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New eCornell data analytics courses help professionals excel

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Joe Schwartz

Data scientists and data analysts are hot commodities, ranked the No. 1 job in America for 2017 by Glassdoor and named the sexiest job of the 21st century by Harvard Business Review.

Demand for these roles – and their intersecting skills in business, statistics and programming – is driven by organizations swimming in data but hamstrung by a shortage of employees with the critical mindset needed to translate it into meaningful decisions. Yet educational institutions lag in preparing students for these jobs.

To close the gap, Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business and eCornell, the university’s online education department, are now offering professionals the opportunity to earn an executive certificate in data analytics that builds core fluency in data analysis and a foundation for further technical study.

“Data analysis requires professionals to be informed consumers of data. Technical knowledge is necessary, but it’s actually even more valuable to know which questions to ask, how to ask them, test them and translate them into business intelligence,” said Chris Anderson, associate professor in the SC Johnson College of Business and the certificate’s author. “Done well, data analysis provides a valid narrative business leaders can follow to make more successful strategic decisions.”

The data analytics certificate consists of three intensive courses that provide professionals with an essential understanding of how and why data is used to create value in business: Understanding and Visualizing Data, Implementing Scientific Decision-Making and Using Predictive Data Analysis. Each three-week course builds the analytical mindset, starting with what data is, and moving into how to visualize data and build predictive models and reporting. Students strengthen their ability to connect data to decisions – learning how to make inferences about data samples and analyze relationships across data to predict future outcomes, with the option to use datasets from their own companies.

Courses offer step-by-step “how tos” for all statistical processes and teach universal Excel-based analysis tools. From data visualization to predictive analytics, Anderson combines accessible terminology with his wide-ranging experience in management science and statistics to teach skills that translate across software platforms.

The data analytics certificate is a critical credential for professionals across many industries, complementing many of eCornell's certificate programs in marketing, leadership, revenue management and human resources. For students new to statistics, courses expose them to the fundamentals and remove barriers to getting started. Professionals with deeper statistical knowledge will learn to ground data in the language of business decisions, and current data analysts will enhance their ability to communicate with key audiences and make meaning out of data. Senior executives will also become more critical consumers of data, and better able to guide and manage analysts productively.

Students who complete the program receive an Executive Certificate from Cornell University and will earn 0.6 Professional Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for each course completed.

Sarah Thompson is a freelance writer.

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