Penn Launches 5-Course Robotics Specialization on Coursera


The University of Pennsylvania has announced that it is launching a five-course Robotics specialization on the popular MOOC platform Coursera. The program requires no prior experience in robotics and includes a Capstone project for learners to earn a certificate. Students are eligible for financial aid, and the course costs $265.

The specialization consists of four courses: Aerial Robotics; Computational Motion Planning; Mobility, Perception, and Robotics: Estimation and Learning. Courses are four-weeks long. For the capstone project, students are expected to complete a hands-on project by implementing the theory and skills they acquired in their classes, Penn News reports.

The course offers fundamental knowledge in Robotics through courses taught by Dan Lee, the director of the GRASP Lab, Vijay Kumar, the Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn Engineering, and other distinguished professors including Kostas Daniilidis and Jianbo Shi.

As Penn’s Online Learning Initiative reports, the Robotics specialization is geared toward professionals and advanced learners in STEM and aims to give them a comprehensive introduction to the world of Robotics.

The five-course specialization looks to increase the number of skilled roboticists in the industry while making these professionals affordable for smaller-size companies that have a high demand for these professionals. Commenting on the specialization launch, Vijay Kumar said robots are no longer rare or unreachable, but rather are ‘virtually everywhere in our lives today.”

The Online Learning Initiative faculty director at the University, Stanton Wortham, commented on the impressive global reach of the initiative:

“We are really excited to offer this new specialization. The GRASP Lab is at the forefront of advancements in this field. Now advanced learners and professionals in the STEM fields from around the globe will have access to our experts via these specialized online courses.”

Students paying for the entire course in advance get a 10% discount, but there’s also the option of paying per course. The first of the five courses, Aerial Robotics, starts January 18 and is followed by Robotics: Computational Motion Planning, which begins in February.

The specialization concludes with the capstone project due to start in the summer of 2016. According to Coursera’s official description of the course, the capstone expects learners to draw on their recently acquired knowledge and skills and apply these in a simulated environment:

“Hands-on programming experience will demonstrate that you have acquired the foundations of robot movement, planning, and perception, and that you are able to translate them to a variety of practical applications in real world problems,” the description reads.

Penn faculty teaching the course say that future learners might be able to test code on a real robot remotely.

The University has a long history of MOOCs available through Coursera and EdX, with more than 4.5 million learners from dozens of countries around the world.

Recently, nearby Penn State University announced the launch of an Ed Tech accelerator program with DreamIt scheduled to begin in March 2016. The accelerator aims at bringing startups and educators together to boost education outcomes through better practices and technologies. DreamIt is available to any US startup and not exclusive to Penn State faculty and students, eCampusNews says.