The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced today that the school will be the first top 5 accountancy program in the country to offer a fully online MS in Accountancy program.

Dubbed the iMSA, the program was developed with learning platform Coursera to feature a more hands-on approach to learning, coupled with the accessibility of an online course.

“The US regulatory landscape continues to transform, and companies need highly skilled accounting professionals who have the capacity to adapt and the financial competencies to stay on top,” said Nikhil Sinha, chief business officer at Coursera, per a statement. “The iMSA, delivered entirely online, will put an accounting career from an elite academic program within the reach of anyone, anywhere."

W. Brooke Elliott, EY distinguished professor and accountancy head designate in the College of Business at Illinois, said that beyond accounting fundamentals, new technical skills will also be explored to produce more well-rounded and future-forward graduates.

"As part of the iMSA, we are offering a Specialization in data analytics taught by one of University of Illinois’ leading experts in the field - Robert Brunner," Elliott told Accounting Today. "This two course sequence will cover the application of machine learning to image, text, and network data for business applications, as well as data summarization and visualization in accounting contexts."

Elliot added that staff will also interact with students in live sessions to closely examine case analyses. "The focus of these cases analyses is not only how to apply judgment in uncertain situations, but also on how to communicate your proposed solutions to others," she added.

The iMSA will be offered as a stackable degree, meaning students will be able to take courses before deciding on completing the entire program. If they are accepted, their progress towards the degree will be retained.

"This unique structure enables a broader scope of potential students to enroll in a program they might not otherwise be able to access due to costs or time constraints of an on-campus program," said Elliott. "Normally a master’s degree is all or nothing, but because the iMSA is composed of stackable, stand-alone credentials, each and every step of the learning process is accounted for and accredited. Students can test out the courses or earn Specializations on Coursera before deciding to enroll in the full-degree program. Or, should they choose to not complete the degree, the progress they made will still be recognized, and not lost."

The iMSA program - consisting of five core and three elective courses - will be able to be completed in as little as four semesters (18 months) or as many as eight semesters (36 months) depending on time constraints of students.

The new course also represents the third master's degree offered by the University of Illinois with Coursera, joining the iMBA from the College of Business and the Master’s of Computer Science in Data Science launched last year.

Business Instructional Facility at the University of Illinois.
Business Instructional Facility at the University of Illinois. Illinois.edu

The inaugural iMSA course will start this August, with applications opening in May. For more on the iMSA, head to Coursera's site here.

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