Teachers From Facebook And Salesforce Fill Udacity’s New Data Science Program

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The Internet is full of lucrative data and businesses are eager for statisticians who can mine it for golden digital nuggets. Responding to the White House’s call for more data scientists, Massively Open Online Course provider, Udacity, has officially launched its paid statistics training program.

“We find that our demand here is high. We also are enthusiastic to help reduce the widening job skills gap,” Udacity founder, Sebastian Thrun, said in an email.

“Exploratory Data Analysis,” which starts next march for $150/month, is taught by a Facebook engineer. Their “Intro to Data Science” course, starting Feb. 5th (also for $150), is taught by another engineer from a smaller retail affiliate startup, Yub.

The self-paced courses range from 2 weeks to 2 months worth of work.

It’s an open question about whether this new independent breed of online education is on par with the quality of a traditional university. UC Berkeley’s new 2-year online data science program runs $60,000, or somewhere around $58,000 more than Udacity’s 5-course sequence.

I can’t attest to whether Udacity is much worse or better than a school like Berkeley. I have a master’s in the subject from a traditional university. To compare it to my previous experience, I’ve been toying around with Coursera’s free data science course from Johns Hopkins.

Honestly, so far it’s pretty good. Coursera is going over much of the same material I learned and is using the latest techniques.

Udacity is taught by industry professionals, which actually are more valuable than some of the research datasets I dealt with in my university stat courses.

From the business end, Udacity is still trying to find a footing. It has to earn back $20M in total funding. Udacity is also partnering with Georgia Tech for a $6,000 degree in computer science. After a disappointing partnership with San Jose State University has led to an uncertain future with more universities, Thrun tells me that it will continue to expand outside of academia.

That will include courses in Computer Science, Web Development, and Mobile Web Development.