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Universities closing Big Data talent gap but need real data

Thor Olavsrud | May 2, 2013
Higher education is stepping up its efforts to teach big data analytics and business intelligence, but professors say they need businesses that depend on data to work with them to provide students with real data and real business problems to solve.

On the other hand, one-third of employer practitioners who responded said their top challenge was overall lack of experience. Other challenges included insufficient business skills (26 percent), insufficient technical skills and a general lack of candidates (both at 22 percent).

"We need organizations to share their business problems so we know what we should be teaching," Wixom says. "Until that happens in a strong way, we still aren't going to be able to deliver students who can start off running as they begin their careers."

"Frankly, accessing big data sets is not the problem," she adds. "Anybody can go to and grab a big data set. A data set is not enough to teach with. You need a data set packaged with pedagogical resources as well as business problems for students to solve with that data."

Organizations are beginning to step up to the plate through academic alliances like the Teradata University Network, which currently includes more than 3,400 faculty, more than 1,600 universities in 95 countries and thousands of users. But Wixom says academics need more companies to step forward.

"If you're in an industry where you need data, you need to be engaging with universities," she says. "I think companies in general need to be more engaged."

Universities, she says, need organizations that will send analytics professionals to appear as speakers, provide sanitized data sets and business problems and offer internships that provide students with the experience they need.

"We are expanding our reach to include more corporate partners to broaden our coverage in marketing and analytics," says Ramesh Sharda, executive director, Teradata University Network and director of the PhD in Business for Executives program. "We are expanding our scope to be able to support analytics coverage for marketing and computer science colleagues. We are constantly adding new content from faculty members who share their knowledge and coursework."

"Through the supporting materials made available by corporations and by faculty colleagues, such as real case studies, software, data sets, videos and other tools, we now have a large pool of students around the world who are learning why analytics should be used, how it is used, and how the strategy and technology mix together," Sharda adds.


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