Coursera has a new initiative whereby students who complete a series of courses on a specific topic can earn a Specialization Certificate. Four Computer Science options are among the initial programs, including Data Science.
The idea of Universities awarding certificates and diplomas in recognition that a student has completed a course of study in a specialized subject isn't new and now that Coursera has announced its Specialization Certificates the idea will probably spread.
So far ten Coursera Specializations have been announced and they all involve completing a group of related courses plus a Capstone Project or Exam that allows you to apply the skills you've learned throughout the courses. All the components need to be following the Signature Track, which requires a small fee in order to verify your identity.
One problem that the Signature Track appears to address is that of student retention. According to Coursera's co-founder, Daphne Koller:
In our Signature Track option, which offers students the option to pay a fee of around $50 to receive a verified certificate upon successful completion of a course, retention averages around 63% overall, 88% among the committed students [those who complete the first month].
Coursera describes its Specializations as "highly relevant" and this is reflected not only in the topics chosen but also inclusion of a final project to demonstrate the skills covered. The four programs in computer science are the following:
Fundamentals of Computing
3 courses plus Capstone Exam.
Start March 24.
Total duration 27 weeks
Mobile Cloud Computing with Android
University of Maryland, College Park & Vanderbilt University
3 courses plus Capstone Project
Start January 24.
Total duration 22 weeks
University of Maryland, College Park
4 courses plus Capstone
Start September 15.
Total duration 40 weeks
Johns Hopkins University
9 courses plus Capstone Project
Start April 7.
Total duration 40 weeks
Those looking for online courses and accreditation in Data Science now have a range of choices. Udacity has announced a Data Science Track with multiple courses offered under its "Full experience program" in which students pay a monthly subscription and have career-related help from a personal coach and a Big Data course that is the first Online X Course from MIT Professional Education is due to run on the edX platform from March 4.