Nov 10, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Want to earn credits without earning an entirely new degree? Take a look at the ways microcredentials are shaking up online education.

How Microcredentials Are Shaking Up Online Education

Want to take a course or two and earn a credential without having to enroll in a master’s program? Consider the microcredential.

Online graduate courses and certificate programs at a growing number of elite schools have a lot to offer students in your situation.

EdX now offers 40 “MicroMasters” programs from 24 schools around the world. Coursera has 50 new specializations in the past year alone.

In a recent article in Slate, Mitchell Stevens, associate professor of education at Stanford University said “Elite universities have created alternative credentials for a long time. All universities tend to grow toward new sources of revenue.”

The article highlights MIT’s MicroMasters with EdX, in supply chain management. Students take five courses and $1,000 in fees to earn the MicroMasters, and are free from the admissions process.

The program just graduated its first cohort and the program has brought in over $4 million in revenue.

The MIT and EdX partnership recently won a $900,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation to assist in the creation of 30 additional programs built on a similar model.

Though the MicroMasters mindset requires colleges and universities to think more like businesses, the revenue stream for these types of credentials is worth considering.

Udacity is an example of a start-up that completely bypasses the university. Udacity offers “nanodegrees” to students who pay $200 per month for access to its courses—and promises a money-back guarantee for those who complete their nanodegree and don’t find a job within six months.

Your takeaway? Microcredentials could be the way to go if you’re looking to gain a new skillset for a new job without having to go back to school.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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