By Tiffany Fox
San Diego, Calif., Oct. 15, 2014 — Learners in massive open online courses offered by Coursera can now enroll in 18 new Specializations – a targeted sequence of courses designed to build high-demand skills and subject matter expertise.
One of the specializations – “Interaction Design” – is being led by University of California, San Diego Professor Scott Klemmer, who has a dual appointment in the Departments of Cognitive Science and Computer Science and Engineering and is affiliated with the University’s Qualcomm Institute and its Design Lab.
Specializations were introduced at Coursera in January as a way of rethinking timely, relevant education in an evolving market environment. UC San Diego and the University of California, Irvine, are two of 10 universities who are offering Specializations. (The Qualcomm Institute is the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, which also has a division at UC Irvine).
“Many skills that are critical today did not exist 15 years ago,” says Coursera Co-Founder and President Daphne Koller. “It’s often difficult for a working adult to go back to school and get a degree. We are working with our university partners to create a new, targeted unit of education that’s more than a single course and less than a full degree, which can help people rapidly acquire expertise in a new and relevant topic.”
The “Interaction Design” specialization will include Klemmer’s already existing Coursera course titled “Human-Computer Interaction,” as well as several additional modules designed to teach students, as Klemmer puts it, “solutions for problem-finding.”
“The classical engineering curriculum and other technical curricula do a great job of teaching students strategies for solving problems,” says Klemmer. “The most exciting thing for me about this new Interactive Design Specialization is that we’re teaching students solutions for problem-finding, which I think is extremely important for 21st century work.”
Klemmer continues: “In this Specialization you’ll learn techniques for going out into the world and finding real user needs and then creating new designs that address those user needs. What we’ve found in the Design Lab is that just like our concrete set of strategies for solving problems, there are concrete sets of strategies for finding user needs that you can design for.”
Other Specializations include "Business Communication for Career Readiness" (UC Irvine), "Fundamentals of Programming and Algorithms" (Peking University) and "Become a Social Scientist: Methods and Statistics" (University of Amsterdam).
In a blog post issued today, Coursera reports a surge in worldwide demand over the past nine months, with more than 1.5 million learners participating in Specializations. It also reports that the number of Verified Certificates (VCs) issued in 2014 doubled in volume due to Specializations, and more than 60 percent of all learners earning a Verified Certificate share the certification on LinkedIn to boost their profile.
Coursera has also emphasized collaboration between universities, professors and companies looking to join forces, and the company touts Specializations as “a unique final project that allows learners to apply what they’ve learned to relevant, real-world scenarios.” Coursera has, for example, partnered with Google to highlight the top five Android final projects in the Google Play store—a tangible way to immediately demonstrate your skillset in an impactful way.
"We see data science as a core competency, like reading or writing or math,” says Koller. “What started as a meeting of the minds at JHU turned into a brand-new set of classes created specifically for Coursera. We've been astounded by the learner response, and by the quality of the work being produced. To be able to create something that caters to aspiring data scientists across disciplines, who want to take the next step in their careers, brings a whole new definition to being an educator who has an impact on the world.”
“We envision new credentials for the 21st century, and are working closely with our partner institutions, as well as private sector companies, to make this vision a reality,” explains Coursera CEO Rick Levin.
Tiffany Fox, (858) 246-0353, firstname.lastname@example.org