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UC Berkeley offers new online data science master's degree

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JUNE 24, 2014

UC Berkeley’s School of Information has wrapped up the first semester of its online master’s degree program.

The course, which finished its first semester about a month ago, provides a master’s degree in information and data science over the course of 18 to 20 months, for a total cost of $60,000. The School of Information is partnered with 2U, an educational technology company which provides the platform for the course.

UC Berkeley also offers online degrees from the departments of public health and of electrical engineering and computer sciences.

“These masters programs help identify exceptional students who, for whatever reason, can’t come to Berkeley,” said Scott Shireman, chief operating officer at the UC Berkeley Resource Center for Online Education. “They’re a way to expand the Berkeley family to exceptionally qualified people, and we’ll see more of them with time.”

Shireman said the data science and electrical engineering programs are more expensive because they are more lucrative fields. The course in public health, which is aimed at California community health workers, is priced at $40,000.

The School of Information’s two-year, on-campus master’s program in information management and systems costs, in tuition and fees, about $11,000 per semester for residents and $17,000 per semester for nonresidents.

The inaugural class ranges in age from 24 to 52, with an average undergraduate GPA of 3.6, according to the online program’s website. The course is made up of about 100 students, 78 percent of whom are male.

The prerequisites for admission are demanding, requiring students to have a strong background in scientific fields, according to School of Information professor Steven Weber, who is currently teaching the new online course.

“Because this is one of the first online programs at UC Berkeley, we wanted to make sure that the quality control of students is as good or even better than normally admitted students,” he said. “We wanted to send a message to the UC and employers that online is as good or even better than on campus.”

Weber said the program looks for applicants who have work experience and a clear professional intent regarding the degree.

Judd Heckman, who has a bachelor’s degree in computer science, decided to enroll in the program while working full time in order to move his career toward data analysis.

Many of his classmates chose the program over similar courses because of the personal interaction that it provides, Heckman said. In addition to live online classes and study groups, the course includes three to five days of lectures, workshops and networking on campus.

The course takes 10 hours per week on average, not including assignments, and most students enrolled in the course also work full time, Heckman said.

The revenue generated from the course is split among campus and other involved groups, according to Weber.

“The new online technology platform is certainly going to be part of the future of public education, so we want to test it out to see how it works,” Weber said. “Just like in a regular classroom, every time you deliver a course, you get important feedback about what works and what doesn’t.”

Contact Sarah Rockwood and Madeleine Pauker at [email protected].

JUNE 24, 2014