Colleges are working to meet demand for big data analysis with burgeoning degree and non-degree programs.
To keep up with the explosion of big data across all industries, college and universities have debuted dozens of data analytics programs during the past few years.These programs — ranging from week-long, immersive training camps to bachelor’s and master’s degrees — teach students how to find patterns, predictions, stories and meaning in massive, messy sets of data, according to Matthew Neal, a professor of mathematics and data analytics at Denison University.
Denison launched an undergraduate data analytics major last fall, and a pilot course in introductory data analytics is underway this spring. Neal is teaching about half of the 80 students enrolled in the course, which is significant for Denison, a small liberal arts college in Ohio with about 2,000 students.
The program has “really taken off more than we thought it would,” said Jessen Havill, a professor of computer science and director of the new data analytics program at Denison. About 50 freshmen and sophomores have declared data analytics as their major, he said, making it comparable to the size of the established computer science program and even more popular than the mathematics program.
Denison planned the program for about two years before it launched, Havill said. At the time, in 2014, few data analytics degree programs existed, so Denison created its from scratch. Officials at several other colleges said the same thing — they had few models so they built their own.
This fall, the University of Texas at Dallas is rolling out a master’s program in social data analytics, which will focus on incorporating data from fields like geography, sociology, criminology and political science, said Simon Fass, director of the new master’s program. Students will learn how to apply statistics, computer programming and data visualization skills to the social sciences.
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