MCS-DS FAQs

Note: the general FAQ about CS @ ILLINOIS graduate admissions is located here.

1) What is the MCS-DS?
2) What will appear on the diploma or transcript?
3) How is the MCS-DS offered?
4) How is an MCS-DS course offered using the Coursera MOOC platform?
5) How are MCS-DS courses different than typical Coursera MOOC courses?
6) Do the two Coursera MOOC courses and the high-engagement portion need to be taken concurrently?
7) Are students expected to be proficient in a particular programming language?
8) How do students apply for the MCS-DS?
9) What if my undergraduate GPA is less than 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale)?
10) When do MCS-DS classes start?
11) What classes are offered for the MCS-DS program?
12) Will non-degree graduate students be able to take MCS-DS courses?
13) Is financial aid available for MCS-DS students?
14) Is it possible to transfer from the MCS-DS program to the traditional Online MCS program?
15) Do international students in this program receive an I-20?
16) How can I get more information about the MCS-DS?

1) What is the MCS-DS?

The MCS-DS is a Master of Computer Science degree whose requirements are fulfilled by courses in Data Science. A professional coursework-based degree program, the MCS-DS builds expertise in core areas of computer science like data mining, machine learning, cloud computing, and data visualization, in addition to building skills in statistics and information science.

2) What will appear on the diploma or transcript?

The MCS-DS coursework satisfies the requirements for our Master of Computer Science degree, so the diploma and the transcripts will only indicate “Master of Computer Science”. (They will not mention data science or the online mode of delivery.)  

3) How is the MCS-DS offered?

The MCS-DS is a 100% online degree offered through the Coursera MOOC platform. To satisfy the degree requirements, students will complete 8 University of Illinois credit-bearing courses, with each course representing 4 credit hours (for a total of 32 credit hours). Each MCS-DS credit-bearing course is offered on a semester schedule (fall, spring, summer). Each course may run as long as the full 15 weeks available in a semester, though some courses may be shorter.

4) How is an MCS-DS course offered using the Coursera MOOC platform?

Each credit-bearing semester-based MCS-DS course consists of two shorter 4-6 week Coursera MOOC courses plus additional credit-bearing components such as exams and/or projects. The two Coursera MOOC courses provide the lecture and lesson videos of the MCS-DS course, as well as peer and auto graded quizzes and assignments.

5) How are MCS-DS courses different than typical Coursera MOOC courses?

The credit-bearing components for each MCS-DS course provides the ability for University of Illinois faculty and staff to assess work submitted in addition to the requirements of the Coursera MOOC courses. Faculty and staff provide guidance, advice, and feedback on submitted assignments, projects, and exams to students registered for University of Illinois credit.

6) Do the two Coursera MOOC courses need to be taken concurrently with the for-credit portion of an MCS-DS course?

This is not required, but we do recommend they all be taken concurrently. A student can complete one or both Coursera MOOC courses prior to completing the MCS-DS for-credit course. Any assignment that was only peer or auto-graded for a previous Coursera MOOC version of a course can be re-submitted when taking the MCS-DS offering of the course for consideration by the faculty and staff to satisfy the requirements to confer university credit. (For traditional face-to-face courses, this is analogous to auditing a course and then later taking the course and handing in any assignments the student completed while auditing the course.)

7) Are students expected to be proficient in a particular programming language?

Students are expected to be proficient computer programmers to be admitted to any Master of Computer Science program. At the Masters level, students are expected to learn new programming languages on their own as needed, to develop the skill of using the appropriate programming tool to solve a particular problem.

Each of the courses will have specific programming language requirements. Applied Machine Learning requires students to be proficient in the R programming language, whereas Statistical Programming in R is also based on the R programming language but provides an introduction to it. Cloud Computing Concepts requires students to be proficient in C++ programming to write low-level kernel functions, whereas Text Information Systems requires students understand enough C++ for high-level scripting calls of library functions that perform the low-level operations. Cloud Computing Applications can be completed using Python, but Java is encouraged as it is the primary language used for production cloud application programming. Data Visualization uses JavaScript programming, but provides students with tutorials and time to learn JavaScript before it is used in the course. Many of the other courses use higher level scripting languages like Python.

8) How do students apply for the MCS-DS?

Please see application deadlines posted on our website.

9) What if my undergraduate GPA is less than 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale)?

University campus policy requires a GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) for the last two years of undergraduate study for admission to any graduate program, but students admitted for the MCS degree typically have a GPA in excess of 3.2. The admissions committee will review applications with borderline GPAs which otherwise have a record of exceptional achievements. However, the likelihood of applicants with a GPA less than 3.0 being admitted to the MCS-DS program is expected to be low due to the competitiveness of the applicant pool and cohort size. Applicants who do not meet the minimum GPA requirements for this program are encouraged to make a realistic self-assessment before submitting an application.

10) When do MCS-DS classes start?

MCS-DS classes follow the standard academic calendar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

11) What classes are offered for the MCS-DS program?

A list of courses is available here.

12) Will non-degree graduate students be able to take MCS-DS courses?

MCS-DS courses can be taken by non-degree students, but registration will be limited to the remaining capacity after MCS-DS students have been registered.

13) Is financial aid available for MCS-DS students?

CS @ ILLINOIS does not offer research or teaching assistantships to students enrolled in our online programs, including the MCS-DS. Domestic students may qualify for Federal Student Aid.

14) Is it possible to transfer from the MCS-DS program to the traditional Online MCS program?

No. There is a separate admissions process for the MCS-DS and the traditional Online MCS programs.

15) Do international students in this program receive an I-20?

No. All requirements in the MCS-DS program are satisfied online. Students are not required to arrive on campus to meet any degree requirements. As such, no I-20s are issued.

16) How can I get more information about the MCS-DS?

Sign up for updates by completing Coursera's Interest Form. For specific questions about the Illinois degree program, email mcs-ds@cs.illinois.edu.