Faculty and students on 200 campuses nationwide will have free access to advanced data management and analytics software via cloud computing beginning in the fall 2010 semester, after business software company SAS last week opened its OnDemand for Academics program to more higher-education customers at no charge.
The web-hosted analytics software has gained traction in higher education in recent years, and education technology experts said the free offer could expand the software’s presence at colleges where IT departments have seen deep cuts during the country’s economic downturn.
The OnDemand for Academics tool would join a growing list of campus technologies hosted on the internet—a strategy known as cloud computing—which allows access to the most up-to-date programs without using costly on-campus servers. This means students can access the online tool from anywhere they have an internet connection and won’t be forced to buy the software for their laptops or make a trip to the school computer lab to use the SAS analytics program, saving money for the university and time for IT staff—many of whom have a larger workload after budget cuts have trimmed staff numbers in recent years.
“Lab hours are somewhat restricted, and you only have so many copies in one lab on the campus,” said Richard Sundheim, an information systems professor at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minn., where IT faculty use the SAS analytics program. “A lot of students like to work after midnight. For them, being able to access SAS from their home computer over the internet and not having to go during lab hours is a big plus.”
SAS said the software is made for faculty hoping to teach their students how to make sense of massive amounts of data in a way that will prepare them for life in the professional world, where they won’t have preconceived college homework problems to solve during the work day.
Alan Olinsky, professor of applied math at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., said making the OnDemand for Academics program more widely accessible would meet a growing demand in higher education for statistics-based courses and the advanced analytics required to understand reams of undigested information…