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University of Pittsburgh to Offer Online Data Science Degree

The University of Pittsburgh's new master's degree in data science, delivered fully online through Coursera, will teach core computational concepts, data management, programming for analysis and other subjects.

Data Science
(TNS) — Understanding how to work with data is a skill that once seemed important only for those with careers tied at the hip to a computer.

Not anymore.

Artists, accountants, health care workers and just about anyone else in an increasingly digitized world can benefit from being able to assemble, analyze and apply data to various situations.

That's why the University of Pittsburgh is betting that a new master's degree in data science, delivered fully online, will make those high-demand skills widely accessible, not only to students across Pennsylvania, but to the nation and even around the world.

Bachelor's degree holders in any discipline are eligible to enroll, even if they have no prior exposure to the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Pitt will charge $15,000 in tuition for the 10-course degree, an amount 38 percent less than the average tuition for a masters program, said Pitt, citing U.S. Department of Education data.

The degree is being offered using Coursera, an online learning platform that helped usher in the era of Massive Open Online Courses, commonly known as MOOCS, more than a decade ago. MOOCs leverage the Internet's reach to deliver instruction, not just to a few hundred students in an auditorium, but in some cases to millions around the globe who can pursue their studies in between work and other obligations.

Pitt emphasizes that convenience in promoting its new degree. "Become a Data Scientist at Your Own Pace," it says.

Pitt will enroll students starting Feb. 12, with the first course in May. Admitted students can begin a full course load in fall 2024.

Pitt faculty will deliver the program, and there are opportunities for live interaction. But courses are asynchronous, meaning students can take them as they fit with their schedule, said Adam Lee, executive associate dean with Pitt's School of Computing and Information.

"If I'm working nine to five, or you know, eight to six, or whatever my hours are, it's kind of tough to get to campus at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday for class," Lee said in an interview Monday. "So being able to engage with the same instructors with the same content online is helping make that content more accessible."

Pitt says the accredited program bypasses typical hurdles to enrolling. A resume, transcripts, essays or letters of recommendation are not required, so long as Pitt can verify that the applicant has a bachelor's degree from an accredited U.S. university or its equivalent.

"Our MDS removes entry barriers, reassesses admission processes, and harnesses technology to deliver an exceptionally accessible program that embodies Pitt's high-quality, internationally recognized education," Dean Bruce Childers said in announcing the new degree. "SCI is embarking on this new online degree program because we realize the importance of providing access to data skills and knowledge inclusive of all learners."

To be admitted, students with a verified bachelor's degree must finish a three-credit pathway course on the Coursera platform and secure a B average or better in that course.

Pitt says those enrolled will gain knowledge of core computational, mathematical and statistical concepts, responsible data management, and data curation skills. They will learn how to apply ethics in cleaning, interpreting, and using big data across a variety of contexts. They will also learn to "program for data analysis in Python and R, using Jupyter notebooks, and RStudio. Design and query relational databases using MySQL via MySQL Workbench, and design and query graph databases with Neo4," Pitt says.

The School of Computing and Information, established in 2017, is itself a reflection of the spread of data use across disciplines that might have once seemed unrelated. It was created by combining Pitt's School of Information Sciences with the computer science department within the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

©2023 The Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.