A lot has been said about how Internet will change the future of education. However, many people are of the mindsets that online education is something that will only happen in the distant future.
The reality is that the richness of online content today already gives instant access to almost any information and knowledge. And as I have discovered through my personal experience in trying to learn a fairly complex subject, data science, completely online - the future of education is already here.
THE PUSH TO LEARN DATA SCIENCE
After finishing high school, I studied banking and marketing, followed by diplomas in business administration and economics. While math was featured prominently throughout my studies, the main focus was always on broader business skills. Similarly, although I have always worked in the technology industry, I have never taken on a pure technical role until about a year ago when I had to work on a project that required crunching through a lot of data and visualising the insights for my team. Once I had my first taste of data analytics, I was hooked and couldn’t wait to learn more.
THE DECISION TO GO FOR ONLINE LEARNING
However, going back to the university to study data science wouldn’t be practical as I had to balance learning with a demanding day job. In the end, I decided to give online courses a shot. Wary that e-learning is still a nascent industry with significantly disparate content quality, I deferred to strong brand as a filter and, to my surprise, discovered that many renowned institutions such as Harvard, Stanford and MIT offer free content..
THE LEARNING JOURNEY
For starters, I learnt general knowledge of computer science and how data analytics fits into the overall framework of software languages from Stanford University’s iconic course – CS101. The well-structured curriculum covered key concepts in information technology, computing and coding. Better yet, this gem was available for free!
As a next step, I chose to refresh my knowledge in statistics. Seeing that many people commended the “Intro to Statistics” course from Udacity – led by a famous robotics and AI visionary Sebastian Thrun, I took the leap of faith and got reacquainted with probability, inference, linear regression. The course proved to be excellent for both people Without statistics background as well as those of us who need a quick refresher.
And, of course, data science can never be mastered without grasping its standard language – SQL, which is designed to help people query large datasets and find the proverbial needle in a large haystack of information. Eventually, I went with the “SQL Essential Training” from Lynda because it offered a comprehensive curriculum that took me from a very basic knowledge of SQL to comfortably writing fairly complex queries.
THE FUTURE OF LEARNING
Whether it is coding, design, foreign languages or aerospace engineering, learning from the screens of our laptops, tablets and even phones is already happening. Online education is a growing phenomenon that sees both world-renowned universities as well as disruptive startups actively publishing courses in practically any discipline imaginable. E-learning tools have become a powerful counterweight to the forces of rapid change and enabled us to quickly learn essential skills to fuel our passions and careers.