Coursera, University of Illinois Offer Online Data Science Master’s

(Photo:, Creative Commons)

(Photo:, Creative Commons)

Coursera, one of the world's largest online education platforms, has announced the launch of a professional data science master's degree in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The University of Illinois, whose computer-science graduate program is ranked fifth in the country, will give access to its data science curriculum at a fraction of its actual value. The total cost of the Master of Computer Science in Data Science (MCS-DS) will not exceed $20,000, writes Beckie Smith of PIE News, and application for admission to the program is now open. The first group of 150 students will start classes in August. The program is designed so that participants can finish it within a year or over a longer period to allow for each student's personal obligations, such as work or family.

In recent years, data science has turned into one of the most high-demand and highest-paid professions in the United States. However, there are just a few prestigious graduate programs nationwide especially designed for data scientists. The joint program of Coursera and the University of Illinois fills this gap by re-defining the traditional graduate-level education as a "stackable" degree.

Coursera offers the program via series of "stackable" courses available online. Interested applicants have the possibility to test the waters by taking some classes for free and earning specialization certificates. Subsequently, if users are satisfied, they can proceed to a full degree and have direct contact with the university faculty members. Therefore, the applicants have no prior commitment to the program at the very beginning, notes Amy X. Wang of the Quartz.

Daphne Koller, the president and co-founder of Coursera, told eCampus News that the program would help students gain some of "the most high-demand career skills" worldwide. According to Coursera CEO Rick Levin, the fee-paying degree courses were a significant opportunity for growth for both the platform and its academic partners:

"I think you will see that the online master's programs that we offer will come to be a really significant factor in professional education because it'll expand greatly the pool of students able to earn advanced degrees."

The MCS-DS degree is a rigorous and affordable program designed to build students' expertise in four main areas of computer science: data visualization, machine learning, data mining and cloud computing. In cooperation with the University's Statistics Department and iSchool, the program also equips the participants with valuable skill sets in the field of statistics and information science.

As stated in the official press release, the MCS-DS degree goes far beyond pre-recorded classroom lectures. Each participant registered on Coursera will have access to all the courses that lead to a degree, including lessons, extra-curricular activities, projects executed by the world-renown Illinois faculty.

The accepted participants will have to complete successfully a series of additional course assessments with access to help, feedback and support from University's staff. Stackable courses offer learners flexibility to complete the coursework at their own pace and earn recognized certification along the way.

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