Data and Decision-Making: Master's Students Take a Practical Approach

A Free Sample of Data Analytics

Duke’s bringing data analytics education to professionals everywhere with a four-course “Analytic Techniques for Business” specialization through Coursera. Free to audit ($395 for certification) the six-week course series is a worldwide hit—outfits such as Business Insider consistently rank the class as one of the best and most popular available on the platform, with more than 250,000 active learners enrolled to date.For Master of Engineering Management (MEM) students in the fast-growing Data & Decisions track, companies are becoming classrooms—thanks to the program’s capstone consulting practicums.

For Master of Engineering Management (MEM) students in the fast-growing Data & Decisions track, companies are becoming classrooms—thanks to the program’s capstone consulting practicums.

“Companies get help with their problems while students get experience consulting. It’s a great bargain,” said faculty member John Nicholson, who has arranged over 25 practicums with companies such as IBM, Cisco and Lenovo. “With more and more projects focused on data-driven solutions, Duke is really becoming a place that students are seeking out for data analytics.”

In the semester-long practicums, small teams of students work with a faculty mentor and industry representative to deliver solutions corporate partners need—typically investing more than 800 cumulative hours to complete a project’s research, analysis and strategic elements.

Data & the Duke Engineer - Read more about Duke Engineering's ambitious initiatives in data science education and research

“I’ve worked in teams in other courses, but the practicum was a chance to work on a real live initiative in a professional environment,” said MEM student Rounak Mehta, whose team turned to data analytics to help a midsize company differentiate itself in the marketplace. “It was incredibly satisfying.”

Such real-world experience is one reason the program’s Data & Decisions track is quickly growing in popularity. Another is the overwhelming success of a data analytics course on Coursera co-created by Daniel Egger, director of the Duke MEM Center for Quantitative Modeling (see sidebar), which offers online learners exposure to some of the topics and strategies taught in the MEM program.

“Anyone working in business these days has to understand the impact of Big Data and data analytics,” Egger said. “Between the Information Initiative at Duke and the MEM program, Duke is ideally positioned to offer a course like this.”

Not only have a quarter-million people to date accessed the online course, dozens of online learners liked the teaching so much they have enrolled in Duke’s full degree program. The demand is no surprise, says Brad Fox, associate dean and executive director for Duke Engineering’s Professional Masters Programs.

“As you look at what engineering managers are expected to do in today’s business world, using data to make informed decisions is a crucial piece of their job,” he says. “It’s imperative that students understand how they can leverage data to glean new insights.”