During the fall semester I teach a class called Supply Chain Analytics. We teach modeling skills, data cleaning, optimization (using both Solver and OpenSolver), and other random topics in Excel. We then introduce visualization using Tableau and also weave a helping of R into the course. It’s a beast of a course as both current and former students will tell you.
The R section is a particularly difficult part of the course for students. Many of them have never done any coding so opening up RStudio is itself frightening. (Wait, the hashtag is a comment?) We do our best to make it not so scary but in the end there is a tension between demonstrating usefulness and going slow. We definitely err on the side of usefulness taking them from no experience through data structures, conditionals and control flow, loops (but not the apply family; long story for another day), algorithms (Babylonian square root), functions, regression, forecasting, and classification and regression trees in about four days. Still I wish there was more time to add some exciting new materials.
One component I would like to add is how to work seamlessly with R and Excel. I’ve been debating getting into readxl and openxlsx just as starters but eventually I’d love to get to BERT (Basic Excel R Toolkit) which lets you call R from within Excel. It looks like a great tool that students could use to simplify many of the calculations they’ll have to do in the real world but still maintain the Excel requirement that is sticking around the business world. My one complaint about BERT is that it isn’t available for Mac which makes life difficult for many of our students (and me). Maybe I’ll make a new one called Enabling R Niceties In Excel (ERNIE) that works on Mac
Thanks to Jason Acimovic, a fellow Assistant Professor for building this course and letting me add a tiny bell or whistle to it over the past two years!
Ok, enough rambling. I’m off to class now. We are going over advanced pivot table features all day.