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Earn a Master of Information and Data Science Online (datascience.berkeley.edu)
94 points by eplanit on Aug 21, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 63 comments

I have/had my eye on this one. I spoke to the admission counselor for this program. Apparently, they assign each student one counselor if you join this program. Here are some details:

- 100% online [0] (you do have to visit the campus for a week during the course)

- Total price tag: $60,000 (Yes, pretty steep)

- You can finish in 1-2 years depending on how much you can do

- You must take the GRE or GMAT. No exceptions. I asked them. You also need to apply to this like any regular MS program which means good GPA (3+ min but you must have great work experience etc)

- Here is the curriculum in case you are interested [1]

Overall, I was very interested in this due to the berkeley brand and 100% online offering. But 60K seems too steep to invest and not to mention that I have to take GRE/GMAT. After being in the industry (real world) for 10+ years, I am just not interested in any of these exams. So I am passing. Will look for cheaper options.

Forgot to mention that they are aggressively selling this. The counselor called me like 15 times (literally) before I responded.

[0] http://datascience.berkeley.edu

[1] http://datascience.berkeley.edu/academics/curriculum/

Yea, I came to the same conclusions. $60K seems like a lot for any online degree. Obviously there are still people working behind the scenes, but to me a majority of the cost is covering the Berkeley brand. While that is very attractive, I wouldn't pay more than $20,000 for this program. The knowledge itself is very valuable, but attaining it should not be so costly when there are amazing free resources all over the place.

I was contemplating this master's degree as well. In the past couple of months we had a bunch of emails go back and forth. However, the $60K tag on an online program makes no sense.

I would rather pay that kind of money for a brand name if I will actually make connections with people in real life.

Just having a piece of paper from a reputable institution with no real human connection is just not worth the price in my opinion.

This is based on my assumption that I do make better connections with people in real life compared to virtual setups.

I like the Georgia Tech MS Computer Science [0] which was in the 8K range. That seems reasonable for an online education that's mostly self-driven.

I hate the feeling pay to play of a lot of our higher-level education as it seems that what you learn has nothing to really do with where you learn it.

[0] http://www.omscs.gatech.edu/

So much of the value of going to a place like Stanford or Caltech or Harvard, etc. is in the people you will interact with. In an online program, that value is probably completely lost. Given that, I just don't see why someone would choose this over a much more cost-effective program. While a "top tier" university does look nice on the resume, I don't believe it is mandatory, anymore. If you're competent and work hard, you can build a reputation in Open Source software that will get you a job at most places, including the really sought after places (I've gotten two recruitment letters from Google, and a handful from other places), regardless of where your degree is from.

Of course, if you're competent and work hard, you can probably build your own job from scratch in any number of software and technology fields.

Not to diminish your accomplishments, but you should know that Google casts a very wide net in their recruiting. I've been contacted several times by them for positions that I am not even remotely qualified for.

Yes, that's probably true; and I doubt I would actually get a job at Google were I interested in one (I don't have a degree; I started my first company before finishing any school). They were pretty specific about why they were contacting me, and it was well-targeted for the position they were hiring for (and my company co-founder currently works in that role for Google). But, I've never posted anything anywhere ever that would indicate I'm looking for work, so I don't get a lot of recruitment overtures except from people that actually know what I do.

Anyway, that probably wasn't a useful addition to my point. I believe you're more likely to get hired for a good company if somebody within the company knows you, and you're more likely to know people in good companies if you go to one of the "good" schools for your field. That doesn't happen with online degrees, no matter how prestigious the school.

Totally see your point. The true value of a program like this would be the personal network, recruiters on campus, etc. It is going to be a lot of work to create a similar team spirit in a virtual context. By the way, the Harvard Extension School has its Master degrees priced around the $20,000 area so your estimate is pretty much on spot.

Knowledge: $0. Accreditation: $60k.

> when there are amazing free resources all over the place.

in fact, most of the worthwhile resources are free, since this isn't a discipline that has really been taught at any level until recently, but draws from several.

Trying to make money off the brand, pathetic. But they have to pay for all those administrators somehow.

And all the messaging around hiking the hell out of their undergrad fees in recent years.

My personal experience with paid fully online course was for a 1 year program in micro systems development/design. It was pretty steep at the time, several thousand, but the benefit was the awesome professor. He and his assistants read every line of code, ran every assignment, and gave fully detailed explanations to the score and gave constructive criticisms. Afterwards, they continued to be helpful even after the course.

As for full curricilums... I can't stand curriculums. It's like going to a buffet to eat some shrimp, lettuce, a slice of roast beef, some smashed potatas except they stack a bunch of other meals on top of it.

I had a similar experience. Their "admissions counselor" (read: salesperson) was fairly aggressive and persistent.

Also, FWIW, I was told it's not 100% online--you do have to come to campus for a week at some point[0]

I would be interested, but I'm pretty unclear how much value a degree like this would have, and $60K is a lot of money.

[0] http://datascience.berkeley.edu/academics/immersion/

The GRE really isn't a big deal. I'm guessing they only care about your quant score and that section is literally high school math.

I agree, after just being admitted to OMSCS, if this was roughly the same price I might consider taking it as an augmentation to my resume. GRE/Tuition requirements kill the ROI in my case

Forgot to mention that they are aggressively selling this. The counselor called me like 15 times (literally) before I responded.

Sounds depressingly like the real estate bubble before the financial crisis.

60k for online is disappointing. I would pay 500 to coursera instead

I was a student of this MIDS program for one semester after attending Hack Reactor in the spring. I took three classes this summer, which is the closest thing they have to full-time. I can say without hesitation that it would be an enormous financial mistake for most people to join the program.

Just a quick overview of some of the problems they have:

- Poorly considered curriculum. Our data visualization class involved no d3js or training with data viz tools. Students were told to teach themselves the tools in their spare time while studying data viz theory (Edward Tufte, etc.) in class.

- Cost. There's absolutely no way to justify the $60k price tag, especially with no in-state tuition option.

- Choice of instructors. They're trying to increase the size of the program too quickly, while throwing in new instructors with zero teaching experience. These instructors also have part-time or full-time jobs outside of MIDS, so I didn't even get my grades back for assignments from the first month by two weeks before finals. It would often take a minimum of 2-4 weeks to get grades back.

I've officially withdrawn from MIDS, and I'm attending Zipfian this fall. I strongly recommend considering any and all alternatives to MIDS before even applying.

I know this price is pretty on par with the likes of Northwestern and other great schools that offer similar online programs. But it seems a bit insulting when schools like Georgia Tech are offering a $7k online Masters CS. A lot of the infrastructure of modern college is online anyways, so I'm not sure that putting the lectures online and removing the facilities completely is progressive. Learning to scale these classrooms efficiently and continually reducing the fixed cost per student seems to be what we're (me, without the dedication/job willing to pay for this degree) waiting for. Especially, if the goal really is to provide an education available to all online

You don't seem to be getting a Berkeley degree; "datascience@berkeley’s technology service provider works with a different university to offer an online data science program that is unaffiliated with the University of California." (3rd page of the form). I wonder what that university would be.

Also wonder who the "technology service provider" is. Is it just a repackaging of something like Coursera for $60k?

That seems like an additional program as suggested by the checkbox below it to "learn more about this other online graduate data science opportunity."

The biggest thing that hasn't been discussed yet is that the admissions counselors and marketing seems to be entirely run by 2U.

Not saying this is not a good company or that online education is not good - just that 2U is representing themselves as part of Berkeley Admissions.

Check this - http://2u.com/partners/berkeley/

Was contacted by this person when I wanted to learn more about the program, who's email signature looked like this:

Peter Wahlberg

Admissions Counselor

datascience@berkeley Admissions Office

UC Berkeley School of Information



But he also works for 2U - maybe only for 2U - http://www.linkedin.com/pub/peter-wahlberg/67/800/27b

Again this admissions counselor and the company are innovating in the education space which is a good thing, but I do find it odd to misrepresent 2U employees as Berkeley admissions counselors - especially when I talked to him on the phone and he defended the $60k price tag by saying an MBA is $80k.

I think one is probably better off with earning a masters in statistics. This just seems like another way for Berkeley to sell another expensive degree with little supporting evidence that it will land jobs.

The page has an icon that says "Hacker safe" but doesn't even use SSL when transmitting your information.

Good catch. It also has "Your privacy is important to us" and a SSL-like padlock. The web-server at requestinfo.datascience.berkeley.edu doesn't even have a valid certificate (it is return Cloudflare's certificate). So if you were thinking of typing in HTTPS manually then think again...

They do send the form to: https://salesforce.com/servlet/servlet.WebToLead?encoding=UT...

But as we all know if the form itself is in HTTP then it can be intercepted and modified to send the info to an attacker's own web-server making the fact that they're sending to a HTTPS-enabled server really rather meaningless.

HTTP form to HTTPS essentially breaks HTTPS's MITM protections, it only keeps the encryption somewhat in-place (although with a successful MITM the encryption is effectively disabled).

> Now you can earn a degree in data science from anywhere in the world.

Yet they ask for a US college GPA to even get to the form? Little confused. Is that information used to determine your eligibility and why is there no "no clue" option? A GPA is a very US-centric thing.

Maybe they just mean you can earn your credits from anywhere in the world, not that anyone in the world can apply.

the never said "to individuals from any country"... it is still to "US citizens... anywhere in the world".

Because even if you are the US but did not graduated there, you still can't apply.

Minor quibble: also Canada.

As other people have pointed out that even though its an online degree it has the same price as an offline one. Though it doesn't have the same credential as Berkeley (or maybe the rigorousness), Coursera's Data Science specialization [1] from John Hopkins costs $500. Recently they announced that they have partnered with SwiftKey [2] for the final capstone project.

[1] https://www.coursera.org/specialization/jhudatascience/1

[2] https://www.class-central.com/report/data-science-specializa...

I spoke with Berkeley when deciding where I was going to apply and got the sense that they plan on leaning on their more established programs to provide instruction. While this may sound great, you won't get the specific data science instruction that these curriculums require.

After an awful experience with Northwestern's online analytics program, I don't want to touch any of these programs.

As someone who is interested in Northwestern's Predictive Analytics program, I would be interested in hearing your specific issues with that program.

I only got through one class, but have heard my concerns echoed by many who are only continuing the program because the have invested so much into it.

The program is based on weekly discussion board posts and a few exams per course. For the most part, I find myself attempting to put fluff into my posts rather than meaningful analysis.

There are "sync sessions" throughout the courses, but they don't occur every week. This is much unlike a MOOC, which provides a set of weekly lectures to view and gain understanding.

There was zero project work in my initial class and projects at or below the level of undergrad projects in more advanced courses.

I managed an A average while spending the absolute minimum amount of time on the class.

When paying 4,000 dollars per course, I had hoped that the instruction would be at the same level or better than that of a set of MOOCs. In the field of data science, I believe the time can easily be directed towards side projects for greater knowledge and similar employment prospects.

ye same

I don't know. If you want to pay-to-play, it's not a terrible deal, especially considering that it can be just one year and you don't need to leave your job to do it. Opportunity cost is the largest outlay when it comes to masters and doctoral degrees, and this format essentially eliminates that. But yes, networking beyond your cohort would be difficult. It would be really nice if they had a good placement program, but I can't speak to that.

The real kicker here though is that these classes aren't open to other Berkeley students. There are general equivalents in the Stats department, in CS, and in the iSchool, but not tailored to generalists looking to add some kind of "Data Science" specialization. The curriculum is really walled off from the rest of the students, which is annoying because I want to take some of these classes.

Anyway, I think the real question here is how much opportunity cost you can avoid in the online format and the placement/salary you should expect coming out of it.

Or ... you could stay in the city and get an MS in Analytics from University of San Francisco at the downtown 101 Howard campus. http://www.usfca.edu/analytics/ The program is excellent, has a REAL practicum experience and boasts nearly 100% employment 3 months post graduation. It comes in at about half the cost of cal's program. [Full disclosure ... I'm an adjunct there] Here's what you can learn in one year http://www.usfca.edu/artsci/msan/courses/ The combination of location, instruction and work experience is unprecedented.

I'm taking the GTOMSCS from Georgia Tech, for less than $7,000. I asked Berkeley if they have any plans to change their steep price tag ($50-60K), and they said no, because I'll be allowed to go on campus and get all benefits of an on campus student. I told them I don't plan to do so, and that I think I'm paying a high premium for a "feature" that I don't use.

They didn't reply.

in G.Tech you CAN'T go on campus, although the degree is the same. I didn't hear of a decrease in the on campus program enrollment there.

I think that if GT will show profit and that it didn't hurt their on campus program (and that the program rigor is not affected) then other universities will have to follow.

I just got accepted to the GT OMSCS as well for the January group. When do you start or have you already started? What's your focus? I'm focusing on parallel computing and machine learning.

Welcome aboard! I started in the first cohort (last Spring semester). I'm not sure yet what focus to take, probably software engineering & databases and machine learning, (we have enough credits to take both, but I guess we'll have to chose one officially...)

I'm taking software dev process this semester, a bit of relaxation after advanced OS (good course, but not easy)

Benefit include: Paying for RSF, UCB-ID library access, on-campus internet.

I find this to be an excellent offering and justified overall.. some may not agree but:

You don't have to "go anywhere" to complete it. The course load IS comprehensive. The tuition cost might be steep but in the end as the commenter said, it is cheaper and vastly superior to a MBA.

From what I gained, the partner also works with the likes of Duke and American U to bring the program online.. among others. Who cares & thank you partner. (http://2u.com/partners/)

This is the future and happens to be the future done right.

Its difficult to deny the need, relevance and popularity of the topic of this degree. I just think that there may be a startup idea here: just offer an opportunity to learn the curriculum as a vocational training/course over 4-6 months, along with a practical project at the end of it (say a Kaggle problem). I can imagine a tie up with companies to solve problems, very much like Kaggle and tie ups with companies looking for analytics talent.

There are already a large number of bootcamps being formed for data science. For example Zipfian Academy (former Berkeley students), Insight Data Science, Metis (owned by Kaplan), Leada (a startup of former Berkeley students which has our company as a partner), and probably others I'm not aware of.

As others have said, $60k sounds steep for this. I wonder if these data science programs will catch on. Having done my bachelors in 'nanoscience' - I feel that these data science courses are a little buzzwordy in a similar fashion. I'm somewhat skeptical that these data science programs will exceed the value of a graduate degree in stats, math, cs, etc.

Are their any legitimate programs like these for Bachelor's degrees? I've had my eye on doing something like this, but as I never completed my undergrad before getting sucked into the tech goldmine, I'm ineligible. Online undergrad degrees seem to mostly be diploma mills with no real value.

I don't know about any programmes based in the US, but in the UK there's both the Open University ( http://www.open.ac.uk/ ) and the University of London International Programmes ( http://www.londoninternational.ac.uk/ ) - both of which are legitimate and well known universities of good repute.

In the US, probably the most legitimate option is Western Governors University http://www.wgu.edu/. They're an accredited, non-profit institution. Obviously, it's not the most prestigious degree out there, but it's not looked down on as being a for-profit scam like University of Phoenix or similar.

Thanks for that info. Is this the only college that has an online bachelors program or just the only one you are aware of?

Many many colleges have online bachelors programs. This is just one that I know has a decent reputation.

Here is another option from a different UC university if you are in the San Diego area: http://maseng.ucsd.edu/dse/

Hey thanks for posting this. It looks like a great opportunity for me! Are you enrolled in this by any chance?

I actually just got enrolled into the program. It begins at the beginning of October and this will be their first cohort for the program as it is brand new.

Based on this conversation, what are some of the Big Data/Data Science programs with hands on experience that you guys think are worth the price tag?

Zipfian Academy (http://www.zipfianacademy.com/) definitely has hands-on experience and is worth the $16k tuition. That's where I'm going now that I've left the Berkeley MIDS program, where I learned almost nothing.

Thanks for the mention, Sonali! One of the founders of Zipfian Academy here, happy to answer any questions you might have about the program.

Would love to have something comparable in NY area! Too bad I cannot be in Cali for 6 weeks :/

Note on the last page of registration that the degree is offered by another online university and not affiliation with UCB.

I used to (and still might) get spam from this university, so they seem a bit sketchy...

I wish they posted their curriculum somewhere.

Wow, how disappointing with the $60k price tag. Berkeley should be ashamed.

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