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The First MOOC-Based Master's Degree in Data Science

by Karen Bollinger | 03/30/2016

The First MOOC-Based Master's Degree in Data Science Presents a New Model for Meeting the Market Demand for Highly Skilled Data Scientists

The University of Illinois and Coursera Launch a Computer Science in Data Science Master's Degree

Mountain View, CA – March 30, 2016Coursera, 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. 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.

“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.”

The University of Illinois 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 Department of Statistics and iSchool (ranked #1 among Library and Information Studies Schools).
  • 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 Coursera 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.

About the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Since its founding in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has earned a reputation as a global leader in research, teaching, and public engagement. Illinois is also a pioneer in innovative distance and online education, led by the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. The Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering has partnered with The Graduate School of Library and Information Science (The iSchool at Illinois), and the Department of Statistics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to launch the new Master of Computer Science in Data Science.

About Coursera

Coursera is an online education company that offers courses and learning experiences from the world’s top universities and education institutions. Coursera has more than 18 million registered learners worldwide. Anyone, anywhere can access over 1,800 courses and Specializations in dozens of topics including business, technology, social sciences, health, and art. Coursera empowers learners around the world to achieve their career, educational, and personal enrichment goals throughout their lives. For more information, visit

For general Illinois inquiries, please direct media and questions to Karen Bollinger at For media inquiries for the Department of Computer Science and the College of Engineering, please contact Bill Bell at