Being able to analyse data is becoming an increasingly crucial skill to have as organisations are getting serious about using big data. According to IDC's report in April, 53 percent of organisations in the Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) region have adopted or plans to adopt big data and analytics tools in the near future.
Despite the growing importance of analytics, there is a lack of big data and analytics talents in Singapore. According to the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), the republic will face a shortage of 30,000 data professionals by 2020, especially in the fields of cybersecurity, data analytics and applications development.
To help counter the talent crunch, Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) is offering a Business Intelligence and Analytics diploma course (DBA) under its School of Information Technology. According to the school, the course aims to "develop business analytics professionals who are innovative, enterprising and critical thinkers to support manpower needs across diverse industries."
Even though the DBA course focuses on analytics, programming used to take up a bulk of the students' time since "most analytics tools required a fair amount of scripting", Dr Koh Noi Sian, lecturer at NYP's School of Information Technology told Computerworld Singapore. "This resulted in students spending a lot of time fixing errors and learning how to use the tool. [That time could have been better used to] help students develop their critical thinking skills on data visualisation results and solving business problems."
One visual analytics tool that stood out was Tableau. Since Tableau is easy and intuitive to use, students responded positively to it when it was first introduced to the DBA course in 2011.
"With Tableau's intuitive drag and drop functions, the implementation has resulted in all sorts of students, regardless of their level of skill in data analytics, spending more time on producing colourful visuals with their data and gathering valuable insights, rather than having to learn about a complex tool," said Dr Koh.
She added: "It used to take weeks for students to create one dashboard using complex, traditional visual analytics tools. With Tableau, they usually take about an hour to learn how to create bar charts, scatter plots, trend line, maps, word cloud and animation. Interactive dashboards were created typically within an hour."
Besides using it during the course, NYP's DBA students are also using Tableau to work on real-life industry projects during their internship and after they have graduated. "The first batch of students who were taught Tableau in their coursework told [the DBA team] that working with Tableau is one of the most important skills they have learnt, as they have been able to apply the skill [during their internship], in their university projects, and in their work in the industry," said Dr Koh.
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