Press Release

Press Release Baker-Polito Administration Establishes New Commission on Digital Learning

GE, Microsoft, Partners Healthcare, edX.org and higher education institutions announce partnerships to advance online degree obtainment
For immediate release:
11/20/2017
  • Governor Charlie Baker | Lt. Governor Karyn Polito
  • James Peyser, Education Secretary
  • Governor's Press Office

Media Contact

William Pitman

Governor Baker addresses the Governor’s Online Digital Learning Summit.

CAMBRIDGE — Governor Charlie Baker announced today he will establish a new Commission on Digital Innovation and Lifelong Learning to develop recommendations that will lead to more online learning opportunities for Massachusetts residents to obtain education and skills for in-demand fields. Governor Baker made the announcement during the “Governor’s Online Digital Learning Summit,” hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which brought together businesses and higher education institutions to announce new partnerships around online learning. 

Among the announcements at the summit, was a commitment by GE and Microsoft Corp. to provide no-cost opportunities for Massachusetts residents to take online courses in in-demand technologies, through a partnership with edX.org - the leading online learning platform founded by MIT and Harvard. 

GE committed to interview any Massachusetts resident who completes an edX MicroMasters program in the in-demand fields of supply chain management, cybersecurity, cloud computing, or artificial intelligence. Those who complete an online MicroMasters program in these subjects will be considered for full-time job opportunities with GE or internships at the company’s Boston headquarters. In addition, GE will provide 100 Massachusetts residents with a certificate in any online course offered on edX.org. 

“These partnerships represents another opportunity to capitalize on innovation and deliver an affordable education for people across the Commonwealth,” Governor Charlie Baker said. “We appreciate our local employers and higher education institutions creating more online programming to help address the diverse and changing needs of employers and students, including non-traditional learners and young people.”

Ted Mitchell, the new president of the American Council on Education, gave the keynote address during the Governor’s Online Digital Summit held at M.I.T’s Samberg Center. He served as U.S. Undersecretary of Education from 2014 until January 2017, reporting to the U.S. Secretary of Education and overseeing postsecondary education policies and programs.

“New approaches are needed to expand higher education opportunities for all Massachusetts residents, particularly for those who need flexibility and are not able to take traditional classes on a college campus,” Lt. Governor Karyn Polito said. “Massachusetts’ talented employers and higher education providers are poised to ensure the Commonwealth leads in online learning.”

“GE is thrilled to announce this groundbreaking commitment. Our partnership with edX is a true testament to the value GE sees in innovative online education and the transformative power of technology,” said Paul Fama, global learning leader at GE. “Offering Massachusetts residents who have completed these MicroMasters programs an opportunity to pursue a career with GE demonstrates our continued investment in furthering employment opportunities in the Commonwealth.” 

Microsoft committed to support community college students in Massachusetts by offering to contribute toward the cost for any community college student in Massachusetts to complete the entry level Computer Science Professional Certificate program on edX. In addition, Microsoft will provide 500 Massachusetts residents with a certificate in any Microsoft online course offered on edX.org. Offering access to these courses opens doors for jobs in the IT industry and will equip learners with the knowledge and necessary skills for career success.

“Microsoft is excited and proud to be a part of this initiative. Bringing learning and training for the modern technology landscape fits perfectly with the Microsoft mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more,” said Chris Roy, Senior Director Microsoft. “By providing students and Massachusetts citizens with the necessary skills to bridge gaps in the tech industry, it helps them open new opportunities and be successful in their careers.”

“As a Massachusetts-based company committed to providing access to high-quality education that transforms lives and advances careers, we are thrilled to be working with the Commonwealth, GE and Microsoft to offer innovative pathways from online learning to career success,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and MIT Professor. “Through this groundbreaking partnership, we are providing Massachusetts residents with the tools they need to gain knowledge in the most cutting edge fields, including Data Science, Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence, in order to fast-track their careers and secure high-level employment opportunities.” 

The Governor’s Commission on Digital Innovation and Lifelong Learning will be a 15 to 20-member board made up of employers, higher education leaders, online education providers and entrepreneurs, students, workers, and K-12 education representatives. The Commission will be organized under the auspices of Commonwealth Corporation, a quasi-state agency that designs and executes workforce programs in partnership with businesses and educators. 

The Commission will develop recommendations on ways the state can partner with industry and higher education to make online learning opportunities accessible and affordable for all residents of the Commonwealth. The commission will look at replicating promising practices, such as competency-based education, prior learning assessments, stackable credentials and customized employer-higher education training initiatives. 

The Commission on Digital Innovation and Lifelong Learning will be scheduled to complete deliberations by June 2018, and release its recommendations in September. 

“Notwithstanding the proliferation of technology on college campuses, the basic delivery model for the vast majority of courses and programs remains stuck in the 20th Century. We need innovative approaches to serve students who have long been left out by traditional higher education models,” Education Secretary James Peyser said. 

"Today's summit on digital learning shows the importance of collaboration between higher education and industry partners," said Carlos E Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. "We will need to continue building effective partnerships as we work to bring affordable, high quality  digital learning opportunities to students of all ages and backgrounds."

Several other corporations and higher education institutions made announcements during the Governor’s Digital Learning Summit, including, Partners Healthcare, Match Beyond, and the state’s 15 community colleges. 

Partners Healthcare announced plans to expand opportunities for its employees to earn a certificate in Health Care Management, co-created by Partners and CfA. The certificate will be “stackable” to an associates’ or bachelor’s degree, or can stand alone as a focused certificate program. During the past three years, Partners Healthcare and SNHU’s College for America piloted a degree program for employees. More than 400 employees enrolled in online courses to work toward an associates degrees, bachelor’s degrees or certificate. The initiative was supported in part with a grant administered by Commonwealth Corporation, through the state’s Health Care Workforce Transformation Fund. Partners’ new initiative is an effort to help thousands of employees take advantage of the opportunity to advance their skills. 

Other announcements included: 

  • Northern Essex Community College and Middlesex Community College will make it easier for early childhood care providers to use their experience to gain a degree in their field. The two community colleges are developing competency-based pathways in early education that will allow adult learners to start and complete courses online, gaining credit for their experience. This initiative will help meet employers’ needs for well-educated early education professionals.
  • Match Beyond, an innovative college and career non-profit launched in Boston in 2014, announced plans to grow, aiming to serve 600 students annually in Greater Boston by 2022. Match Beyond helps students, typically young adult learners, earn their associates and bachelor’s degrees with online courses, through a partnership with Southern New Hampshire University. 
  • The 15 Massachusetts community colleges announced plans to launch two new websites that will be able to recognize credit for prior learning, making it easier for adult learners to begin or continue their college educations. MassExperienceCounts will be an opportunity for adult students who have some professional experience to gain Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) through a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). 
  • The 15 community college consortium also is in the midst of launching a website that enables prospective students to research high-demand jobs. The website factors in individuals’ needs and expectations to match them to courses at nearby community colleges, and give them a plan tailored to their career objectives. 

To learn more about the edX, GE and Microsoft opportunity: learn.edx.org/massachusetts.

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