This weekend, the first graduates of the University of Illinois’ online degrees on Coursera walked across the stage in Urbana Champaign to receive their diplomas alongside their on-campus peers. Dozens of students from the Master of Business Administration (iMBA) and Master of Computer Science in Data Science (MCS-DS) flew in from all over the world with their extended families; it was a first visit to campus for many.
These students along with many others arrived on campus with their families proudly wearing the Illinois orange and blue to celebrate an achievement many of them had been dreaming of for decades. For example, Christin Gomez is an iMBA graduate who brought a dozen members of her family from Atlanta to this weekend’s graduation. Himanshu Shah, an MCS-DS graduate who studied for his degree every day after his ten year old went to sleep, drove down from the Chicago suburbs with his wife and daughter. Many more brought their families from all over the world including Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Switzerland, and Dubai.
These University of Illinois graduates – 76 from the iMBA and 15 graduates of the MCS-DS – aren’t your typical graduate students. They’re usually older than the average on-campus graduate students with jobs and families. I found all of the graduates I met this weekend to be incredibly determined and inspiring people, but that’s hardly surprising. They are the kinds of people who jumped at an opportunity to be part of new programs with the promise of being able to fit their lifestyles and still deliver a top quality learning experience.
Degrees on Coursera are built for the modern learner. They are high quality programs that can be completed online from anywhere in the world. Over 80% of degree students on Coursera are active on our mobile app, studying on their commutes, lunch breaks, and during their children’s naps. Not only are our partners’ degree programs significantly more affordable than other similarly high-ranked degrees, but we’ve integrated technology in new ways to make the experience interactive and engaging. We now have a robust platform of degree-only features including live video sessions with professors, Slack integration for communication with peers and instructors, and remotely proctored exams. Unlike any other online degree platform, degrees on Coursera have open online courses that provide a gateway into the degree experience. Many of this week’s graduates found confidence first in the online courses offered by the University of Illinois on Coursera before applying for admittance into the degrees.
The University of Illinois has played an important role in helping us build a new type of learning experience. A top public institution with a land-grant commitment to the dissemination of knowledge, the University of Illinois has been a leader in online education for decades and launched its first degree on Coursera, the iMBA, three years ago. A year later, the MCS-DS launched; it has expanded to include a full Master of Computer Science in addition to a data science track. Last year, Illinois launched another degree on Coursera, its Master of Science in Accountancy (iMSA).
Since Coursera was founded, we have dedicated ourselves to transforming lives through learning and have reached 32 million people with online courses offered by top universities and industry leaders. But to truly fulfill our mission, we know that the transformation many people need lies in earning a degree from a highly respected university. I’m extremely heartened to see the early results from the iMBA, like a 92% retention rate and 98% satisfaction rate, that show the program is having a positive impact on people’s lives.
We’re excited to continue our work with the University of Illinois and many other top universities to reimagine degrees. We are especially thankful to this weekend’s graduates of the University of Illinois who embody boldness and betterment, values we aim to live by at Coursera. They leave footprints that will be followed by many, but will always be remembered as the first to walk this path.
Congratulations to the iMBA and MCS-DS classes of 2017 and 2018!
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