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U Michigan Expanding Online Programs in Public Health for the Fall

The University of Michigan is adding new online programs for the fall, including a new master's degree in public health. The other two are certificates. All will be run through Coursera, an online learning application that already hosts other offerings from the university. The software will allow learners to work synchronously with each other on projects or to interact with instructors through virtual office hours.

Presuming it's approved by the Michigan Association of State Universities, the focus of the new master's degree will be a master of science in population and health sciences. The purpose is to help students take leadership roles in the field of public health. Run by the School of Public Health, the full program is expected to take 20 to 22 months and requires 42 credits. The cost is $960 per credit hour for state residents and $1,060 per credit hour for out-of-state students. There won't be an internship, but students will take part in a "year-long, in-depth research project," according to the university.

"Now more than ever, we need population health scientists, and our new online master of science degree will help us reach and educate passionate learners across the globe," said Sharon Kardia, associate dean for education at the School of Public Health, in a statement.

The university already hosts a master of public health through Coursera as well.

The two new "MasterTrack" certificate programs will cover "sustainability and development" through the university's School for Environment and Sustainability, and "social work: practice, policy and research," through the School of Social Work. These are intended to serve as more affordable series of classes that lead to a certificate. In the case of the social work focus, that provides a more flexible path toward an accelerated master of social work degree.

While the social work certificate is a $2,000 program with six courses, the sustainability and development certificate requires the student to choose five out of 12 courses and costs $2,100.

The sustainability program was designed for students interested in knowing more about major, persistent global challenges and the best ways to address them, explained Arun Agrawal, lead faculty member for the program. "We are motivated to develop this because the greatest challenges to societies come from our inability to manage ourselves to address sustainability and development," he said. "Exploitation of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity, climate change, and persistent poverty and inequality are only some of these."

Now, Agrawal added, "the most recent, urgent threat we are now confronting, the spread of COVID-19 is a result of unfettered exploitation of wildlife for human consumption in the pursuit of short-term gains and profits. The longer-term threat of climate collapse is similarly the result of our inability to put resilience and equity on a similar footing as power and money."

Earning the social work certificate will allow students who want to pursue the master's degree to waive an entire semester, which equates to significant cost savings, according to Barb Hiltz, lead faculty member for the MasterTrack and director of the MSW program. "It also impacts access," she said. "If you are someone who is working full time, this allows you to take courses in the evenings or on weekends for a certification or to make progress so that if you choose to earn a degree you can finish in three, not four, semesters."

"As we face complex global challenges, we need to prepare future leaders to create a healthy, sustainable and just world," noted James DeVaney, executive director of the Center for Academic Innovation. "With these three new programs, we are expanding our efforts to increase access and ensure a variety of pathways for learners to engage as part of the Michigan community while gaining skills to solve grand challenges." The center is involved in development of the programs.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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