Online mentor-guided data science school launched in SA

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South African startup The Gradient Boost has launched an online mentor-guided data science school to accelerate learning processes.

The Gradient Boost, which has just officially launched its “Introduction to Data Science” course, is looking to make digital learning more effective by combining it with mentorship.

“We believe that the learning process is accelerated if a person is guided by a mentor who has practical experience working as a data scientist. This helps to ensure that learners start practically applying what they learn from the get go,” said co-founder Emmanuel Sibanda.

The 3-4 month “Introduction to Data Science” course includes modules on Python, SQL, Statistics, Data Visualisation, Linear Algebra and some Machine Learning. It focuses on introducing these modules to a learner with limited to no programming or statistics exposure. Learners have two virtual 45-minute tutorials with a mentor each week to ask questions on what they are learning via the digital course.

Sibanda said MOOCs and other e-learning startups were increasing access to well-packaged information like never before, with data science and programming bootcamps like Lambda School and Springboard also adding mentorship and peer-to-peer learning to their platforms. However, access to those platforms for Africans can be expensive.

The Gradient Boost aims to fill the gap.

“We are all aware of the potential of digital innovations in accelerating our continent’s growth and we all have an understanding of how the Data Science, Data Analytics and Data Engineering space play a key role in harnessing data to drive the growth of these digital innovations across the continent,” Sibanda said.

For the first cohort, the startup is limiting intake to 25 students, so as to maintain a five-to-one student-to-mentor ratio. Students are charged a US$350 fee for the entire course, which they can pay in installments, while there are also three free spots available. 

“The biggest challenge is ensuring that we deliver the best Introduction to Data Science course, so investing more time and effort in fully understanding what each learner struggles with and possibly customising how our course is structured based on individual outcomes,” said Sibanda.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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