‘Microsoft Professional Degree’ Pilot Program Launches

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By:  Gladys Rama


Microsoft is testing out a new training and certification program aimed at professionals who want to deepen their knowledge of emerging technologies like Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT).

The Microsoft Professional Degree (MPD) program was announced Wednesday at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) by Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and chief evangelist. Guggenheimer took the WPC stage to deliver a keynote presentation that centered on partner opportunities in “disruptive” technologies. Guggenheimer touted the MPD program as a way for professionals with general STEM backgrounds to gain technical experience in those technologies, including IoT, Big Data and analytics.

“If I have a math professional or somebody from a STEM background … who’s used programming in university, most likely, but isn’t an expert in an area, we want to help create an opportunity and a degree system for those professionals to get deep into a specific area,” Guggenheimer said.

Microsoft is currently piloting the MPD program with about 900 students, the first of whom will graduate in September, according to Guggenheimer. The curriculum is a mix of video and online learning, self-learning, testing and mentorship, he said.

The first subject area in which MPD program students can be certified is data science. The MPD program Web site describes the Data Science module this way:

Microsoft consulted Data Scientists and the companies that employ them to identify the requisite core skills. We then developed a curriculum to teach these functional and technical skills, combining highly rated online courses with hands-on labs, concluding in a final capstone project. Graduates earn a Microsoft Professional Degree in Data Science — a digitally sharable, résumé-worthy credential.

The Data Science curriculum comprises 10 courses. Enrollees must purchase a “Verified Certificate” after passing each course in order to receive credit toward an MPD. Pricing for each Verified Certificate varies; the introductory Data Science course costs $25, while the rest are either $49 or $99. However, those who want to take the classes but are not interested in receiving an MPD certificate can audit the courses for free.

Guggenheimer explained that the MPD program is designed to help professionals with expertise in a specific industry to expand their technical chops. “We think this will help someone, for example, who has a math background but hasn’t used all the tools with cognitive services and the R language to become proficient in using those tools,” he said.

Currently, the MPD program pilot is available only in English, though Microsoft is offering it worldwide. Guggenheimer said Microsoft is looking to add other technologies to the MPD program curriculum