Coursera, a leading online education company known for massive open online courses (MOOCs), today announced a professional data science master's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Home to one of the top five computer science graduate programs in the United States, the University of Illinois will open access to its world-class data science curriculum at a fraction of the cost of a traditional on-campus or online master's degree through the Master of Computer Science in Data Science (MCS-DS) degree on Coursera. Data science has quickly become one of the most sought-after and highest-paid professions in the United States, yet few highly ranked master's programs exist today that are developed specifically for training data scientists, and none offer the scale of an open online course platform. The MCS-DS degree taps a whole new demographic of potential data scientists who are unable to take a traditional education path by reimagining graduate-level education as a "stackable" degree. Unlike other master's degrees, students can test the waters of the MCS-DS degree with a shorter Specialization certificate program in data mining or cloud computing, earning a meaningful credential that can then fully transfer to the MCS-DS if they later decide that they want the full degree.
The first year after the Great Recession, 2010, marked the historical peak of college and university enrollment in the United States. In the decade since, a popular narrative has emerged that the value of a college degree is rapidly declining. As a new wave of well-capitalized educational technology companies arrived on the scene -- including massive open online courses (MOOCs) -- it became popular to prognosticate about the disruption of American higher education. Badges earned online would challenge and replace traditional diplomas. Renowned business theorist Clayton Christensen forecasted that half of all colleges may be in bankruptcy within 15 years.
"There's always a very long waiting list to get in," he says. But thanks to a new partnership between UCSD and EdX, anybody can take the same course online for free. On September 3, UCSD will start its second round of MicroMasters classes with EdX, which was created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in 2012 to provide online duplicates of popular classes at major colleges and universities around the country. While about 400 lucky UCSD students will make it into Professor Freund course, there will be anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 people signed up for the same class on the MicroMasters program (although only around 1,000 will actively participate). "The biggest advantage of it is anybody can take it," Professor Freund tells Datanami.
Mark Guzdial ([email protected]) is a professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, and in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Michigan, MI, USA. Amy Bruckman ([email protected]) is a professor and associate chair in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA.