The entrepreneur’s guide for choosing the best Coursera courses, specializations
Whether you are looking to advance in your current position, transition to a new field, or just love learning, online education courses offer the chance to learn new skills and information on your schedule for a minimal investment. Coursera (view website) is one of the leaders in the field with a broad spectrum of classes, specializations, and degrees available. In this post we review 7 of the best Coursera courses and specializations suitable for entrepreneurs, freelancers and anyone looking for a career in IT and development.
Coursera Courses 2017 – Provider Overview
With courses taught by professors from major universities, Coursera provides quality education through its classes and specializations. In each course, you will find video lectures, exercises and quizzes, and discussion forums to help you learn the content.
- Prices for individual classes range from $29-$99, and the classes generally take 4-6 weeks to complete. (view website)
- Specializations, which combine specific courses to master an area, cost between $250 and $500 and last from 4-6 months.
- Completion of a paid course or specialization will earn you a certificate.
- Coursera also offers complete degree programs from its partner universities.
Best Coursera Courses – Individual Classes
1. Machine Learning
Taught by Professor Andrew Ng and Stanford University, Machine Learning (view course website) gives students an overview of the math and programming behind Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems. The class covers all the bases from linear regression to neural networks with a focus on the algorithms that make AI work. Professor Ng makes great use of case studies and real-world examples in his lectures and assignments, allowing you to see practical models of AI in action.
This Coursera course does require some math and programming skills. If you are familiar with linear algebra and statistics and have some coding ability, you should not have any issues understanding the material. By the end of the course, you will have a better grasp of the major concepts in AI and understand how to apply them.
2. Programming for Everybody, Getting started with Python
If you need an introduction to programming or want to brush up on the basics, Programming for Everybody is a great place to start. Created by the University of Michigan and taught by Professor Charles Severance, this beginner course will teach you the fundamentals of programming through video lectures, quizzes, and exercises.
While the course uses Python for its exercises and examples, it covers topics that would apply across programming languages. After discussing why programming is important, you will dive into the essentials like variables, expressions, conditionals, and functions before finishing with loops and iteration. There are no prerequisites for the course. It is designed for beginners and will help you build the skills and confidence required to begin your journey as a programmer.
Best Coursera Specializations
3. Data Science, 9 Coursera Courses
While it has become easier than ever to gather lots of information, companies and institutions still need someone capable of interpreting that data and extrapolating it into actionable suggestions. As a data scientist, you must ask the right questions and know where to find the answers. The Data Science Specialization by John Hopkins University provides the information and practice to prepare yourself for this in-demand field.
With 10 courses in total, this Coursera specialization covers all the major topics in data science. You will begin with The Data Scientist’s Toolbox, which provides an overview of the field and introduces you to the various tools you will utilize throughout the curriculum, including R, GitHub, markdown, and RStudio. This introductory course and the following, R Programming, lay the foundation for the rest of the specialization and allow beginners to achieve success.
After the introductory material, you move through basic topics like gathering and cleaning data, exploratory data analysis and summary, and techniques for conducting research with reproducibility. Advanced topics include statistical inference, regression, and machine learning. In the final course, you will complete a capstone project. By using real-world situations conducted with industry partners like SwiftKey and Yelp, you will create a usable data product. This project, along with others throughout the specialization, allows you to build a portfolio to show off your knowledge and skills in data science to potential employers.
The instructors recommend a basic knowledge of programming and math like linear algebra and statistics, but it is designed for beginners. If you are interested in the potential of big data, the Data Science Specialization provides a solid introduction.
4. Python for Everybody, 5 Courses
Even if you do not have dreams of becoming a developer, learning to code strengthens your critical and abstract thinking skills. In this specialization, created by the University of Michigan, you will receive an introduction to computer programming and a more in-depth look at using Python to access, process, and present data.
In addition to the video lectures, readings, and quizzes, students have opportunities to practice their skills with programming exercises. There are also multiple interviews with leading professionals in the field like Rasmus Lerdorf, the inventor of PHP.
With its 5 courses, the Python specialization offers a simple path to mastering the basic concepts of programming. The first two courses cover the materials presented in the standalone introduction to programming course. By starting off with the basics like why we program, the class enables you to go from zero to coding in just a few weeks. In the second half of the introduction, you learn about more complicated structures for data analysis.
After grounding students with a solid knowledge-base, the course explores more advanced topics like working with JSON to retrieve web data and using Python to create and access databases. In the final class, you will tackle the capstone project where you will create a suite of applications that manipulate and display data.
As one of the most popular languages for data scientists, Python is an essential tool for both beginners and experts. This Coursera specialization should be a good fit for anyone who wants to learn program, especially for those interested in data science.
5. Big Data, 6 Coursera Courses
Big Data is not just a buzzword. With overwhelming quantities of data available, organizations need people who can properly organize, store, and analyze information. The University of California, San Diego’s Big Data specialization teaches students how to navigate big data to help businesses make better decisions.
After successfully completing the 6 courses, students will have the knowledge needed to “ask the right questions about data, communicate effectively with data scientists, and do basic exploration of large, complex datasets.”
The specialization requires no programming experience and provides much of the code needed to perform data analysis in common frameworks like Hadoop. Introduction to Big Data orients students new to data science, covering a short history of the field and central concepts important to big data and the systems that utilize it.
Subsequent courses cover the major topics in big data. You will learn how to model and manage data with standard tools like AsterixDB, Neo4j, and SparkSQL. You will also become familiar with data integration and processing and be able to identify when these steps are required. The Coursera courses also include an overview of graph analytics and machine learning. In the capstone project, you will work with a data set collected from users playing an imaginary video game. Those with the most impressive projects have the opportunity to meet with recruiters and engineers from Splunk.
Whether you are curious about data science or just want to understand the implications of big data for your business, Big Data provides a great introduction for its potential.
6. Digital Marketing, 6 Courses
Businesses rely on digital marketing to reach customers and clients. Digital Marketing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign focuses on brand communication and exposes students to the major concepts necessary for effective marketing in an increasingly digital world.
This 5 course specialization is one of the most popular on Coursera. It also counts toward the iMBA offered by the University of Illinois if you want to pursue a formal degree.
Marketing in a Digital World, the first course in the specialization, has had over 100,000 learners participate in its curriculum. It overviews how the digital revolution has dramatically shifted the role of marketing. Through a large selection of case studies, the class discusses the digital tools essential for promoting, pricing, and distributing products and services.
The next 4 courses cover digital analytics (in theory and in practice) and digital marketing channels (the landscape and planning). Students learn how to translate data into effective marketing strategies and why multiple channels like SEO and social media are essential.
Throughout the class, you will receive instruction through video lectures and readings and then put these concepts into practice with quizzes and peer reviewed assessments. You will also find opportunities to hear real-world examples from industry experts. In the capstone project, you combine your knowledge and skills to address a problem chosen by the digital marketing team at W. W. Grainger.
Digital Marketing offers an in-depth introduction to the key concepts in this rapidly growing field and would be a great start for those new to digital marketing.
7. Project Management Principles and Practices, 4 Courses
Effective project management ensures that products are delivered on time and within budget without sacrificing quality. This 4 course specialization from the University of California, Irvine Extension provides the knowledge required to complete projects with limited time, finances, and other resources. The Coursera courses include video lectures, readings, quizzes and panel discussions with industry experts.
Many projects fail due to insufficient planning, which is why the first course in the specialization covers planning in detail. You will learn the important questions to ask when planning a project, like “What will this project accomplish? Why is this project important? Who benefits from this project?” You will also learn how to answer these vital questions.
In the second course, Budgeting and Scheduling Projects, you will learn how to estimate cost and time requirements in order to plan accordingly. Managing Project Risks and Changes, the third course, covers risk management and how to deal with unforeseen alterations to the scope of a project. You also learn how to effectively communicate with your team and stakeholders.
Finally, in the capstone project, you will combine the previously learned information into several planning deliverables for a project of your own (or a case study). You will perform some of the essential tasks in project management, including creating a narrative charter statement, sequencing activities, and creating a matrix for responsibility assignment.
For those interested in project management, either as a career change or to strengthen their current business, this specialization covers all the essentials.
Best Coursera Courses and Specializations 2017 – Summary
Coursera (view website) has built one of the most successful and popular platforms for MOOCs. Industry experts and professors from leading universities work together to produce valuable and practical content. The courses are more expensive than some learning platforms, but the materials are first-rate. You also have the option to audit most courses to make sure it fits your needs.
If you are new to eLearning, you might try a single Coursera course like Programming for Everyone before diving into a full Coursera specialization. Most courses require only 4-6 hours per week to stay current, so it is not a major commitment of either time or resources.
List of Universities teaching the Coursera courses/specializations above
- University of Illinois
- University of California
- Johns Hopkins University
- Stanford University
- University of Michigan