Developing ways in which institutions such as Carroll University can effectively teach data analytics is the focus of a $100,000 grant awarded to the school by the National Science Foundation.
Dr. Jane Hopp, vice president of the office of partnerships and innovation, and Dr. John Symms, associate professor of mathematics, will lead a 60-person team of educators, researchers and industry representatives from around the country in an effort to develop better systems for teaching data science and analytics to college students at smaller liberal arts schools. The committee includes expertise in team science, the learning sciences and analytics, instructional technology, workforce development and diversity/inclusion.
“It’s an effort to develop next-generation digital learning environments,” said Symms. “It’s really pretty forward looking.”
In the era of big data, analytical literacy is set to become a critical skillset for every graduate. Unfortunately, the United States is facing a workforce shortage in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions. In preparing the grant proposal, Symms and Hopp found that 69 percent of all employers say they will require computational thinking and data science and analytical skills by the year 2021, yet only 23 percent of universities expect their graduates to have such skills.
This study will specifically explore ways that small- and medium-sized liberal arts institutions like Carroll can teach those skills to their students. While these schools typically offer experiential education which develops critical thinking and analytical skills to their students, they often lack financial resources to build staff expertise and the digital infrastructure to support digital learning.
The study will run throughout the academic year and result in a white paper that Symms and Hopp hope will create a blueprint for how schools can meet this challenge. Their goal is to build a foundation of sorts that will be utilized by a consortium of schools across the country to more effectively teach data science and analytics.
“It’s really all about the changing landscape in industry right now,” said Hopp, “as artificial intelligence and other high tech areas take hold. Industry is asking for these literacies. They’re now considered core skills. While we can’t predict the specific jobs graduates will see twenty years from now, we can develop the skillsets job seekers will need.
“This award shows that in the areas of STEM and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics), Carroll is really developing a reputation,” said Hopp. “It reflects the innovation and creativity of our faculty and administration.”
The National Science Foundation previously announced plans to fund up to nine research proposals around this topic. So far, grants of approximately $100,000 have been awarded to the University of Arizona, the University of Washington, Stanford and the University of Michigan, in addition to Carroll.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. (1824727).