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Edtech: Silicon Valley's Coursera Just Launched A Big Data Degree — It's Entirely Online

The master's in data science with University of Illinois costs $20,000

Wed Mar 30 2016

Silicon Valley edtech company Coursera has launched an online master’s degree in data science with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, costing $20,000 — the latest example of schools trying to bridge the gaping business analytics skills gap.

As the big data deluge permeates every sector, data scientists have become a hot commodity. McKinsey estimates there will be shortage of 1.5 million data analysts and managers by 2018 in the US alone.

“There’s tremendous demand for data science expertise. We’re trying to meet that demand — from both students and employers,” John Hart, professor of computer science at University of Illinois, told BusinessBecause.

The MCS-DS degree’s flexible structure means students can set the pace of their learning. Illinois expects students to complete the degree in two-to-four years.

“This degree combines an education in the most high-demand career skills with an entirely new educational structure,” said Daphne Koller, president and co-founder of Coursera.

She added: “In a world where taking time off of work for a master’s degree is increasingly difficult, this degree offers people a unique opportunity to choose exactly how much learning they need.”

The launch comes as dozens of schools roll out data degrees. This month, MIT Sloan announced the creation of a master’s in business analytics, which costs $75,000.

The launch also comes as edtech companies move away from their roots in Moocs, or massive open online courses, and into professional, often paid-for, programs.

Their low cost and ease of access have proved attractive to young managers, who are increasingly questioning the monetary and time costs of earning a campus degree, such as an MBA.

“Business schools are transforming the way they teach and online is one part of it,” Soumitra Dutta, dean of Cornell University’s Johnson School of Business, told BB.  

But he added: “The full-time MBA program will definitely survive.” Online courses can lack networking opportunities, he suggested.

Despite fears of disruption, Coursera has partnered the world’s elite business schools. In January it launched big data and entrepreneurship Moocs with Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Moocs, known to be predominantly free, are increasingly being monetized by leading providers such as Udacity, edX, and Udemy. In 2014, Coursera launched “Specializations” — paid-for online certificate programs.  

“We are finding sustainable [revenue] models,” said Michael Koenig, senior assistant dean for degree programs at Virginia’s Darden School of Business, which works with Coursera.

Partnering the edtech group gives University of Illinois the chance to scale-up, added prof John.

The Mooc format also keeps costs low. “The price will democratize a data science education,” prof John claimed.

He added: “We’re taking Moocs to the next level.”

Admissions to the MCS-DS open on Wednesday. The deadline to apply is June 15, 2016. The first cohort of 150 will begin classes on August 22, 2016.