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Skills in the time of automation: 10 Coursera courses that will help you stay relevant1 of 11

  • Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    In a column for The Guardian, physicist Stephen Hawking warned, “The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.”

    Automation and artificial intelligence are taking long strides in becoming mainstream and traditional jobs are on the brink of extinction. The trend has been there for quite sometime. In India alone, World Bank research states that 69 per cent of jobs are threatened due to automation. Paying your bills in the years to come will require specialised skill sets that are not likely to be replaced by automation and AI any time soon.

    Yet, despite such gloomy forebodings, the good news is that learning a new skill is now a matter of having a good internet connection and lots of concentration. Online education website Coursera is at the forefront of helping people master new skillsets by collaborating with renowned universities and offering certified online courses.

    Founded in 2012 by Stanford University computer science professors, Coursera has seen a remarkable increase in the number of Indians registering over the years. When it launched in 2014 in India, Coursera had about 6,80,000 users. But in the next year alone, the platform saw a 70 per cent growth in user base to a massive 1.1 million.

    According to insights provided by Coursera, majority of the users in India are entrepreneurs and young professionals in their 20s and 30s aiming to gain the skills that have high demand from the country’s top employers. This means that millennials are already feeling the threat from machines. Most of the users of the platform uses it to enhance their academic qualifications or to take a quantum leap in their career.

    You should be afraid of the impending loss of jobs to automation, and if you are, check out these courses on offer on Coursera:

  • Machine Learning from Stanford University

    Machine Learning from Stanford University

    “Machine learning is the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed. In the past decade, machine learning has given us self-driving cars, practical speech recognition, effective web search, and a vastly improved understanding of the human genome. Machine learning is so pervasive today that you probably use it dozens of times a day without knowing it. Many researchers also think it is the best way to make progress towards human-level AI. In this class, you will learn about the most effective machine learning techniques, and gain practice implementing them and getting them to work for yourself. More importantly, you'll learn about not only the theoretical underpinnings of learning, but also gain the practical know-how needed to quickly and powerfully apply these techniques to new problems. Finally, you'll learn about some of Silicon Valley's best practices in innovation as it pertains to machine learning and AI.

    This course provides a broad introduction to machine learning, datamining, and statistical pattern recognition. Topics include: (i) Supervised learning (parametric/non-parametric algorithms, support vector machines, kernels, neural networks). (ii) Unsupervised learning (clustering, dimensionality reduction, recommender systems, deep learning). (iii) Best practices in machine learning (bias/variance theory; innovation process in machine learning and AI). The course will also draw from numerous case studies and applications, so that you'll also learn how to apply learning algorithms to building smart robots (perception, control), text understanding (web search, anti-spam), computer vision, medical informatics, audio, database mining, and other areas.”

    Enroll for the course here.

  • Programming for Everybody (Getting started with Python) from University of Michigan

    Programming for Everybody (Getting started with Python) from University of Michigan

    “This course aims to teach everyone the basics of programming computers using Python. We cover the basics of how one constructs a program from a series of simple instructions in Python. The course has no pre-requisites and avoids all but the simplest mathematics. Anyone with moderate computer experience should be able to master the materials in this course. This course will cover Chapters 1-5 of the textbook “Python for Informatics”. This course is equivalent to the first half of the 11-week "Programming for Everybody (Python)" course. Once a student completes this course, they will be ready to take more advanced programming courses. This course covers Python 2.”

    Enroll for the course here.

  • R Programming from Johns Hopkins University

    R Programming from Johns Hopkins University

    “In this course you will learn how to program in R and how to use R for effective data analysis. You will learn how to install and configure software necessary for a statistical programming environment and describe generic programming language concepts as they are implemented in a high-level statistical language. The course covers practical issues in statistical computing which includes programming in R, reading data into R, accessing R packages, writing R functions, debugging, profiling R code, and organizing and commenting R code. Topics in statistical data analysis will provide working examples.”

    Enroll for the course here.

  • Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects from University of California, San Diego

    Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects from University of California, San Diego

    “This course gives you easy access to the invaluable learning techniques used by experts in art, music, literature, math, science, sports, and many other disciplines. We’ll learn about the how the brain uses two very different learning modes and how it encapsulates (“chunks”) information. We’ll also cover illusions of learning, memory techniques, dealing with procrastination, and best practices shown by research to be most effective in helping you master tough subjects.

    Using these approaches, no matter what your skill levels in topics you would like to master, you can change your thinking and change your life. If you’re already an expert, this peep under the mental hood will give you ideas for: turbocharging successful learning, including counter-intuitive test-taking tips and insights that will help you make the best use of your time on homework and problem sets. If you’re struggling, you’ll see a structured treasure trove of practical techniques that walk you through what you need to do to get on track. If you’ve ever wanted to become better at anything, this course will help serve as your guide.”

    Enroll for the course here.

  • The Data scientist’s Toolbox from Johns Hopkins University

    The Data scientist’s Toolbox from Johns Hopkins University

    “In this course you will get an introduction to the main tools and ideas in the data scientist's toolbox. The course gives an overview of the data, questions, and tools that data analysts and data scientists work with. There are two components to this course. The first is a conceptual introduction to the ideas behind turning data into actionable knowledge. The second is a practical introduction to the tools that will be used in the program like version control, markdown, git, GitHub, R, and RStudio.”

    Enroll for the course here.

  • Algorithms: Design and Analysis, Part 1 by Stanford University

    Algorithms: Design and Analysis, Part 1 by Stanford University

    “Algorithms are the heart of computer science, and the subject has countless practical applications as well as intellectual depth. This specialization is an introduction to algorithms for learners with at least a little programming experience. The specialization is rigorous but emphasizes the big picture and conceptual understanding over low-level implementation and mathematical details. After completing this specialization, you will be well-positioned to ace your technical interviews and speak fluently about algorithms with other programmers and computer scientists.”

    Enroll for the course here.

  • Speak English Professionally: In Person, Online & On the Phone from Georgia Institute of Technology

    Speak English Professionally: In Person, Online & On the Phone from Georgia Institute of Technology

    “ Do you want to speak better English? This course will help you reach that goal. Speak English Professionally: In person, Online and On the Phone will boost your English speaking skills. In this 5 week course, you will learn how to identify and make a strong personal introduction. You will develop and demonstrate the speaking skills for group discussions: how to agree or disagree, how to clarify, restate and summarize. You will review and practice how to give information and respond to requests on the phone. You will study and role play effective interviewing. You will prepare and give a sales “pitch”, introducing a product or service. Throughout the course, you will change how you speak English and you will become more fluent and accurate when you speak. You will demonstrate culturally appropriate body language and tone. As you work through the course, you will complete self- and peer-evaluations. Through a combination of lectures, comprehension and vocabulary quizzes, practice and performance, you’ll gain the skills and confidence to communicate well in English, anywhere in the world.”

    Enroll for the course here.

  • Grammar and Punctuation from University of California, Irvine

    Grammar and Punctuation from University of California, Irvine

    “Do you need to review English grammar? Have you forgotten the grammar you once studied? If so, this course is perfect for you.

    The first course in this specialization is a refresher on some tools needed for good writing. It will help prepare you for the other courses. You will need about 10 hours to complete this first course. Writing is a skill and to learn a skill well, you need to practice. In this course, you will watch short video lectures and then practice and discuss what you have learned. Make sure you take good notes and use the peer discussions to ask questions. Then you'll be able to remember the rules you learn in this course when you start writing essays in the next course.”

    Enroll for the course here.

  • Mastering Data Analysis in Excel from Duke University

    Mastering Data Analysis in Excel from Duke University

    “The focus of this course is on math - specifically, data-analysis concepts and methods - not on Excel for its own sake. We use Excel to do our calculations, and all math formulas are given as Excel Spreadsheets, but we do not attempt to cover Excel Macros, Visual Basic, Pivot Tables, or other intermediate-to-advanced Excel functionality.

    This course will prepare you to design and implement realistic predictive models based on data. In the Final Project (module 6) you will assume the role of a business data analyst for a bank, and develop two different predictive models to determine which applicants for credit cards should be accepted and which rejected. Your first model will focus on minimizing default risk, and your second on maximizing bank profits. The two models should demonstrate to you in a practical, hands-on way the idea that your choice of business metric drives your choice of an optimal model.

    The second big idea this course seeks to demonstrate is that your data-analysis results cannot and should not aim to eliminate all uncertainty. Your role as a data-analyst is to reduce uncertainty for decision-makers by a financially valuable increment, while quantifying how much uncertainty remains. You will learn to calculate and apply to real-world examples the most important uncertainty measures used in business, including classification error rates, entropy of information, and confidence intervals for linear regression.

    All the data you need is provided within the course, all assignments are designed to be done in MS Excel, and you will learn enough Excel to complete all assignments. The course will give you enough practice with Excel to become fluent in its most commonly used business functions, and you’ll be ready to learn any other Excel functionality you might need in the future (module 1).

    The course does not cover Visual Basic or Pivot Tables and you will not need them to complete the assignments. All advanced concepts are demonstrated in individual Excel spreadsheet templates that you can use to answer relevant questions. You will emerge with substantial vocabulary and practical knowledge of how to apply business data analysis methods based on binary classification (module 2), information theory and entropy measures (module 3), and linear regression (module 4 and 5), all using no software tools more complex than Excel.”

    Enroll for the course here.

  • HTML, CSS and JavaScript from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

    HTML, CSS and JavaScript from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

    “This course will teach you the essential elements of web page development, covering HTML, CSS and JavaScript. No previous experience of these technologies is necessary, although it is helpful if you have some prior programming experience. First, HTML together with CSS are discussed and explored. Then we move on to consider the essential components of JavaScript, including variables, arrays, loops, events and functions. Then we explore more advanced elements of JavaScript control, including advanced use of functions, event control, array processing, and DOM manipulation.”

    Enroll for the course here.

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