University announces first online degrees through Coursera


Online learners may soon have three new University of Michigan master’s degree options through a partnership with Coursera — one in the growing field of applied data science, a first-of-its-kind program in public health, and an advanced program in construction engineering and management.

In a joint announcement Tuesday with the online platform, the School of Information said its Master of Applied Data Science under development will build upon the school’s leadership in offering programing courses online, including several on Coursera.

Online learners on six continents have enrolled more than one million times in the UMSI massive open online courses (MOOCs), taking courses in programming, user experience research and design, web design and applications, public library management, and applied data science.

U-M’s Master of Public Health from the School of Public Health is among the first degrees in this area of study to be delivered on a MOOC platform. The degree program emphasizes application of research methods and public health principles to improve population health.

The announcement at the Coursera Partners Conference also includes the debut of a new Construction Engineering and Management MasterTrack Certificate that allows users to take courses for certification or toward an advanced degree to be completed on campus for those who meet admission criteria.

“We are expanding our efforts to scale the great public research university through further investment in our flexible, personalized and networked model for global and lifelong learning,” said Martin Philbert, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“We intend to design two new fully online programs and augment our hybrid offerings. This will increase opportunities for learners around the world, enabling them to join our community in understanding and addressing global problems in pursuit of a more equitable world.”

To date, U-M has seen 6.5 million enrollments in its portfolio of more than 120 courses. Many MOOCs are for enrichment, some lead to certification, and others are part of micromaster programs, which allow students to take advanced-level courses online first, possibly leading to enrollment on campus for completion of a master’s program.

The School of Information leads in U-M’s MOOC space with nearly 40 courses online, including a micromaster’s in user experience research and design, a Coursera Specialization in Applied Data Science with Python, and course series on Python for Everybody, Web Applications for Everybody, Web Design for Everybody and Public Library Management.

UMSI has historically been known as a graduate school but four years ago developed a curriculum for undergraduate students.

“The development of this new degree represents progression toward our goal of extending access to professional education outside the conventional residential environment,” said UMSI Dean Thomas Finholt.

“The demand for data scientists has grown dramatically in the past decade and it will continue to grow far beyond our capacity to accommodate students in a traditional classroom setting. UMSI continues to explore innovative ways to deliver the information-based knowledge and skills needed to meet the challenges of our increasingly data-intense world.”

The School of Public Health has a 76-year history of offering master’s and doctoral level degrees, and just this year launched a bachelor’s degree program. The school currently educates and trains more than 1,000 students a year.

The online program is expected to offer students and working professionals exposure to a variety of public health disciplines through a broad foundational curriculum that will equip them to tackle complex health challenges such as chronic and infectious diseases, obesity and food insecurity, health care quality and costs, climate change and environmental determinants of health, and socioeconomic inequalities and their impact on health.

Learners will have the opportunity to select from a wide range of specializations for focused expertise, including population health, program planning and evaluation, health analytics, genomics and precision health.

“Opening access to a global learning platform will increase public health knowledge and skills that are critical to our pursuit of a healthier, more equitable world for all,” said Cathleen Connell, interim dean of SPH. “Through information sharing and capacity building, we can create a continuum of learning that reaches beyond the traditional degree program, leading to greater public impact.”

Meeting the demands of another growing profession has led to the development of a hybrid degree offering.

The Construction Engineering and Management MasterTrack Certificate is a new program co-created by U-M and Coursera. It allows learners to earn certification or take additional advanced courses, potentially leading to on-campus enrollment for completion of the Construction Engineering and Management Master of Engineering degree.

The construction business is booming in the United States and is expected to continue great growth in the future, yet the industry suffers from a shortage of workers and managers.

Someone taking the Construction Engineering and Management MasterTrack Certificate can expect to learn from faculty at one of the top engineering programs in the world the skills of accounting, decision making and project management through an engineering lens. Participants will be prepared to take on a role as construction manager in as little as six or seven months.

“We are deeply committed to leading the evolution of 21st-century engineering education for the benefit of the common good,” said Alec Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. “Our new Construction Engineering and Management MasterTrack Certificate program is the first of its kind and is consistent with our strategic vision at Michigan Engineering to pioneer innovative educational models designed for global impact.”

MasterTrack is distinct from other programs of its kind in the way learning is structured. Learners have an opportunity to preview programs through open courses before engaging in smaller cohorts designed around high immersive projects and high-quality feedback. They can join program-level learning communities and networks to pursue standalone digital credentials and pathways into top graduate degree programs.

“MasterTrack learners will enjoy rich applied projects, vibrant social learning environments, and the many benefits of frequent high-quality feedback,” said James DeVaney, associate vice provost for academic innovation. “The advanced courses will provide immersive experiences built around applied projects that will benefit learners seeking advanced degrees as well as learners seeking to advance their careers.”

Coursera currently has four online master’s programs in computer science, business administration, accounting, and innovation and entrepreneurship. In addition to the U-M programs, Tuesday’s announcement included two master’s programs in computer science from Arizona State University and the University of Illinois, a master’s in global public health from Imperial College London, and a bachelor’s in computer science from the University of London.

“The University of Michigan took a bold step six years ago as one of Coursera’s four founding university partners. We are thrilled to continue working with this university to push the status quo by pioneering a new way to offer degrees that fits the evolving needs of students who demand degrees that are more affordable and are available when and wherever they are ready to learn,” said Nikhil Sinha, chief content officer at Coursera.

“The University of Michigan Master of Public Health and Master of Applied Data Science offered entirely online through Coursera will enable students to achieve top-caliber University of Michigan degrees with the flexibility and high quality online learning experience of Coursera.”

The Construction Engineering and Management MasterTrack Certificate will enroll its first learners in 2018, pending final approval.

The Master of Applied Data Science and Master of Public Health degrees are expected to launch in fall 2019, subject to approval.


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