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posted: 7/16/2014 4:39 PM

Microsoft grant to prepare Benedictine students for major shift in IT landscape

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  • Benedictine University

    Benedictine University

Ryan Blackburn

Beginning this fall, students enrolled in Benedictine University's Master of Science (M.S.) in Business Analytics and M.S. in Management Information Systems programs will have access to Microsoft Azure, one of the leading cloud-based, Web-scale information technology (IT) computing platforms increasingly found in businesses where large-scale management and assessment of data is essential.

Earlier this year, the Gartner Group, one of the world's leading IT research and advisory companies, reported Web-scale IT will be an approach that 50 percent of global enterprises adopt by 2017 to remain competitive in business.

Web-scale IT is the model for a set of applications that scale to millions of users on the Web and was pioneered by large cloud services firms like Facebook, Google, eBay and Amazon. It leverages low-cost, open-source hardware and software that can handle rapid growth in real time more efficiently and effectively than standard platforms, and can be applied in organizations of all sizes.

The "Azure in Education Grant" allows Benedictine students to use Microsoft's Azure services for free from a desktop or laptop in conjunction with "Data Mining, Text Mining and Business Intelligence" and "Business Analytics" courses, said Barbara T. Ozog, Ph.D., program director for the M.S. in Management Information Systems program at Benedictine.

"The grant significantly boosts what we can do in the classroom," Ozog said. "It extends the computing environment beyond our existing IT services and expands the applications that students currently use."

Gartner Group also reported recently that senior executives have an increased interest in investing in IT to gain a business advantage, which underscores why current and incoming IT professionals should have enhanced, real-world experience in Web-scale IT.

"If the projections by the Gartner Group come close to reality, companies will need IT employees who are competent in this new model," Ozog said.

Microsoft made the grants for Azure possible after experiencing an increase in demand for access from the academic community. Benedictine faculty applied for the grant as part of an ongoing effort to provide students with the latest skills and tools to meet changing demands within the IT profession, according to Benedictine instructor Nathan Taylor.

"We are being proactive in finding ways to integrate state-of-the-art technology with our course offerings," Taylor said. "That's really the driver behind the grant."

The grant will expire at the conclusion of the Spring 2015 Semester, but faculty may decide to apply for additional grants if the platform is a success in the classroom.

"The grant is a great opportunity for students to use cutting-edge tools and for Microsoft to expose learners to their products with the hope it will carry over into the professional world," Taylor said. "This field is in a constant state of change and high demand. There may be a new platform a year from now, but the plan is to use Azure again if all goes well."

The graduate program in Business Analytics focuses on the skills, technologies, applications and practices to gain new insights on a company that can be used to drive business planning. It makes extensive use of data, statistical and quantitative analysis, explanatory and predictive modeling, and fact-based management to drive decision-making. It is appropriate for students in functional business units as well as IT because it leverages information technology and business-thinking to turn data into actionable intelligence.

The graduate program in Management Information Systems is designed for professionals who understand the strategic value of information resources and the importance of managing these resources throughout an organization. The program has been preparing professionals for rapid advances in technology, intense global competition and more complex business environments for more than 25 years.

For more information, visit or contact Barbara Ozog at (630) 829-(6218) or