Reich doesn't think MITx is a game-changer. Rather, he says, it's symptomatic of the evolving landscape of US higher education, one in which the supreme reign of the four-year BA is becoming a thing of the past. He sees the initiative as part of a larger movement of free, online technical certifications like Mozilla's Open Badges project, launched last year, a program used for professional development and to supplement college syllabi that can't keep up with the breakneck pace of technological advancement. MITx can also serve the ever-increasing droves of people interested in pursuing higher education. "They can't build brick-and-mortar buildings at the rate people want to go to school," he said.

"I think it's far more likely that these innovations will be taken up by already affluent people," said Reich. "I think the idea that this is going to open doors for a lot of folks who didn't have doors open for them before, that's not necessarily the case."

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