Many successful business choices are data-based. While data in itself is merely facts and figures, data analyst organizes, interprets, structures and presents data into useful information, making it lucid for decision makers. That’s why data analysis is one of the most sought after skills by companies nowadays.
When we talk about data science applied to business, MIT always shares great practices. In 1996, the Fudan International MBA Program was launched through the collaboration between Fudan University School of Management (FDSM) and MIT Sloan School of Management. During the 26 years, the close cooperation between two leading business schools is embodied in the curriculum development, action learning projects, second degree, faculty training and sharing of alumni networks.
Recently Fudan University School of Management has upgraded the collaboration with MIT Sloan by inviting MIT professors to deliver two new electives related to data and innovation for the Fudan International MBA students of class of 2022. The same courses are taught in MIT Sloan as well, which are very popular on the campus.
This semester, Professor Robert Freund from MIT Sloan has given an online course on Data Analytics for the Fudan International MBA students. In eight sessions, Professor Freund guided the students to examine how data analytics are used to transform businesses and industries, and taught them to harness the modern machine learning methods through case studies in e-commerce, healthcare, social media, advertising, etc..
Professor Juan SHEN from Fudan University School of Management, former visiting scholar at MIT Sloan School of Management, was the instructor of a pre-course on R programming for the Fudan IMBA students. She believes the cooperation between FDSM and MIT Sloan is of great significance in expanding the horizon for the students.
Prof. Juan SHEN was in MIT as visiting scholar in 2017 (left on the photo)
“Take this elective course for instance. Due to the development of big data technology in recent years, basic data analysis skills have become more and more important. Since MIT is definitely a leader in this field, our IMBA students now have the opportunity to closely follow the trends and update their knowledge. Nowadays, we deal with a large quantity of data no matter which industry we are in. The students may not necessarily need to do data analysis in person, but they will need to be able to understand the data analysis submitted by others. So it is no doubt one of the most basic abilities.”
Professor Freund has been very impressed by the performance of the Fudan IMBA students. “I think they’re really bright and talented. During the whole sessions of study, they’ve shown a lot of good energy and enthusiasm and they are quite enjoying the learning, which I believe is extremely important.”
As to the challenge for the students, Professor Freund pointed out that it mainly comes from the highly technical and mathematical materials, especially for students without much STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) learning background and no experience in R programming. The assignments can be very tricky at first. And it required a period of hard work before they finally manage to handle the programming with ease.
“Also, we do things the MIT way, which means we really seek to change the way people think,” Professor Freund added. “Here, I’m trying to get the students to change the way they think with data, which can be challenging as well.”
Professor Freund expected the MBA students to learn at least three different things from this course: “Firstly they need to understand how data analytics and machine learning models are really used to transform the company they work for, as well as to give their own career a competitive edge. Secondly, I want them to master the technical knowledge of different data analytics models, such as linear regression and logistic regression, classification trees, random forest, clustering models, etc.; and to be able to understand which models to use in which situations. Meanwhile, they should gain the appreciation of the need to become an effective communicator. Because if you can’t communicate these technical materials, you’re going to be very limited in your ability to change and improve your organization.”
The Fudan IMBA Students have high expectation from this course as well. For instance, planning to start his own business after graduation, Zhaowei WU from China believes that data analytics will help him tremendously in his decision making concerning site selection, target users, cost, pricing, etc.; Chen HUANG, from U. S., previously a senior accounting analyst in a real estate company in the central Virginia, who used to get those well-prepared charts to produce reports, yet didn’t actually understand the fundamentality of the data in the industry. Therefore, she chose this course to expand her knowledge in data analytics modes and gain deeper insights of data. Vincent LAU, from Hong Kong SAR not only expects skills learned from the course to be put in use in any specific way, but highly appreciates the new way of thinking and the ability to see more possibilities that data analytics provide him with.
Now that the course has come to an end, the students have learned much from Professor Freund academically and beyond. Zhaowei WU told us: “Models like CART and random forest can help us make predictions for things that many people don’t know how to deal with, so as to help with our decision making.” Zhangting PAN also shared her thought: “I majored in liberal arts. For me, data analytics used to be a vague concept. After taking Professor Freund’s course, I find that the models have concretized so many things, which I can actually leverage.” Chen HUANG believes that the CART and clustering will surely help them a lot in the customer segmentation.
The students also enjoyed the professor’s teaching style very much. Vincent LAU said: “Maybe it’s because he has published many books on Data Analytics, the materials used in this course are extremely organized and I feel really comfortable to think and learn following his guidance.” Chen HUANG is most impressed by the professor’s patience and geniality, and the frequent interaction with students to make sure that there is no confusion.
Professor SHEN also shared her observations on the professor’s teaching style: “Professor Freund is very good at explaining complex things with clarity. More than often he would start by introducing some practical problem, so that the students can follow the lecture easily.”
When asked if he thought the science of data analytics should have served better for decision making of the authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Freund expressed his idea that there were some impediments to the use of data science in the early days of the pandemic: “The pandemic is only about 15 months old, which is still a very short amount of time for us to have sufficient data to truly understand the situation. It’s really been remarkable how quickly we have been able to learn. Another impediment to having data analytics helpful has to do with policymakers. In the United States, most of our policymakers in 2020 were not interested in data or in the science. They had their own priorities and they were driven just by politics to do things certain ways. But in 2021, we have a new president and a new group of people in charge in the country who are very interested in science and data and want this to be a data-driven approach. Without decision-makers wanting to be informed by science and data, you can have all the data, and all the big data analytics you want, and it’s not going to be helpful. But we now have a chance for that. I’m very excited by that.”
Professor Freund feels rather disappointed that he can’t teach this course at the Fudan campus because of the pandemic. “I think if I were teaching there, staying there, eating meals there and getting to know people, I would have had the chance to learn more about modern Chinese culture.” He also expressed his deep affections towards Fudan University and the city of Shanghai. “The very first time I went to Asia, I went to Shanghai, and my host was Professor Wang Zemin at Fudan University, who is now retired. That was 1988. I met with students and one of the students has been a friend of mine for the last thirty years. So Fudan actually holds a very special place in my heart. I’ve always loved Shanghai and I’ve always loved Fudan. So I’m really happy to be teaching this course.”
About The Fudan International MBA
The Fudan International MBA or Fudan-MIT International MBA was launched in 1996 through a collaboration between Fudan University School of Management and MIT Sloan School of Management.
Fudan International MBA Program participants who complete all required courses and a thesis will be awarded an MBA degree from Fudan University and a certificate from MIT Sloan School of Management.
Fudan MBA rankings at the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking for 2021:
- 32nd in the FT’s Global MBA Ranking for 2021
- 6th in the Asia Pacific Region
- No.1 among the Business Schools in Chinese Mainland Universities.
Fudan MBA Program was also awarded the top rankings for several key criteria, taking the 1st place globally in terms of Salary Percentage Increase and for 3 criteria – International Faculty, International Course Experience and FT Research, the program was considered the best among business schools in Chinese mainland. The criteria of Careers Service ranked No.21 worldwide, up by 21 positions.