Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Photograph by Xin Zhu — Getty Images
By Claire Zillman
October 8, 2015

Ever since massive open online courses, better known as MOOCs, popped on to the scene a few years ago, their purpose has been up for debate.

Now the Massachusetts Institution of Technology seems to have found a worthwhile use for them.

The university announced on Wednesday that it was starting what it called an “inverted admissions” program in which students who excel in a series of free online courses—and a subsequent examination—will have better chances of being accepted into the school’s full master’s program. The MOOC-based admissions model may appeal to students who perform poorly on standardized tests.

L. Rafael Reif, president of MIT, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that he hoped the new admissions process will lead to a broader pool of applicants—people who “never thought they would be able to apply.” He suggested that such students would take the free online courses because they come with no risk, and perhaps discover that they “are much stronger in the global competition than they think.”

MIT will roll out a pilot of this process for its master’s program in supply-chain management. Students can earn a semester worth of the program’s credits by completing MOOCs through the online learning platform edX. To finish the program, they must complete the remaining classes on MIT’s campus, but the model essentially cuts the cost of the program in half.

Completing just the first half of the coursework will earn students a “micro-master’s” certificate in supply-chain management from MIT. The school’s focus on its supply chain program comes as the logistics company executives report having trouble finding talent. According to a recent survey by SCM World, 43% of supply chain executive said that it was more difficult to hire workers in 2014, compared to 37% the year prior.

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