Course Review – Introduction to Big Data Analytics (Natasha Balac, Paul Rodriguez, Andrea Zonca)

Here is my review of Hadoop Platform and Application Framework course offered on Coursera in Nov 2015. Course has the worst rankings of 1 out of 5 (very bad), while I passed with a 100% grade.

Technologies/Material: The course goes in more detail into Big Data databases + SQL/HQL languages to operate on data such as Pig and Hive. Splunk appears as a disjoint tool, whose primary purpose is to provide ease-of-use to data analysts & business analysts. It is obligatory to sign-up for Splunk e-mails and you will get those e-mails. In contrast, introduction to Spark Dataframes by Andrea Zonca in Week 5 is very well done and can serve as a starting point for writing own Big Data workflows. In addition, some real Pig and Hive scripts are provided for reference. Homework assignments are more interesting and more numerous, than for the previous course. They already hint at real world applications. At the time the course was offered, the Big Data specialization was downgraded in difficulty from Intermediate to beginner. As an improvement over the previous course, the lecture slides are finally provided. Quiz questions are edited without any notifications to students(!), for which the course rightly deserves its ranking. I posted hints in a course forum on how some quiz questions should be modified in order for the answers marked by the grader as correct to actually be correct. Hopefully, this made the experience of students slightly more bearable.

Instructor/lectures: the course has a large number of instructors (3), which does not help with coherent elaboration of the material. For this course, even the material in the same week is sometimes delivered by 2 people. All instructors are affiliated with the University of California, San Diego. Lectures often turn into reading the tutorials and even leaving an example half-way through without achieving a positive result(!) – see HBase tutorial in Week 1. Lectures end with 11min of black screen (!). Following very negative student feedback for this course the next course “Machine Learning With Big Data” is postponed.

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