Alumni Now Eligible for Free Online Courses

Online Portal Helps Learners Find U-M Digital Learning Opportunities in One Place

Written by Laurel Thomas, Michigan News

ANN ARBOR—As the University of Michigan continues to expand its digital learning portfolio, the Office of Academic Innovation announces a new gateway for one-stop access to online courses and learning experiences created by Michigan faculty and instructional teams.

Called Michigan Online, the portal brings together more than 120 massive open online courses (MOOCs), teach-outs, specializations, MasterTrack certificates, XSeries, MicroMasters and professional certificate programs currently hosted on online platforms Coursera and edX. These learning experiences already have generated nearly 7 million enrollments, reaching learners in more than 190 countries around the world.

“Michigan continues to play a leadership role in shaping how the world learns from and with a great public research university,” said Martin Philbert, U-M provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Michigan Online provides new and important opportunities to broaden access to U-M and enhance participation in our flexible and networked model for global and lifelong learning.”

U-M was a founding partner with Coursera in 2012 and since then that affiliation has produced some 68 MOOCs. Some of these are organized into specializations of multiple courses for those who want a deep dive into a topic.

The partnership expanded five years later to add teach-outs, free and open online learning events designed to bring together people from around the world to learn about and address the biggest topics in society.

More recently, U-M and Coursera announced online master’s degree programs in applied data science from the School of Information and in public health from the School of Public Health, as well as a MasterTrack Certificate in construction engineering and management from the College of Engineering.

In 2015, U-M joined edX as a charter member to offer a portfolio of more than 40 MOOCs and teach-outs, including several series of courses called XSeries, and MicroMasters, a collection of courses that give students a head start on a residential degree.

U-M’s Office of Academic Innovation was established in 2014 to create a culture of innovation in learning. Among its goals is to create opportunities for personal and engaged learning by positively impacting pre-college, residential, and global and lifelong learners, as well as support public engagement at U-M.

“When the first MOOCs were launched, no one knew how they would evolve. And then the amazing U-M faculty embraced the opportunity to experiment with online courses that were aimed at learners from across the lifespan and across the globe. And those experiments continue to be successful,” said James Hilton, U-M vice provost for academic innovation. “The launch of Michigan Online will make it easier for people on and off campus to navigate the rich and growing content that is Michigan.”

In 2016, U-M President Mark Schlissel announced the Academic Innovation Initiative to “leverage networked access to information, new modes of learning and the power of data analytics to strengthen the quality of a Michigan education and enhance our impact on society.”

A short time later, the president announced the Teach-out Series, modeled after the teach-ins U-M pioneered in the 1960s. The just-in-time learning experiences focused on important issues of the day, such as the Vietnam War. The success of the U-M teach-ins sparked a series of similar events on more than 35 campuses across the country. In 1970, a U-M teach-in attracted thousands of participants in the first U.S. Earth Day, and the events continue today.

The relationships with all platform partners remain but the intent is to make the content more available and easier to navigate for a global community of Michigan learners.

“Michigan Online further extends U-M’s ability to provide high quality learning opportunities for learners at all levels,” said James DeVaney, U-M associate vice provost for academic innovation. “Michigan students will have even greater access to university expertise and resources, and learners around the world will discover new opportunities to acquire new skills, access global learning communities and explore new topics, at their own pace.”

Michigan Online offers users a chance to browse an extensive library of online experiences developed by faculty and instructional teams at U-M. Users can look for courses by subject, duration of the course and type (e.g., course or teach-out).

Course and teach-out subjects include biology and life sciences, arts and humanities, social sciences, business and finance, education and teacher training, physical science and engineering, data science, computer science, health and safety, and design. Among the offerings are applied data science, leadership, Python programming, sleep deprivation, and computer user experience and design.

Creators of the learning portal welcome audience feedback on the tool which may be submitted at

University Announces First Online Degrees through Coursera

Written by Laurel Thomas, Michigan News

Online learners may soon have three new University of Michigan master’s degree options through a partnership with Coursera—one in the growing field of applied data science, a first of its kind in public health and an advanced program in construction engineering and management.

In a joint announcement today with the online platform, the School of Information said its Master of Applied Data Science under development will build upon the school’s leadership in offering programing courses online, including several on Coursera.

Online learners on six continents have enrolled more than one million times in the UMSI MOOCs, taking courses in programming, user experience research and design, web design and applications, public library management, and applied data science.

U-M’s Master of Public Health from the School of Public Health is among the first degrees in this area of study to be delivered on a massive open online course (MOOC) platform. This degree program emphasizes application of research methods and public health principles to improve population health.

The announcement at the Coursera Partners Conference also includes the debut of a new Construction Engineering and Management MasterTrack Certificate that allows users to take courses for certification or toward an advanced degree to be completed on campus for those who meet admission criteria.

“We are expanding our efforts to scale the great public research university through further investment in our flexible, personalized and networked model for global and lifelong learning,” said Martin Philbert, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“We intend to design two new fully online programs and augment our hybrid offerings. This will increase opportunities for learners around the world, enabling them to join our community in understanding and addressing global problems in pursuit of a more equitable world.”

To date, U-M has seen 6.5 million enrollments in its portfolio of more than 120 courses. Many MOOCs are for enrichment, some lead to certification, and others are part of micromaster programs, which allow students to take advanced-level courses online first, possibly leading to enrollment on campus for completion of a master’s program.

The School of Information leads in U-M’s MOOC space with nearly 40 courses online, including a micromaster’s in user experience research and design; a Coursera Specialization in Applied Data Science with Python; and course series on Python for Everybody, Web Applications for Everybody, Web Design for Everybody, and Public Library Management. UMSI has historically been known as a graduate school but four years ago developed a curriculum for undergraduate students.

“The development of this new degree represents progression toward our goal of extending access to professional education outside the conventional residential environment,” said UMSI Dean Thomas Finholt. “The demand for data scientists has grown dramatically in the past decade and it will continue to grow far beyond our capacity to accommodate students in a traditional classroom setting. UMSI continues to explore innovative ways to deliver the information-based knowledge and skills needed to meet the challenges of our increasingly data-intense world.”

The U-M School of Public Health has a 76-year history of offering master’s and doctoral level degrees and just this year launched a bachelor’s degree program. The school currently educates and trains more than 1,000 students a year.

The online program is expected to offer students and working professionals exposure to a variety of public health disciplines through a broad foundational curriculum that will equip them to tackle complex health challenges such as chronic and infectious diseases, obesity and food insecurity, health care quality and costs, climate change and environmental determinants of health, and socioeconomic inequalities and their impact on health.

Learners will have the opportunity to select from a wide range of specializations for focused expertise, including population health, program planning and evaluation, health analytics, genomics and precision health.

“Opening access to a global learning platform will increase public health knowledge and skills that are critical to our pursuit of a healthier, more equitable world for all,” said Cathleen Connell, interim dean of the U-M School of Public Health. “Through information sharing and capacity building, we can create a continuum of learning that reaches beyond the traditional degree program, leading to greater public impact.”

Meeting the demands of another growing profession has led to the development of a hybrid degree offering.

The Construction Engineering and Management MasterTrack Certificate is a new program co-created by U-M and Coursera. It allows learners to earn certification or take additional advanced courses, potentially leading to on-campus enrollment for completion of the Construction Engineering and Management Master of Engineering (MEng) degree.

The construction business is booming in the United States and is expected to continue great growth in the future, yet the industry suffers from a shortage of workers and managers.

Someone taking the Construction Engineering and Management MasterTrack Certificate can expect to learn from faculty at one of the top engineering programs in the world the skills of accounting, decision making and project management through an engineering lens. Participants will be prepared to take on a role as construction manager in as little as 6-7 months.

“We are deeply committed to leading the evolution of 21st-century engineering education for the benefit of the common good,” said Alec Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. “Our new construction engineering and management master track certificate program is the first of its kind and is consistent with our strategic vision at Michigan Engineering to pioneer innovative educational models designed for global impact.”

MasterTrack is distinct from other programs of its kind in the way learning is structured. Learners have an opportunity to preview programs through open courses before engaging in smaller cohorts designed around high immersive projects and high quality feedback. They can join program-level learning communities and networks to pursue standalone digital credentials and pathways into top graduate degree programs.

“MasterTrack learners will enjoy rich applied projects, vibrant social learning environments, and the many benefits of frequent high quality feedback,” said James DeVaney, associate vice provost for academic innovation. “The advanced courses will provide immersive experiences built around applied projects that will benefit learners seeking advanced degrees as well as learners seeking to advance their careers.”

Coursera currently has four online master’s programs in computer science, business administration, accounting, and innovation and entrepreneurship. In addition to the Michigan programs, today’s announcement included two master’s programs in computer science from Arizona State University and University of Illinois, a master’s in global public health from Imperial College London, and a bachelor’s in computer science from the University of London.

“The University of Michigan took a bold step six years ago as one of Coursera’s four founding university partners. We are thrilled to continue working with this university to push the status quo by pioneering a new way to offer degrees that fits the evolving needs of students who demand degrees that are more affordable and are available when and wherever they are ready to learn,” said Nikhil Sinha, chief content officer at Coursera.

“The University of Michigan Master of Public Health and Master of Applied Data Science offered entirely online through Coursera will enable students to achieve top-caliber University of Michigan degrees with the flexibility and high quality online learning experience of Coursera.”

The Construction Engineering and Management MasterTrack Certificate will enroll its first learners in 2018, pending final approval.

The Master of Applied Data Science and Master of Public Health degrees are expected to launch in fall 2019, subject to approval.

Master of Public Health
Master of Applied Data Science
Construction Engineering and Management MasterTrack Certificate
Coursera online degrees
U-M Coursera