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August 19, 2014

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Data Science Specialization MOOC Series Launches Industry Collaboration with SwiftKey

SwiftKey is a developer of mobile keyboard and language prediction technology


The Johns Hopkins Data Science Specialization, a series of nine massive open online courses (MOOCs) offered by the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Biostatistics through the education platform Coursera, is tapping the private sector to enhance its certification curriculum with real-world applications. Starting this fall, SwiftKey, a London-based company that specializes in keyboard and language prediction technology, will develop capstone projects for the final course of the Data Science Specialization Certificate.

SwiftKey’s app, also known as SwiftKey, is a top- selling Android app: a downloadable keyboard for mobile devices that facilitates fast typing through text and language recognition. In 2012 and 2013, SwiftKey was the best selling app on Google Play, and remains one of the most popular keyboard apps. There is also an iPhone version.

MOOCs are part of a growing trend in online education that aims to bring high-level instruction from faculty at leading institutions free of charge to anyone who has the interest and access to the Internet. Launched in 2012 by two Stanford professors, Coursera today offers more than 600 classes by instructors at over 100 institutions. In addition to the Data Science Specialization courses, the Bloomberg School currently offers 24 other MOOCs.

“SwiftKey is the perfect collaborator for us,” says Jeff Leek, PhD, an associate professor of biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-director of the Data Science Specialization classes. “They are on the cutting edge of predictive text analytics and will bring unique insights to the course from which the students will be able to benefit.”

The Hopkins Data Science Specialization series consists of nine courses covering the whole data science process. Data science is a field dedicated to identifying, collecting, refining, analyzing and interpreting data in a wide range of areas, from finance to public health. Every course runs for a month and they are free to all students. To earn a verified certificate, students pay a fee, often $49 per course. To complete the Data Science Specialization Certificate, students must have earned verified certificates in all nine Data Science Specialization courses and successfully completed the tenth “capstone” course.

During its first five months, more than 800,000 learners enrolled in the Hopkins Data Science Specialization courses. More than 14,000 completed at least one  of the nine data science MOOCs with a verified certificate. In the first five months, 266 students had completed all nine classes.

As part of the culminating project, SwiftKey will work with the Hopkins Data Science Specialization team to develop the course project and weekly milestones, identify data sets, and interact with and provide feedback to students. Students will collaborate with SwiftKey engineers to learn the basic steps of developing text prediction systems. Through text analysis and cleaning, sampling, prediction and evaluation, students will build a minimum viable product for text prediction.

“SwiftKey is thrilled to contribute to the capstone Data Science project,” says Juha Iso-Sipilä, SwiftKey’s head of research. “We will provide practical tips and teach the students using our experience in high performance text prediction. We are looking forward to delivering a diverse and interesting course that will introduce students to the world of language processing and machine learning.”

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has been active in online public health education since 1997, when it began offering for-credit online courses to full- and part-time students. In addition to its 24 current MOOCs, the School currently offers over 110 for-credit online courses and publishes teaching materials from 112 courses through the Bloomberg School’s OpenCourseWare, its “open educational resources” portal, making it one of the world’s largest providers of online public health education.

Enrollment in the Johns Hopkins Data Science Specialization courses is ongoing on Coursera. 

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Media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Barbara Benham at or 410-614-6029 Stephanie Desmon at or 410-955-7619.