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Teaching Analytics in the Era of Big Data

Teaching Analytics in the Era of Big Data


big-data-in-online-educationBy Dr. Thomas J. Schaefer
Program Director, Marketing and Economics at American Public University

Today we have a tremendous amount of data available at our fingertips.  It can be easy to get overwhelmed.  It can also be easy to get lured into a false sense of having all the answers.  Not all data is clean and reliable; the old adage of “garbage in, garbage out” comes to mind.

Today’s employees, especially those in a management capacity, need to be comfortable working with large amounts of data. Success starts with an understanding of proper analysis techniques and methods. More does not always translate to better and the concept of sampling is very powerful.

Those that understand data and can harness the power contained within will have bright futures.  Most organizations only have a surface level understanding of the meaningful information found in data repositories.  This is information, when leveraged properly, can direct organizations on where to focus product efforts, how to brand, and what customers want.  Additionally, data can offer insight into profit maximization through segmentation and stratification.  Data analysis in conjunction with business acumen allows organizations to move away from acting on instinct and perception to making decisions based on facts on hand.

A solid undergraduate marketing program will include a course in marketing research that leverages mathematics course concepts and the principles of accounting and finance to gain understanding of the power of data analysis.  Students need to understand how to make decisions using data analytics, including problem definition and solution, data collection methods, sampling, research design, statistical techniques, and survey planning.  This foundation can then used as the footing for more specific courses on marketing strategy, branding, and marketing management.

At American Public University, we offer a concentration in Business Analysis as part of the Bachelor of Business Administration program.  In addition to the marketing related concepts noted above, this concentration allows students to gain an understanding on how to establish business needs, problem identification, analysis processes, and to develop functional business capabilities using both theory and case studies.  Project management as it relates to business analysts is also covered.

Data analysis is an essential part of modern business, and can be developed into an area of core competency.  Despite this, it is important to recognize that data only tells part of the story.  Data analysis is only of real value when it is used to support and underpin the business strategy of the organization.  Without a robust understanding of the business, goals, and strategies the results of data analysis can easily become out of alignment.

About the Author:

Dr. Thomas Schaefer is a program director and associate professor at American Public University System. He has served in a variety of senior management positions within Fortune 500 companies. His educational background includes a Doctorate of Business Administration in Management and a Masters of Business Administration in International Trade from Argosy University. Dr. Schaefer provides guidance and services to large and medium sized organizations who are seeking to enhance and refine organizational effectiveness, business process, and overall profitability.