The learning platform is fast paced and a great way to get your feet wet, but it won?t make you a professional data scientist.
Disclaimer: This is not a paid posting ? I do not have any relationship with Datacamp (outside of being a subscriber), nor am I using a referral link in this post. This article represents my independent opinion as a user of the platform.
You can read my 2020 update here.
When I began digging deeper into data science I quickly realized that I needed to find a way to learn the basics beyond random googling and reading articles on r/datascience or Towards Data Science. I wanted to begin learning R or python ? the fundamental languages used in datascience, but I didn?t know where to start. I considered an MOOC, but the daunting combination of breadth and upfront cost made me feel overwhelmed. Luckily, through a thread on r/datascience, I found Datacamp.
Getting your Feet Wet
Photo by Marko Horvat on Unsplash
Datacamp offers many of their courses for free, and even more that you can start for free, including their introduction to python. Now a data science ?course? might conjure up feelings of fear and anxiety, of daunting assignments that might take weeks to finish, but all of Datacamp?s courses list the amount of time required to complete them, and almost all of them (at least the ones I?ve seen) are around four hours long.
Eating the Elephant, One Small Bite at a Time
That?s one of Datacamp?s strongest features: it takes a daunting task(learning data science) and breaks it up into manageable courses, which are further broken down into interactive assignments and video lessons. Each video is usually around five minutes or less, each assignment is designed to only take a few minutes to complete, and they build off one another beautifully. If you get stuck along the way there are always hints, but Datacamp also gamifies their lessons to encourage you to try your best giving you more points for finding the solution on your own.
Because Datacamp?s assignments build on one another in small increments that are extremely manageable manageable, it?s easy to string together a chapter or two of completed assignments in under an hour, leaving you with a much deeper sense of accomplishment and productivity than you?d typically feel after, say, an hour of dealing with a bug you can?t seem to fix.
What Datacamp Does Well
Datacamp is a great way to get your feet wet and start building the ?yes, I can do this? confidence anyone needs to succeed when learning a new skill. Even if you?re not a beginner ? maybe you?re working through an MOOC or a publicly shared college data science course ? Datacamp?s structure means it?s perfect for those short hour-or-less stretches of free time that aren?t as effectively spent starting to wrap your head around a problem only to be forced to put it down again when your time is up. Because it?s assignments are so incremental, it?s also easy to leave a course midway and pick it up again a week later ? if you have to rewatch a video or two, they?re only five minutes long!
I?ve also found their ?Track? structure useful when their volume of courses seems daunting and you want a path to follow. I?m around two thirds through their ?Data Scientist with Python? track and can honestly say that it?s given me a broad exposure and foundation in a variety of core skills and concepts.
What Datacamp Doesn?t Do
Because Datacamp excels at giving you the quick wins and keeping you moving through the curriculum, it does sacrifice some depth. While it?s tremendously helpful at getting your feet wet, most of the assignments come with much of the code already written, and some is literally fill in the blank. It?s not a magic bullet, and there?s no replacement for investing the time (and yes, frustration) in an MOOC or university course.
Let?s Talk About Price
This is one area where I know folks can get hung up, and understandably. Datacamp costs $300 for a yearly subscription, which comes out to $25 a month. For many, I understand this is prohibitively expensive, and given the choice between the subscription and a brand new Nintendo Switch, well?
Anyway, I think about it like a gym membership: the more I use it, the more value I?m getting for my money. If you spend only 2 hours a week on the platform, you can complete around 24 courses in a year, and you?ll only have paid $12.50 per course. Doesn?t sound too bad any more, does it? It?s also important to remember that you?re investing in yourself, and while I?m a firm believer you don?t need to spend a dime to learn data science, Datacamp is cheaper than most bootcamps and some MOOC?s.
Datacamp is a great non-MOOC introduction to coding in data science. It?s easy to get started, free to get started, and allows you to get value out of a random free hour, set it down and pick it back up again in a way that?s pretty hard for an MOOC to replicate. However, Datacamp will absolutely not make you a professional data scientist by itself ? just like going to the gym every day won?t make you a professional athlete. However, it will help you stay in shape, learn new skills, build your confidence, and get you ready for the next level.
You can read my 2020 update on Datacamp here.