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Digital Manufacturing Gets Its First Open Online Course

Jan. 27, 2017
The MOOC, developed between UI Labs and University of Buffalo, is designed to help manufacturing workers, executives and students better understand digital connectivity as it applies to industry. 

Engineers and scientists can do all the research and development in the world on digital connectivity in the factory, but it won’t have much impact if manufacturing executives don’t understand its reach and how to apply it to their own shop floors.

“Part of the process is to make sure we build an awareness of what do we mean by digital manufacturing,” said Caralynn Nowinski Collens, CEO of UI Labs, a public-private innovation accelerator. “What does it mean to have a connected supply chain, connected factory?”

University Industry (UI) Labs and its partners are trying a new way to package the message in an accessible form: a massive open online course (MOOC), developed in partnership with the University of Buffalo.

The open-enrollment course, Digital Manufacturing and Design Technology, launches on January 30 on the Coursera platform. The curriculum includes 40 hours of instruction, assessments, peer interaction and a final project. Anyone can take the course, which is designed for college and technical school students and manufacturing workers and employers.

The 10 classes cover a swath of digital manufacturing and design technologies and their applications. Participants who complete the series can earn a certificate in digital manufacturing and design. It’s free to enroll in the course and access the content, including videos and text. To access all the assignments and, after completing them, earn a specialization, costs $49 per month until the coursework is completed.

Each course module will introduce a different digital manufacturing and design technology. For example, one module will explain how to upgrade older machines to collect data on their production and performance. A “cyber-physical security” module covers how to protect internet-connected devices from hacking.

UB’s faculty designed the course with input from manufacturing software developer Siemens PLM; manufacturing engineering organization SME; the Association for Manufacturing Technology; precision motion control maker Moog Inc. and engineering consulting firm Buffalo Manufacturing Works.

The course is being funded through a $380,000 grant from the Chicago-based Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), a federally funded research and development arm of UI Labs.

Nowinski Collens says UI is getting the word out about the course through its 300 partner organizations, which include manufacturing companies, trade organizations, universities and community colleges. She expects incumbent workers will use the course to understand how their jobs will evolve, while engineering and computer science students might use it to better understand the role of data and analytics in the manufacturing jobs of the future. UI also plans to use the course for its own onboarding. 

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