In trying to decide what courses to teach, it is not as simple as looking at what products are used the most because, to some extent, we are looking at the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. No one calls up and tries to order a product or schedule a class for something that they don’t know exists.
For years, our university licensed SAS Enterprise Guide. We did not distribute it with SAS, we offered no classes on how to use it, it was not installed in our labs and no one requested it. Last year, we started offering classes, installed Enterprise Guide in our labs and started including it as a default in our distribution. The Enterprise Guide class had the largest enrollment of anything we offered last year (more even than Introduction to SPSS, which is usually the biggest and has been offered every semester forever).
Let’s say there is a solution out there called Dweezil Masfbid. You keep the biological component of it on your desk, a small shrimp-like object created through genetic engineering, which reads your brain waves and determines what it is that you really want to accomplish. The electronic component, also on your desk, attached like an external hard drive, does the programming to meet your goals, prints out a graphical portrayal on your desktop printer which it also emails to three managers with whom you interact most frequently. It then creates a clone to attend the subsequently scheduled meeting for you and present the completed project. Yet, you have never requested a Dweezil Masfbid of your very own, have you? Nor have you attended any DM training. Why not? Well, the answer is pretty obvious. You didn’t know it was an option, now, did you?
I need to decide what courses I am going to teach this semester so I can get the descriptions up on the calendar. I do have titles, SAS for Researchers, Really Basic SPSS, Introduction to SAS and SPSS Statistics. I will probably also do a couple more. I also need to come up with a couple of summer school titles as well.
My question for myself is, what would it help people to learn? Definitely going to include the Complex Samples add-on from SPSS somewhere based on the fact that two people last semester had problems that would solve. Survival analysis is a popular topic around here, so I might add more on Cox regression and Kaplan-Meier . SPSS has some other cool stuff like AMOS and Decision Trees but unless we can get it on an educational discount we won’t have many graduate students or junior faculty dropping two grand for a couple of pieces of software.
“Step right up and get your dweezil masfbid here, folks! Only $3,141,592,653 ! ”
[Anyone who recognized that number as the first ten digits of pi wins six thousand nerd points which can be traded in for a coaxial cable. ]
I keep promising to learn JMP but have only dabbled with it. I think if I could get it to somehow connect to SAS that I would get a lot more excited about it. I know that is supposed to be an option but no one here has managed to do it and we have a lot of people with Ph.D. ‘s and a lot of technical know-how. After everything we went through getting SAS 9.2 installed everywhere last year the absolute lowest priority on my list is anything that requires substantial effort just to get the major features working. Our SAS support staff, SAS administrator, SAS documentation author and 11 other things is me. My research assistant is young and eager, not old, jaded and crotchety like me. She gets back from vacation next week. I think I will assign her to come up with whatever she can on using JMP and then give it a second look.
Stata has its good points and some departments require its use but there is very little that can be done with Stata that one could not to easier with SAS or SPSS. There may be some unique Stata capabilities but each of these will only apply to about 8 of the 50,000 people at the university. This makes Stata really cool and wonderful if you are one of those eight, of course, which is why we offer it and why I do one-on-one instruction for people who need to get to at least an intermediate level with Stata really fast. Think young, happy research assistant can take a look at Stata for more ideas, too. She should be rested after having two more weeks of vacation than me.
As for me, I think I will look into Proc SQL, EIS, SAS Forecasting and see what cool uses of SPSS might exist without using R (because 99.9% of the people won’t) or requiring add-ons that add up to the cost of your first-born.
In all of that together, maybe we’ll find the dweezil masfbid.