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A MOOC-by-MOOC Big Data Immersion Plan

Want to get yourself grounded in the nuts and bolts of Big Data? Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a great way to build a foundation for an exciting career in this booming IT discipline.

Kimpel MOOC BD tsunamiSo you’re looking to wet your feet with Big Data. You want to understand what it is, get a firm grasp on the current technology, and know how it can help you or your company. How do you start and what is the most accelerated way to accomplish this goal?


With IBM Predicting a 28 percent rise in employment relating to Big Data, you are going to have to come to grips that it’s just not a passing fad. Companies are waking up to the fact that employees proficient in using Big Data to solve business problems are increasingly valuable, whatever their background or position in an organization.


A lot of this is because of the ease of self-service infrastructure and tools designed to automate many of the technical but repetitive tasks involved with Big Data: data cleaning, preparation, and analytics. This means workers are increasingly able to carry out complex, data-driven operations such as predictive modeling and automation without getting their hands dirty coding complex algorithms from scratch.


There are a plethora of ways to learn how to do Big Data. My recommendation is MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). These courses are simple to complete, easy to understand and inexpensive. One of the best places to start is MOOC List where you can find a complete list of free online courses and MOOCs.


Here is the path I recommend for gaining those valuable Big Data skills.


Select your site


One of the best course sites I have dealt with is Coursera. It’s easy to navigate and has a TON of course offerings from leading schools, including many Ivy League institutions. Just log on the site, register for free and pick and pay for the courses you want to take.


There are other sites good sites as well, but Coursera is by far my favorite, especially for Big Data. You can even earn a Big Data degree: There are bachelor’s, master’s and even doctorate-level degrees available in varying Big Data topics.


Picking your first course


It’s not my nature to slowly begin any new courses; I like to jump in with both feet and really take it to the next level with learning. Just as jumping into a pool enables me to get used to the water sooner, so too does jumping into a new course. You know yourself better than I do, of course, so whatever method works for you is fine.


For my first course, I chose “The Data Scientist’s Toolbox.” This four-week course, taught by a distinguished professor at Johns Hopkins University, covered everything from the “R” programming language to huge data sets that you can import and develop against. GITHUB is another useful source of large data sets that you can use after you get setup with the “R” Programming tools.


Moving along


The University of San Diego offers a solid trifecta of courses: “Introduction to Big Data,” “Big Data,” and “Big Data Modeling.” I recommend these for your next set of courses. Access will set you back $50 a month, and you will need a couple of months to complete these courses, but the value is there.


These courses are taught by USD’s Chief Data Science Officer and will give you a full taste of what is out there for Big Data, but in easily digestible, bite-size chunks.


Your next step


Also available from the University of San Diego — one of the Top 10 public universities in the United States, incidentally — is a “Hadoop Platform and Application Framework” course. I strongly recommend this be your next big data course.


Hadoop is the application or storage structure application that houses Big Data. Your online learning education just won’t be complete if you didn’t learn the application and support of what “holds” big data. It’s a really important step to take in your education — don’t skip it.


Machine learning and beyond


Synonymous with big data is Machine Learning, where computers obtain an almost magical quality of AI. This emerging technology always impresses me; I love learning about it. Coursera has a “Google Cloud Platform Big Data and Machine Learning Fundamentals” course, a great item to include in your Big Data toolbox. Definitely get a taste of this topic, it will be very useful.