Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Dewey Swanson, Associate Professor, Computer and Information Technology, Purdue University, Indiana, U.S.
The Purdue Polytechnic Institute, one of the 10 academic colleges at Purdue University, has a satellite location in Columbus, Indiana. The Columbus site provides engineering technology and computer and information technology classes leading to Bachelor's, Master’s and PhD degrees.
Graduates are employed in business and industry in Columbus and the surrounding communities, especially in the many fields of engineering that are prevalent in Central Indiana. Additionally, Purdue serves as a resource for locally headquartered companies who send their IT personnel to update their skills or retrain.
Dewey Swanson is an Associate Professor in the Computer and Information Technology (CIT) faculty at the school. He is actively involved in developing curriculum and delivery methods that meet the needs of CIT students in Columbus and throughout the statewide system. Prior to teaching, Swanson spent 15 years in industry and government as a system analyst, project leader, and database administrator.
Oracle Academy: Why Oracle Academy?
Dewey Swanson: When I was working in the Defense Department in the mid- ‘90s, I used Oracle database 7.0, and have followed the evolution of Oracle technologies ever since. On joining Purdue, I was involved in a bootcamp-like venture with a large engineering company in the Indianapolis area. They were an Oracle shop whose IT workforce had been trained by Oracle on the campus.
At the same time, I discovered that Oracle Academy was offering free use of their learning resources, essentially providing the same course content and materials (for students) that the engineering company had paid for!
In 1999, I enrolled the CIT department in Columbus into Oracle Academic Initiative (OAI), the predecessor to Oracle Academy. The gesture of providing us with databases and resources for free was just fantastic. We’ve enjoyed Oracle Academy’s evolution these past 20 years, and continue to benefit. We are giving students access not to just any database, but to one of the leading databases in the world. When they leave Purdue, they hit the road running!
And many of them will end up working for that very same engineering company, headquartered right here in Columbus, with 60,000 employees worldwide.
Oracle Academy: What courses do you use?
Dewey Swanson: At our site, we have five database classes in the four-year Bachelor’s program, all with differing objectives. For each one, we pick and choose from the Oracle Academy materials that best fit the curriculum. For our Introduction to Database Fundamentals class, we pull in elements of Database Design and Programming with SQL. And for our advanced database design course, we pull in the advanced features from the same course.
Currently we are working on the curriculum for new data analytics major to be introduced next year, called, simply, DATA. For DATA, we’ll be giving classes in Applied Machine Learning and in SQL programming and so, once again, we will be drawing on Oracle Academy materials. Along with the SQL resources, we are looking at adapting material from Java Programming, and also Artificial Intelligence with Machine Learning in Java.
My viewpoint is that our university curriculum does not need to be product based, because we are preparing students to go out into industry. But it’s certainly an advantage to be using Oracle tools, the same tools as are used by people all over the world.
Oracle Academy: How many faculty are using Oracle Academy?
Dewey Swanson: Here at the Columbus site we have two full-time instructors and a good crew of adjuncts, some of which are former students who came back to teach. I develop and deliver the database courses, sharing them with other sites across the state, either through recorded webcasts, teaching at their sites, or just by spreading the word.
Oracle Academy: Will you be rolling out the Oracle Academy Cloud Program offerings too?
Dewey Swanson: It’s on our to-do list. We signed up for the Oracle Cloud Free Tier through Oracle Academy before the pandemic hit, and we’re really looking forward to exploring all its advantages. Meantime we’re concentrating on creating the data analytics major. The amount of data out there is just unimaginable. Our aim is to teach students how to capture that data and massage it to make it more useful, to help companies be more successful. And there’s a shortage, a need for data analysts. Naturally, Oracle Cloud will be part of that once we map it to our curriculum.
Otherwise, we are using many other cool things from the Oracle Academy stable; for example, Education Bytes. These short modules and videos are really helpful. I use them to refresh myself in things like PL/SQL or database design, and keep my skills honed. But I also intend to incorporate them into the curriculum. For instance, when we are doing Big Data, we can pull relevant videos from Education Bytes.
Another resource we have been using for the past five years is the Virtual Box, an Oracle tool we use in teaching DBA skills. Students can download prebuilt appliances and learn database administration without interfering in the university database system. It’s not an Oracle Academy offering, but it extends the range of skills they later can use in industry.
Oracle Academy: Do you make use of your industry experience in the classroom?
Dewey Swanson: I certainly do. In fact, I was hired in part for my industry experience. Purdue works closely with industry and government and was formed to meet Indiana's need for trained technologists and technicians. I bring elements of my previous work into the classroom, explaining some of the challenges I faced as a system analyst and as a DBA, or the types of things I developed with PL/SQL. The students enjoy hearing this.
The classes are small, 10-15 students, working in teams – because that’s what they’ll do in industry later. We emphasize hands-on learning. Recently I brought in a former classmate who has his own company and was using spreadsheets and word processing applications to make estimates and maintain client lists. The students conducted discovery to elicit his requirements and ended up developing an estimating system for him. You could feel the vibe in the classroom; the interest level was really pumped up! They felt great working on something somebody can really use. We also recently have had a class develop a web-based train status page for the City of Columbus to alleviate long waits for residents and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff in several key locations.
Another thing I tell students is that with a degree in CIT, you can go out and work in any industry. If you’re interested in sports, there’s data analytics in any sport you can imagine; in the medical field the same; and in all disciplines of engineering – which predominate in the Indianapolis area – you need database and programming skills. Some of our kids take minors in subjects such as business or science, so that they can apply what they have learned into different skillsets.
Oracle Academy. And does Purdue offer extracurricular teaching?
Dewey Swanson: Yes. I’ve staged a summer camp – the Columbus Computer Animation Camp – with the objective of getting middle school students interested in technology. The idea is that the sooner we can spark their interest, the better. We teach them Alice, also thanks to Oracle Academy, and do fun things like creating commercials.
The camp is mixed, but there’s a growing contingent of girls, nearly 40% in fact, which is high compared to the numbers in our CIT Department at Purdue itself. If I could figure out how to get more women into our degree classes, we’d have a more balanced mix. We continually try to increase diversity.
Oracle Academy. Lastly, what pastimes do you have outside of teaching?
Dewey Swanson: When I’m not teaching, I try to get out and be active. I love playing tennis and take part in several USTA leagues a year, while occasionally playing a little golf and bowling too. As a lifelong resident of Indianapolis, I’m an avid Indianapolis 500 fan and am also a season ticket holder with the Indiana Pacers basketball team and a fan of the Colts football team.
My children are grown up, but my wife and I still enjoy trips to the beach and Disney with our children.
Thank you, Dewey Swanson, for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.