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 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 an additional “high-engagement” component. 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 high-engagement component for each MCS-DS course provides the ability for University of Illinois faculty and staff to assess work submitted for the Coursera MOOC courses. This component is in addition to the MOOC courses, where faculty and staff provide guidance, advice, and feedback on submitted assignments, projects, and exams to students registered for University of Illinois credit. Not only does the high-engagement component provide a rigorous evaluation of their work, students may be required to complete additional work beyond the MOOC course assignments.

6) Do the two Coursera MOOC courses and the high-engagement portion need to be taken concurrently?

No. A student can complete one or both Coursera MOOC courses prior to completing the high-engagement course. Any assignments that were only peer or auto graded for the Coursera MOOC courses can be submitted later to the high-engagement component for consideration by the faculty and staff to satisfy the requirements of the credit bearing courses. (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?

Many of our courses do not have specific language requirements, and we try to structure programming assignments so they can be completed in any of a number of languages and platforms. For other courses, learning the language or the tool is part of the course, such as MeTa used for the Text Analytics course. The cloud computing courses teach how to program using the MapReduce model which includes learning languages for cloud computing such as Hadoop. R will be used in the statistics courses. We expect Masters-level CS students to be able to learn new languages to be able to use the best tool to solve a problem, but we try to be flexible with languages when possible to allow students to program in the language they are most comfortable with. Students are encouraged to have some familiarity with systems programming languages.

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.