The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is pioneering an online way for students to progress toward achieving post-graduate degrees.

The Cambridge school launched the "MITx MicroMasters credential" last October, and now 13 other universities have adopted the program.

MicroMasters allows students to take an entire semester of master's-level courses online at low cost and earn a certificate of completion. If the student chooses to continue their education, they can apply to complete their master's degree in a single full semester on campus at MIT.

The program provides learners worldwide with the opportunity to take any of the first semester’s courses online. Students who score well on a subsequent comprehensive examination can earn an MITx MicroMaster’s, "and their performance will significantly enhance their chances of being accepted to the full master’s program," the school said.  

“We are proud to be a pioneer for higher education’s next step in engaging learners worldwide,” said Sanjay Sarma, vice president for open learning at MIT, in a statement. “Not all high-potential master’s candidates can afford to spend a year or more on campus, so it’s important to provide multiple pathways to a degree."

Access to all course content is free and open to anyone, a spokesperson from the office of digital learning said. Students pursuing a certificate pay $150 per course and students going for a MicroMasters credential additionally pay a fee for the exam.

The first MicroMasters program focused on courses in supply chain management (SCM). More than 127,000 students have enrolled in at least one course (representing 189 countries) and more than 7,000 have signed up for verified certificates, according to MIT.

“Supply chain management is the backbone of the global economy,” said Chris Caplice, executive director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics. “The need for professionals who can design, manage and operate these complex global supply chains continues to grow. This is why we created the online courses that comprise the MicroMasters credential in supply chain management.”

Students take courses on the edX platform, a nonprofit online course provider founded by Harvard University and MIT. 

“Discovering the MITx MicroMasters program was a life-changing experience,” Mohamed Mabchour, who lives in Morocco, told MIT News. “I would have never dreamed of taking top-ranking SCM classes if not for edX! This credential will help me broaden my knowledge in SCM and get a credible certificate to advance my career, while also helping me to achieve my dream of applying for MIT's SCM master’s degree on campus." 

Now, edX has partnered with 13 other universities to offer 18 MicroMasters programs. Students can take online courses in growing fields like artificial intelligence to project management, according to MIT. 

"I believe MITx MicroMasters has given many people around the world, especially those in developing countries, a hope to fulfill the dream of continuing their education at a top-tier American institution," Mabchour said.