University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering launches online master’s in computer science

The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science today announced its first completely online master’s degree, a Master of Computer and Information Technology. MCIT Online is designed to be affordable, at one-third the cost of an on-campus degree, and open to students with no previous background in computer science. Offered exclusively on Coursera, MCIT Online is ideal for students who wish to pursue a variety of high-potential career paths, ranging from software development to product management to data science, that require a strong technical foundation.

“Computer Science is now as fundamental to our future as math, reading or writing. And while we can’t predict the future, we can help people prepare for it by making a strong grounding in these fundamentals as easy to acquire as possible,” says Vijay Kumar, Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn Engineering. “Our vision is for a high-impact program that is more accessible and more affordable for more students.”

MCIT Online confers the same degree as the on-campus MCIT, the only Ivy League Computer Science degree that has no computer science prerequisites. This design enables people with diverse academic backgrounds to pursue a career in technology. MCIT is a well-established program from a top 20 engineering school. The degree has more than 1,000 graduates who have gone on to work at top employers including Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

“This degree represents the democratization of computer science. It brings a world-class, Ivy League degree within reach of people of all backgrounds, from anywhere in the world,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, Coursera’s CEO. “MCIT Online is a game-changer for people who want to earn a Master of Computer Science but don't have a tech background or can't attend an on-campus program. We’re thrilled to deliver this degree from the University of Pennsylvania that shares our commitment to providing universal access to the world’s best education.”

The total cost of the MCIT Online degree is $26,300, roughly a third of the cost of the on-campus degree, due to its online delivery model, with the same level of academic rigor and excellence for which the University of Pennsylvania is known. The Coursera platform enables professors to build a variety of beginner to advanced programming assignments that combine auto, peer, and human grading done by on-campus teaching assistants and faculty. Students will also have the opportunity to participate regularly in live video office hours with the same faculty who teach on campus. 

“Not only is computing permeating our everyday lives, but there’s so much potential for it to help solve some of the world’s major problems and have significant social impact. This program will allow people from all backgrounds to participate in that,” says Chris Murphy, Associate Professor of Practice in Penn Engineering’s Department of Computer and Information Science (CIS) and co-director of MCIT Online. “We’ve spent the past 17 years refining the MCIT curriculum so that it prepares our students to be computer scientists, not just programmers. That’s so important for supporting their long-term careers throughout all areas of computing.”

The rigorous curriculum, composed of 6 core courses and 4 electives in areas such as data science and machine learning, features a blend of both computer science theory and applied, project-based learning. Students will gain experience working as part of a collaborative development team and combining mathematical foundations and engineering principles to develop solutions to real-world computing problems. Students will have the chance to work on projects using a variety of programming languages (Python, C, SQL, Java), data analytics tools (Hadoop, TensorFlow), and computing environments (Linux, Amazon Cloud), preparing them for careers in industries such as bioinformatics, medicine, finance, and telecommunications, as well as in the core software development industry. 

“I was searching for a well-rounded education, and MCIT allowed me the flexibility to explore my interests in business and prepare me for the real world,” says Priyanka Vergadia, who graduated from the MCIT program in 2011. “I’m now at Google, working with customers and helping them to adopt cloud computing.”

Upon graduating, MCIT Online students will become part of the University of Pennsylvania alumni community and have access to career services and networking opportunities.

“One of the best things about MCIT is the incredibly strong community of students and alumni,” says Sampath Kannan, Henry Salvatori Professor in CIS and co-director of MCIT Online. “We fully intend to include our online students in that community and give them meaningful opportunities for personal experiences.”

The first cohort of the ten-course program will begin in January 2019. Applications are open now. Visit the Coursera website to learn more.


About Penn Engineering: Penn Engineering prepares students for leadership roles in a technological world where creativity, critical quantitative thinking, effective communication skills and a strong commitment to humane values are essential. Established in 1852 as the School of Mines, Arts and Manufactures, Penn Engineering is among the oldest and most respected engineering schools in the United States.  ENIAC, the first general purpose digital computer was developed at Penn Engineering in 1946, and the Department of Computer and Information Science awarded the first doctoral degree in Computer Science in 1965.  With six academic departments and numerous interdisciplinary centers, institutes, and laboratories, Penn Engineering graduates close to 1,000 students each year and has a worldwide alumni network of more than 31,000.

About Coursera:

Coursera is an online education company that partners with 170 of the world’s top universities and industry leaders to offer courses, Specializations, and degrees that empower learners around the world to achieve their career, educational, and personal enrichment goals throughout their lives. Since launching in 2012, the company has grown to 34 million registered learners who can choose among 2,700 courses and 250 Specializations. Leading universities are now also working with Coursera to offer online degrees in areas like business, computer science, data science, and public health. Coursera is backed by leading venture capital firms such as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, New Enterprise Associates, GSV Capital, International Finance Corporation, Laureate Education Inc., and Learn Capital.

Contact details:

Penn Engineering
Evan Lerner

Charlotte Ward