Becoming Legit: Value to be Gained in Non-Traditional Degree Pathways

One of the greatest achievements of the MOOC category is bringing legitimacy to online education. Brand-conscious students who would not consider taking a class from the for-profits were lining up to take an online course offered by top-tier universities like MIT.

However, choosing an online degree program should not be based on prestige alone of the institution offering it. Selection should also take into consideration the best combination of resources and most importantly: quality and integrity – as these are what gives the credential legitimacy and value.


This is where edX MicroMasters has a distinct advantage over other micro-credentials: all three have been designed and built into its framework.

The resources include extra services – like additional support from faculty. The quality is assured through the rigor of the course design and delivery, the integrity is assured through validation of student identity, and securely proctoring the assessments.

That said, prestige of institution matters as the cache they possess will be noticed by future employers. Legitimacy is a component of prestige – and thanks to the MicroMasters design, its prestige will not only be perceived – but concrete. For this reason, it is a very valuable credential as it can be used as universal currency.

Critics may argue that that online credentials earned through MOOCs cannot be compared to credentials from on-campus programs – or even traditional online programs, i.e. not the same experience, level of engagement or quality. EdX MicroMasters challenges this notion and presents an innovative, credible and viable solution.


Taking a Shape-Shifting Approach to Education

The hope is that we can evolve from talking about whether or not MOOC credentials are good or just less expensive, to how they are a legitimate and valuable alternative to the status quo.

A University of Florida professor (link to comment here) summed it up in his remark in Kevin Carey’s NYT article:

“Online Learning needs to move away from justifying itself by trying to replicate the traditional campus experience. I believe the real contribution of these programs will happen when we start to get a better understanding of the new things online can do better than traditional programs.”

This professor has a refreshing and modern perspective. He extolled the benefits of exploring online education – and challenges institutions to take risks:

“Once that exploration becomes more robust, and institutions start taking more chances to do things no one would dare to do in traditional programs – then we’ll start to see programs that are attractive not because they are less expensive – but more expansive,” the professor added.

It’s clear that the jobs of tomorrow will go to those who invest in their education today. The edX MicroMasters has aligned itself to the needs of the economy – and provides professionals an affordable and legitimate pathway to the top jobs of today and the future.