Responding to growing interest in in predictive analytics from the business community, while also acknowledging the constraints on busy professionals seeking to acquire data-analysis skills, the University of California at Irvine has launched an online-based predictive analytics certificate program.
The U.C. Irvine Extension’s online program is aimed at working adults who want to learn how to use big data and analytics to help make their enterprises more profitable and efficient.
“The program was designed to address the needs of business to find or develop employees that are able to effectively utilize predictive analytics techniques to optimize business performance,” says Dr. David Dimas, director of engineering, sciences and information technology at UC Irvine Extension. “It is targeted for students with various backgrounds — marketing, business analysts, business intelligence, data warehousing, data mining, etc. — and with various levels of organizational responsibility.”
“We want to help practitioners understand how to go about the analyses that we call predictive analytics so they can apply these to their business problems effectively,” says Dean Abbott, president of Abbott Analytics and a member of the program’s advisory committee.
Inspiration for the predictive analytics certificate program came from a conference called Predictive Analytics World that Dimas attended last year. So impressed was Dimas by the possibilities of predictive analytics, he persuaded conference chair Dr. Eric Siegel to join the U.C. Irvine Extension’s advisory committee to help develop the online curriculum. (Predictive Analytics World also has signed on as a partner for the program.)
The online certificate program promises to help working professionals leverage predictive analytics (PA) in a number of ways, including:
- Increasing sales, cutting marketing costs and improving customer retention
- Optimizing product development, as well as product manufacturing, testing and maintenance
- Integrating data from social media, unstructured text and Big Data
U.C. Irvine’s online predictive analytics program debuted in full this fall with three classes: Introduction to Predictive Analytics and Defining Business Goals for Predictive Analytics—both required for the certificate— and Business Intelligence/Data (an elective also offered as a course last summer).
Other classes scheduled for later in the academic year include:
- Effective Data Preparation
- Algorithms, Modeling Methods, Verification & Validation
- Text Analytics & Text Mining
- Sentiment Analytics
Abbott says that while he likes “all the new (PA) programs emerging at the university level, or the master’s level, they’re serving a different population than the U.C. courses are trying to serve.”
“The U.C. Irvine program is trying to take somebody who maybe lives in the world of databases, or maybe they’re analysts with a company that’s used to working in an Excel spreadsheet, and they’ve heard about PA and they want to apply these techniques to their job,” Abbott says. “They’re not going away for two years to a university. They just can’t afford it, and their employer won’t send them away for two years. So they want to try to gain the knowledge and the insight so they can be more effective on the job.”
The program has caught on fast, Dimas says.
“Demand for our fall classes was so high we had to double the number of courses we offered and there were still students on the waiting lists,” he says. “The curriculum follows a logical process of creating and using PA models and is presented in a manner that has strongly resonated with prospective students and employers. Students enjoy the fun yet informative structure of the courses and the fact that the instructors are respected experts in the industry and often the authors of the textbooks used in the class.”
Among the instructors are Abbott, Siegel and James Taylor, chief executive of Decision Management Solutions. Dimas cited several factors allowing the program to attract high-level talent from the world of predictive analytics.
“Instructors have engaged with us because of our thought leadership related to the design of the curriculum, the reputation of the University of California, our personal relationships and the fact that we have a well-defined set of people/process and tools that make it much easier for them turn their industry knowledge into courses that are fun and exciting for both the students and the instructors,” he says.
Prices for the online predictive analytics courses range from $695 to $750. (There also is a one-time candidacy fee of $125.) Prices do not include the cost of textbooks or other software that may be required.
To earn the certificate, students must complete the five required courses and any three of six elective courses for a minimum of 16 units (or 160 hours of instruction) with a grade-point average of ‘C’ or better.