Ready for release

Client satisfaction the focus of new software product management specialization.

Jennifer Pascoe - 10 September 2015

In answer to the growing demand for professional development opportunities in the software industry, the University of Alberta has partnered with Coursera, the world's largest open online education provider, to offer a specialization in software product management.

"Specializations are the next level of MOOCs," says Jonathan Schaeffer, dean of the Faculty of Science, referring to the massive open online courses that have made university education accessible to countless students around the world. "With this new software product management specialization, we are sharing our subject matter expertise with thousands of students across the globe looking to further their careers." The University of Alberta's computing science department is well regarded as one of the best in the world, and the Faculty of Science is recognized as a trailblazer in the digital learning sphere.

"Clients don't always know what they want. We encourage our software product managers to go beyond a contractual engagement to create open communications with the client.." -Ken Wong

Knowing the audience

"The software product management specialization course is designed to help learners create better software, satisfy their clients, and grow their careers," says Ken Wong, University of Alberta associate professor in computing science and instructor of record on the new specialization. "We support this through flexible, self-paced learning."

The specialization focuses on current approaches to software product management, including the principles of efficient and effective software development using the "Agile" framework. It provides an opportunity for professional development for those already in the field-whether they are looking at exploring current practices and techniques, or wishing to move into the role of a software product manager. It also gives learners the ability to take the courses when they fit within their schedule.

Wong notes that the focus for the specialization is to meet client needs by examining scenarios inspired by real-world industry challenges, aligning learning with practice. "The challenges are realistic, and client needs are different. Clients don't always know what they want. We encourage our software product managers to go beyond a contractual engagement to create open communications with the client. It's not about getting hung up on the right tools but rather focusing on the people." A six-week capstone project at the end of the specialization allows students to turn theory from the previous courses into real-world skills.

Exceeding industry needs

Wong worked together with his former students, Bradley Poulette and Morgan Patzelt, to create and present the content for the specialization. "This new software product management specialization offers aspiring and current professionals a great opportunity to expand their knowledge in a growing field," says Bradley Poulette, recent graduate from the University of Alberta's renowned Computing Science department. "More and more people are joining the software industry every year. We're offering programmers and business people alike the opportunity to broaden their skill-set and open themselves up to a larger job market."

"As more tech companies appear and existing companies get larger, there is a greater need for software product managers," says Poulette's colleague and fellow computing science graduate Morgan Patzelt. "We've been working with some of the industry-leading tech companies in Edmonton to supplement the software product management specialization." The team is focused on ensuring that the specialization not only meets industry needs but also exceeds the norm, speaking to the University of Alberta's reputation for excellence.

Why UAlberta?

"We are thrilled to offer the Introduction to Software Product Management Specialization with the University of Alberta," says Daphne Koller, president and co-founder of Coursera. "This specialization, along with dozens more we are launching this fall, is expected to reach hundreds of thousands learners worldwide, many of whom would never otherwise have access to the University of Alberta's high-quality instruction in computing science. More than half of our learners come to the platform specifically to build career skills, and cutting-edge technology fields like software product management are in particularly high demand."

The University of Alberta won the right to present the software production management specialization through a request for proposal from Coursera. "This is a big endeavour with tight timelines," says Wong. "We are moving at lightning speed. Our goal is to be better educators, and this is really shaking things up on what's possible."

The specialization in software product management launches this fall with the first course starting October 5 through

In addition, the Faculty of Science is introducing several more online courses designed to share the expertise of its faculty members including three new paleontology MOOCs (building on the success of the University of Alberta's internationally acclaimed "Dino 101") and another about the changing climate in the Arctic, all projected to launch in January 2016. The latter is being developed in partnership with the University of Tromsø (Norway) and UArctic, a co-operative network of universities, colleges, research institutes, and other organizations concerned with education and research in and about the North.