Coursework and Projects
The core of the business analytics program provides a balanced but comprehensive approach to the field of big data analytics, with hands-on technical skills coupled with soft business skills and an informed view of the trajectory of data science in decision-making (in business and otherwise). Students combine electives, ranging from machine learning and cybersecurity to sustainability in business and project management, with the core curriculum to fine-tune their learning experience and best fit their post-graduation goals.
The Applied Data Analytics & Text-Mining courses taught by Professor John Chandler, are the “nuts and bolts” of the program. During the semester, students extract, transform, load, manage and analyze over 90 million rows of data using Google Big Query and Google Cloud, R & Python, and SQL. In the Text-Mining course, students use APIs (such as Twitter’s and Reddit’s) and web scraping techniques to acquire real-time data from sources that interest them. By the end of the course students will have learned the fundamentals of programmatically using APIs and web scraping techniques to acquire their own data, clean vast amounts of data, manage and query data via the cloud and local databases, and professional reporting on statistical analyses performed. Students typically combine these courses with Prof. Chandler’s Visualization & Storytelling with Data, which focuses on the presentation of key insights derived from analyses, a crucial skill in a world deluged with data.
Professor Jakki Mohr’s Big Data & Innovation courseplaces students into the organizational challenges in leveraging advanced analytics to drive innovation and create value. Topics discussed include the cultural challenges, the structural challenges, the unintended consequences of relying on data and algorithms in decisions, as well as need for new business models and disruptive innovation to fully leverage the power of analytics. In addition, students tackle privacy and governance issues, addressing conflicting views on the management of personal data. Students develop their own “voice” and point of view on these various topics by writing blog posts. A primary takeaway for students is the critical thinking necessary to harness the innovative and creative processes surrounding data and technology, and perhaps most importantly, learning how to ask the “right” questions. Their wonderful blog posts can be found on the MSBA Blog.
Business Intelligence, led by Professor Jason Triche, also provides students with a managerial or executive point of view, by first reviewing organizational decision-making processes and how they relate to the structuring of data, databases, data warehouses, data marts, etc. Next, students integrate the various data channels into a dashboard to facilitate decision-making. Every student takes an active role in the education of their cohort, by providing to the class a live demonstration and/or workshop on a current technology, such as Hadoop, Salesforce, Apache, NetSuite– just a few of the technologies discussed. As a final project, students tackle the real-world challenge of creating forecast models of COVID-19 for various countries.
Rounding out the business analytics core curriculum is a deep dive into real-world marketing research, surveying, and analysis. In Professor Simona Stan’s Advanced Marketing Research class, students form teams to assist local and national organizations in deriving key insights about their target markets, exposing weaknesses and unseen strengths, and discovering potential opportunities. Groups confer directly with clients to create a survey, partner with organizations for distribution, and then compile results, analyze (SPSS, Excel, R) and present findings and recommendations.
The Capstone Project, guided by Jason Wiener, requires students to harness the totality of their skills and knowledge gained throughout the core curriculum in conjunction with electives, internships, professional work experience, or otherwise, into a single formative project. This is an opportunity for a student to showcase all their learning by partnering with an outside business or organization, or simply pursuing a topic of interest to the student. Successful Capstone Projects display the following:
- Knowledge & Application of a wide range of analytical techniques, technologies, and programming tools for both structured and unstructured data and a keen understanding of the appropriate analytical techniques to solve any business or organizational questions and problems.
- Effective Story Telling – Students bring the data to life using a suite of technologies and tools to create an impactful narrative in support of key insights from analyses. A key determinant of success capstone is the ability to translate technical minutiae into actionable takeaways for non-technical managers and executives.
- Critical & Innovative Thinking – As demonstrated by the approach and techniques utilized by the student, as well as the questions asked. A defining metric is the ability for students to consider new and different solutions and to ask questions that lead to a fundamentally different way of approaching old problems.