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8/21/2014
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Kevin Casey
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10 Big Data Online Courses

IT pros looking to add big data skills to their career toolkit can benefit from online learning opportunities, often without breaking the bank.
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(Source: Flazingo)
(Source: Flazingo)

A-B-L: Always Be Learning
If the salesperson's mantra is Always Be Closing, modern IT pros should adopt and adapt it for their own career: Always Be Learning.

If you're not learning, you're frozen in IT time. The technology world has always been one of change, but the pace and frequency of that change has never been greater. The last couple of decades have featured wave after wave of new technologies and their often disruptive effects, not just on lifestyles and business models but on job descriptions, career paths, IT organizational charts, and even IT budget and decision-making power. And there's little sympathy for the IT pros in the middle of all this Change with a capital C.

How do you ensure you're not just maintaining but capitalizing on this rapid-fire change? A-B-L: Always Be Learning.

Consider the expanding, evolving world of big data, which occupies an interesting place in today's IT landscape: It's both a significant driver of this aforementioned world of change, and also a significant product of it, a result of recent, sweeping shifts in IT like mobility and cloud.

Big data, as both a cause and effect of technological change, is impacting your career, whether you realize it or not. Even if you're not actively seeking a big data role, massive amounts of information -- and massive business interest in that information -- is affecting IT. Marketing departments have more say in technology acquisitions and decisions, CEOs want insights (and typically don't want to hear about the IT challenges impeding the speedy delivery of those insights), and meanwhile aging infrastructure and applications wheeze under the weight of these new and increasing demands. More such change is on its way, too: the Internet of Things (IoT), as a prime example, will fuel continued change and continued data growth in the not-so-distant future.

Like many explosive -- and, yes, trendy -- technology developments, big data has also spawned its own industry within an industry. That industry is hiring and it pays well, by the way.

Back to that whole learning thing: Big data is definitely creating tremendous opportunities for the IT pros that know and understand it. That could be in a new role such as a data engineer or simply in a revision of an existing job description -- one that makes you more versatile and less dispensable to your employer and will likely generate unexpected opportunities down the road.

Where do you add these magical skills, especially if your employer isn't offering training in them? The Internet, of course. Education and skills training has experienced its own share of change lately, and there's plenty of upside for the knowledge-thirsty IT pro: Loads of readily available, online classes for developing new skills across the technical spectrum. Best of all, many of these learning opportunities come at no cost to students -- so the only thing you're really putting on the line is your time and energy. Admittedly, those are not finite resources -- but you can tackle new learning and career advancement chances with minimal risks.

This is plenty true of the still-young big data universe, whether you're looking to just get a basic primer on the big data landscape or become a serious (and in-demand) expert in Hadoop, data mining and visualization, or other areas. Keep in mind, too, that it's not merely about specific technologies or programming languages. It can be just as important to learn and hone related subject matters that help in developing deep understanding of what all that information really means, a less tangible skill set that employers and CIOs are likely to emphasize going forward.

Read on for 10 online courses for developing big data skills. Have your own big data curriculum? Share it with us in the comments below, Professor.

(Image: Flazingo)

Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses. View Full Bio

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lesherj
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lesherj,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/8/2014 | 1:13:47 PM
Re: Experience conundrum
Stratustician - thanks for the link to CloudU.  I'm an older but bright management consultant needing to "re-invent" myself.  I have strong statistical understanding and business process expertise but NO experience/background in recent big data tools, etc. (don't know R or Python, etc.).  I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on a curriculum path so that I could get a solid understanding of "big data" and how to utilize big data tools so that I can add value to companies seeking these expertise.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2014 | 9:18:55 AM
Re: Data Analysis and R
Further many R commands give little thought to memory management, therefore R can very quickly consume all available memory.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2014 | 9:18:14 AM
Re: Data Analysis and R
It is interesting to know about "R" programming. It will be very useful since it is an open source software which can will allow anyone to use and, importantly, to modify it.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2014 | 9:17:47 AM
Data Analysis and R
Data analysis and statistics considered as an important aspect in big data.  This will help in proving more precious  information
BernardS
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BernardS,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/27/2014 | 10:26:59 AM
Re: Coursera Data Science Specialization
You are absolutely right.  Big Data Analytics is a cross-disciplinary area based on foundations taken from Statistics, Computer Science, and Information Technology.  When you also begin to consider the data privacy issues involved you also begin to touch on legal topics as well.  I have taken a number online, as well as University graduate, data analytics courses and no one program totally encompasses the subject.  What I do find, however, is a lot of overlap of some of the same material such as basic statistics (for descriptive analytics) or machine learning algorithms (for predictive analytics).  The only thing that varies is the level of depth covered - with graduate and doctoral courses presenting advanced statistical or computer science techniques not normally addressed at the lower levels.
RBFOWLER
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RBFOWLER,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/27/2014 | 9:34:13 AM
Re: Coursera Data Science Specialization
While the Johns Hopkins courses are heavier in big data itself, the Duke courses are more general and provide the analytics background needed to jump into big data.  I'm actually shocked at the number of people (present company excepted, of course) who think big data analytics do not use the same skills as plain data analytics.  The concerns for data quality, statistical significance, hypothesis testing, etc. apply to analysis of all data sets, regardless of size.  Training in the basics, and use of them in a more typical analytics process, can provide the experience needed to move into the big data world.
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
8/26/2014 | 7:22:40 PM
Fairy Tales from the Corporatocracy
The writer forgot to mention that Big Business defines the term "IT Pros" as male and under age 25.  Everyone else need not apply. 
HM
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HM,
User Rank: Strategist
8/26/2014 | 3:22:29 PM

Very informative article Kevin. It is worth mentioning the HPCC Systems open source offering which provides a single platform that is easy to install, manage and code. Their built-in analytics libraries for Machine Learning and integration tools with Pentaho for great BI capabilities make it easy for users to analyze Big Data. Their free online introductory coursesallow for students, academia and other developers to quickly get started. For more info visit: hpccsystems.com

 

Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/22/2014 | 10:44:06 AM
Re: Experience conundrum
The dearth of big data experts means more organizations are open to hiring or promoting people without typical big data credentials. Like you and Laurie, hiring managers have told me they've taken on people who are very motivated and passionate about big data and who are creative thinkers -- essential to unlocking new discoveries from troves of information. Perhaps one way to start would be to take some of these courses and volunteer your newly emerging big data skills at an organization. You then have multiple big data skills to add to your resume. 
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
8/21/2014 | 6:46:40 PM
Re: Experience conundrum
If you're an external candidate, sure, these classes might not bolster your credentials-- though I doubt they'd hurt in most cases. But if you're an internal candidate or someone else already known to people relevant to hiring for the position, I think these classes could be helpful. I've heard of people who, as Laurie alluded, wound up on big data teams simply by having a unique combination of traits. I know a few people at big companies in very technical roles who majored in English and History, and who didn't have much tech experience before they stepped into these roles. But with some self-teaching and the right kind of personality, they were able to succeed. So while I get your point on the whole, I think the classes are still a worthwhile resource. Different tools for different needs.
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