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Berkeley offers its fastest-growing course – data science – online, for free

Data science is increasingly popular at Berkeley because the world is increasingly data-driven

David Wagner, Ani Adhikari, John DeNero

The fastest-growing course in UC Berkeley’s history — Foundations of Data Science — is being offered free online this spring for the first time through the campus’s online education hub, edX.

[Read more: New online course will make blockchain so clear ‘you can explain it to your grandma’]

Data science is becoming important to more and more people because the world is increasingly data-driven — and not just science and tech but the humanities, business and government.

David Wagner, Ani Adhikari, John DeNero

Data 8X instructors David Wagner, Ani Adhikari and John DeNero

“You’ll learn to program when studying data science — but not for the primary purpose of building apps or games,” says Berkeley computer science Professor John DeNero. “Instead, we use programming to understand the world around us.”

The course — Data 8X (Foundations of Data Science) — covers everything from testing hypotheses, applying statistical inferences, visualizing distributions and drawing conclusions, all while coding in Python and using real-world data sets. One lesson might take economic data from different countries over the years to track global economic growth. The next might use a data set of cell samples to create a classification algorithm that can diagnose breast cancer. (Learn more from a video on the Berkeley data science website.)

The online program is based on the Foundations of Data Science course that Berkeley launched on campus in 2015 and now has more than 1,000 students enrolling every semester.

The intent is “helping students from any major or any background to address questions that interest them, using the powerful tools of data science,” Provost Paul Alivisatos told a congressional subcommittee on research and technology in July 2017. “From linguistics to chemistry, and from history to economics, students from over 60 majors have responded, and this is the fastest-growing program in the history of Berkeley…”

The Foundations of Data Science edX Professional Certificate program is a sequence of three five-week courses taught by three winners of Berkeley’s top teaching honor, the Distinguished Teaching Award: DeNero, statistics professor Ani Adhikari and computer science professor David Wagner.

It’s exciting to be part of an initiative that brings data science to all, regardless of their background,” says Adhikari. “After all, everyone has to be able to reason based on data and to gain insight from data. And data science itself will benefit from diverse perspectives about what’s important. Our goal is to bring data science to the widest possible audience.”

Anyone in the world can enroll for free; learners who want to earn the certificate will need to pay.

The first of the three parts starts at 9 a.m. (PDT) on Monday, April 2. Enrollment will remain open after the course begins.