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Edtech: Mooc Platforms Are Filling The Gaping Business Analytics Talent Void

Online learning helps reduce big data skills shortages

Thu Mar 31 2016

The gaping business analytics skills gap grows ever wider. The consultancy McKinsey & Company foresees a shortage of 1.8 million big data specialists by 2018. SAS, a business analytics company, says firms struggle to fill 77% of big data jobs.

Any business school worth its salt is now teaching the skill to budding executives, who will need to harness data to make better decisions. But online learning platforms are increasingly important in reducing the talent shortage.  

Nancy Moss, a director at edtech platform edX, says online learning sites are great resources to help fill educational gaps. More than 880,000 people enrolled in data analytics courses on edX, she says, “Thus, helping to close the data analytics gap.”

The latest sign of this trend was the launch on Wednesday of a new data science degree by Coursera, a provider of Moocs, or massive open online courses, with University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“People are hungry for data science skills,” says Julia Stiglitz, an executive at Coursera. Online platforms provide the flexibility many full-time workers need.

“Most of our students are working adults, many with families,” she says. “They are looking for convenient, efficient and effective ways to learn.”

Elite business schools have turned to online platforms to satisfy a demand for analytics talent. As an example Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania this year set-up a big data Mooc with Coursera.

“We wanted to bring learning to a global audience,” says Anne Trumbore, director of Wharton Online.

Yet universities have not moved quickly enough to address the big data talent void, argues Mike Feerick, CEO of online learning business ALISON.

“There is a chronic shortage of people with strong data analytics skills.  Universities struggle to find staff to teach these subjects as the skills are scarce and lecturers expensive to hire,” he says.

Most schools have offered campus courses on big data within their full-time degree programs, rather than standalone options.

HEC Paris, for instance, revamped some of its MBA content to cover data analytics, with IBM. “The aim of the course is to create managers and consultants who are able to identify and make the most of the new, growing opportunities that are linked to an intelligent exploitation of big data,” says Benoit Banchereau, HEC Paris’ director of development.   


The demand for engineers has long been exuberant but, increasingly, companies are searching for managers who can bridge the gap between data scientists and the executive suite.   

“Data availability has increased dramatically in recent years, from recordings of people’s online shopping behaviour and postings on social media to the tracking of goods through the supply chain,” says Juergen Branke, professor at Warwick Business School, which offers a big data Mooc through FutureLearn, an edtech company. “This data offers great opportunities for better management decisions.”

Demand for data specialists has outpaced the need for other technology specialists, such as engineers by 50%, according to an analysis of LinkedIn data by RJMetrics, a software company.

KPMG, the professional services firm, estimates data analytics has surged to the number one most-needed skill among UK business, skyrocketing to almost six times higher than the next-most-scarce ability.

“We can’t develop experts in business analytics fast enough,” says Roy Lee, assistant dean at NYU Stern, which runs a master’s degree in business analytics.

Online programs are aiding the data analytics skills crunch, but campus courses are proliferating too.

“There is huge unmet demand for data science,” says Gregory LaBlanc, at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, which runs a big data course for MBAs with Accenture.

Jake Cohen, senior associate dean at MIT Sloan, which recently launched a $75,000 business analytics master’s degree, says companies need the talent.

“Recruiters have said they are looking for training in advanced business analytics.”

Student Reviews

HEC Paris




On Campus

Cultural experience

I have met the most competent and diverse batch in this school. These people not only thrive on their own but also makes sure that you are doing it with them. The professors will take your had and walk you through all milestones and make sure you are not left behind. I have found their extracurriculars extremely engaging. There was always a room to have social life after academic life. The only hindrance is the location of the school, it is slightly outside city and living in city is expensive.




On Campus

Internationality and diversity of opportunities

About my programme I would say it is very international and flexible: we have the opportunity to choose exactly the courses we want. But at the same time, the frame of the campus is crucial in students' life and enable us to create friendships.




On Campus

Great selection of people

While HEC's MBA is highly selective, I really enjoy the type of people HEC's selects to make sure everybody gets the best out of their MBA experience and networking opportunities. Not only it's an incredibly diverse pool of people (~60 nationalities) but most importantly they make sure to let in friendly empathic and curious people.





Best in France for Grande ecole

A prestigious business school. Languages ​​are important. It is better to have a scientific baccalaureate with excellent grades in high school and good assessments. The courses are well designed as per the latest trends and practicality of learning in stressed upon. Overall, a very good experience.




On Campus

Diversity and quality of fellow students

Very international and interesting place to be and opens a lot of opportunities, however the administration is very french and facilities are subpar (gym, classrooms) meaning the academic affairs is pretty much useless and lastly we are graded on a curve which can create a toxic environment because of the competition. With that being said the pros outweighs the cons by far.




On Campus

The quality of the teachers, the campus, the clubs

The school is very international indeed, we have courses with international students and share things with them within the extra academic life (in the social clubs especially). We have great career prospects if we prepare ourselves well - however, the global curriculum is still very finance-oriented, which is a pity for other interesting domains of the company world, which does not rely on finance only. The social clubs are good practice for the management and for now, are quite independent.




On Campus

HEC Paris awaits you

HEC Paris is really a nice place to do a master's in business. Many classes are useful and interesting (corporate finance, financial accounting, contract law…), some are less - but the curriculum is to be reviewed in the year to come. Regarding the student life, it is incredible, with about 130 clubs, lots of great parties with even greater people. The Jouy campus offers a lot of opportunities to do sports, and you can breathe fresh air every day. HEC also helps a great deal to find an internship or a job.





A dream institute

Enrolling in the HEC MBA was by far the best decision I made for myself. The people and faculty are great, with lots of opportunities to meet people and expand your horizons. Very nice campus where I have had some good running sessions. The alumni network is superb and very helpful. It also has a good support system for entrepreneurs. Would definitely recommend it!




On Campus

Good choice for a career boost

The classes were extremely practical and relevant to the current challenges that businesses are facing. You have access to a wide range of professionals and good career prospects once you leave the university.