Teaching with SAS Viya: First Report

I teach a 400-level data analytics course to undergraduates at the Samford business school. Every semester, I have students apply the concepts we learn by using some analytics software. This semester, it was imperative that I choose a product that students could access from their own computers. We cannot all be together in the computer labs due to Covid.

For the first time, I am using SAS Viya for Learners. Currently, the students are learning SAS Visual Analytics through the Viya platform. SAS makes detailed tutorials that make it easy to teach software to a class. Something that I’m particularly happy about this Friday is that the product works. Class time is not getting chewed up by students who get errors that are difficult to troubleshoot.

(Of course, I tested the software myself before asking students to use it. Anyone who has taught large classes knows that there is no way to fully anticipate the problems that could arise when dozens of humans with different computers all try to do something.)

Something to know about SAS Viya for Learners is that it is free but the free version does not come with the whole range of functionality that SAS Visual Analytics offers. What seems most significant to me currently is that students cannot upload data into the program. There is a library of datasets to work with. That is what we are using for demonstrations and homeworks.

In previous semesters, students have been instructed to find their own data online and use that for their final project. This semester, students will use data that is pre-loaded into the SAS Viya for Learners library. There are many right ways to do a final project. Having less decisions to make about what data to use will allow students to focus more on the analysis and presentation.

So far, all we have done is logged in and built confidence with the interface. That’s the first step with any software. It works. The tutorials give excellent guidance. I will post another update as we get further along with SAS Viya.

No coding is needed (not even SAS coding). I have concluded that coding and data analytics are separate skills. They are both good skills to have. Sometimes teaching coding along with data analytics is appropriate. But the trade off needs to be recognized. Time spent learning to code, to some extent, takes away time spent learning about data analytics. Feel free to fight me on that in the comments if you disagree.

I also use a textbook to teach this course. So, SAS Viya is not the only resource.

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