DeVry University | Instructor Insights

Professor Jennings on Data Analytics

By Alexandra Kaleel

June 21, 2023
8 min read

Alexandra Kaleel, Director of Client Solutions at DeVryWorks, discusses data analytics with Professor Jennings, Ph.D. MBA, DeVry professor and curriculum lead for software and information systems, to discover how organizations can optimize their performance with data analytics. Now, more than ever, it’s imperative to review the raw information, categorize, organize, package and report on it in a manner that the organization finds valuable. This data can be used to identify trends and make predictions that support the organization’s strategies.

What’s the hot topic/latest trend in your industry?

Human-systems teaming and integration is a topic that I am hearing discussed frequently in both academic and industry forums. It is still an open question: how much decision making should be delegated to automation, particularly technology platforms that can operate independently apart from a human operator? Unsupervised automation has existed around us in technologically advanced societies for decades, but those have been primarily in well-structured and bounded scenarios with clear outcomes. The rise of machine learning and systems adaptation to novel events has changed this dynamic, particularly in a world where the speed and pervasiveness of cyberspace and digital connectivity require automation to function at all (with the added considerations of safety and security) in service to modern society, business, and government.

How does your program help an organization solve its talent challenges?

Our programs in data analytics emphasize concepts and techniques that can be applied immediately within a variety of organizational settings. These specializations are offered as concentrations in our bachelor’s degree in a software development program and data mining & analytics certificate. Both benefit from grounded learning at the convergence of business transformation and technological innovation spanning Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT), SecDevOps and Full Stack development. Our coursework is designed to help professionals understand industry leading platforms and forward-looking concepts built upon fundamentals informed by our industry advisors and partners.

How can an organization increase its workforce diversity & what are the benefits?

An organization can increase its workforce diversity by reflecting on what it is trying to accomplish to achieve its mission. In prior career experiences, I have worked in enterprises with a single-minded focus on the concept of the “best and brightest.” This messaging surfaced in recruitment, in professional development opportunities and in assignments for pivotal work. Organizations can benefit from diversity by communicating their vision equitably to the entire workforce, and being open to receiving (and acting upon) insights from all portions of the workforce, not simply the most heralded or pedigreed. It can mean the difference between maintaining a competitive edge and forced obsolescence.

How do you see the rise in generative AI (like ChatGPT) impacting your program – both positively & negatively?

DeVry University is not the only university facing the challenge of student-AI authored works. The obvious concern is potential academic dishonesty via machine-generated content, drawn from a global pool of data that can be differentiated enough to resist detection upon routine inspection. A potentially greater concern is how to instill a foundation of responsibility and societal concern regarding how these cooperative agents can be employed. To this point in human history we have incorporated AI-partnering in known and understood workflows; from driving, manufacturing and computer programming to medical procedures, cybernetics and even warfighting. Processing of unstructured semantic content has been a hard problem for many years, and this new round of innovation in training models through complex and unstructured tasks on a massive scale will bring about disruptive changes in unexpected ways. The rise of a service like ChatGPT has already demonstrated this, and that capability is still in its infancy.

Describe how learners receive real-world experience in your program, allowing them to join the workforce prepared.

Learners receive real-world experience in data analytics at DeVry through hands-on technical projects and completing reflection assignments in the form of technical reports, project papers and focused discussions with peers and faculty. Our full-time and visiting faculty are experienced practitioners and subject matter experts who pride themselves on delivering timely and relevant educational concepts that help our learners not only prepare for their future roles but also prepare to lead.

What else should we know?

Everyone should be excited about the opportunities which abound in data analytics. We work to offer a career-focused educational experience which provides both a general education and critical thinking emphasis along with a technical core, which combines foundational elements in engineering, information systems and cybersecurity into a versatile and competitive springboard into some of the most exciting career fields of the next decade.

Where do you see data analytics going over the next 10 years?

Organizational leadership will focus more and more on strategic alignment over the coming decade. Research, anecdotal and quantitative, has shown the most successful organizations are the ones that align their resources to value-generating tasks and outcomes.1 Our programs target the technology industry and its markets, which are constantly being disrupted and changing at a rapid pace. This means that even an organization that appears to be on solid footing can be swiftly placed at risk by one poorly timed business cycle.

What are some of the noteworthy ways leaders are using data analytics in their careers?

The proliferation of data-informed decisions stems from the lightning-speed advancements in tech, and the ease of use with which we are able to gather data. There is no going back to the days when gut-check decisions are enough to satisfy a data-savvy board and workforce. Leaders are relying on the strength of their organizations to survive, let alone thrive. It is nearly impossible for one person, especially at the strategic level, to know all factors impacting the organization and industry at a deep enough level to make informed decisions on their own. Leaders who continue to believe they can lead by decree without continual input from the grassroots level of their organizations and up will be operating at increasingly untenable levels of risk. A well-crafted analytics approach can mitigate this risk and create greater opportunities for workforce engagement, a concept which is emphasized in our programs.

1Five Ways To Create Business Value Like A High-Performing Organization, Forbes (June 2019)

About Darniet K. Jennings

Professor and Curriculum Lead for Software and Information Systems

Darniet K. Jennings, Ph.D. MBA is a Professor at DeVry University, and has been working in the information technology field since 1995. He is currently serving as the curriculum lead for software and information systems (SIS) for colleges & curriculum in the DeVry College of Engineering and Information Sciences (CoEIS). Spanning two decades in his career, Dr. Jennings has worked in roles consisting of systems administration, data architecture, software/systems development, business process engineering, human-computer interaction, IT consulting and training.

About Alexandra Kaleel

Director of Client Solutions

Alexandra Kaleel is a highly accomplished professional with over a decade of leadership experience at DeVry University. Over her 16-year tenure with the organization, Alexandra has shown a deep commitment to excellence and played a pivotal role in driving its success. 

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