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Baylor University's New Text Analytics Course is Nation's First in a Business School

Nov. 23, 2009

By Ryan Pierce

Knowledge is the source of competitive advantage. To tap that advantage, a new class at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business will introduce students to text analytics.

Set to begin in the spring semester, the new course will be the first of its kind in the United States and possibly the world. According to the class' instructor, Dr. Theresa Edgington, "Current market trends indicate Business Analytics (which include traditional business intelligence, data mining, and text analytics) is the growth field for Information Systems (IS)."

Text analysis, as detailed in the course description, "usually involves the process of structuring input text, deriving patterns within structured data and interpretation of the output." Edgington explained that "between 80-90 percent of all documented knowledge exists in an organization's unstructured texts (best practices and other documents, email, blogs, chat info, etc.)." The challenge is to discover and identify the high quality information that already exists in those texts and turn that knowledge into a competitive advantage.

Systems for such knowledge discovery (KD) have been taught in engineering departments for years. But Baylor's new class will serve a different purpose. "Our focus," said Edgington, "is how to achieve results with high validity and reliability, so it's not just technology, but technology, context and process. In addition to important concepts, our hands-on focus will be on the use of text analytics software that focuses on the evaluation of open-ended surveys."

Open-ended surveys are extremely difficult to administer to large numbers of people, but offer significantly higher quality information than closed-ended surveys can. The ability to produce, administer and analyze open-ended surveys for large organizations is a valuable skill that students who take this new class will be able to offer employers immediately. "This is a great opportunity," Edgington maintained, "for Baylor graduates to differentiate themselves from their competition in this growing field."

Edgington also noted an interesting trend among the early registrants for her course: so far they are all women. While she emphasized men are more than welcome, she is excited about the surprising demographics. Much has been made concerning the lack of women in IS. But this new class could represent an opportunity for Baylor to promote positive change by enticing more women to the field.

Edgington is an assistant professor of Information Systems at the Hankamer School of Business. She entered academia after a successful twenty-plus year career in the IT industry spanning technical to director-level roles related to technology innovation involving e-business, artificial intelligence, advanced databases, reengineering, transaction processing and messaging, and application development. She joined Baylor in 2006 after completing her PhD at Arizona State University. Her research interests include knowledge creation and innovation, knowledge identification and structure, organizational cognition and coordination, failure analysis, strategic management, systems analysis and computer-supported collaboration. Her research has appeared in academic journals such as MIS Quarterly, Communications of the ACM, ACM e-Learning and at numerous academic and industry conferences.

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