MIT to offer its first professional MOOC in big data

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been involved in online education since the early days, and now it’s taking it a step further. Yesterday, the college announced its first online, professional-leaning Massively Open Online Course (MOOC), entitled “Tackling the Challenge of Big Data.”

Led by a dozen faculty from the university’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at the School of Engineering, the four-week course starts at the beginning of March and is directed specifically at technical professionals and executives — not academic-types. The course is the first in a new set of courses offered by the university called Online X, which offers professional classes through the edX platform.

One important thing, though: these classes may be open, but they don’t come cheap. Participating in the course will run users $495 — far from the free price tags of many MOOCs available. But it’s likely that extra cost could ramp up engagement among users, giving them incentive to stick through the four weeks and complete the course.

This new course line is also emblematic of a burgeoning trend within online learning — professional education. While colleges have groused about the online platform’s effectiveness for its students and engagement among average folks has proven anemic at best, provisions for professionals have experience a key growth spurt. One big example of this is Udacity’s increased investment into training courses, powered by Cloudera, Google, and other big tech firms seeking to bring more highly-specialized people into its workforce. MIT’s venture is not only another extension of this movement, but it also has the added support of a university’s continuing ed program.

And if you’d rather learn more about big data in person, check out our Structure Data conference this March in New York.