Data Education in the Cloud

udacity-full-130x140When the topic of online learning comes up with other developers the sites most often mentioned are Pluralsight and CodeAcademy.  One of the resources I don’t hear people talk about as much in is an online university called Udacity.

Udacity is the brain child of Sebastian Thrun,  a Google Fellow who is behind things like Google Glass and the Google self driving car. He is also a research professor at Stanford and decided that there was a better way to get quality education to more people.  The mission they have outlined is this:

“Our mission is to bring accessible, affordable, engaging, and highly effective higher education to the world. We believe that higher education is a basic human right, and we seek to empower our students to advance their education and careers.”

In the beginning of 2012 I was lucky enough to follow along with one of their first classes, Introduction to Computer Science, as they offered it live. The course used the Python programming language to teach the basics of programming and took me from ground zero to writing my very own web crawler. They rolled out a new lesson each week complete with quizzes, midterms and homework. They even had a TA with “office hours” that was available to answer questions.  Considering the course is on a topic I am already pretty familiar with I was impressed with the relevant and engaging content. It has been a while since I was in college, but the quality of this online learning experience made me feel like I was back in the classroom.

And it was free. They do charge for what they call the “full course experience” which includes some extras like “access to projects, code-review and feedback, a personal coach, and verified certificates.” I didn’t find the non-full course to be lacking, but I got in before they started charging for anything so that experience may be different now. Even this cost is pretty small (usually around $100) when you compare to the cost of a college class at a physical university.

Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to take any other courses from Udacity, but they are rolling out some new courses that I am pretty excited about and I wanted to share.

  • Introduction to Hadoop and MapReduce: The Apache™ Hadoop® project develops open-source software for reliable, scalable, distributed computing. Learn the fundamental principles behind it, and how you can use its power to make sense of your Big Data.
  • Exploratory Data Analysis – Digging in Data for Diamonds: An approach to data analysis for summarizing and visualizing the important characteristics of a data set. EDA focuses on exploring data to understand the data’s underlying structure and variables, to develop intuition about the data set, consider how that date set came into existence, and decide how it can be investigated with more formal statistical methods.
  • Intro to Data Science – My Data Science Sense is TinglingThe class will survey the foundational topics in data science, namely: Data Manipulation, Data Analysis with Statistics and Machine Learning, Data Communication with Information Visualization, Data at Scale — Working with Big Data

All of these courses are set to start in January of 2014, but you can already take a sneak peek at the free courseware for the Hadoop class if you set up an account.

2 thoughts on “Data Education in the Cloud

  1. Have you checked out Coursera? Also a Stanford connection. I had a great experience on the “Intro to Databases” class and couple of others. There are many data analysis topics available and they recently had an offering for Big Data in Education which I stared but had dropped to study for the 70-463. I am still in the Emerging Trends & Technologies in the Virtual K-12 Classroom. I agree these are great opportunities.

    1. I’ve heard of Coursera, but haven’t looked at them. I will definitely have to check them out. Thanks for the info. I’m hoping to finish gettting the MCSE by the end of the year so I can take one of the Udacity classes starting in January.

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