online graduate-level courses in a specific field, according to the MicroMasters website. The courses are hosted on edX, a massive open online course platform co-founded by MIT and Harvard.

“The MITx MicroMasters credential program opens up a semesters-worth of graduate-level courses from MIT to anyone willing to learn,” Krishna Rajagopal, dean for digital learning at MIT Open Learning, said in the press release.

Students who successfully complete all required MicroMasters courses — usually three to five — as well as a proctored exam are eligible for a MicroMasters credential from MIT, according to the MicroMasters website. Students are then eligible to apply for a Master’s program at MIT.

Interest in the MicroMasters program has far exceeded what MIT has been able to accommodate. Of the approximately 2,000 students who completed the MicroMasters program in supply chain management, MIT found around half “admissible” to the Master’s program but was only able to admit 40 students, Lambert said.

“By adding Harvard Extension School and expanding the overall number of pathway institutions, the MITx MicroMasters credential program gives learners from across the globe even more opportunities to apply their credential toward a blended Master’s program of their choice,” Rajagopal said in the press release.

— Staff writer Cindy H. Zhang can be reached at cindy.zhang@thecrimson.com

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