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Penn State offers data mining program

Penn State's continuing education division is offering a data mining certificate program aimed at government employees, as well as professionals in the finance and marketing industries.

Data analysis is one step on the road to discovering how to sell to customers. Until recently, data mining was left in the hands of trained statisticians and their numerous algorithms.

The Penn State Continuing Education program wants to give the local business community an opportunity to learn about data mining. It is offering a data mining certificate program, designed by Chicago-based SPSS Inc., at four of the university's locations.

Data mining has become more mainstream recently, according to Dan Vesset, senior analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. The data mining market has jumped from a $341 million market in 1999 to $458 million in 2000, a 34% growth. It was the fastest growing segment of the business intelligence market in 2000. Through 2005, IDC expects the data mining market to grow at a 32% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

The Penn State program will use the SPSS Certified Data Mining Professional (CDMP) program as the foundation for the curriculum. The training is based on the Cross Industry Standard Process for Data Mining (CRISP-DM).

SPSS worked with Penn State to develop the six courses in the curriculum: a data mining overview; introduction to SPSS' Clementine software; data understanding and preparation; data mining modeling; Answer Tree; and visualization, reporting and deployment.

"The program is using SPSS software as a teaching tool and as a learning tool, but the program is going to be about data mining," said Ed Donovan, director of statewide programs at Penn State.

SPSS is one of the leaders in data mining software, along with SAS Institute, Vesset said. In terms of strategy for SPSS, teaching data mining with its software is a smart move because attendees may have influence over their companies' software purchases, he said.

Data mining has become a hot topic in recent months, according to Jim Fong, director of marketing, research and planning at Penn State. Fong is in charge of continuing education, and found that data mining and data warehousing would fit well as a program.

SPSS also approached Penn State with their program, which Donovan called "a happy coincidence."

"Data mining is not new," Fong said. Data mining is really entering layers of business that had previously been buried like sediment, such as unanalyzed customer data that can be used to launch marketing campaigns. Statisticians and the financial industry have been conducting data mining. With the Internet, data mining and statistical algorithms have been brought to the fingertips of others in the business, he said.

The data mining program is aimed at government employees, especially planners and researchers, as well as those in finance, marketing and anyone involved in CRM, Donovan said. In Erie, Pa., the manufacturing industry has also shown interest in data mining.

"The key to this program is that it's going to enable laypeople, non-statistical people, to use (data mining) tools," he said.

"For students, it's a win-win situation," Vesset said. Even if the students' companies use another kind of data mining software, they will still have learned the theories of data mining and will only need to master new software commands, he said.

Penn State requires that students take three credits in statistical analysis and be proficient in SPSS. To complete the program, students must complete six noncredit courses, totaling 84 hours. Classes begin in November in Erie, Philadelphia, Pittsburg and Harrisburg, Pa. Tuition is $3,995 and includes course materials.


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