IBM Takes Its Big Data Analytics To Academia

IBM’s programme to spread its business analytics products to universities embraces Scotland and Northern Ireland

IBM announced that it is working with universities around the world to bring advanced analytics training into the lecture theatre.

The company announced it is expanding its academic initiatives for business analytics with new programmes in China, India, Ireland and Scotland, helping students to keep pace with the competitive job market by gaining skills in this fast-growing field of technology.

Information overload

IBM said people create the equivalent of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data from sensors, mobile devices, online transactions and social networks every day– so much that 90 percent of the world’s data has been generated in the past two years. This amounts to more data than organisations can effectively use without applying analytics, IBM said.

The new programmes will provide students and faculty members with access to the latest IBM software capabilities and thinking on how advanced analytics can be applied to tackle complex business and societal challenges.

According to the 2010 IBM Institute for Business Value and MIT Sloan Management Review of nearly 3,000 executives worldwide, the biggest challenge is the lack of understanding in how to use analytics to gain insights that can improve business outcomes. In response to market demand, universities are incorporating analytics curricula and courseware into a variety of degree programmes to educate college students in this growing field.

The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) is introducing several new courses to its School of Computing curriculum, including data mining, business intelligence and knowledge management, IBM said. Plans to expand the analytics course offerings to non-IT and non-finance students are underway.

“Beyond teaching business and IT skills, we are preparing students for future job opportunities with new analytics courses,” Malcolm Crowe, a professor at the University of the West of Scotland, said in a statement. “UWS is adding new courses in direct response to the recommendations of regional employers. They have specifically advised the School of Computing that important computing skills, such as business analytics, are in demand and will help graduates secure jobs.”

At the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland’s largest university, students are using analytics software in a variety of application areas allowing them to collect hidden data and applying knowledge that seemed impossible to find before that can now be uncovered.

Major development in India

In India, IBM is working with faculty members from 500 universities to help more than 30,000 students develop skills in predictive analytics. As part of the programme, IBM will conduct a series of training programmes with business school faculty concentrating on predictive and business analytics, in 15 major cities throughout India. The faculty members will complete a certification process in analytics at the end of the programme, IBM said.

Once certified, they will begin to teach students about how analytics can be applied to their topic of study. The learning will involve access to predictive analytics technology and will focus on how to act on the results the analytics technology uncovers.

“I have been using IBM predictive analytics technology in a number of programmes at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta,” Sahadeb Sarkar, a professor in the operations management group at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM), said in a statement. “I hope this initiative will help teachers in universities to learn and include analytics in existing courses and design new curriculum that will helps students gain a top-notch education to meet the demands of today’s businesses and government organisations.”

Xi’an Jiao Tong University in China, in cooperation with IBM’s China Development Lab in Xi’an, has developed business analytics-oriented curriculum and project training materials, and planned a series of technical salons and speeches focusing on analytics, IBM said. These activities cover Cognos, SPSS and many best practices and tips integrated and tailored by the China Development Lab, and this analytics curriculum is planned to be replicated at six other Chinese universities in the future, IBM said.

Global spread

These universities join schools around the world, including Northwestern University, Yale School of Management, Fordham University, DePaul University, University of Southern California and University of Ottawa Telfer School of Management, that are working with IBM to develop and implement undergraduate and graduate curriculae and training courses on business analytics.

Some of the early analytics projects underway at the university level were inspired by IBM’s Watson technology. IBM officials said the development of Watson sparked the interest of many students in math and computer science. IBM has teamed up with universities to work on the sophisticated technology associated with Watson’s deep question-and-answer capabilities, giving more than 10,000 students exposure to analytics technology.

“Through IBM’s Academic Initiative, universities are adding analytics to their course offerings, establishing new degree programmes, and now we are seeing an acceleration in global demand for training in analytics,” said Jim Corgel, general manager of IBM’s Academic Initiative, in a statement. “By combining IBM’s leadership in analytics with its global reach, we will begin to bridge the gap to better equip students for new job opportunities.”

Through its Academic Initiative, IBM is making its software, courseware and curricula available to nearly 6,000 universities and more than 30,000 faculty to advance technology skills.