School of Information announces new online graduate program

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The UC Berkeley School of Information announced a new online graduate degree in data science Wednesday.

The Master of Information and Data Science program is the first of its kind and is designed to be a self-paced course in data science, an emerging field that allows analysts to identify trends in large data sets, often from Internet statistics and surveys.

Data science is used by many websites and organizations to generate targeted advertising but can also be used to analyze the results of large-scale scientific research.

Though social media and Internet giants like Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. are the biggest employers in large-scale data analysis, MIDS will cater to workers in more varied fields, which have less data to process but attract fewer trained data professionals.

“We really want to be able to help people in diverse realms,” said Coye Cheshire, associate dean of the School of Information. “Not just the social media folks but also retail, healthcare, manufacturing, real estate, education.”

The degree is expected to take between one and two years to complete, depending on the student’s pace, and will cost $60,000. Students will check into weekly online lectures where they can interact directly with professors and other students, but they will also have coursework to complete individually. The program is set to begin in January 2014.

Unlike massively open online courses, or MOOCs, in which students view video lectures online for free, MIDS will emphasize interaction with professors and classmates, much like in traditional classroom environments.

“We’re removing the campus borders, bringing the Bay Area to data professionals, wherever they are,” Cheshire said. “We’re not restricting anything. We’re looking to work across and do this as a global program.”

According to a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute, there is an expected shortage of 190,000 data analysts in the American workforce by 2018. An additional 1.5 million managers will lack necessary data training to make optimal decisions in their fields.

The School of Information has partnered with 2U, a company that will provide the platform and technical infrastructure for the program. Using 2U’s user interface, students will be able to access lectures, course work and additional resources for the program.

According to Chance Patterson, vice president of communications for 2U, which currently hosts 10 graduate and undergraduate programs from various institutions, the company’s services have a student retention rate of up to 80 percent, compared to 10 percent or less for MOOCs, because of the interactive capacity offered by 2U that most MOOCs overlook.

“(The interactive) approach is the best way to ensure that all the benefits of being taught on campus are happening in the online learning space,” Patterson said.

Contact Simon Greenhill at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @simondgreenhill.