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EDTECH: Silicon Valley's Coursera Launches Big Data Analytics Moocs With PwC

Global edtech tries to close the gaping big data skills divide

Coursera, the world’s biggest platform for Moocs, has launched a data analysis course online with PwC, the professional services firm, as global edtech tries to close the gaping big data skills divide.

Companies are increasingly harnessing the power of data and machines to glean intelligence on their operations and ultimately soup-up their businesses’ performance. However, this so-called “fourth industrial revolution”, in which a slew of technologies from artificial intelligence and robotics to the internet of things are driving sweeping change across industries, demands a different set of silky tech skills.

Agnes Hussherr, PwC’s global human capital leader, said the new course is designed to help people become more confident with the future they face. He said: “We hope that we’ll play a part in building a generation of confident leaders who can…Be ready to solve the important problems faced by the businesses they lead.”

However, demand for trained analytics talent has hit fever pitch, with KPMG forecasting that 36% of companies lack big data specialists, up from 24% in 2014.

And despite rolling out a plethora of data crunching courses, traditional educators have barely made a dent. There’s a growing dearth of recruits across sectors, argued Juan José, a former head of IBM Strategy & Analytics, who now runs IE Business School’s analytics degree. He said: “It seems that demand is growing faster than talent can fill positions.”

Edtech platforms including Udacity and Lydna.com, snapped up by LinkedIn recently for $1.5 billion, reckon they can help address the worrying divide. Moocs can generally be completed alongside full-time work and they are significantly cheaper than degrees, often free.

Today’s announcement caps a long line of moves by Coursera, based in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, to address the data science skills crunch. This year alone, it launched a big data degree with University of Illinois, priced at $20,000, plus online data science programs with the elite Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania. Coursera also hosts countless Ivy League data science courses on its platform, from machine learning with Stanford University to statistics with Duke University.

The Coursera/PwC course launch also comes less than two weeks after KPMG, another top services firm, launched a data science degree to develop accountants for the digital age.

By partnering with elite universities and firms like PwC, Coursera can tap into unique data science expertise. Rick Levin, Coursera’s founder and CEO, said: “PwC has a unique understanding of exactly what employers are seeking in roles that require basic data analysis skills along with skills for how to communicate that data.”

For PwC, the collaboration will allow the firm’s employees to improve their internal learning and development. PwC is amongst one of the first professional services firms to offer courses to their 208,000-strong workforce on the Coursera platform.

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