computer science

U. Illinois launches “computer science in data science” degree

New computer science in data science master’s degree aims to fill gap in data science training programs

Coursera and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have partnered on a professional data science master’s degree.

The University of Illinois will open access to its 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. This 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.

Next page: What makes the degree program unique?

“This degree combines an education in the most high demand career skills with an entirely new educational structure that empowers the student with choices in how to pursue his or her education,” said Daphne Koller, President and Co-founder of Coursera. “In a world where taking time off of work for a master’s degree is increasingly difficult, this degree offers people a unique opportunity to choose exactly how much learning they need at different stages in their careers.”

Coursera and the University of Illinois say the MCS-DS degree is unique for these reasons:
Affordable, Rigorous Program: With a full tuition under $20K, the MCS-DS is the most affordable gateway to one of the most lucrative and fastest growing careers of the new millennium. The MCS-DS builds expertise in four core areas of computer science: data visualization, machine learning, data mining and cloud computing, in addition to building valuable skill sets in statistics and information science with courses taught in collaboration with the University’s Statistics Department and iSchool.
MOOCs Meet CS Master’s: This degree will go far beyond recorded classroom lectures to offer the same educational rigor as the Illinois on-campus program. Anyone who registers on Coursera will have access to all of the courses that make up the degree, including lessons, activities and projects developed by award-winning Illinois faculty. In order to earn the University of Illinois degree, learners who are accepted into the program will also be expected to complete additional course assessments with access to guidance, feedback and support from Illinois faculty and staff.
Flexible, Stackable Courses: Learners have the option to take one course, or several courses for a certificate, or the complete curriculum needed to earn the master’s degree. The program is designed so that learners can complete it in as little as one year or over a longer period to allow for each learner’s individual obligations (e.g. work or family); a stackable program offers learners flexibility to complete the coursework at their own pace and earn meaningful certification along the way.

“The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was the first land-grant university to partner with Coursera to help achieve its mission to provide top-quality education to as many as possible,” said Rob A. Rutenbar, Head of the Department of Computer Science at Illinois (CS @ ILLINOIS). Computer science Professor John Hart added, “The Coursera platform enables us to offer the expertise and guidance of our faculty to a larger, more diverse community of learners worldwide than ever before.”

Open for admissions today, the deadline to apply for the Master of Computer Science in Data Science degree is June 15, 2016. The first cohort of 150 will begin classes on August 22, 2016, with larger cohorts to be admitted in the following months.

Learn more about the program at or explore other courses offered on Coursera by the University of Illinois.

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Laura Ascione

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