School of Information launches new advanced education option online

Online learners interested in the growing field of user experience research and design can now earn more comprehensive certification or complete work toward an advanced degree at the University of Michigan School of Information. 

In some cases, learners can earn as much as a quarter of the required credit for enrolled master’s degrees through three MicroMasters announced today by the university in partnership with the online platform edX. The three MicroMasters are User Experience (UX) Research and Design through the School of Information; Social Work: Practice, Policy and Research through the School of Social Work; and Leading Educational Innovation and Improvement through the School of Education.

“Michigan is proud to be a leader in creating a new pathway for global learners to advance their skills and knowledge," said Martha Pollack, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan. “These MicroMasters reflect Michigan’s unique and long-standing commitment to expanding conceptions of the public research university.”

In keeping with its mission to connect people, information and technology, the School of Information was one of the first schools at the university to offer MOOCs. For several years, UMSI faculty have taught classes in Python programming, HTML and website design to hundreds of thousands of learners around the globe. 

Understanding how users experience technology and what they want and need from it are at the heart of the User Experience (UX) Research and Design MicroMasters created by the U-M School of Information. 

The nine courses in this MicroMasters provide an introduction to the field, and teach students how to better understand user needs and how human behavior impacts the experience. Courses take online learners through usability testing, design principles and approaches to research on user experience.

In addition to certification, those who earn admission to U-M can use these courses to fulfill a significant portion of their programs toward a School of Information master’s degree.

“We see these online offerings as a way to expand our academic reach, presenting learners with opportunities they might not otherwise have to study with the School of Information,” said UMSI Dean Thomas A. Finholt. “The MicroMasters courses present a flexible, accessible option, whether the student enrolls for professional development, to sample the graduate school experience, or for academic credit.”

Enrollment is open now, and students can take the first UX course beginning October 4. The School of Information MicroMasters was created in partnership with an advisory group of program graduates.

“What’s particularly exciting about these MicroMasters is that they highlight Michigan’s mission-based commitment to addressing the societal issues of today, and they do it ways that take advantage of hybrid modes of discovery for global, residential, and lifelong learners,” said James Hilton, vice provost for academic innovation, dean of libraries and professor of information.

EdX is an online learning destination created by Harvard and MIT. MicroMasters are designed to prepare learners for the careers in demand today by supporting an inverted admissions process, allowing learners everywhere to try master’s-level course work before committing significant time and money toward applying for and enrolling in a master’s degree.

The MicroMasters and MOOCs are among the ways U-M is leading in the area of digital education through the Office of Academic Innovation at Michigan (formerly the Office of Digital Education and Innovation). The office is charged with creating a culture of innovation in learning through personalized, engaged and lifelong learning.

Read the release from the U-M News Service.

This blog post by UMSI associate professor Mark Newman, who helped design the UMSI MOOC, explains the demand for UX designers and what students will learn in the MicroMasters course.

Posted September 20, 2016