Explore Data Science Academy debuts online course

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Shaun Dippnall, co-founder of the Explore Data Science Academy.
Shaun Dippnall, co-founder of the Explore Data Science Academy.

The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has introduced what it calls SA's first online data science course for high school pupils.

The academy, based in Cape Town and Johannesburg, bills itself as the largest data science academy in Africa. It was founded in 2017 by data scientists Shaun Dippnall, Dave Strugnell and Aidan Helmbold.

According to EDSA, the new Data Science for High School course is aimed at equipping grades 10 and 12 learners with 'job future' skills. The 10-month programme teaches the fundamentals of data science and exposes pupils to Python programming, data visualisation and some basic machine learning algorithms. It is offered for R249 a month per pupil.

"As an academy, we're concerned that vital future skills are not being taught at our high schools. Data science is an exciting new industry, which has arisen as a result of the overlap of mathematics, statistics and computer programming," explains Dippnall, co-founder of EDSA.

"The jobs of the future will look very different to how they look today, and the South African school system has been very slow to adapt to the changing demands of the workplace," he says. "Employees in most industries will benefit from advanced computer programming skills and the ability to use data visualisation to present and portray their work."

From 11 February, scholars can begin accessing the course material on the learning portal, which will involve between five and seven hours of self-study a week.

The jobs of the future will look very different to how they look today, and the South African school system has been very slow to adapt to the changing demands of the workplace.

Shaun Dippnall

Although the course is purely online, instruction material is supplemented by videos and assessments to help guide the student, notes EDSA. Regular testing will advise students of their progress and provide necessary feedback.

Strugnell, EDSA co-founder, believes in order to succeed in the years to come, scholars will need to be creative problem-solvers who write code and are able to solve complex software algorithms.

"SA's youth should be learning data science skills from as early an age as possible. In many countries, these skills have been introduced into the syllabus at primary school level already."

Market analyst firm Gartner says the need for data scientists globally is growing at almost three times those for statisticians and business intelligence analysts.

Data science competitions

In addition to the online course, EDSA says it will be holding two competitions later this year, which will involve scholars competing against each other in order to solve complex problems using data science techniques.

"These will be Kaggle-style competitions where we give scholars a problem, as well as supportive data, and a time period to solve it. Whoever builds the best algorithm wins," explains Helmbold, another EDSA co-founder.

The overall winner will be awarded R10 000, while the runner-up will receive R5 000 and the second runner-up will get R2 500.

The Explore Data Science Academy is supported by BCX and other local corporates to offer a12-month accredited data science skills programme to 450 interns this year.

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