MOOC Madness: 7 Online Data Classes


The popular press on massively open online courses, or MOOCs, is that they're disrupting the higher education model. Yet, the fact of the matter is, the savviest of higher ed institutions are actually sponsoring or investing in what have turned out to be the most established and sustainable platforms.

Coursera's advisory board (and investors) include Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, and Duke University.

EdX is a nonprofit created by none other than Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) -- not just two of the best colleges in Boston, but perhaps in all of Massachussetts (if not the country).

Udacity was born from the minds of two Stanford researchers who have stacked its advisory board with public-sector and private-sector heavyweights like former US Secretary of Education Bill Bennett, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank, and investors George Zachry and Laurene Powell Jobs.

For their courses, all three of these outfits claim to bring together some of the top scholars in a given field along with effective pedagogy.

If all this isn't proof enough, the mere fact that they use the word "pedagogy" should alert you to their earnestness as academic institutions.

That said, whether you're just looking to refresh your knowledge on a topic or gain new knowledge -- or even earn a certificate such as the ones you can buy through Coursera or the college credits such as available from Udacity -- you can't argue against the convenience, learning opportunities, and even fun presented by them.

Yes, for analytics, too. Here's is a list of upcoming analytics-related and other data-inspired MOOC courses to check out:

Course: Introduction to Statistics: Inference
Provider: EdX
Start date: July 19
Description: An intro to statistics that covers the most common techniques, particularly how to make valid conclusions based on data from random samples.
Teachers: Ani Adhikari and Philip B. Stark of University of California, Berkeley
More information: Available here

Course: Computing for Data Analysis
Provider: Coursera
Start date: September
Description: Learn the fundamental computing skills needed for effective data analysis, including how to program in R and to use R for reading data, writing functions, creating visual analytics and applying the latest statistical methods.
Teacher: Roger Peng of John Hopkins University
More information: Available here and in this video:

Course: Model Thinking
Provider: Coursera
Start date: Oct. 7
Description: Learn to think with and apply models to make sense of the real world.
Teacher: Scott E. Page of University of Michigan
More information: Available here and in this video:

Course: Elementary Statistics: The Science of Decisions
Provider: Udacity
Start date: Rolling start
Description: Apply statistics to everyday life, while also learning the methods to collect and organize data.
Teachers: Sean Laraway, Ronald Rogers, and Katie Kormanik of San Jose State University
More information: Available here and in this video:

Course: Introduction to Data Science
Provider: Coursera
Start date: To be determined
Description: Data scientists are in big demand at big companies. Why, and what are the basic skills that these professionals bring to the table?
Teacher: Bill Howe of University of Washington
More information: Available here

Course: Intro to Statistics: Making Decisions Based on Data
Provider: Udacity
Start date: Rolling start
Description: Freshen up on the techniques for systematically understanding relationship among data through math, and learn how to visualize those data relationships.
Teachers: Sebastian Thrun and Adam Sherwin of Stanford
More information: Available here and in this video:

Course: Social and Economic Networks: Models and Analysis
Provider: Coursera
Start date: To be determined
Description: How do social and economic networks form, what patterns do they exhibit, and why do they impact human behavior? Learn how modeling and techniques from statistics, computer science, sociology, math, economics, and other disciplines can provide answers.
Teacher: Matthew O. Jackson of Stanford
More Information: Available here and in this video:

Have you taken any MOOCs? Share what you liked, or didn't, below.

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Matthew Brodsky, Writer & Editor

For more than a dozen years, Matthew Brodsky has been a professional writer and editor, with more than half of that time spent writing on, reading about, and researching business- and technology-related topics, enterprises, and people. He has covered risk management and strategic decision-making, healthcare and human resources, natural and man-made disasters, innovation and entrepreneurship, consumer and corporate technology, and more. He graduated from Cornell University with a BA and from the University of Georgia with an MA, both in history, but don't hold that against him.

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Re: MOOC are great
  • 6/5/2013 3:26:24 PM
NO RATINGS

There's a lot that fall outside my confort zone but fit squarely in my range of interests. What are you considering?

Re: MOOC are great
  • 6/5/2013 9:29:16 AM
NO RATINGS

SRS1... your comment begs the question, "Like what?" What areas of interest might you pursue via a MOOC?

Re: MOOC are great
  • 6/5/2013 8:22:26 AM
NO RATINGS

I'm eager to sample some classes totally outside my comfort zone..,

Re: MOOC are great
  • 6/4/2013 2:42:27 PM
NO RATINGS

Let's see... I've already enrolled in a few and couldn't make the deadlines for quizzes and projects. It all started with Coursera's Human-Computer Interaction class. Then I tried to get through an Internet History class (also at Coursera). I've signed up for HTML5 game development at Udacity but haven't had time to watch the lectures. None of these were scheduled concurrently so I thought I could totally get through them... I was oh so wrong.

Re: MOOC are great
  • 6/4/2013 7:38:06 AM
NO RATINGS

@SethBreedlove -- great tip about adding this coursework to LinkedIn profiles. A love of learning and desire to extend a skill set are certainly desirable characteristics for most any employer/partner.

Re: MOOC are great
  • 6/4/2013 7:32:49 AM
NO RATINGS

That's a good point, regarding independent study. So I suppose another concern is that people who shouldn't be attempting to study independently will attempt to do so anyways when they can get online courses less expensively than from a community college.  One more consideration to think about in studying the MOOC model!

Re: MOOC are great
  • 6/4/2013 7:05:23 AM
NO RATINGS

What would you take if you had the time tinym?

Re: MOOC are great
  • 6/3/2013 11:19:02 PM
NO RATINGS

I could use some extra time to take all these courses. There are plenty on my 'to take' list.

Re: MOOC are great - ND
  • 6/3/2013 10:45:59 PM
NO RATINGS

@Noreen, community colleges better watch out. I think four-year residential institutions have something to offer that MOOCs don't and can't ever --- that famed experience of getting out of the parents' nest in a somewhat protective environment, with dorms, late-night study sessions, frat parties, etc. Community colleges offer cheap credits for working professionals (for the most part) --- a prime market for MOOCs.

Re: MOOC are great
  • 6/3/2013 9:09:35 PM
NO RATINGS

That's true-some people need the structure of an actual class and enjoy the interactions of face to face learning

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