Saturday, February 18, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Frank Fiedler, Wesley College, Dover, DE
Background: One of the skills often looked for by companies is practical experience with SAS, the Statistical Analysis System software suite. It is the de-facto standard in highly regulated industries such as finance and healthcare – two of Delaware’s larger industries. Statistics is part of every STEM major’s education at Wesley College, a liberal arts college in Dover, Delaware. Based on feedback from recent alumni and student comments, we set out to create project-based courses and more enhanced research inside and outside the classroom which match the strength of our faculty to the business environment and our students. Our objectives were to improve affinity for integrated and cross-disciplinary research among our students and add viable career options which our students may not have realized before. Methods: An example of our effort is an Introduction to SAS Programming, part of our Informatics Minor. The focus is on retrieval, management, analysis, and presentation of big data. Our SAS course is preceded by an Applied Statistics course which prepares students for analysis of data obtained from lab work or field studies. We use both vertical integration with past student research projects and horizontal integration with research conducted in an Introduction to GIS course in parallel. Finished research group projects are presented at Wesley College’s research day. Results; Since we introduced our informatics minor two years ago, we had 13 STEM majors have successfully complete the sequence. Seven more completed the SAS course only. Our students presented an additional 28 research projects, and two students co-authored two peer-reviewed publications. Two Mathematics majors went on to graduate school seeking degrees in bioinformatics and public health, respectively. Conclusions: While foundational and standard courses still follow the lecture-test format, we have been moving away from this model with some key courses to promote integrated research-based learning. We have evidence that a traditional statistics course followed by a project-based big data analysis course helps our students transitioning from merely grasping concepts to understanding and applying ideas to actual problems. This has provided new career opportunities for some typical Wesley College students which they previously thought of as unattainable. Feedback from recent graduates shows that they are better prepared when compared to students that followed a traditional program. Even though our numbers are small, they are encouraging.