A conversation with Professor Dr. Brennan Pursell of DeSales University about teaching intelligent automation (IA) in the classroom
This is the first of a series of conversations with faculty who have introduced IA into their courses and programs using the SS&C Blue Prism Academia Program. By sharing experiences from these faculty members, we hope this encourages other schools and faculty to take the plunge and start teaching this very exciting technology to their students.
Using our program will help their students develop in-demand business-critical skills that will make them more job-ready and competitive in the marketplace upon graduation. The SS&C Blue Prism University team partners with universities across the globe that are interested in teaching robotic process automation (RPA) to their students using our Academia Program, which includes courseware, software, certification and RPA training.
We talked with Professor Dr. Brennan Pursell to find out more about his experience of utilizing our Academia program.
Q: Hello Professor, please introduce yourself, a little bit about your background, where you teach and what you teach.
I’m Brennan (Pursell), director of the Center for Data Analytics at DeSales University in eastern Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia and New York. I teach undergraduate and graduate courses in data analytics and applied AI, which of course includes RPA.
Q: When did you start to hear/learn about RPA/intelligent automation and what were your initial thoughts about the technology?
Right there in the exhibition hall at the AI Summit Conference at the Javits Center in New York in 2018. It struck me as approachable, flexible and empowering for people who want to incorporate automation into workflows without getting deep into coding.
Q. Tell us a little bit more about your course and how you designed it to include RPA.
The course is called “Applied AI Projects and Platforms,” and after a brief overview of data ethics and governance, we plunge into RPA training.
Q. How did you leverage SS&C Blue Prism’s Academia Program to support your course objectives?
Couldn’t have done it without it. We focus on the Foundations training and split online lessons between class time and homework. As students progress, they share their screens (both online and on-site) to display their progress and share their challenges.
The great advantage of SS&C Blue Prism Foundations training is that the students gain a conceptual and structural understanding of RPA solutions, even as they learn where to click and how to configure the various steps and actions. They have to know what they are doing and what is going on while they complete the exercises and build their first processes. Trust me: other leading RPA solutions do not go as deep and wide in their (RPA) training programs.
Q. You did something interesting with the consolidation exercise that is part of our Foundations course. Tell us a little bit more about that?
Students who did not want to program for the mock training application (“Centrix Data Solutions”) were allowed to use the free Visual Business Objects (VBOs) on the SS&C | Blue Prism® Digital Exchange and develop a process for apps they regularly use. I usually ask them to develop a process that accesses an email (SaaS) account, opens an email, extracts data from the text, opens another application, enters the data from the email, updates a record and sends a confirmation email with results.
Q. How did your students respond to learning about RPA and your course in general? Were any of them keen to take our SS&C Blue Prism certification program?
Positively on the whole. Of course, some students encountered frustrations along the way, but there is real satisfaction in getting RPA processes to work or in finding workarounds. Students who were aiming to land entry-level work at major corporations nearby were delighted to learn that those firms used SS&C Blue Prism intelligent automation. I don’t know how many went on to obtain certification.
Q. Do you have plans to teach the course again shortly?
Yes, once per year, mostly for first-semester senior undergraduates.
Q. How would you sum up your experience using the SS&C Blue Prism Academia Program and what it means for your students to have acquired job-ready skills with this technology?
SS&C Blue Prism (RPA) training makes a good addition to their resume/CV. I have them all prepare a slide deck about their final project with screenshots of it in action. The idea is for them to be able to show and explain their work to recruiters, even if they may or may not be able to run the solution on their PC laptops at the time of the actual interview. The free learning license only lasts so long, and they do move on after graduation.
Q. Any words of wisdom to other faculty looking to teach RPA/intelligent automation in their courses/programs?
Why wait? If you get stuck, reach out to the SS&C Blue Prism community and the academic alliance team, and they’ll get you the help and assistance you need.
To summarize, the SS&C Blue Prism Academia Program helps to deliver on the promise of a better future of work through supporting its academic partners. Pathways for students are created, from skills development to job opportunities, helping them with the job-ready knowledge they need to succeed in a rapidly changing world.
If you’d like to learn more about our program and how to become an SS&C Blue Prism Academia Partner, register here.