According to the Boston Business Journal, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an extraordinary upending of the traditional model for graduate education, is expanding its prestigious program in supply chain management to include students admitted in large part based on their performance in free MIT online courses and on a wrap-up exam.
In filling about 40 slots a semester during a pilot phase, MIT will downplay standardized tests such as the GRE or MCAT, long-term academic performance and undergraduate pedigree. Instead, applicants will be assessed on demonstrated ability to do the coursework and Skype interviews.
The program unveiled today has three components.
Anyone anywhere may take MIT courses in supply chain management for free. Students interested in earning a new credential called a MicroMaster's will pay about $150 for each of five courses plus between $400 and $800 — the price hasn't been finalized — to take an exam afterward. The best students will be invited to apply to earn a traditional master's with just one semester on campus in Cambridge.
"This approach basically inverts the traditional admissions process," MIT President Rafael Reif told a campus gathering today.
The traditional model works "for people who went to schools we know very well," Reif said. "But for people outside that familiar circle, it can be hard to break in."
Speaking with reporters after the announcement, Reif said it's too early to tell whether similar hybrid programs will be replicated through MIT's graduate schools or even in the undergraduate program.
"I anticipate that if it goes well, we will have many others following suit," he said, adding: "Who knows what will happen someday?"
Yossi Sheffi, an MIT professor who is shepherding the program, said supply chain management was a logical choice for the first such program at MIT because many of its participants are mid-career and because of huge demand for its graduates.
"The main complaint (from corporate supporters) about our program is that it's too small," Sheffi said. "We are graduating dozens a year. They need hundreds of thousands a year."