Management and Leadership

Big Data 4Dx (online)

Certificate Track: Management and Leadership

Tuition: $1,950

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There are currently no sessions of Big Data 4Dx scheduled. Please subscribe to the email list (at right), and we will notify you when new session dates are added.

Big Data 4Dx is a new, live, online offering of our popular Big Data program. Participants in this online session will attend, in a virtual environment, the live session of Big Data being held in Cambridge on October 15-16, 2013. The online program will be conducted in conjunction with the on-campus session, and will feature the same faculty, content, discussions, and exercises.

Big Data: Making Complex Things Simpler 

"In the past, IT worked primarily with finance to run reports, which were often used to justify decisions leaders had already made. That is changing with big data. Managers are analyzing enormous data sets to discover new patterns and running controlled experiments to test hypothesis. Decision making that was once based on hunches and intuition is now driven by data and knowledge."Erik Brynjolfsson

Today, businesses can measure their activities and customer relationships with unprecedented precision. As a result, they are awash with data. This is particularly evident in the digital economy, where clickstream data give precisely targeted and real-time insights into consumer behavior, but leading edge companies in every industry are using big data to replace intuition and guesswork.

This program prepares you to understand and lead this revolution in your organizations by:

  • collecting many different forms of information gathered from inside and outside your organization
  • developing new knowledge from that information, for example, discovering patterns of customer behavior
  • using this information in a collaborative way to improve both productivity and strategic decision making in real time

Collectively, the practices taught in this program constitute a new kind of "R&D" that draws on the strengths of digitization to speed innovation, increase customer loyalty, and improve execution.

Learning Experience

Based on research in MIT’s Media Lab and the MIT Center for Digital Business, Professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Sandy Pentland will explore how big data changes the way IT interacts with the rest of the organization, cutting across business units and functions to create new value, and how it can have a huge impact on business results. They draw on the world-leading research that has made the big data revolution possible.

Through examples, case studies, and discussion in buzz groups, participants will learn how organizations are using big data effectively in fields as diverse as marketing, retailing, branches of government and healthcare. The program will encourage participants to apply these concepts in the context of their own organizations—including defining problems that could benefit from the application of big data concepts, brainstorming sources of data, and designing experiments to collect and analyze data in ways that are acceptable to customers—to create new value.

Learn about the online classroom experience.

Participants in this program will learn:

  • How several key technologies and applications are driving the big data revolution.
  • How nanodata and nowcasting can be used to improve forecasts and predictions
  • Common pitfalls in using big data
  • The design of controlled experiments to sort out causality
  • Specific case examples from retailing, marketing, real estate, human resources and other applications
  • How to recognize opportunities in your own industry or function
  • The organizational and cultural complements and inhibitors to the data-driven decision-making.
  • How to use the Matrix of Change tool to plan and executing a transition to a data driven organization
  • The roles of privacy and data ownership
  • Develop a concrete action plan

"You should think of data roughly the way you think of money, it’s something you own, it’s something you can loan to people, but you want to get something back in exchange for it, such as a more useful search engine or real time traffic information."Sandy Pentland

Big Data 4Dx is designed for senior executives and managers interested in learning more about the big data revolution and how they can use big data in their own organizations. Participants include:

  • Senior management
  • CTO
  • Chief Marketing Officer
  • Customer relationship people
  • Business Intelligence
  • Government Security
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Web Analytics

This new online offering of the Big Data program will give people who might not otherwise be able to travel to MIT the opportunity to attend online and experience first-hand the value of MIT executive education programs.

  • Big Data 4Dx is an exciting new initiative at MIT, and the first executive education program in the world to use the AvayaLive Engage technology. This program is designed for individuals who value the online nature of the the program experience as well as the Big Data program itself. To participate in the program, applicants must meet the following requirements:

    1. Submit a program application, noting your personal interest in both the online experience and the big data content.
    2. Attend a mandatory information/training session in the virtual classroom prior to the program dates to make sure that you are comfortable with the technology.
    3. During the program, participants are expected to be actively engaged in and complete the full two-day session in order to earn a certificate of completion, which will also count as credit towards an MIT Sloan Executive Certificate as per our normal classroom-based programs. We will be using both live facilitators and technical usage statistics to monitor participation, activity, and engagement throughout the program. We will use these data to fine-tune the program in real time and to help us understand and improve the learning experience for future programs. 

    You can visit the MIT Sloan AvayaLive Engage™ classroom before your infomation session (which will be scheduled after your application is received) to confirm that you have the necessary plug-ins installed and ensure that you do not have any firewalls blocking the platform. (If you are unable to enter the classroom without a password, that means that a class or information session is currently taking place; please try again later.) A USB stereo headset with microphone is highly recommended to allow you to fully experience the revolutionary 4D environment. Please refer to this "cheat sheet" to help you move about in the virtual space.


  • The virtual classroom space includes a main auditorium where the live lectures can be viewed. Below, the on-site classroom can be seen in the right-hand screen, while documents, presentations, and website are displayed in the other two screens. The entrance marked D on the far right is one of several break-out rooms used for smaller discussions and team projects.


    Participants can move around the room, closer to or further from the main stage. They can also approach another participant if they would like to speak with them.


    By clicking on any of the screens, the view expands to full-screen on your monitor. Below, the classroom view was expanded to zoom in on the faculty (Erik Brynjolfsson).  


    Zooming in on one screen also allows the online participants to get a closer view of the on-campus participants.









  • Big Data 4Dx will be conducted using AvayaLive EngageTM, a web-based, immersive collaboration environment which goes far beyond the typical one-to-many presentation dynamic of online education. Unlike the passive nature of most online courses whereby participants simply view a pre-recorded lecture, Big Data 4Dx will be a completely engaging, live experience in which participants interact in a “4D” virtual room with the faculty and fellow students via personalized “avatars.” The participants will be able to talk and move around, and they will feel like they, not just their avatars, are present in the classroom at MIT. The online attendees will be participating in the same, live class as the on-campus students. The course faculty, Erik Brynjolfsson and Sandy Pentland, will periodically use their own avatars to pop into the virtual environment to engage with the online participants.

    AvayaLive Engage utilizes a unique “4D” technology that allows visitors to the virtual space to not only move about in a 3D environment but also enjoy the added benefit of spatial/positional audio capability. Research shows that the way information is received aurally is critical to conveying a true “being-there” feeling. AvayaLive Engage delivers a genuinely spatial audio experience that enables listeners to become directionally attuned to the location of voices and sounds. As participants move about the room, the voices of other participants will become louder or softer, depending on proximity. This allows for smaller, break-out group discussions within the virtual classroom. In addition to the 4D experience within the online classroom, participants will also be able to view the activity taking place live in the on-campus classroom, getting to know the faculty and participants located at MIT. Similarly, the virtual classroom will be projected in the MIT classroom, allowing the on-campus participants to see the avatars and engage with the online participants.

    AvayaLive Engage was successfully used at TEDx Boston 2012 to allow people to attend the event virtually. This article describes what it was like to attend TEDx online.      

    View images of the online environment.

  • Please see the program schedule on the Big Data page.

Faculty Spotlight

Alex Pentland

Alex `Sandy' Pentland directs MIT's Human Dynamics Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, and advises the World Economic Forum, Nissan Motor Corporation, and a variety of start-up firms... more
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Program Brochure

View the MIT Sloan Big Data 4Dx (online) Interactive Brochure