Data analysis tool offered to campuses free of charge

“Lab hours are somewhat restricted, and you only have so many copies in one lab on the campus,” said Richard Sundheim, an information systems professor at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minn., where IT faculty use the SAS analytics program. “A lot of students like to work after midnight. For them, being able to access SAS from their home computer over the internet and not having to go during lab hours is a big plus.”

SAS said the software is made for faculty hoping to teach their students how to make sense of massive amounts of data in a way that will prepare them for life in the professional world, where they won’t have preconceived college homework problems to solve during the work day.

SAS announced the free offer April 12 at its annual user conference in Seattle, where IT professionals from a variety of fields gathered to discuss the advantages of analyzing huge amounts of data and using the information to make key business decisions.

Alan Olinsky, professor of applied math at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., said making the OnDemand for Academics program more widely accessible would meet a growing demand in higher education for statistics-based courses and the advanced analytics required to understand reams of undigested information.

“When interviewers see SAS and data mining, it’s a very big plus on the [student’s] résumé,” Olinsky said in the April 12 SAS announcement. “There is so much data out there; we just don’t have enough people to analyze it. Statistics is becoming very popular, and SAS is an integral part of that.”

SAS officials said the analytics software will let college students measure business strategies against results, pinpoint areas for improvement, and design scorecards that keep track of complex data pulled into the SAS system.

“While students can access SAS at no cost, professors remain the gatekeepers,” said Ron Statt, product development manager for the SAS Education Practice. “We want to ensure that SAS is integrated into coursework in a thoughtful and effective manner, providing students [with] the most engaging experience [possible].”

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