Big Data and Social Analytics certificate course


Discover a new way to think about big data analysis when you explore the theory behind "social analytics", and practically apply that knowledge as you learn pioneering data analytics techniques from the creators of those very tools and methods.

Course information

Download the Course Prospectus to find out more.
8 weeks online
8 - 12 hours per week
$2,300 | Options available
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Course Information

Download the Course Prospectus to find out more.
8 weeks online
8 - 12 hours per week
$2,300 | Options available
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Imagine what you could learn about humanity, and the way we interact not only with technology, but also each other, given the amount of data available to be analyzed. Now think about the impact that knowledge could have on business intelligence.

Social physics — a key focus of this short course — is described by Professor Alex Pentland, one of the world’s leading data scientists, as “statistics meets big data to understand people”.

It unlocks a whole new way to think about big data analytics by shifting focus to how the results of data analysis not only contribute to better decision making, but also how they can better assist humanity.

Download course prospectus

What will set you apart

You’ll walk away with the confidence to:

  • Analyze big data to better understand and predict human networks and behaviors in social structures
  • Improve business intelligence using the technical tools, datasets and code scripts associated with big data analysis
  • Understand exactly what kind of data you are dealing with in your role; conduct preliminary analysis and draw hypotheses about that data; and design interventions using that analysis that are intended to change behavior
  • If you want to become familiar with the technical and theoretical aspects of big data and social analytics, but not if you’re already a well-established social analytics data scientist. While a background in statistics and/or Python programming is not a requirement, it is highly recommended that you’ve had exposure to the Python programming language or similar.

Course curriculum

This MIT-backed online short course in big data and social analytics is designed to give you the flexibility to work when it suits you. You’ll receive continued support and guidance from a tutor and Performance Coach as you progress through the weekly modules in your own time.

  • Orientation module: Welcome to your Online Campus
  • Course Module 1: Foundations of big data and social physics
  • Course Module 2: Personal sensors and human behavior
  • Course Module 3: First-order analysis and data exploration
  • Course Module 4: Networks of physical interactions
  • Course Module 5: Second-order analysis and data exploration
  • Course Module 6: Using data to affect behavior change
  • Course Module 7: Application of big data in industry
  • Course Module 8: Data in action

This short course starts with an Orientation period of 10 days to give students a chance to familiarize themselves with the course structure and requirements, explore the Online Campus, and meet peers on the class discussion forum. After Orientation, 8 academic content modules are released weekly every Wednesday.

MIT Instructors

Alex “Sandy” Pentland is founding faculty director of the MIT Connection Science Research Initiative, which uses network science to access and change real-world human behavior, and holds a triple appointment at MIT in Media Arts and Sciences, Engineering Systems Division and with the Sloan School of Management. Sandy is a founding member of advisory boards for Google, AT&T, Nissan, and the UN Secretary General, and a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded more than a dozen companies, including two hedge funds. Sandy currently advises on data/analytics to the UN Secretary General and the boards of AT&T, Google, Telefonica and others.



Managing Director of MIT Connection Science

Dave leads new initiatives for MIT, advises the European Commission on commercializing innovation and building regional innovation capacity, and counsels leadership at private and public companies on growth strategies.


Research Scientist at MIT Media Lab

Yves-Alexandre recently received his PhD in computational privacy from MIT. His research on the shortcomings of anonymization has appeared in reports of the World Economic Forum, European Commission, and the OECD. Yves-Alexandre worked for the Boston Consulting Group and acted as an expert for both the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations.



Visiting Researcher at MIT Media Lab

Arek is currently a Data Scientist working in People Analytics, and a Postdoctoral Fellow at both the Technical University of Denmark and at MIT Media Lab (Human Dynamics Group). Arek is particularly interested in mobile technologies, and how they can be used to learn more about human beings.



Postdoctoral Fellow in the Human Dynamics Group at the MIT Media Lab

His research focuses on emerging signal processing and machine learning techniques on graphs, and their applications to the understanding of human behavior, decision making and societal changes.Prior to joining MIT, he received his PhD degree in Signal Processing from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland.



Public policy lawyer at Sidley Austin, and speaker and writer on Public Policy & Technology at Brookings Institution and MIT

Cam Kerry applies his experience as a government thought leader on technology and public policy to current issues in these areas. His work focuses especially on privacy and information security, and the application of privacy principles to fast-changing global business and technology. He is the Former General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Earn a certificate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT's mandate is to advance knowledge in areas that will serve to address the 21st century's great challenges by educating students in fields of scholarship that will best serve the world. To this end, MIT’s Experimental Learning (MIT XL) is collaborating with online education leaders, GetSmarter, to present this course entirely online and part-time.

Still have a question? These may help


GetSmarter’s learning model is designed to help you as a working professional, improve your skills without compromising on work and family responsibilities. The course work is broken up into weekly, manageable bite-sized modules, with incremental deadlines, designed to help you pace yourself over the duration of the course and allow you the legroom to work when it suits you best.

At the beginning of each week you’ll be presented with all the lectures, notes and assignments necessary for completion.

You also have access to your Course Coach who will help you set goals and track key milestones, manage your time, and field any administrative requests you might have.


You can either pay your tuition fees in full before the course starts, or you may opt for a two-part payment plan for courses shorter than nine weeks. For courses nine weeks or longer, there is a three-part payment plan available.

If you want to find out more about any of these options or you want to know which you qualify for, please get in contact with a Course Consultant here.


By improving your skills and industry knowledge, you’ll be having an influence on the success of your organisation.

Why wouldn’t you ask your boss to help you fund your studies if itʼs going to have an impact on the way you do business?

37% of our past students receive financial assistance from their employers. You can ask for help, too. Here is a guide to show you how.


The Online Campus will be your virtual classroom for the duration of your course. Through its easy-to-use interface you’ll have access to a diverse variety of course content formats, including: interactive video lectures, module notes, practice quizzes, Prezis, assignment briefs, and additional web resources.

On the Online Campus, you’ll also be able to ask questions, interact with your fellow students and Head Tutor through the Online Campus discussion forums. If you’re experiencing tech issues or need advice from your personal Course Coach, you can use the Online Campus to get in touch.

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