Analytics software to be free for college students

Students need more access to analytics tools, professors say.

Knowledge of business analytics is a start, educators say, but hands-on experience with compiling and sorting through loads of data makes a recent graduate a popular commodity among private sector recruiters scouring college campuses.

That’s why business schools will provide free analytics software, SAS OnDemand for Academics (SODA), for college students to access outside the classroom. The software has been available to students in the classroom and lecture hall since last fall.

Even before the program becomes free to educators and their students to use off campus, SODA has impacted higher education.

The cloud computing-based service is used by more than 5,000 professors at 240 colleges and universities worldwide, according to SAS, which has been available for professors to use in class since 2008.

The company announced in April that, beginning next fall, free accounts will be provided to campus researchers on a “first-come, first-served basis,” and SAS spokesman Trent Smith said the company had not yet decided how many free accounts would be made available to educators.

“It will be based on the level of interest leading up to launch,” Smith said.

Researchers who use SODA will be able to store up to 5GB of data in the cloud-based system.

Bret Myers, a business professor at Villanova University, said providing free SODA accounts to students will give them nearly unlimited access to analytics software that they need to be familiar with to land sought-after jobs after graduation.

Many colleges and universities use analytics software with limited licenses, meaning a limited number of students can use the technology at one time. And even when students get their turn with the software, their time is capped to make time for their peers to use the program.

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