- Announced today, the MicroBachelors programs are designed to "deliver immediately transferable skills" to participants.
- Priced between $500 and $1,500, each course can be done completely online.
- Each program will be created by "with input from industry leaders" to ensure pupils learn what matters today in their chosen field.
Each year, countless people seek out educational opportunities not only to better themselves, but also to boost their prospects for a more productive and meaningful career. With the offer of additional certifications and degrees, the advent of online courses has provided a new avenue for continued learning. Earlier today, edX revealed a new program to help those who may have wanted to pursue a degree but were priced out by ballooning tuition costs.
Created in conjunction with top universities and Fortune 1000 corporations, edX touts the newly announced MicroBachelors programs as a way to "deliver immediately transferable skills to meet the real-world needs of employers." In its announcement, the company said each program will be designed to help adults without a college degree work toward one to advance their careers. Courses are made to be completed in a manner of months, rather than years.
"edX was founded on the mission to increase access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere, and MicroBachelors programs are the next step forward in fulfilling that mission," said edX founder and CEO Anant Agarwal. "We are thrilled to be able to collaborate with our academic and industry partners to offer these programs that enable continuous, lifelong learning and promise immediately applicable skills and knowledge with a valuable credit-backed credential."
Extra credit without breaking the bank
Earning a college degree is a costly affair in America. Thanks to increasing tuition rates, expensive textbooks and other fees, students who went to college in the 2017-18 school year paid an average of $20,770 for in-state public college, $40,940 for out-of-state public college and $50,900 for private institutions. With costs rising each year, the student debt figure has skyrocketed to more than $1.4 trillion.
The costs associated with higher learning are enough to keep many from getting a college degree. Through the MicroBachelors program, edX is offering those individuals an affordable option, with the first courses priced between $500 and $1,500. With each credit coming in at approximately $166, Agarwal said the program will make the dream of furthering one's education more attainable.
"These programs are a significant step towards making a key academic milestone – the bachelor's degree – accessible and doing so in a way that positively impacts the members of our workforce most at risk to be displaced by automation and other changes in the workplace," he said.
Costs are further driven down by the courses being entirely online, meaning students can save on travel or room and board – other major costs that often hold potential students back. Since the program also targets older individuals already working in their chosen fields, each course can be done whenever participants have the time.
Steppingstone to more opportunities
edX is a nonprofit learning platform founded by Harvard and MIT, and its collaboration with top universities doesn't end there. According to the company, the MicroBachelors program will feature rigorous courses created through partnerships with other institutions.
Since each program offers college credits, edX said MicroBachelors can be a "pathway to a full bachelor's degree." To that end, the first programs – IT Career Framework and Computer Science Fundamentals – will be recognized for credit at Western Governors University and New York University respectively. Arizona State University will participate in the program by offering Professional Writing.
In addition to its collaborative efforts with major educational institutions, edX highlighted its ability to work with major corporations to help fund and develop the program. Corporations like IBM, Boeing and Walmart join organizations like the Lumina Foundation, Truist, the Jeremy M. and Joyce E. Wertheimer Foundation, and the Yidan Prize Foundation in supporting the MicroBachelors program.
Guillermo Miranda, vice president and global head of corporate social responsibility at IBM, said IBM's participation in the program is a slightly self-serving one, with hopes to help educate the people who will propel technological advances.
"Technologies such as AI are increasingly changing the workforce, so the nature of education will have to evolve accordingly," he said. "To give people the right skills and credentials for in-demand positions, and to meet employees where they are, stakeholders now need to offer a spectrum of resources for online and in-person instruction, as well as immersive, experiential learning."
A group of "groundbreaking" foundations, corporations and academic institutions will be named to the MicroBachelors Program Skills Advisory Council. Created to "recognize the importance of addressing the global workforce education challenges that companies and workers face," the new group will help shape the program's focus.
"We're pleased to support the MicroBachelors programs, as we believe it's important for higher education institutions and businesses to partner together to transform, strengthen, and improve learning to help prepare people to enter the workforce and be successful," said Lynette Bell, president of the Truist Foundation. "Our participation in the MicroBachelors Program Skills Advisory Council, a group bringing together the key stakeholders in this arena, is a fundamental part of creating these conversations."
While the number of available courses is slim at the moment, edX said more MicroBachelors programs will be announced in the future.