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Review: Product Ideation, Design and Management Specialization by University of Maryland

Reviewed By Product Expert and Coach
Elizabeth Hogue
February 25, 2024

Program Overview

Product management is one of the hottest career paths in 2023 (and likely beyond), but incredibly difficult to break into without prior experience. Before letting all those glamorous Tiktok videos fool you, we recommend learning the basics of the role before determining if it's a good fit for you. Enter, The University of Maryland's Product Management Specialization, formally known as Product Ideation, Design, and Management Specialization. The beginner-level specialization is hosted by Coursera, and consists of 5 courses with a recommended 4 weeks of work each. It covers all the basic functionalities of product management, and interlaces the curriculum with entrepreneurial advice. This nets a total of 20 weeks, or 5 months for program completion.

The five courses to complete the specialization are:

The material is taught by real industry professionals and covers the basics of how to ideate, create, manage and fund a product (hence the name). We especially loved the course on funding and pitch deck creation-- in short, no product can exist without funding, and learning ways to sell ideas is an absolutely crucial skill for any profession.

The curriculum is meant to be consumed over a 20-week period, but it can also be completed at your own pace, which would probably be much quicker if you're dedicated.

Best for: Beginners

This course has some great material, but it is definitely aimed at an audience with no prior knowledge of product management. If that's you, great! We definitely recommend weighing this course as a way to broaden your expertise of the role and its responsibilities.

If you have experience with product teams, even in another role like design or engineering, this specialization may be taught at a pace that's a little slow for you. As mentioned before, we loved the sections on pitch deck and product funding (course 5, weeks 2-4), and how to tap into entrepreneurial thinking (course 1, weeks 3-4), but think you could maybe find another certification that's more your speed.

If this thought process is resonating with you, we recommend checking out UVA's Product Management Specialization or Duke's AI Product Management Specialization for more in-depth learning.

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Weekly Breakdowns

We’ve recapped the learning objectives from each week to set your expectations for course material. The great part about this program is that you can jump to any course, and any section if it’s interesting to you. For example, if you’re an established PM only looking for ways to up your product pitch deck game, head over to course 5, weeks 2-4. However, you only can get the certificate if you complete all 20 weeks of content.

To audit an individual week-- find the exact course (we've linked them individually here) and click "audit" to save it to your profile. Then open the desired week on the side panel that aligns with our recaps.

Course 1: Developing Innovative Ideas for Product Leaders

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Introduction to Developing Innovative Ideas for Product Leaders

  • A basic introduction to the instructors, materials, and teaching approaches.
  • Learn about how to connect with other students through the discussion boards and activities.

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Thinking Enrepreneurially

  • Learn how to develop and focus entrepreneurial instincts.
  • Recognize that entrepreneurial mindset and motivation can only translate into actions if entrepreneurial behaviors are learned and pursued.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Seeing Entrepreneurially

  • Learn how to identify customer needs by assessing industry condition, status and macroeconomics.
  • Walk through how industries evolve, and how companies can deal with competition.
  • Practice crafting insights on how to analyze current and future competitors.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Acting Entrepreneurially

  • Practice building skills to act entrepreneurially by balancing innovation and opportunity identification.
  • Study value innovation principles to develop methods of achieving product differentiation and price competitiveness.
  • Case study! Use the course content to identify a common consumer problem, craft an effective and business-ready solution, and create a real business plan.

Course 2: Product Management Essentials

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Introduction to Product Management Essentials

  • Basic course intro: get acquainted with the learning structure and meet professors.

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Roles and Responsibilities of a Product Manage

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Managing Innovative Product Teams

  • Understand the product development lifecycle and how to organize an effective product team.
  • Learn best practices for team collaboration with separate modules for designers, engineers, and business leaders.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Market Development and Commercialization

  • Explore product marketing challenges and common mistakes.
  • Learn different marketing strategies and how different industries affect planning and development.
  • Learn how to scale customer problems and solutions by segmenting and expanding user bases.

Course 3: Establishing Product-Market Fit

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Introduction to Establishing Product-Market Fit

  • Basic course intro: get acquainted with the learning structure and meet professors.

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Determining Your Target Customer

  • Learn how to identify customer audiences that best align with your product functionality.
  • Explore best practices for finding and acquiring customers, including creating customer personas for the team.
  • Examine the technology adoption lifecycle.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Specifying Your Feature Set

  • Explore the concept of a successful minimum viable product (MVP).
  • Learn how to organize features to sort and identify the key functionalities to include that create user value.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Testing Your MVP with Customers

  • Identify ways to ensure the customers testing your MVP are your target market.
  • Learn how to create a screening survey (often called a "screener") to make sure testers have attributes of your desired market.
  • Examine the "watch what I do, not what I say" methodology of user interviews during prototype testing.
  • Practice crafting the right questions to identify the right problems.

Course 4: Creative Design, Prototyping and Testing

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Introduction to Creative Design, Prototyping and Testing

  • Basic course intro: get acquainted with the learning structure and meet professors.

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Concept Generation and Selection

  • Learn and practice defining product specifications (often called "product specs"), establishing target specs, and using collaboration to set the final specs.
  • Apply those new strategies to your own product design ideas.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Principles of Prototyping and User Experience

  • Identify practical principles of prototyping and user experience.
  • Explore how to plan effectively for timing around prototyping, service design, user maps, and experience flows.
  • Apply these principles and new user experience learnings to your product design ideas.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Testing and Troubleshooting

  • Learn the basics of testing and troubleshooting a product.
  • Explore concepts of a red team and blue team, how to recover from an outage, and how to plan for effective risk recovery.
  • Apply these tactics to your product design ideas.

Course 5: Financial Management for Product Leaders

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Intro to Financial Management for Product Leaders

  • Basic course intro: get acquainted with the learning structure and meet professors.

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Validation Techniques for Product Leaders

  • Learn effective valuation techniques to evaluate and approve funding for all types of relevant products.
  • Compare the pros & cons of methodologies used to evaluate corporate projects including Present Value, Net Present Value, Project Payback Period, and Internal Rates of Return.
  • Understand Opportunity Cost and the Weighted Average Cost of Capital.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Sources of Financing for Product Leaders

  • Explain the concepts and differences traditional and non-traditional sources of funding for product-related projects.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Creating the Investment Proposal for Product Leaders

  • Learn ways to "pitch" your corporate project to sources of company funding.
  • Create an effective business proposal for internal and external sources.
  • Apply this knowledge to create a real pitch deck to present a new business idea to decision makers.

Cost and Auditing

The program is only $79/month, and comes with a Linkedin Certificate on behalf of the University of Maryland. If you complete the curriculum on the proposed timeline, it should take about 5 months, though you could blitz through it on a break in far less. We noticed each week only had about 2 combined hours of video and reading materials and one assignment. This means each week is about 3-4 hours of work.While $79/month may seem steep, compared to a degree or bootcamp this college-credited micro-certification is a steal!

If you have a learning budget at your current company, or are dedicated to upskilling your career into product management– we recommend completing the program and getting the shareable certificate (GET RECEIPTS!). This will help make your Linkedin and resume more searchable to recruiters who may be looking for specific keywords and programs.

To audit the program and simply learn the material, this program is completely free! Thanks Coursera! We recommend auditing the second course (Product Management Essentials) for those who might be unsure of the AI product management concepts. To audit, simply click "Enroll for Free" and click "Audit" on the bottom of the second step. Voila, you're in!

Student Reviews

This is a newer program that launched in March 2022 and does not have too many reviews. We love newer certifications because the material often will be more relevant to modern day. However, the courses within the specialization are very highly reviewed– averaging between 4.6 and 4.8 per course!

It's important to note, many of the reviews specifically called out how the courses were made for beginners. This is different approach than both Duke and UVA's Product Management courses. If you're already decently versed in the role of a product manager, we recommend reading up on those for more advanced certifications.

Some of our favorite positive review points:

  • The course on Product Management provides a good overview of Product Management role and how it integrates with different components that helps in creation of a product. It is a good starting point for beginners in the field of product management including project/ program managers who aspire to be Product Managers.- Sachin Y.
  • This course helped me understand my potential for entrepreneurship. Highly educational and very focused on product design. Thank you for the opportunity to learn this. - Ehsan T.

Aggregations of negative review points:

  • Some of the experiences were buggy or had dead links (seems to be a common Coursera issue)
  • Sometimes the presenters were rather dry with the material.
  • Some basic / high level principles mixed in with helpful ones.

... and our favorite overall review:

A wonderful, concise, and effective tool for basic financial management learning for entrepreneurs or other financial novices. And the final message of the final thoughts shared was quite inspiring and encouraging, would definitely hear from me. Thank YOU.

-Alfred E., on Course 5: Financial Management

Supplemental Materials

Being a PM means being somewhat versed in all product team roles. Use the certifications below to show you're committed to becoming the real deal.

For the analytically-inclined product leader: Google's Data Analytics

Google sponsors a data analytics certificate program through Coursera. This is one of the more coveted certificates in the industry for Google Analytics.It's free to audit, but if you want the certificate to show off (recommended), it's $49 a month to complete at your own pace.

For the fans of qualitative research: University of Michigan's User Experience  

This class is sponsored by U of M, and has a great rating of 4.8 with 1.5k reviews. With a Coursera subscription (included with your product management specialization, may we add!), you can get a certificate OR audit for free! Read our full writeup here.

More Product Management Specializations

A wild bargain: Become a Product Manager | Learn the Skills & Get the Job

This course on Udemy is incredibly popular with more than 200,000 students, and for good reason. Cole (Lead PM at Soundcloud, ex-General Assembly prof) and Evan (Sprintkick Founder, top Udemy prof) have created a brilliant combination of instructional videos and resources that are both helpful and practical when looking to break into the field of product management. This is a course targeted at beginners, so it reviews topics like types of product managers and responsibilities. It also is often heavily discounted, so don't pay more than $50 for it.

Alternate newbie product manager: UVA's Product Management Fundamentals

UVA Sponsors a prestigious specialization program through Coursera. This program focuses on test and learn strategies, identifying and acting on customer insights, and running and effective product program. Read our full writeup here. It's free to audit, but if you want the certificate (recommended), it's $79 a month to complete at your own pace.

More advanced, with a focus on AI: Duke University's AI Product Management

Both Duke and UVA are incredibly prestigious organizations working to increase public knowledge of product management. This is a mid-level course-- so have some basic knowledge under your belt first-- focused on product management in the realm of artificial intelligence. Read our full writeup here. It's also free to audit, but if you want the certificate (recommended), it's $79 a month to complete at your own pace.


The University of Maryland's Product Management Specialization is a great way for beginners to learn the basics of product management. If you're an existing product manager, or already work with product teams, this program may be a little junior for you. However, we've decided it's a great way to establish a product management skillset baseline without breaking the bank with an additional college degree or bootcamp.

Here at Bridged we are huge fans of stacking micro-certifications to achieve desired career results. This program could be one notch in your arsenal to really kick your technical expertise into gear!

View Other PM Specializations
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