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IBM's Big Data Education Outreach

In the last decade, IBM has partnered with more than 1,000 universities to increase the world's pool of computer science graduates. Latest focus: Big data.

But at least one computer science professor whose school works closely with IBM said he wondered how deep IBM's heralded "1000-plus" partnerships really go.

"If they're just saying, 'Here, our software is free,' that's a limited partnership," the professor told InformationWeek in a phone interview.

This teacher, who asked for anonymity, also worried that IT vendors might be "externalizing" their market competition into the school setting, trying to win or push out other vendors.

Noting that universities are complex ecosystems, with lots of platforms, applications and operating systems, this professor said, "It's not the kind of IT environment you have with an employer." Vendors need to respect this, and so offer cross-platform solutions and industry standards when working with schools, he said.

Michael Rappa, who works closely with industry as head of the Institute for Advanced Analytics, told InformationWeek in an email that by reaching out to 1,000 universities, IBM had created a broader awareness among faculty about analytics and big data.

"Only time will tell whether or not its efforts will pay off," Rappa said. "Universities are notoriously slow to change. Our own success is built on a productive and sustained partnership (with SAS), which has been essential in moving the university as fast and as far as we've come today. It wouldn't have happened otherwise."

Reaching Undergrad Programs

Along with moving data analytics courses into the business schools, another recent trend is schools adding undergraduate degree programs in analytics, Stowell said.

"We're not only seeing graduate and master programs, we're starting to see it penetrate into undergraduate programs." These include minors, concentrations and majors, she said.

"We are going to continue to see need for big data and analytic skills and new business analytics degree programs," she said, adding, "But we're also going to see more data science degree programs. We need all those skills."

Lately, IBM's educational outreach has pushed into the K-12 sector.

For the past two summers, IBM and Southern Methodist University have joined to provide a summer school focused on big-data topics for high schoolers. The four-day program, the IBM Summer Innovation Camp on Predictive Analytics, was co-sponsored by the Richard B. Johnson Center for Economic Studies in SMU's Dedman College.

The big data market is not just about technologies and platforms -- it's about creating new opportunities and solving problems. The Big Data Conference provides three days of comprehensive content for business and technology professionals seeking to capitalize on the boom in data volume, variety and velocity. The Big Data Conference happens in Chicago, Oct. 22-23.

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