When the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that it would award free online certificates under a program called MITx, there was a buzz from academics about what this means for the future of education. While there hasn't been a revolution away from tuition-based universities, colleges such as Harvard and Stanford are jumping on the digital wave.
MIT's first certificate was only offered in the area of Circuits and Electronics, but the college has announced plans to rapidly increase the program after its initial success. Upon inception, 154,000 students joined the course, with 7,100 making it through to completion.
While that may seem like a low passage rate, it is still a large number of students that would never have had the opportunity otherwise, and it was accomplished through the use of automation. As more lectures become available via streaming and textbooks become downloadable, document imaging and information management becomes vital for universities hoping to keep up with the trend.
While it is difficult to predict the future of education, it is clear that the ability to gain free, online diplomas is changing the landscape. Now that Harvard and UC Berkeley have joined with MITx to create edX, who knows how far the digital movement will take us.
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