Just how big is 'big data'? When the likes of MIT start offering online professional courses, you know it’s hitting the mainstream.
MIT is offering its first such course, dubbed Tackling the Challenges of Big Data, starting March 4. The four-week online course is aimed at technical professionals and executives and will tackle topics from data collection, storage, and processing to analytics and visualization, as well as address a range of real-world applications. Twelve faculty experts from the world-renowned MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at the School of Engineering will lead the course.
“MIT Professional Education is pleased to be able to offer a unique and comprehensive online course addressing a very important challenge facing industry today,” said Bhaskar Pant, executive director of MIT Professional Education. “With the teaching power of a ‘who’s who’ list of thought leaders on the subject from CSAIL, I am confident this course will allow industry players to not only learn of new approaches to big data, but also spark innovative thinking among teams charged with finding solutions to big data challenges.”
Truly Tapping Big Data
Tackling the Challenges of Big Data will be offered through MIT Professional Education, the arm of MIT that provides professional education and training for science, engineering, and technology professionals worldwide. It will be the first of a new line of professional programs called Online X Programs, to be delivered globally using the open-source online education platform edX.
“Big data technologies will help us better understand and improve the world around us,” said Daniela Rus, director of CSAIL, and co-director of the online course. “Tackling the Challenges of Big Data will provide a one-of-a-kind learning experience for professionals looking to learn about the tools and skills they need to solve their big data problems.”
MIT said the course will enable companies and organizations to offer training and education to their employees on a topic that confronts most industries today. When they finish the course, participants will receive an MIT Professional Education certificate of completion and access to MIT Professional Education’s expansive professional alumni network. The cost: $495.
“Our goal is to expand access to MIT’s knowledge and expertise globally via online courses,” said Sanjay Sarma, director of the MIT Office of Digital Learning. “A course on a high-interest topic such as big data is a perfect way for us to begin addressing the learning needs of working professionals who may not otherwise be able to come to MIT to attend courses.”
More Than a Wizard
We asked Brad Shimmin, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, for his take on the new course offerings. He told us online big data courses are an emerging trend at the university level.
This is a response to a growing opportunity and concern by vendors and customers alike that some of the capabilities that we’re now putting into the hands of enterprise users are perhaps outstripping their ability to make the most out of those technologies or even make the appropriate use of those technologies,” Shimmin explains.
From Shimmin’s perspective, business users crave big data and analytics tools, but without an understanding of what makes data good or bad they may make decisions based on insight that’s fallacious. With that in mind, he said programs like the one MIT is rolling out are an important step for the industry.
“This type of program should be a requirement in any enterprise where you have business users interacting with data. They should be savvy in understanding the right questions to ask,” Shimmin said. “Whether or not the data they are inspecting is clean and correct and being able to understand how best to position the outcome from a question they might pose using that data is important. Mastering that takes more than a simple wizard.”