Associate Professor and Program Lead
Students master analytics, increase real-world skills
National University brings SAS® into to the classroom to educate students today for the jobs of tomorrow
National University (NU)'s value proposition is compelling: a fully accredited university with an innovative one-class-per-month immersive curriculum, dozens of campus locations, online learning options, undergraduate- and graduate-degree programs, affordable tuition, and an emphasis on the aptitudes and competencies that employers value most.
That focus on skills is particularly critical in NU’s School of Health and Human Services, which offers master’s degrees in health and life science analytics and health informatics. Classes in the program include “Healthcare Outcomes Research,” “Analytic Models and Data Systems” and "Clinical Research Analytics,” says Tyler Smith, Associate Professor and Program Lead.
After they catch on, they love it – especially when they learn SAS® Enterprise Guide® and can visually create their own models. And they know that their future employers want those skills, so that's very motivating, too.
"To have a world-class health analytics program, we need world-class analytic tools for our students," Smith says. "And, in a competitive economy, we recognize that it's essential that our graduates have the skills to meet employer expectations. That's why we're standardizing on the use of SAS at our university. Part of my mandate is to get people to integrate SAS within their curricula – and the response has been tremendous."
A popular addition to classrooms
Previously, NU had acquired or used several different analysis tools for its students – but hadn't standardized on a solution across its classrooms and programs. When Smith arrived, one of his first moves was to implement SAS OnDemand for Academics, which provides no-cost software to professors for teaching and to students for learning data management and analytics.
"We conducted a three-day on-site workshop here and it was a turn-away crowd," Smith says. "Many of the faculty knew about SAS but hadn't used it at NU, so this was a great way for them to learn about SAS and understand how to integrate it into their courses and teaching styles."
Initially, NU faculty focused on using SAS for secondary data analysis in higher-level courses. Today, even introductory courses in the school's Master of Public Health program use SAS early in assignments.
A recent CEPH accreditation for that program could triple enrollment, meaning as many as 1,000 students could be using SAS within 18 months. "The other programs we were using weren't giving our students what they needed," Smith says, "and the skills that employers wanted – sophisticated analytical and data management skills that SAS facilitates – weren't there."
"To the students, analytics can seem like a black box at first," he adds. "But once we show them how they can come up with a hypothesis and pull a half-million public-health records into SAS and redo their analyses in a couple of hours – well, that gets their attention. It gets them past that initial fear and empowers them. Early on – they're intimidated by the topics, no question. But after they catch on, they love it – especially when they learn SAS Enterprise Guide and can visually create their own models. And they know that their future employers want those skills, so that's very motivating, too."
From a support and operations perspective, SAS has been easy for NU to adopt and maintain IT supports installation, provisioning and maintenance, including help with questions about licensing and availability. Functional and programming questions go to the professors.
NU plans to expand its use of SAS to other departments and schools, including the nursing program and the doctorate of nursing practice degree. Soon, the university expects to roll out SAS to its School of Engineering, Technology and Media and to its School of Business Management.
Provide a standardized and sophisticated toolset in classrooms for the benefit of faculty, students and the employers who will hire graduates in the future.
With SAS now a standard in many parts of the university, faculty and students alike benefit. Faculty can depend on SAS for gold-standard statistical and analysis tools, as well as SAS technical support, which greatly relieves the IT burden. Students become proficient in their field of study and develop SAS skills that are highly valued by prospective employers.