Sunday, August 07, 2005

QBA 502 - Managerial Decision Analysis

My whole goal here is to post at least once per class, if not more. This being my first class review, I'll attempt to "templatize" the approach for future use, but we'll see how that goes...

"Managerial Decision Analysis"? That would be a highfalutin' name for statistics, my friends.

So, this is our first class, and we've just finished with our second week.
Let me break real quick, here - I didn't even mean to write "we" and "our" - see what a community we are?? ;-)
Anyway, we're through with our second week (of five in each class, plus a week for the final; see here). As fate would have it, it's statistics, which works out well for me, as I've had a healthy dose of it in my undergrad, and more recently through Six Sigma training at work. So, this should be a good way to ease into being back in school for me - not that I expect it to be easy; just familiar turf, which is nice, since it's my first time back in a classroom (albeit, virtual) in a while.

Faculty Interaction
Let's see... The professorial interaction. So far, I'd say they have lived up to their promise - both the professor and teaching assistant have been very active on the forums, answering questions, encouraging discussion, and clarifying material. I also sent an e-mail regarding a quiz question. One simple thing that I received that I didn't expect - which was very nice - was an auto-reply, advising my question had been received; that it would be answered within 24 hours, and listed an alternate contact, e-mail, and phone number in the event that for whatever reason there wasn't a reply within the specified period. Very nice. Anyhow, I had a response from the teaching assistant within about 3 hours, so no issues there! Their demeanor is friendly, and willing to help.

Peer Interaction
For this class, as expected, group assignments are ... well ... nonexistant. ;-) However, that is not to say that there has not been some significant interaction on the forums for the class, and a little bit of phone calls and instant messaging. It's really quite heartening to see students answering other students' questions - and even moreso to see the staff (the teaching assistant, in particular) encouraging it. Many times, her responses will be nothing more than "Good job - great collaboration!", validating the answer given by the student, and encouraging future collaboration. You can tell from the forums that some folks are getting a really early start on things, and others are waiting until later - just another testament to the flexibility of the program.

What about the content? As mentioned in orientation, the primary source of material is in the online module, which is a combination of a little bit of streaming video, some reading, and interactive demonstrations and exercises. The content itsself is developed in-house by the school, and at least in this case, by the professor teaching the class. Compared with my undergrad statistics courses, the material is fairly high level - definitely more application-based than theory-based, but I certainly understand - and also appreciate - that.

The tools we use are a set of fairly well-developed Excel add-ins called StatTools. The student version of this was provided with the book. The book itsself is a pretty handy reference - application-based, but with enough theory for the nerds out there.

This course in particular seems to be a very good overview and application of statistics for business or manager-types. Our stated learning objectives are these:
  • Develop a conceptual understanding of statistical thinking
  • Develop data analysis skills
  • Enhance computer skills
  • Learn how to apply statistical methods and generalize to new problems and situations
So far, I'd say they are indeed being met. You won't be any kind of a professional statistician after this class, but that's not what it's made for - It's made to give us a firm grounding in the basics, capable of doing analyses on our own, and perhaps moreso, capable of understanding and interpreting results of analyses (by ourselves or others), so you can know when to call B.S.! ;-)

Here's the five modules that we'll be covering in this course:
  1. Describing data: Graphs, tables, and numerical summaries
  2. Statistical inference and sampling
  3. Regression
  4. Forecasting & Decision Analysis
  5. Statistical Process Control

I'm still honing my plan of attack. So far, it's like this:
  1. The Weekend - Review the coming week's module. Check and submit last week's quiz (due by Sunday), and exercises, if not already submitted.
  2. Monday - I have a previous engagement every Monday night, so I'll just review material or the forums as available.
  3. Tuesday - Begin the exercises, reviewing as I go.
  4. Wednesday - Finish the exercises, begin the quiz.
  5. Thursday - Finish the quiz - but don't submit it.
  6. Friday - Do nothing, and enjoy it. :-)
  7. Later, Rinse, Repeat.
Other than "The Weekend", all that happens at night after work. I have found that I cruise the forums during breaks at work, which helps to kind of keep concepts fresh throughout the day. Thus far, it seems to be working out alright for me.

I'm looking forward to the future weeks, as we're getting into regression and forecasting.

So far - great course.

1 comment:

Keven said...

This is a nice idea. Very useful.