IBM Academic Initiative

Building skills for a Smarter Planet

Spotlight on Dr. Eitel Lauria

More software to more students through cloud computing

Lauria Dr. Eitel Lauria
Associate Professor and Graduate Director of IS
School of Computer Science and Mathematics
Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York, USA

Dr. Lauria's areas of interest include Data Management, Information Decision Systems, Business Intelligence, Data Quality, Data Mining Statistical Machine Learning and probabilistic expert systems.

Problem: Students need real-world industry experience

Dr. Eitel Lauria has had a successful career spanning two decades, two continents, and two industries. He has worked as an information ystems and IT consultant advising several top-tier companies on technical issues and has taught at the university level in both the US and Argentina. Because of this broad perspective, he truly understands how important it is to combine in-class learning with practical, hands-on experience. Unfortunately, because the software and tools that are actually used in the industry aren't necessarily easy to install or run, this isn't always an easy thing to do. Dr. Lauria defined the basic problem, "Teaching technical subjects in an online environment can be challenging unless you are able to deliver a foolproof platform where students can concentrate on their work rather than spending countless hours trying to install software packages in their own computers."

Solution: Cloud computing to the rescue

Right now, in his business intelligence and business analytics courses at Marist College, Dr. Lauria's students can use a wide variety of products (such as Cognos, Cognos TM1, SPSS Modeler, DB2, and Infosphere Warehouse) for their lab exercises. He credits the Virtual Computing Lab (VCL), a cloud computing environment at Marist College, as the reason he has been able to provide so many state-of-the art, industry-strength tools to both on-campus and remote students.

Dr. Lauria worked with the Marist College IT staff and student interns to install, configure, and test the software images that he wanted for his classes on the VCL. The result is a fully loaded desktop environment for students that has built-in connectivity to remote physical resources. Students don't have to deal with setup issues, which can be difficult, unless this is a specific requirement of their course. They are able to launch a virtual desktop from their browsers and get access to local resources (SPSS Modeler, Cognos TM1) and remote physical resources (DBMS, Cognos, and Cognos TM1 Server running on Z/Linux), which are geographically distributed. And, if students trash the desktop environment as they master their learning curve, it is not a big problem; they can just cancel the virtual session and launch it again. Students are up and running again in short order and help desk traffic is greatly reduced.

Results: Win, win, win

Besides having simple access to the software that potential employers are actually using to do real work in the industry, students are also getting an understanding of physical vs. virtualized resources, distributed computing, and other cloud computing infrastructure concepts. The difference between their lab environment and a corporate office or IT shop is greatly reduced. Exposure to a virtualized environment and hands-on experience on the most current software and tools gives the students an additional competitiveness when they are seeking jobs and internships. For Dr. Lauria and his students, "It does not get any better than this!"

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