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Microsoft Now Offers a Professional Degree Program Online

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

With the launch of a professional credential in Data Science, Microsoft jumps into the university-level training game with a resume-worthy program.

At its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto last week, Microsoft Professional Degree program was unveiled. This multi-class sequence of courses in the general area of Big Data/Data Science is offered through the Open Source online education platform known as edX.

This platform was originally developed at Harvard and MIT. Today, it is widely used for delivering MOOCs (Massively Online Open Courses) at most of the Ivy League universities, and at many other colleges and universities around the world. Microsoft also announced new cloud-based access to the edX platform via Azure, its cloud based services environments.

MORE: Best IT Certifications for 2016

The curriculum for the Microsoft Professional Degree, or MPD, consists of courses in nine topic areas, plus a concluding capstone “Final Project” as follows:

  • Data Science Orientation: Six-week course on Data Science basics.
  • Query Relational Data: Six-week course on Querying Data with Transact-SQL, with a focus on querying and modifying data in Microsoft SQL Server or Azure SQL Database.
  • Analyze and Visual Data: Pick from one of two six-week courses in this topic area, one based on Excel, the other on Power BI (Business Intelligence).
  • Understand Statistics: Statistical Thinking for Data Science and Analysis is a six-week course from Columbia University that covers how to exercise statistical thinking, design data collection, derive insights from data visualizations, use evidence to support data-based decisions and more.
  • Explore Data with Code: Choose from one of two six-week courses on using the R statistical programming language or Python to model and analyze data structures and big data collections.
  • Understand Core Data Science Concepts: A six-week course from Microsoft on Data Science Essentials that covers statistical analysis, data cleansing and transformation, and data visualization using R, Python and Microsoft Azure Machine Learning.
  • Understand Machine Learning: A six-week course from Microsoft on Principles of Machine Learning that teaches students how to build, evaluate and optimize machine learning models with a focus on classification, regression, clustering and recommendation.
  • Use Code to Manipulate and Model Data: A choice among two courses on programming for data science, one based on R the other on Python.
  • Develop Intelligent Solutions: Choose from among three six-week Microsoft courses to meet this requirement, including Applied Machine Learning, Implementing Predictive Solutions with Spark in HDInsight and Developing Intelligent Applications.
  • The final project also runs for six weeks and represents Microsoft’s Data Science Challenge. This is an opportunity to put course materials to work and to compete against fellow students while tackling a challenge on the Cortana Intelligence platform that requires developing and deploying a solution that will be tested and scored to determine the program grade.

For those who do want a certificate, the courses are all quite cheap: $49 a pop, which makes out-of-pocket costs for all 10 items required for the MPD a very affordable $490 all told. I think it is a great program, and provides some much needed, well organized training for aspiring and practicing IT professionals.

I’m a little surprised that MS chose to call it a “degree,” because the company is not an accredited institution of higher learning. That niggle aside, however, this is great stuff and well worth digging into and pursuing for those whose interested lie in this high-growth, high-demand technical subject matter.