Data Science 101

10 Online Big Data Courses and Where to Find Them 2016

Who doesn’t want to learn about data scientist these days? The field is still hot, and the ample job listings for data scientists might make folks working in other fields instantly jealous. For young students, there are full degree programs and specialized courses to prepare them for the data-driven world but for those already in the field it’s not so simple. Going back to school is a huge and pricey ordeal. Thankfully, there are several online options. Whether you want to learn the basics for fun, sharpen your technical knowledge, or feel properly trained on specific platforms, there’s a course for you.

Choosing a course isn’t easy. It’s important to know exactly what goal the course should fulfill and what your limitations are.

Big Data University is the IBM-founded initiative based on the idea that education should be a right, not a privilege. The “data science for a social good” platform is designed to democratize access to useful data skills. Courses mostly range from two to ten hours and several are available in Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese and other languages. Courses are self-paced and mostly free. Big Data University offers a big data fundamentals course as well as several programming and database usage courses.

Code School. Coding is not the first thing that comes to mind when talking about data science, but it’s easily one of the most important pieces. Learning the right languages is absolutely paramount to succeeding in the field. Many beginner Data Science courses introduce programming languages but that might not be enough. Choose your weapon, presumably either Python or R, and get started with at least the basics. Note that, while many prefer the video-based learning style of Code School, there is also Code Academy which is work-based and completely free while Code Academy costs $29 per month.

Coursera is a popular MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and home to the famed Data Science Specialization track, a nine-course program from Johns Hopkins University. While it is an introductory course, it’s not exactly beginner-friendly when it comes to statistics and algorithms. Coursera also hosts a Machine Learning course from Stanford professor Andrew Ng, one of the most regularly recommended courses online. These courses, however, do only start on specific dates. Luckily, Coursera has a huge breadth of other offerings, all of which vary wildly in duration, commitment-level and cost.

DataQuest and DataCamp are two often recommended and surprisingly comparable online programs designed to take users from zero to fully-prepped data scientists. The only glaringly obvious difference between the two programs is that DataQuest is often touted as Python-focused and DataCamp R-focused. DataQuest is also more comprehensive, appearing much like a typical university curriculum. Both platforms are similarly priced, DataQuest at $29/month and DataCamp at $25/month.

Educast, run by data storage company EMC, is a pricier option for those with specific needs. While there are some free courses, like one on data lakes, their focus is on paid options with video access starting at $600 and going up from there. Businesses looking to educate themselves or their employees may find specialized courses on Data for Business Transformation or Data Protection more than worth the cost.

EdX is a slightly different MOOC founded by Harvard and MIT. The nonprofit platform offers a lot of free courses from top universities. The Analytics Edge gets into the nitty gritty of analytics methods using R, and is a great free option for those looking to dive deeper than the typical “Intro to Data Science” courses. Other EdX courses look into topics that generic websites often gloss over like Marketing Analytics, visualizations, and education. Unfortunately, their courses do not run as regularly as on some other sites.

Explore Data Science was originally from Booz Allen, making it very special, being one of the few online programs attached to a hugely respectable consulting firm. The program is now run by Metis, a more classroom-based data science training company. This sort of notoriety also means the self-paced course isn’t necessarily cheap, at $99 for two months of access. Unlike free courses, however, this is a shiny and sleek program to get those with a basic proficiency in statistics, linear algebra, and programming into data science.

MapR may not be Cloudera or Hortonworks, but they’re still a player in the Hadoop world. More importantly, MapR Academy offer several short online courses for free as well as various certifications. Courses can be on demand or instructor-led. If, at the end of all your courses, you want to keep plugging through, you can check out their Certified Developer programs. They are also in the process of uploading a Big Data Essentials course.
Yes! Cloudera does offer some free video tutorials and webinars, like their Cloudera Essentials for Apache, but most courses cost several thousand dollars.

Udacity is an MOOC offering all kinds of courses for free as well as some with a small price tag. Udacity includes content created by professors, researchers and big name companies and reaches across the wide breadth of data topics. Their Data Analyst Nanodegree, however, is something a little more special. For those who want to get into data science but can’t waste several years on a specific degree, the nine to twelve month program is focused on learning useful skills and building a portfolio.

Udemy is yet another large MOOP boasting over 40,000 courses, both free and reasonably priced. It has its fair share of courses for data enthusiasts, including this incredibly popular MySQL Introduction. The course is a thorough, whopping 18 hours and is only one of several Udemy options on SQL. Users can also find shorter courses or courses on other specific data topics like using Tableau, data scraping and finding viral content.
Even though this seems like a lot of options, there are still more out there.

The Edureka platform offers more than one course on data science. CalTech, Stanford, MIT and Harvard all have their own unique programs to choose from. The Indian platform Jigsaw Academy offers a host of paid courses. There’s no shortage of options for those looking to get into the field. Choose your language and goal and get going.

image credit: University of Essex

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