University of Illinois Launches Specialization to Broaden Access to a Leading Online Master of Computer Science Degree


"Accelerated Computer Science Fundamentals" will helps prospective applicants prepare for the Data Structures Proficiency Exam.

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Assistant Teaching Professor Wade Fagen-Ulmschneider.
Assistant Teaching Professor Wade Fagen-Ulmschneider.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has launched a new Specialization on Coursera in order to broaden access to its affordable Online Master of Computer Science (MCS) degree and MCS in Data Science (MCS-DS) track.

Developed by CS Professor Wade Fagen-Ulmschneider, the Specialization, “Accelerated Computer Science Fundamentals,” is open to all learners on Coursera’s platform. The three-course Specialization helps prospective applicants to the Online MCS and MCS-DS prepare for the Data Structures Proficiency Exam. Upon successful completion of the exam, they will have proven that they have the necessary abilities in object-oriented programming, algorithms, and data structures to be prepared for advanced study in graduate-level CS coursework at Illinois, enhancing their application for admission. 

Professor John Hart, Director of Online and Professional Programs.
Professor John Hart, Director of Online and Professional Programs.

“We’re seeing strong demand for the Online MCS and MCS-DS from prospective students who want to apply computer and data science to their discipline,” said Professor John Hart, Director of Online and Professional Programs for Illinois Computer Science.  “However, these students may lack key prerequisites that are required for success in our top-5 CS graduate program.” 

“This Specialization gives students a performance pathway into computer and data science, and it makes the MCS and MCS-DS not only greatly affordable and flexible, but also more accessible,” said Hart, noting that tuition totals only $21,440 for a complete 32 credit hour degree that is available entirely online through Coursera.

“The online MCS and MCS-DS from the University of Illinois are top-quality degree programs that can help students pursue some of the most sought-after careers in computer science and data science,” said Dil Sidhu, Chief Content Officer at Coursera. “University of Illinois has always shared our mission of increasing access to the world’s best education, and it’s exciting to see the university launch this new pathway to give more students around the world the opportunity to participate in such a highly ranked program.”

About the Specialization

Courses taken in the “Accelerated Computer Science Fundamentals” Specialization do not count towards the completion of the MCS or MCS-DS, but they will provide an excellent foundation for students interested in advanced study. 

Topics include:

  • Basic data structures including arrays, linked lists, stacks and queues, trees, heaps, hash tables, and graphs, as well as efficient algorithms for constructing, searching, and optimizing these structures.

  • Analysis of asymptotic running time and memory utilization of the algorithms used on these data structures.

  • Practical programming techniques, including object-oriented programming in C++ and its Standard Template Library, for production-level programming of efficient software applications.

Illinois’ Department of Computer Science is consistently ranked as one of the top computer science programs in the world. In 2018, it was ranked #5 on the U.S. News and World Report list of Best Computer Science Schools. The department’s Coursera-based MCS degree was launched in 2016. It opens access to a much larger and more diverse community of students worldwide. Nearly 700 hundred students are enrolled in the program.

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. With our land grant heritage as a foundation, we pioneer innovative research that tackles global problems and expands the human experience. Our transformative learning experiences are designed to produce alumni who desire to make a significant, societal impact. Consistently ranked among the top-5 computer science graduate programs in the United States, Illinois Computer Science has a global reputation for groundbreaking research across the spectrum of computer science.

About Coursera

Coursera was founded by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng with a vision of providing life-transforming learning experiences to anyone, anywhere. It is now the world’s largest online learning platform for higher education. 190 of the world’s top universities and industry educators partner with Coursera to offer courses, Specializations, and degrees that empower over 42 million learners around the world to achieve their career goals. Over 1,800 companies trust the company’s enterprise platform Coursera for Business to transform their talent. Coursera for Government equips government employees and citizens with in-demand skills to build a competitive workforce. Coursera is backed by investors that include Kleiner Perkins, New Enterprise Associates, GSV Capital, Learn Capital, and SEEK Group.

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This story was published July 22, 2019.