Member Success Stories

Making a difference with Oracle Academy

Richard Soderman

The spotlight is on Richard Soderman, assistant professor of computer technology, Allegany College of Maryland

Allegany College of Maryland (ACM) is located in Cumberland, a rural community about 140 miles west of Baltimore, Maryland. Cumberland lies in the foothills of the Allegany Mountains and has a population of about 20,000.

ACM is one of 16 colleges within the Maryland Association of Community Colleges. It has around 2,500 students, taught by 170 full and part-time faculty members.

Richard Soderman is assistant professor of computer technology. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester and a Master’s degree from the University of Vermont. He has been an ACM faculty member since 2010.

ACM’s computer technology program covers four disciplines: cybersecurity, programming, web development, and technical support. Soderman teaches several courses across these disciplines, including Database Design and Implementation, in which his students become familiar with Oracle Application Express (APEX), provided free by Oracle Academy.

Soderman shares his experience in using Oracle APEX and how it has benefitted his students.

Oracle Academy: Can you tell us about Oracle APEX?


On a scale of 1-10, I’d give Oracle APEX a 10.

Richard Soderman: APEX software is an extremely versatile, very user-friendly cloud-based software development environment that introduces students to the Oracle database. Our Oracle Academy Institutional membership provides access to Oracle APEX. I have been teaching using Oracle APEX since 2014 for hands-on lab exercises.

What’s more, it’s free! Thanks to Oracle Academy. On a scale of 1-10, I’d give Oracle APEX a 10.

Oracle Academy: Can you give us examples of the use of Oracle APEX?

Richard Soderman: Sure. Students use it to develop their database implementation. Once they have an Oracle APEX account, each student selects a start-to-finish database design and implementation project. They use Oracle APEX to develop their project. They start with a data dictionary, create a conceptual design Entity-Relationship diagram, move to a logical design expressed as a relational schema, and then employ SQL to build, then populate, and finally write a set of queries against this database.

Oracle Academy: What type of projects do they work on?

Richard Soderman: I give them a choice of five typical scenarios requiring database design and implementation. For example, a playhouse needs to track its plays, the numerous performances of each play, the cast members, customers, ticket sales by performance, and so forth.

Other projects include healthcare, where a database is needed for tracking medical staff, administration staff, patients, visits, immunizations, etc. Some students select projects around university fundraising, a car dealership or a photography studio.

In addition, they carry out weekly homework assignments on different topics using Oracle APEX.

Oracle Academy: You mean they can access Oracle APEX from home?


Oracle APEX, being a browser-based tool, allows students to create solutions from the campus, at home, from wherever.

Richard Soderman: Indeed, it’s one of the really nice things about it. Oracle APEX, being a browser-based tool, allows students to create solutions from the campus, at home, from wherever. They get an enterprise-level database tool!

Oracle Academy: Do they work in collaboration?

Richard Soderman: Oracle APEX allows for collaboration and I encourage that. In the real world, they will be working with other people on the same project. However, I don’t grade them in groups. Each student is responsible for doing his or her own work and submitting that to me individually.

Oracle Academy: Does the use of Oracle APEX give them advantages in the workplace?

Richard Soderman: Obviously knowing something about relational databases and having experience of an actual tool like APEX is great for resumes. Even if students are applying for jobs in cybersecurity or program development, I personally feel that learning how to design a database, with Entity Relationship diagrams and all those tools, helps in analytical thinking that will be useful to most students periodically in their technical careers.

In fact, one cybersecurity graduate called me up a year later to say, “I’m glad I took your design course, because although I wasn’t planning on being database designer, I’m now doing just that.” These days you never know what you might be doing in 10 years.

Oracle Academy: Why did you select Oracle APEX for hands-on database development and practice?

Richard Soderman: The faculty member who previously taught the database design course set up his own Oracle database server at ACM. When I took over teaching the course, I looked for a less labor-intensive solution, both for the students and for me. I found Oracle APEX. It didn’t require me to administer and maintain my own database server. Oracle could do that part of the job, leaving my students to focus on database design and implementation tasks—a big relief.

Oracle Academy: What interests you outside of the database design field?

Richard Soderman: One of my big interests is cybersecurity, and I also teach that class. A recent study shows that there is a global shortage of two million cybersecurity professionals, that 400,000 positions are available in the U.S., and that 20,000 of those positions are in Maryland—that would be one per inhabitant of Cumberland! Here at ACM I run the Cybersecurity Club and take part in regional meetings throughout the year. I am a Certified Ethical Hacker.

Apart from that, I am also a member of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors. One of my hobbies is learning about and collecting antique clocks. My grandfather was a watchmaker in California in the early 1900s and had a beautiful 1885 Seth Thomas wall clock. High precision clocks like that were used by watchmakers as a time standard and in train stations for conductors to synchronize their pocket watches. Although it is a 135-year-old mechanical clock, it is still accurate to better than 10 seconds per month. The craftsmanship is a wonder to behold—database precision, almost!

Thank you Richard Soderman for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.

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