Robin Copeland worked for eight years as a nurse before cancer changed her life. “I couldn’t physically lift patients anymore,” she said. “I saw a job posting that was looking for someone to analyze the data from oncology charts—but the position required that applicants have knowledge of data analytics. That sounded interesting to me, but I didn’t have the skill set to apply.”
Copeland found the TMCC Data Analytics Program and thought the program offered her a way to use her previous knowledge of the medical field in a new way. “I’ve actually always loved organizing data,” she said. “I love Excel spreadsheets and lists.”
Developed by TMCC and funded through GOED with a WINN Grant, the online course environment for the Data Analytics program was designed by NCLab. To date, there have been 34 Recipients of the Data Analytics WINN scholarship (which covered the costs of both Data Analysis classes).
Copeland began the program in March, and while the material wasn’t exactly easy, the method through which it was delivered helped her to be successful in the two classes that comprise the certificate program: Data 120 (Introduction to Analytics and Analytical Programming) and Data 121 (Data Visualization).
The Nuts and Bolts of the Data Analytics Program
Data Analytics isn’t just crunching numbers (although brushing up on your basic math skills before you enroll in these courses might be a good idea). Rather, it’s learning specific SQL (or Structured Query Language)—commands that allow you to enter, manage and retrieve data stored in databases. Once students master SQL, they are introduced to the Python programming language in the Data 121 class.
Each class is delivered on an online platform that is a “practice-based course.” This differs from other online learning environments that present information for students to read independently; the NCLab platform requires that students practice concepts and manipulate course material that is evaluated by the system itself.
Vas Kamyshanov, a representative from NCLab, explained that the goal of the technology is to provide students with immediate feedback so they are continually learning as they progress through the course material. The technology also tracks when students encounter difficulty and reports this information to the course administrator who can then change the way the information is presented and provide additional help to students in need of it.
Students can access the course 24/7; there are no specific lectures or discussions to attend. Instead, students can engage with the material when it works with their individual schedules (although the most successful students engage with the course material at least 2-3 times each week).
“I’ve taken online courses before,” said Copeland. “This one was fun. There was a hint button if you needed it, that would help you to troubleshoot a particular problem.” The program estimates most students will complete each course within 60-100 hours, there is a six-month time limit to complete each class.
Earning Your Certificate in Data Analytics
While the WINN Scholarship opportunity is no longer available, the Data Analytics classes are offered at an affordable price. Additionally, most students can complete the course well within the six-month time limit, something Copeland certainly did (she completed the program in June.) “I think I took longer than expected because I took notes so that I would have them for reference,” she said.
With her certificate in hand, Copeland is ready to find a job, and with help from the Data Analytics program, she will be connected with employers looking for the skills she learned. Now organizing data will be what she does for a living, which is certainly a different kind of heavy lifting.