About the Academy of Digital Sciences

This introduction to the Academy of Digital Sciences was archived in January, 2018.

Maine’s leading employers want you!

The UNE Academy of Digital Sciences was an accelerated online-offline learning program that helped learners develop their talents and gain the specific digital technology skills that are most sought-after by local and national employers. The Academy was ideal for professionals seeking a career change (or just a little boost), recent immigrants looking to brush up on the latest, or newcomers looking to gain desirable skills.

Designed in collaboration with some of Maine’s best-known businesses, the UNE Academy offered eight-week courses that culminated in a certificate of completion and focused on four areas of career advancement: Development & Programming, Interaction & Interface, Analysis & Data and Management & Strategy.

Accelerated courses allows you to work at your own pace, with professional mentoring

The UNE Academy’s eight-week, self-paced courses combined world-class online instruction with real-life, project-based learning mentored by some of Maine’s most accomplished professionals. In addition, a dedicated Academy Advisor was available for career counseling and support.

Meet potential future employers

Designed in partnership with many of Maine’s best-known businesses, the UNE Academy presented a unique opportunity for learners of all ages and experience levels to succeed in forging productive professional relationships and showcasing their abilities for potential future employers.

What is the Academy?

The UNE Academy of Digital Sciences (often referred to as simply the “UNE Academy”) was Maine’s first accelerated certificate-of-completion learning series providing new and advanced learners with the most in-demand professional competencies as defined by both U.S. Department of Labor and local Maine employers.

Developed in partnership with prominent area businesses, the curriculum integrated curated world-class interactive online instruction with professionally mentored, project-based learning. UNE Academy learners acquired the skills that were most needed by local businesses and were then connected directly to employers who were eager to hire qualified and competent candidates.

Acquire the Most In-Demand Skills — in Months, Not Years

The UNE Academy was created to serve employer demand for candidates with professional and technical skills in the areas of web development, user interaction, data analysis, and project management and to meet the needs of learners who wanted to enter and advance in digital careers in months, not years — including those already working full-time.

Designed to be relevant for learners new to the field or for professionals looking to advance into new digital occupations, the UNE Academy was built upon the same accelerated learning approach that was at the heart of Project>Login’s “Curiosity to Career” model and Maine’s successful campaign to receive TechHire Community designation from the White House.

Four Areas of Career Advancement

Based on insights from the Department of Labor’s national competency models as well as local employment needs, the Academy offered eight-week courses that gave learners hands-on, applicable skills in four vital areas of career advancement, depending on their talents and interests.

There was also an introductory course in Digital Sciences Essentials — a good way to test the waters and explore the digital sciences, and also a good refresher for those re-entering the workforce.

Blended Online/Offline Curriculum

The course material was presented online, augmented by attentive mentorship from accomplished area professionals, who provided guidance through both the Academy’s online interface and weekly learning lab events on UNE’s Portland Campus. Each course included the completion of a final project — so learners learned by practicing workplace-ready skills and creating a finished “product” — and the assembly of a professional portfolio.

Why Enroll in the Digital Sciences Academy?

The UNE Academy of Digital Sciences was designed to help learners explore their interests in data and technology, and turn their talents into the skills that employers across Maine were looking for, whether they were looking for a career change, a professional boost, a practical certification as a complement to a liberal arts degree just needed a quick refresher.

The UNE Academy’s eight-week courses allowed them to develop hands-on professional skills relatively quickly and inexpensively, under the guidance of seasoned mentors. The self-paced course structure was designed to be flexible for those with other commitments, such as jobs and families. Learners who completed a course receive a UNE certificate of course completion and were introduced to area employers.

  • Courses were designed in collaboration with Maine business leaders to address immediate local employment needs.
  • Professional mentors advised and guided learners through the completion of a final project and the assembly of a professional portfolio.
  • Learners had the opportunity to meet area employers who were looking for people with the skills they were learning.
  • Eight-week “blended” courses allowed them to work at their own pace, on evenings or weekends.
  • A dedicated UNE Advisor provided career counseling and support.

Match talents with a professional digital and technology discipline.

Interest & Ability

Professional Skill

Development and Programming Do you like to solve problems by building things? Do you have a high attention to detail? Do you have an aptitude for the technical side of computers and technology? Computer programmers and developers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly. They are the people on a team who write the code that makes the software work. They solve problems, test scenarios and create new functionality all by writing code.
Interaction and Interface Are you a visual problem solver? Do you enjoy changing how something looks or works so that it’s easier to use? Does making a basic version of something and having people test it sound interesting to you? User experience and user interface designers are team members who work on the bridge between software and consumer. They work with market research and develop systems that allow people to successfully use a company’s product. The UX and UI designers on a team also help implement a design that might have been programmed by someone else.
Analysis and Data Are you data-driven and a good communicator? Do you seek out large amounts of information before making an important decision? Are you very comfortable with spreadsheets and reports? Do you have an affinity for making data relevant and valuable? Data analysts collect data and interpret it so that it can be used to make decisions. Great data analysts are both “number crunchers” and communicators. They are the members of a team who help companies figure out what new customers to target, which problems to focus on and what the best return on investment will be in the future.
Management and Strategy Do you find yourself naturally leading groups of people? Do you tend to make a detailed, thoughtful plan and then act on it? Are you able to communicate effectively with both highly technical and non-technical people? Are you goal-oriented? Managers and strategic analysts plan, initiate and maintain projects. They are the members of a team who both lead and guide the technical staff, and also work with the business staff as well. They make sure that goals are accomplished, standards are met and the team is working effectively.

How it Worked

Start

The UNE Academy of Digital Sciences was a good fit for young professionals who felt unchallenged in their current jobs; or new immigrants who had managed IT projects in the past, but needed to brush up on project communication skills and new digital competencies; or liberal arts college learners for whom a professional certificate of completion was an important complement to an academic degree.

Enroll

The first step was to connect with an Academy Advisor — via email, online, or phone — for an enrollment process that was designed to be quick and easy. The Advisor answered questions about the Academy and assessed interests, talents, and experience to match learners with courses that built upon their professional competencies and digital skills. The Advisor guided learners through registration and a seamless transition onto the UNE Academy online learning platform.

If learners were new to the field, they were guided to the introductory Digital Sciences Essentials course, which provided an overview of the four main career focus areas. Once learners completed the Essentials course, they could dive deeper into one of the four Fundamentals courses. Some learners with professional technology experience were given the opportunity to “test out” of the Essentials course and enroll directly in one of the four Fundamentals courses.

Courses

Courses were offered in self-paced eight-week sessions available throughout the year — including summer — and completed on a flexible schedule in months, not years. Learners could start with the introductory “Essentials” course if they were new to the profession, or go deeper with one of the four “Fundamentals” courses if they already had professional experience.

Each course consisted of the following key elements:

  • Relevant, up-to-date online learning modules curated from leading instructors at world-class universities and delivered via the rapidly evolving Coursera platform. Modules were self-paced and could be completed to fit a student’s own schedule: days, nights, or weekends.
  • Real-world projects developed with leading Maine employers and designed to help learners apply new knowledge.
  • Professional mentoring through online forums and during regular “office hours” at live UNE Academy Learning Hub meetings in Portland, Maine, either in person or through remote conferencing. The second Learning Hub was opened in Waterville, Maine, in the summer of 2018.
  • Advising provided from initial contact through post-course events, such as employer meet-ups and next-step course enrollment.
  • A digital portfolio in which learners captured their learning process and project work, and which provided insights beyond a cover letter and resume.

Pathways

The Academy was a “stepping stone” to career entry or advancement that provided learners with career preparation that matched their interests and experience.

The introductory “Digital Sciences Essentials” course was intended to help people with little prior knowledge or experience to explore their passions and find out if they are interested in the digital professions:

Learners discovered the career groups that best matched their interests and then enrolled in a second eight-week course that offered a deeper dive into one of the four “Fundamentals” areas:

  • Development and Programming
  • Interaction and Interface
  • Analysis and Data
  • Management and Strategy

Some learners completed multiple fundamentals courses, thus gaining the broadest base of knowledge and experience on which to establish their careers. Those with prior experience in the digital professions “tested out” of the introductory “Essentials” course and moved right into a “Fundamentals” course that helped them prepare for the next stage of their career.

Every UNE Academy course included a project-based learning experience to help learners apply new content knowledge to projects that reflected the cyclical, agile development process found in many work environments: identifying client needs, proposing solutions, prototyping demos, and iterative testing. Learners captured those project-based experiences in digital portfolios that demonstrated competencies for future employers.

Mentors

Professional mentors were the heart of the UNE Academy. Mentors were accomplished professionals in Maine’s business community, ensuring that coursework and project work undertaken by learners reflected the current best-practices of the business world. At the same time, Academy mentors were generous and intuitive, adept at teaching and building rapport, and wanting to “pay forward” their own success by guiding and supporting learners in all aspects of their Academy experience.

Mentors interacted with learners via an online discussion forum and participated in “office hours” at the Academy’s Learning Lab on the UNE Portland campus, as well as other locations based on need. Learners who were able to travel to the Learning Hub met with other learners and mentors at regular times. Those who were unable to attend in person participated live via telepresence or watched archived Learning Hub events.

The Goal

The ultimate goal was to connect learners with employers.

After successfully demonstrating mastery of employer-defined learning outcomes by completing each course’s instruction and project activities, learners received a certificate of course completion representing mastery of an employer-defined competency and they were eligible to meet with employers at UNE Academy Roundtables — including the same employers who defined the learning outcomes for Academy courses.

Over the past 5 years, Maine employers reported that meeting qualified candidates in person was among the best ways to find great employees. Academy Roundtables provided opportunities for learners to present their work and for employers and professionals to share their own pathways to professional success.

Academy Courses

Curious about digital careers? Start with our Essentials course. Then, dive deeper into each specific career area through our Fundamentals courses.

Digital Sciences Essentials

050 – DIGITAL SCIENCES ESSENTIALS

A key measure of success in the contemporary business world is whether someone can work effectively with computers and technology. The Academy of Digital Sciences Essentials course sought to provide learners with a future-proof foundation in the basics of the digital sciences while working with computers and technology. The goal of the course was to supply learners with a high-quality education and relevant experience so that they would be adequately prepared to live and thrive in our increasingly digital society, economy, and culture.

Development and Programming

Do you like to solve problems by building things? Do you have a high attention to detail? Do you have an aptitude for the technical side of computers and technology?

Computer programmers and developers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly. They are the people on a team who write the code that makes the software work. They solve problems, test scenarios and create new functionality all by writing code

061 – DEVELOPMENT AND PROGRAMMING FUNDAMENTALS

Get a hands-on introduction to computation and problem solving through programming. Study the fundamental building blocks of programming and begin learning how to write fun, useful, and practical code.

Interaction and Interface

Are you a visual problem solver? Do you enjoy changing how something looks or works so that it’s easier to use? Does making a basic version of something and having people test it sound interesting to you?

User experience and user interface designers are team members who work on the bridge between software and consumer. They work with market research and develop systems that allow people to successfully use a company’s product. The UX and UI designers on a team also help implement a design that might have been programmed by someone else.

062 – INTERACTION AND INTERFACE FUNDAMENTALS

This course provided a  project-based introduction to computational and digital learning that focused on user interface and user interaction design. Learners studied why and how people use (or and don’t use) a particular piece of software, and learned how to improve things so that the experience would be better for the user and the company that makes it.

Analysis and Data

Are you data-driven and a good communicator? Do you seek out large amounts of information before making an important decision? Are you very comfortable with spreadsheets and reports? Do you have an affinity for making data relevant and valuable?

Data analysts collect data and interpret it so that it can be used to make decisions. Successful data analysts are both great “number crunchers” and great communicators. They are the members of a team who help companies figure out which new customers to target, which problems to focus on and what the best return on investment will be in the future.

063 – ANALYSIS AND DATA FUNDAMENTALS

This course gave learners a project-based introduction to how to collect, interpret and use data to make strategically sound decisions and improve systems. Topics included the science behind data collection and analysis and ways data can be utilized to better understand problems and implement effective solutions.

Project Management

Do you find yourself naturally leading groups of people? Do you tend to make a detailed, thoughtful plan and then act on it? Are you able to communicate effectively to both highly technical and nontechnical people? Are you goal oriented?

Managers and strategic analysts plan, initiate and maintain projects. They are the members of a team who lead and guide the technical staff and also work with the business staff as well. They make sure that goals are accomplished, standards are met and the team is working effectively.

064 – PROJECT MANAGEMENT FUNDAMENTALS

Learn how to analyze, plan, initiate, maintain and optimize digital project work and processes in this hands-on, project-centered course. Learners learned how to utilize proven project management and strategy education, as well as techniques that have been proven to be the most effective method of delivering products within cost, schedule and resource constraints.

Affiliated Employers

The UNE Academy of Digital Sciences was designed in close collaboration with some of Maine’s best-known employers. These high-profile employers provided ongoing support and input that allows the Academy to offer courses specifically tailored to meet the immediate needs of local businesses.

Cash Star, Inc.

JOHN STERLING, Director, Software Engineering

“CashStar culture is built around empowerment and trusting the judgment of engineers. This is what keeps us moving fast and allows us to build great products.”

Fluid Imaging Technologies, Inc.

KENT PETERSON, President and Chief Executive Officer

“Our team is endeavoring to attract a cadre of software and IT professionals to ensure we retain our leadership position and ensure the long-term viability of Fluid Imaging Technologies.”

L.L.Bean

SARAH COX, Vice President, Human Resources

“L.L. Bean seeks intellectually curious and analytical technical talent at all levels and in multiple functions – people who are passionate about innovation and dedicated to shaping the future of success for the L.L.Bean brand. We hire strong talent locally and nationally to develop Creative IT, Digital solutions for Ecommerce and to provide well-designed tools that work effectively in our distinctive Retail environment.”

State of Maine

JIM SMITH, Chief Information Officer, Office of Information Technology

“We are seeking talented candidates with the aptitude, attitude, and passion to make a difference through the use of technologies. We look to hire and retain talented employees and interns who possess critical thinking skills, a burning desire to solve problems and who will be energized working in teams on meaningful projects. We want to hire people who push us to the edge with new ideas and well-calculated approaches to business process improvements. In Maine, we know we have this talent just waiting for programs like the  to help them reach their fullest potential — to be career ready.”

Tyler Technologies

ANGELA GAUDREAU, Vice President, Munis Development

“We are always looking for innovative people who think technically and strategically. In return, we provide an environment that challenges them and enables them to grow their skills.”

Unum Group

CHRIS JEROME, Executive Vice President, Global Services

“We want ‘owners’ — people who will understand the problem and will drive the solution as if it is their own.”

WEX, Inc.

STEVE CROWLEY, Senior Vice President, Shared Services and Chief Information Officer

“WEX is a growth company and Maine is home. Our partnership with UNE is critical to building the pipeline of top IT talent that WEX needs to fulfill the company’s vision of a successful future.”

Maine employers worked closely with Academy staff to design courses to meet their needs:

  • Cash Star
  • Cianbro
  • Common Census
  • Field Stack
  • Fischer Design Group
  • Freeport Metrics
  • IDEXX Laboratories
  • Intermed
  • iVantage Health Analytics
  • The Jackson Laboratory
  • LL Bean
  • Maine Data Lake
  • Maine Health
  • Pro Search
  • State of Maine Office of Information Technology
  • Tyler Technologies
  • WEX

Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning

JOSHUA KIM, Director of Digital Learning Initiative; Technology and Learning Blogger for Inside Higher Ed

“The Digital Sciences Academy, at the University of New England, is one example of the sort of joint-innovation that will become increasingly essential in higher education. The collaborative design of this program between UNE and top regional employers to deepen the pool of local workforce talent is a model for other institutions. I’ll be excited to watch as this program develops — and will be pointing to UNE embodying the sort of entrepreneurial thinking that we need in higher education.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Was the UNE Academy of Digital Sciences a course? A certificate program? A degree?

The UNE Academy of Digital Sciences was an innovative learning initiative that offered a set of blended (online and offline) courses designed to help learners at all levels gain professional digital competencies most in-demand by local and national employers. The Academy’s collaborating employers were some of Maine’s best-known businesses. Learners who completed a course received a UNE certificate of course completion and the opportunity to meet with area employers.

How long will did each course take to complete?

Courses were offered within eight-week sessions. However, within that window, the courses were designed so that learners could advance at their own pace. All the learning material, assessments, and projects for each program were accessible from the first day of each session. Learners set their own pace for learning and engagement while receiving support from the Academy.

Were there pre-requisites to taking UNE Academy programs?

The first course, “Digital Sciences Essentials,” had no pre-requisites — only curiosity about digital science and digital learning. The four subsequent “Fundamentals” courses covered more advanced curricula, and required the successful completion of either the “Essentials” program or an assessment prior to registration.

Was the UNE Academy for undergraduates preparing to enter the workforce or people who are already working?

The UNE Academy was designed to support the success of learners at all levels— for current students, professionals looking for change or advancement, or experienced professionals, such as recent immigrants looking for a brush-up or refresher course. The “Essentials” course was general enough to help anyone use digital tools and techniques to solve problems in more complex and effective ways, while the “Fundamentals” courses allowed interested learners to dive deeper into particular areas of focus and learn advanced professional skills.

What did the courses cover?

The “Essentials” program provided an overview of the UNE Academy’s four main career development areas, and more in-depth “Fundamentals” programs were offered in each of these areas:

  • Development and Programming
  • Interaction and Interface
  • Analysis and Data
  • Management and Strategy

The “Essentials” course was designed to give learners a brief introduction to the subject matter. For beginners, especially, this was an excellent opportunity to explore and assess their interest in the digital professions before making a larger investment of time and money.

By the end, the goal was to help learners have a positive experience and a better idea of what their next steps could be, whether the takeaway was “That was great and I want to learn more,” or “That was great, but a digital career is not for me.”

Each “Fundamentals” program was a deeper dive, designed to provide employer-ready, professional-level skills in that area.

What will I do in a UNE Academy program?

In addition to engaging online learning modules from world-class instructors, learners took on real-world projects with each program, supported by mentors who were accomplished, local professionals.

Through the project component of each course, learners applied their learning to real-world tasks relevant to the needs and requirements of leading Maine businesses. Mentors guided learners through their work to make sure it was up-to-date and applicable to what’s going on in today’s business world.

Learners also had the ability to meet professionals other than their mentor at regularly scheduled events and meetings they could attend in person on UNE’s Portland campus and virtually online.


The work was originally licensed by the University of New England under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. , and based on work at Educate Maine, Project>Login, and Leadership Maine. Updates made by The Compass LLC are released under the same license.

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