Big Data and Social Analytics


Course information

Download the Course Prospectus to find out more.
8 weeks, excluding orientation
10 - 12 hours per week, entirely online
USD $2,300Payment Options
MIT School of Architecture and Planning
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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.

Social physics - a key focus of this 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.

These analytical findings can lead to more effective marketing, new revenue opportunities, better customer service, improved operational efficiency, competitive advantages over rival organizations as well as a range of other business benefits.

Download course prospectus

What will set you apart

Earn an MIT certificate in this online program and be empowered 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 the data at your disposal
  • Design interventions using your analysis that are intended to change behavior
  • Understand the unique perspective that social analytics provides for data analysis

Course curriculum

Hear from academic experts and industry thought leaders, such as Prof Alex Pentland, as you follow your learning path through the weekly modules of this online course.

  • 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: Network of Physical Interactions
  • Course Module 5: Second-order Analysis and Data Exploration
  • Course Module 6: Using Data to Effect Behavior Change
  • Course Module 7: Application of Big Data in Industry
  • Course Module 8: Data in Action

Technical but accessible

While a background in statistics and/or Python programming is not a requirement, it is recommended that you’ve had at least some basic exposure to the Python programming language or similar, as all students will engage with the technical elements of this course. You will not, however, be asked to write code from scratch - only to modify pre-written scripts and examine the effect of those minor adjustments.


Your Faculty Director

The design of this online program is guided by MIT faculty and industry experts who will share their experience and in-depth subject knowledge with you throughout the course.

Prof Alex Sandy Pentland


Prof Pentland is the founding faculty director of the MIT Connection Science Research Initiative, which uses network science to access and change real-world human behavior. He also holds a triple appointment at MIT in Media Arts and Sciences, Engineering Systems Division and with the Sloan School of Management, and has been called the “Father of Social Physics”.


Industry Experts


David Shrier


Lecturer & Futurist, MIT Media Lab

Xiaomen Dong


Postdoctoral Fellow, MIT Media Lab

Arek Stopcynsky


Visiting Researcher, MIT Media Lab


Cam Kerry


Public Policy Lawyer, Sidley Austion

Yves-Alexandre de Mont Joye


Visiting Researcher, MIT Media Lab

Earn a certificate from MIT SA+P

Get recognized for your unique perspective of big data analysis when you earn a certificate from the MIT School of Architecture and Planning. Your MIT certificate is proof of your competencies in big data analytics and the theory behind social physics, and sets you apart as a confident professional.

Certificates are issued in your legal name upon successfully completing a program. In order to earn your certificate, you must meet the stipulated requirements for course completion. The visual representation of the certificate here serves as an exemplar, and may be subject to change at the discretion of the University.

All certificate costs, including packaging and international delivery, are included in the course fee.

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Still have a question? These may help


    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 nine weeks and shorter. For courses ten weeks or longer, there is a three-part payment plan available. To find out more on payment options please visit our Payment and Financing page.

    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.


    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 Success Manager who will help you set goals and track key milestones, manage your time, and field any administrative requests you might have.


    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 it's 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 to receive financial assistance from your employer.


    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 and 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 Success Manager, you can use the Online Campus to get in touch.

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