Summing this course up in one word = WOW. This course should be taken early on because it is extremely motivating, and will help motivate you to get through the other beginning courses such as Math for Modelers and Stats. This course is a high level overview of why and how analytics should be performed. It describes not only predictive analytics but the whole analytics spectrum and what it means to be an “analytical competitor”. While you do not perform any actual analytics, you will understand why getting good at this is so important.
I took this course from Dr. Gordon Swartz, and highly recommend him. Interestingly, he has bachelor degrees in nuclear engineering and political science from MIT, an MBA from Northeastern University and a doctorate in business administration from Harvard. His sync sessions were very informative and practical, and he provided on-going commentary in the discussion boards.
The course description is – “This course introduces the field of predictive analytics, which combines business strategy, information technology, and modeling methods. The course reviews the benefits and opportunities of data science, organizational and implementation issues, ethical, regulatory, and compliance issues. It discusses business problems and solutions regarding traditional and contemporary data management systems and the selection of appropriate tools for data collection and analysis. It reviews approaches to business research, sampling, and survey design.”
The course is structured around required textbook reading, assigned articles, assigned videos, weekly discussions, one movie (Moneyball) and 4 projects.
The reading requirements are daunting, but doable. You will (should) read 6 books in 10 weeks – a total of 1,590 pages. There are 14 articles to read. Each week has a short video as well.
These are the assigned books. At first glance, this list will not seem to be a little odd with seemingly unrelated books. However, they all help create the overall picture of analytics, and are all valuable. I will provide just a brief overview of each, and plan to post more in-depth reviews of them later this summer.
Davenport TH, Harris JG. 2007. Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning. Boston Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Publishing.
This is the first text you read, for good reason. It provides the backbone for the course. You will learn about what it means to be an analytical competitor, how to evaluate an organizations analytical maturity, and then how to build an analytical capability.
Siegel E. 2013. Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie or Die. Hoboken New Jersey: John H Wiley and Sons, Inc.
This is a must read for anyone going into predictive analytics, by one of the pioneers of this field. It describes in detail what predictive analytics is, and gives numerous real life examples of organizations using these predictive models.
Few S. 2013. Information Dashboard Design: Displaying data for at-a-glance monitoring. Burlingame California: Analytics Press.
I will admit that when I first got this book I was very confused about why it was being included in a course on predictive analytics. However, this turned out to be one of the best reads of the course. For anyone who is in analytics and has to display information, especially in a dashboard format, this is a must read. This describes what dashboards are really for, and the science behind creating effective dashboards. You will never look at a dashboard the same way in the future, and you will be critical of most commercially developed dashboards, as they are more about displaying flashiness and fancy bells and whistles rather than the functional display of pertinent data in the most effective format. I can’t say enough good things about this book, a classic.
Laursen GHN, Thorlund J. 2010. Business Analytics for Managers: Taking Business Intelligence Beyond Reporting. Hoboken New Jersey: John H Wiley and Sons, Inc.
This is a great overview of business analytics. This is especially valuable in it’s explanation of how the analytics needs to support the strategy of the organization.
Franks B. 2012. Taming the Big Data Tidal Wave: Finding opportunities in huge data streams with advanced analytics. Hoboken New Jersey: John H Wiley and Sons, Inc.
This was an optional read, but I recommend reading it. It is written in a very understandable way, and provides a great overview of the big data analytics ecosystem.
Groves RM, Fowler FJ, Couper MP, Lepkowski JM, Singer E, Tourangeau R. 2009. Survey Methodology. Hoboken New Jersey: John H Wiley and Sons, Inc.
I will admit this was my least favorite book, but having said that, I learned a ton from it. For anyone who will even think about using survey’s to collect data, this is a must read. However the 419 pages make this a chore. It would be nice to have an abridged version. What it does, though, is wake you up to how complex the process of creating, deploying, and analyzing surveys is. I grudgingly admit this was a valuable read.
There are some really great articles included in the reading list.
There are videos that were developed by another professor that review the weeks material. I did not find these especially helpful, but they did provide an overview of the weeks information, and might be helpful if you are having some trouble understanding the material.
Again, the weekly discussion are where it happens. There are one or more topics that are posted. There are usually some really great comments posted, and you can gain a lot of insight if you actually think about what you are posting, and what other people have posted. If you post on the last day a brief paragraph, then you are missing out on some valuable information.
The first course I have taken where a movie was required. There are discussions around this movie and one of the assignments involves creating an analysis of the Oakland A’s and how they used analytics. I enjoyed the movie and thinking about this.
There are four assignments where you must create a paper of varying lengths. You must create this using the appropriate APA format, so it is useful for refining these skills.
I found these to be challenging, fun, motivating, and extremely enlightening. These called for the application of what we learned to some real world situations. For one of these, I performed an in-depth analysis of our organizations analytics which involved interviewing our senior leadership. As a result of these interviews, it really started the process of moving our organization to the next analytical maturity level in a very meaningful way.
Another project involved the creation of a draft dashboard using the best practices outlined by Stephen Few in his text. This was a great learning experience for me, and one that will translate into much better dashboards at our organization.
The last project involved creating a meaningful and valid survey. This was informative as well, and I actually might send out my survey.
Overall, this was a fantastic course. This will make it clear why we need to do this well, and what doing this well looks like. After this, the actual work of understanding and developing predictive models begins. Again, I feel as if got my money’s worth (not an easy thing to say since these courses are pricey!).
I am taking the summer off and am trying to catch up on the projects that have been piling up. For fun I am learning SQL (great book – Head First SQL by Lynn Beighley) and working my way through several Python Udemy courses. I will be attending the SciPy 2016 Conference in Austin Texas in July as well, and am super excited about this. I will be going to tutorials on Network Science, Data Science is software, Time Series analysis and Pandas. If you are attending, give me a shout out.
3 thoughts on “Northwestern University MSPA 402, Intro to Predictive Analytics Review”
Randy, thanks for a very comprehensive review of 402. Didn’t expect this course to have a “WOW” effect, so I am now looking forward to possibly taking it in the Fall instead of a quantitative course.
Good luck on your journey!
Good luck to you as well Belinda. As you can tell I really enjoyed the course, and learned a lot of really valuable, high level information.
Hi Randy – thanks for the great reviews. I would highly encourage you to keep posting as you get through the courses.