Statistically Significant

With all the buzz about big data and data science, have you wondered who is out there crunching all those numbers? Professionals in a broad range of fields, from marketing to education to programming, are finding themselves short on statistics training and needing help, stat. These mid-career adults can't abandon their jobs and go back to school, so they seek a more practical route: online education. The newest certificate programs from NC State Distance Education are just what they need to move up the career ladder.

Dr. Rebecca Swanson

"This is such a success story. It focuses on the best of collaboration between an academic department and DELTA." - Dr. Rebecca Swanson

When two new online certificate programs from the Department of Statistics officially launch in spring 2015, professionals locally and around the globe will have some new options. The first, a graduate certificate in Applied Statistics and Data Management will give a broad audience a deeper understanding of statistical methods and statistical programming techniques. The second, a graduate certificate in Statistical Education will give statistics teachers a strong foundation in statistical concepts and how to teach introductory statistics.

These 12-hour programs, which will take roughly four semesters to complete, are fully online, yet they provide students with the same instruction, assignments and quality professors as their campus-based peers.

Bringing Experience to the Table

Dr. Webster West, professor and director of online programs in the Department of Statistics, knows what it takes to launch a successful online statistics program. West, who has been teaching statistics online for over a decade, helped launch the online statistics program at Texas A&M University and saw staggering demand for the program. Now in his second year at NC State, West understands the unique nature of mature students who come into the program with specific applications and professional goals.

"I'm eager for our faculty to see the value that these people bring to the table," said West. "These students have work experience, recognize that they need to know statistics, and have very specific goals in mind with our discipline. They're much more motivated and have a very different perspective on the discipline, and it's a healthy one."

The Department of Statistics, ranked #15 nationally for their graduate statistics program, has a strong history of graduate education. But this new program offers a more professional, applied focus than the academic nature of their traditional master's program. And while they've started small with certificates, they're adding more courses to create a fully online master's degree in 2015.

Equation for Success

Launching a certificate is no easy task. In this case, the right people in the room, plus a strong commitment to a good idea, equaled a smooth and efficient process. At this project's inception, Statistics partnered with DELTA, relying on them to shepherd the department through the process.

"This is such a success story," said Dr. Rebecca Swanson, DELTA's associate vice provost of Distance and Distributed Education. "It focuses on the best of collaboration between an academic department and DELTA. We worked seamlessly together to get an initiative launched from start to finish, with good dialogue and communications. It showed the maturity of DELTA's engagement in program development."

DELTA helped Statistics prepare for the certificate launch with a variety of services and support: feasibility study, administrative review, course development, custom training on technologies, website development and marketing support.

"DELTA has done really everything I could imagine them doing to help us out," said West. "They've been very supportive as we've tried to push this program up the food chain, and all sorts of bureaucratic hurdles that one has to get over."

This win-win opportunity helped both departments to meet goals of improving student success and promoting global engagement. It promises exposure and financial support for Statistics, and will be the first online certificate program developed in the new College of Sciences. But the students will be the biggest winners, their advancing careers true proof of the program's success.

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