New MITx course shares how data has changed healthcare, dating, and baseball

15.071 The Analytics Edge examines real-world examples and teaches analytic approaches.

Sara Sezun and Steve Carson

Office of Digital Learning
February 19, 2014
In the last decade, the volume of data available to organizations has exploded. Data is transforming business, social interactions, and the future. A new massive open online course from MITx, 15.071x The Analytics Edge, examines some of the most interesting recent applications of data analytics, including Moneyball, eHarmony, the Framingham Heart Study, Twitter, IBM Watson, and Netflix. The course, open for enrollment on the edX platform and starting March 4, teaches students how to use data and analytics to give an edge to their careers and lives.

15.071x_course_banner608x211The Analytics Edge was originally developed on the MIT campus as an elective for MBA students, but the real-world approach of the MITx course is appropriate for students from a wide range of backgrounds. “Our focus is on the application and the story, and how to use it in real life,” says Allison O’Hair, a lecturer at the Sloan School of Management and one of the course’s co-instructors. “To our knowledge, this is a new way of teaching … the only class here that teaches analytics through applications. We let students get their hands dirty with real data and applications of analytics.”

The current residential version of 15.071 was started in spring 2012 by Dimitris Bertsimas, Boeing Professor of Operations Research and codirector of the Operations Research Center. In 2011, he approached O’Hair, who was then a graduate student, about changing the course by “focusing more on the applications and the story, instead of the method.” O’Hair helped Bertsimas implement these changes, and they began teaching 15.071 the following spring. This year, the course is so popular that all 85 slots were filled and several people were placed on a waiting list.

The popularity of 15.071 is one reason why Bertsimas and O’Hair have decided to teach their analytics course through edX. “We feel like it’s a hot topic,” O’Hair says. “We thought there would be a lot of interest from world students.” O’Hair also wants to try teaching online because she believes it will become more common. “I feel like it’s the future of education,” she says. Read more.