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Inside and Outside the Classroom, Scheller College and the Business Analytics Center Continue Innovation in Business Analytics Education

The high demand for business analytics classes and experiential learning opportunities at Scheller continues to grow. From student practicums to traditional academic classroom coursework to student research, Georgia Tech is a national leader in preparing students for business analytics careers.

“Part of our strength,” explains Scheller Senior Associate Dean Soumen Ghosh, “is our commitment to finding new ways to engage with students and drive leading-edge paths in business analytics education. With that in mind, we decided to try something a little different this past summer.”

A new course was created after a request from the Dean’s Office for additional summer course opportunities in business analytics. Scheller business analytics leaders considered several classes to fulfill that need, then, in collaboration with the Scheller MBA Program Office, held a listening session with interested students.

“What we found, not surprisingly,” said Business Analytics Center Managing Director Keith Werle, “was that certain types of classes and projects are attractive to different groups of students. Evening MBAs with families and full-time jobs are often not interested in the same type of projects as full-time MBAs with less time in the workforce.”

Werle and Professor Sri Narasimhan, faculty director to the Business Analytics Center, then put their heads together and created a summer lab course combining different project types into a hybrid experiential learning/capstone-style course.  

Students were free to choose one of two pathways:

  1. An independent (individual) business analytics study project of their own (with approval), or
  2. An existing structured practicum style project with a course and project plan set by the instructor

For the individual project, students could undertake a research study of their choice. Each student did a weekly check-in with Werle to discuss the data, direction of the study, and results.

Shelton Blease, a Scheller Evening MBA student and vice president of data analytics at the Lucas Group participated in the independent business analytics study:

“I really enjoyed getting to pick a project that was relevant to my own interests and career,” said Blease. “I learned a lot and was able to really push myself beyond my level of knowledge in R coding and analytics--not because I had to--but because I really wanted to.  I also really appreciated having Keith there to guide me and to make sure that I didn't get stuck in my work.” 

MBA Student Kyle Harris is a senior data analyst for Alight Solutions. He also took part in the independent study: “I really enjoyed the variety of different projects everyone worked on. Everyone made a lot of progress for a summer, in what was, if I may be bold, a somewhat experimental course.”

For the more structured practicum, Werle used synthetic data and developed a case-study style project to challenge the students. The students did weekly check-ins and were required to meet certain check points over the course of the summer.

Aaron Darby, a senior procurement specialist at Coca-Cola Bottlers' Sales and Services who will earn his MBA from Georgia Tech in 2022 took part in the practicum:

“This class was pretty much a sandbox for getting hands-on experience with data analytics. I really enjoyed both the flexibility and independence this class offered.”

Both formats were a big success and participating students across the board gave the new format high marks.

“I took the Business Analytics Research Practicum over the summer and found the course invaluable,” said Wes Owens, a Scheller Evening MBA student, who is a business information consultant at IngenioRx (an Anthem Company). “I especially liked that I was given free rein to select which tools and problem-solving approach would enable me to successfully complete the project. The learning incurred during this course has stuck with me more so than any other class I’ve taken so far at Scheller.”

“This class exceeded our expectations,” said Werle. “It worked because it capitalized on the intellectual curiosity and intrinsic motivation of our students at Scheller – and Georgia Tech. Our next challenge will be to scale these types of learning opportunities so that more Scheller students and corporate partners can participate.”

Next steps

Werle and the Business Analytics Center are moving forward with additional plans to innovate and grow Scheller’s capacity to serve students and our corporate partners.

“We are already looking to bring new experiential learning and corporate engagement opportunities to both our MBAs AND our fantastic undergraduate students,” said Werle. “Indeed, we’d also like to expand beyond Scheller to bring more real-world learning opportunities to inter-disciplinary students pursuing analytics and data science at Tech.”

Werle explained further:  

“These real-world, interdisciplinary projects and teams really drive home the applied methodologies in analytics and are invaluable in helping our graduates excel in the early years of their careers. And that is key to developing analytics-enabled leaders in business.”

Research is another potential pathway for student/corporate engagement and offers additional opportunities for experiential learning. This past summer, three Scheller students took part in a pilot research program that examined Georgia’s Covid data. Werle and the Business Analytics Center look to expand those opportunities in the future as well.

The future is bright for business analytics at Georgia Tech, with even more new classes/labs on the horizon. “We will continue the rapid pace of innovation in analytics education and training in the coming year,” concluded Werle.  “For example, we are looking at possibly standing up analytics labs and/or Vertically Integrated Programs for Research projects (VIP-R) to expand opportunities for collaboration and engagement between our students and our corporate partners.”

Companies interested in working with Georgia Tech’s talented graduate and undergraduate business analytics students are encouraged to contact the Business Analytic Center’s Corporate Engagement Manager Sherri von Behren.

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