2U, Inc. is well known around our neck of the woods simply because of its revolutionary take on higher education. A company bent on creating the best online educational experience possible in partnership with some of the most respectable universities across the nation, 2U has provided colleges like Georgetown, GW, and American with the technology, infrastructure, resources, and capital they need to transform their programs into cutting edge online courses. What’s more, they’re even trying solve national problems through their access to university campuses.

UC Berkeley and 2U announced the launch of the country’s first fully online Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) degree program on Wednesday as a way to tackle the ever growing decline of well established data scientists in the U.S. And with America set to face a shortage of up to 190,000 people who have such refined analytical skills by 2018, the combined effort put forward by UC Berkeley and 2U could not be more appropriate.

“This new degree program is in response to a dramatically growing need for well-trained big data professionals who can organize, analyze, and interpret the deluge of often messy and unorganized data available from the web, sensor networks, mobile devices, and elsewhere,” AnnaLee Saxenian, Dean of Berkeley’s School of Information (I School), explained in a press release.

“These new professionals need an assortment of skills ranging from math, programming, communication to management, statistics, engineering, and social sciences, not to mention a deep curiosity and an ability to translate technical jargon into everyday English,” she added.

The 27-unit program won’t officially kick off until January 2014, but there’s already great hope for this up-and-coming opportunity for there’s nothing that even compares to this series of online courses. Other schools offer certificates, associate master’s degrees, and even classes on an individual basis, but no other institution has ventured online to offer a full-fledged masters degree in data science.

According to a press release from UC Berkeley, students who choose to partake in the MIDS program will enlist in “live, face-to-face classes with fellow students and professors via the Web.” Classes will be small, no more than 15 to 20 students, with lectures, interactive case studies, and group assignments included as part of the online experience. Students will also be required to do a one-week immersion program at UC Berkeley’s I School where they can really get a feel for the tech environment in California.

In terms of who will be teaching the classes, it will be the I School faculty charged with the curriculum as well as data science professionals known for their vast amount of experience. They will be instructing on a wide range of topics from introduction to machine learning and data storage and retrieval to the privacy, security, and ethics of data.

As for why this program was developed, it’s not only because of the future shortage of data scientists, it’s that data scientists are such an integral part of our economic prosperity.

“Data science and big data are a very important place for job growth,” said Chip Paucek, CEO and co-founder of 2U. “I know, as a CEO, I will end up hiring several people from the program” mainly because their talent and their aptitude for such analytical artistry are rare and valuable. Not to mention the fact that big data is the next frontier for innovation.

Now it’s time for D.C. area schools to follow suit and advance just as UC Berkeley has thanks to the use of the 2U platform.